If your goal is to get someone to keep reading your blog post, think back to the last time you were at an event where speakers gave presentations.
Typically, some sessions fly by and others quickly make you decide:
“Now’s a good time to go to the bathroom and get a snack.”
That thought’s also common during online conferences or webinars.
While a number of factors influence whether you’re paying attention or daydreaming, a common reason for the Bathroom-Snack-Train-of-Thought is that the speaker didn’t make their presentation audience-focused.
They didn’t distance themselves from their topic and find ways to make an audience member’s experience a fascinating one. The words they chose to lead with may have been relevant and informative, but they didn’t stir up the desire to keep listening.
This scenario is directly related to your job as a content writer … how do you stir up the desire to keep reading?
How to persuade someone to keep reading
Content editors structure writing like a killer presentation.
And how you shape that presentation determines whether someone wants to learn from you — or from someone else.
“Action” in our writing introductions can take a variety of forms, but it’s one of the main elements of engaging writing that keeps a reader glued to the screen. When a reader has an “active” experience, rather than a “passive” experience, you stir up the desire to keep reading.
Let’s look at three of these “Action Types” that help you avoid common content marketing mistakes. They place your reader front and center of the presentation that you’ve crafted for them.
Action Type #1: An unusual point of view
I’m the first to admit that “being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous” is tiring.
Most importantly, it’s not a sustainable approach. You’ll either run out of “shocking” things to say or get a reputation as a cheap click-bait site.
If you want to sell on a blog, you need to create a consistent experience that builds trust. Your readers need to feel confident that you’re the resource that will help them achieve their goals.
So, the “unusual point of view” I’m referring to is one that takes advantage of your creativity and research skills. It’s not just a wild statement in your headline writing or first few sentences.
In a blog post introduction, this could look like:
- A comparison your reader hasn’t heard before
- A little-known statistic you’re going to analyze
- An unpopular stance you want to support with a strong argument
It’s about being genuinely bold and demonstrating why it’s a smart idea to subscribe to your site.
Which inspires curiosity to keep reading.
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Action Type #2: Next-level benefits
Your article may be very similar to others on the same topic. This simple fact often discourages writers from starting in the first place.
Why bother writing if everything’s already been said?
But if writing is truly your calling, you know that’s not the right attitude or the productive way to navigate this situation.
Rather, you want to focus on sharpening the skills that will get someone to choose your piece of writing (and keep reading it).
One way to elevate your content above the competition is to tell your ideal reader exactly what she wants and needs to hear in both your headline and introduction. There’s no room for generic writing because you have to make ultra-specific choices.
You can uncover these “next-level benefits” with a technique I call “Extreme Brainstorming.”
To write better headlines, challenge yourself to get more clear about who you’re talking to and the transformation they hope to have.
Write down all of the different ways you could state the most compelling benefits of your article, narrow down your top choices, and then select the strongest one.
For example, your article won’t have a bare-bones headline like:
How to Wake Up at 5AM
It’ll have more details:
How to Wake Up at 5AM Every Day, Even When You’re Not a Morning Person
Readers choose the articles that most closely relate to their specific struggles.
But of course, your content must deliver on your headline’s promise, so keep these “next-level benefits” in mind during each stage of your content creation.
The first ideas you draft might look like bad writing or generic articles that you’d find on a similar site, but careful content editing can refine your presentation into a valuable gem that readers won’t find elsewhere.
Action Type #3: Participation that makes them keep reading
I used this technique when writing the introduction to this article.
By asking “Think back to the last time …,” I invite you to explore today’s blog post topic with me.
When your introduction only explains information, you don’t show your reader that you have something to offer that they won’t find anywhere else. So here’s a straightforward way to engage while you explain.
You can encourage a reader to:
- Forget about [a popular notion]
- Set a timer to do an exercise or game
Try combining this Action Type with Action Type #1 and Action Type #2 above to introduce that unique point of view you have or next-level benefits you want to immediately communicate.
Readers should feel confident about choosing your article — which will increase the chances that they’ll keep reading and want to check out your content again in the future.
There’s a lot of good content out there that never gains traction because the writer too heavily focuses on speaking to an audience, rather than speaking with individuals.
Great content appreciates and acknowledges that the writer and their reader aren’t so different. They’re on a journey together that is mutually beneficial. This philosophy is also important for great newsletter writing.
Great first impressions grow your audience
We all love something new.
Something we haven’t seen before.
Something that makes us think, “Damn. I wish I wrote that.”
That’s why compelling introductions are directly related to growing your audience. That first impression is your opportunity to persuade. Convince someone to keep reading and show them you’re not like everyone else.
And if you want to learn more about blogging that works, don’t forget to grab our free ebook below …
Reader Comments (11)
Miss Footloose says
I often start my blog post by engaging the reader immediately by asking a question. “Have you ever…. ?” “What would you do if…?” “What was the last time you….” A command works too: “Just imagine you are….” “Don’t ever do…” I try very hard to make my introductory sentence and paragraph ask something of the reader so he or she feels engaged. Then of course I hope the rest of the story doesn’t disappoint!
Stefanie Flaxman says
Yes, the challenge of making your content engaging certainly continues as you work on the rest of your article. 🙂
Raktim Dutta says
First of all, I’d like to thank you for this exquisitely written article.
Here are some thoughts that I like to share regarding this post:
The very first thing I’d like to say is that this article is expressing itself from a different point of view, which is the biggest actionable example that this post is trying to say to its audience.
Here are the two prominent elements of this Article that are quite captivating:
#1 An unusual point of view: This is the most fascinating point I’ve come across while reading this article. The three bulleted points are the main ingredient to win or stand out in the extremely competitive Content Marketing game (depending on the niche someone is in).
The word “unusual” really compelled me to read the whole point!
#2 Reader participation: This point is directly linked to engagement and building an email list. Since the point is insisting us to write in a way so that a reader will want to read another article of that author in the future.
Anyways, it’s a great article and helped me inspired to write more compelling articles in the future.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Glad you noticed the use of these concepts in the article, Raktim!
I’ve never done too much of the ‘reader participation’ tip. I like using a contrarian point of view or even a juxtaposition to try to pull the reader in.
I have to finish an article this afternoon. I think I’m going to try the reader participation tip.
Thanks for the good read.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Let us know how it goes, Kevin!
Always fun to experiment and possibly add the tip to your writer toolbox. 🙂
Jean Dairee says
Thank you so much for this great information. I am a new blogger and I try to educate myself with knowledge from the pros. I am definitely going to use these great tips.
I loved the thought of the content being a good presentation. There are certainly different qualities of content: the ones we read for a few minutes and go back to the SERP to find a better article, blog or page. And the ones that you really enjoy and learn from. And I think that’s the real objective of writing great content to keep your reader permanently interested, that it is informative but above all that the reader can LEARN something from it.
Some great point from your article that I really loved:
– Your readers need to feel confident that you’re the resource that will help them achieve their goals.
– Tell your ideal reader exactly what she wants and needs to hear in both your headline and introduction.
– Compelling introductions are directly related to growing your audience.
KS Drew says
Stefanie – as a content writer, I find it most difficult to write in the voice of the brand of my clients.
Is this a topic you’ve written about or would like to write about?
TITLE: How to “sound” like your client when writing for them
Stefanie Flaxman says
This post about helping your clients find their writing voices might help you out.
I’ve found that the more clear a client’s writing voice is, the easier it is for a writer to learn (and write for that brand):
Alison Ver Halen says
Thanks for the great tips! As someone who recently sat through a presentation that bored me to tears, I love the analogy of a blog post being like a presentation, and I’m always reminding people of the importance of defining your audience and writing for them.
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