Ever heard the phrase “content is king”? Well, this increasingly vague nugget of wisdom has been a mainstay in the online marketing world for decades, highlighting the importance of content but never really helping anyone understand anything about it.
Instead of figuring out exactly what “good content” might be, most of the internet has taken the advice to heart in a very literal sense. With websites now collectively pumping out over 5 million blog posts per day, it’s more of a content state than a content monarchy.
Creating compelling content is now more necessary than ever, but thankfully it’s easier than you might think. Once you’ve seen the systems under the hood, you’ll understand how the engine works.
Forget page length and keyword density figures, compelling content is not measured by your Yoast traffic light system, but rather how your audience feels when reading your content, and how they are compelled to take action.
Consuming compelling content is effortless. Like a rich conversation with a close friend, compelling content delivers valuable information in a way that’s exciting and inspiring – and speaks directly to you.
In this article, you’ll learn exactly the linguistic and structural skills to transform dull, lifeless content into a real page turner.
What makes content compelling?
The key factors behind compelling content are surprisingly human.
In the same way that a good novel grips your attention (and has you forever telling yourself “just one more chapter”), compelling content should hook you in from beginning to end.
To the untrained eye, compelling content can seem like an effortless harmony of language and information, but it can absolutely be trained. Just like Beethoven’s iconic symphonies, compelling content follows a refined structure and process, whilst also delivering creative flair and an emotive punch.
How to use language to connect with your audience
Whether you’re covering the latest yoga literature or Lululemon’s newest range of tights, language is still the driving force – and if you want your voice to be heard, what you say is just as important as how you say it.
Remember, connection with your audience is something that you should infuse into every aspect of your content. We have short attention spans these days, and ever increasing expectations of the content we consume.
Employing these key strategies in your content will help you deliver your points in a way that your readers won’t be able to resist.
Use a conversational tone
As humans, we’re social creatures. We gravitate towards conversational language.
Honestly, there’s nothing more dull than an article that reads like an instruction manual. Nuances like tone and pacing are crucial when trying to effectively communicate through text or speech, so just make it natural.
For example, if your paragraphs are so dense that you feel like taking a break writing them, your audience is definitely going to need a break reading them too.
Conversational writing is a skill just like any other, but it’s a powerful way to inject personality into your work, and ultimately it’ll become second nature.
Keep it light
Big, fancy words might make you think you sound more intelligent to your audience, but most of the time you’ll just come off as unrelatable. Remember, making your audience feel stupid is a surefire way to turn them off from your content.
That doesn’t mean cutting out all words over three syllables, but it does mean using highly-specific industry terms – or needlessly recherché words – sparingly.
(Did you just need to Google the word recherché? I know I did, and that’s not a good practice for you to force on your audience.)
Make relevant references
A fantastic way to connect with your readers is to include inside jokes and pop culture references that are laser-focused on their likes and dislikes.
Nothing says, “this person gets me” like communicating a shared love of a supported Bridge Pose, or a shared dislike of sweaty yoga pants found at the bottom of the washing pile. Or maybe that’s just me…?
Knowing your audience is the key to making this work, but this kind of insider information will help you in all aspects of your business. Investing in your audience will always pay off.
Use “bucket brigades”
Weird name, I know. I’ve been using these language tools throughout this article, and if they’re doing their job right, you won’t notice they were used intentionally.
Bucket brigades are words and phrases like:
- Here’s why,
- Best of all,
They’re all bridge phrases that keep you hooked. They encourage you to continue reading to discover the conclusion to the sentence.
Just like any linguistic tool, they’re to be used sparingly, but they’re incredibly effective at improving the flow of an article and keeping it conversational.
Craft a narrative
We’re going back to the novel analogy, because what really makes content compelling is storytelling.
Constructing a loose narrative for your content helps to bring the words to life. It develops a trusting relationship with your audience, and provides a familiar structure for people to follow.
You may not know it, but most Hollywood films are based on the same age-old plot structures that are reused again and again.
The Hero’s Journey, for example, is a very precise series of challenges and character developments that show up in everything from Star Wars to The Little Mermaid (notice my pop culture references?)
Articles may seem locked into the typical intro, body and conclusion split – but then, so are many of our favourite films. There’s so much room for narrative within that structure.
Try opening with a personal anecdote, but don’t conclude it till the end of the article. This is an example of a story gap, and it subconsciously encourages our readers to read till the end to find out the conclusion to the story.
I love a good metaphor.
Sure, their main purpose is to help explain difficult concepts in a manner that people can more easily understand, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about a good metaphor.
The bestselling novelist Stephen King loves metaphors for their ability to help the audience “see an old thing in a new and vivid way”.
Each one is yet another great opportunity to connect with your audience and demonstrate your understanding. Try to draw parallels between new points of interest, and things they can already relate with (double points if you can make it a pop culture reference).
I wanted to include a metaphor here but writing a metaphor about metaphors is surprisingly difficult!
Make it valuable
Okay, so this last one is a little more of a standard content recommendation, but it’s something that’s sorely missed from a lot of content online.
I mean sure, some people come to the web in search of pure trash entertainment (there’s a reason Buzzfeed still exists) but most want to get something from it.
As we’ve discussed, telling a story is a fantastic way to communicate information in an engaging way, but ultimately, if your story doesn’t deliver value somewhere along the way then it’s going to be a flop.
Ready to put this into action?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to implement all these techniques at once, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to do these all on the fly. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
It’s entirely okay to get all of your raw information down on the page, then go back to add personality. There’s a common misconception that professional writers just radiate flawless writing, when in reality half of their work is discarded on the chopping block.
Adding in just a few of these techniques can really bring your words to life and help keep your readers on the page. But having a deeper understanding of how these processes work will fundamentally change how you approach your content.
If you need help determining whether your content is compelling, it’s always worth asking a friend to have a read. You can glean a lot from their natural reactions. Or, if you want an expert opinion, why not book in for a free consultation with us?