As a copywriter and the man behind Weidert Group’s social media profiles, I get to play an interesting role on our content marketing team. Not only do I focus a lot of time and effort on writing blog posts for our site, but I also get to spend time finding and sharing high-quality posts from other marketers that our audience might find helpful. In fact, in order to schedule a day’s worth of Tweets, I’ll usually read or skim through anywhere between 10 to 15 business-related blog posts each workday—an average of over 3,000 posts per year! Needless to say, I feel like I’ve been around the blogging block a few times.
As someone who spends a lot of time around blogs, I’ve seen them come in just about every kind of shape, size, style, and color. From blogs designed with modern, cutting-edge features to blogs that look like they were designed using Windows 98, there’s a lot you can tell from a blog in the first 5 seconds of looking at it. In order to hook the reader in, your blog has to be both visually and mentally stimulating from the start. To help give you a better idea of how to increase your blog’s read- and share-ability, here’s my list of the first 5 things readers look for when reading your post:
The difference between a great headline and a bad headline is by far the biggest factor in getting someone to read your post. If you can’t get readers to click on it in the first place, then who cares what your blog looks like? According to a report from Upworthy, their posts saw traffic variations of up to 500% when A/B testing multiple headlines for each post. That’s right, 500%! To get people to click on their links, Upworthy not only tries to capture your attention, but pique your interest as well. Take one of their most viral headlines for example:
“If This Video Makes You Uncomfortable, Then You Make Me Uncomfortable”
Not only does it capture your attention by directly addressing you, but it also acts almost as a challenge to get people to click. Don’t you want to know if and why the video would make you uncomfortable? Once you’ve written a headline that will surely get readers to click (and isn’t misleading to your post – a major key), pair it up with some A+ content and watch those shares take off!
2.) Website Age
As any content marketer will tell you, we live in the world of here and now. Though an SEO strategy could have been considered a “best practice” in 2013, now it might just penalize your website! That being said, one of the biggest turn-offs of any blog is one that simply looks too old to be relevant. How is anyone supposed to take your advice about current industry news and events seriously when it looks like your own website was updated 10 years ago? Though a high-quality post should still entice your audience stick around, anything less will prompt a reader to find a better option. Besides, even if they do stick around to read it, they’re still less likely to share a questionable looking resource.
Sticking with the visual theme, in order to make your post as visually appealing as possible, the best posts use a combination of pictures and white space throughout the text to help create natural visual breaks for the reader.
As the reader starts to dive in, the image at the top of your post will be the first thing their eyes are drawn to. This is your chance to really grab their attention! Unfortunately, if your blog’s main image is some clipart, cheesy stock photography, or an image that doesn’t seem relevant to your post at all (the most annoying of the bad pic trio), you’re only going to confuse and/or discourage the reader. Instead, try using a unique, topic-relevant photo with some text added. This gives you the opportunity to visually explain what they’re in for without even having to read more; almost like a 2nd headline. Additionally, avoid using too many or too large of photos, as they increase page load time, which significantly decreases the amount of people who stick around to read your post.
Likewise, rather than making readers sift through a massive wall of words, break your blog piece up into distinct paragraphs and use different-sized headers, font colors, bold/italics, etc. to create separation. Not only will it make posts look less daunting, but they’ll also give it more readability.
One of the main reasons content marketing works with consumers is because they don’t constantly feel like brands are trying to sell them something. Rather than seeing ads blasted towards them from every angle, they have the power to seek out the information they want and need. Want to know a quick way to take away that feeling? By covering your blog with ads and CTAs.
Let me explain with an analogy: Content marketing is like dating. Just like it takes time to build an attraction and get to know your date before you can go in for a kiss; content marketers can’t go straight for the conversion by simply covering your page in CTAs. In other words, just because you give your date plenty of opportunities for a kiss, doesn’t mean that increases your chances (except for getting slapped!). If you want to woo your dates/consumers, wait for the opportune moments to make your move. Anything else is overkill and unattractive.
5.) Social Sharing Icons
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to finding and sharing blogs, are blogs that either A.) don’t have social sharing icons, or B.) make them impossible to find. While this shouldn’t discourage any readers from reading your post and learning about what you have to say, without any promotion, hardly anyone will see your post anyways! Additionally, social sharing icons that track shares are also great tools for helping with social proof. The more viral a post goes, the more likely your readers are to share it, simply because other people have deemed it worthy as well.
With so many different blogs out there, readers are starting to become more particular with what they expect from you. Even though your content might be top-notch, if your page looks like a questionable resource, consumers will either look elsewhere or automatically question your authority. Whether your page is old, full of spammy ads, or just unappealing to look at, if your blog is one of your top selling tools, you have to make sure it looks as good as possible. Once visitors can tell you can look AND act the part, the leads will start rolling in.