Creating Quality Content: Part 4 – Keeping Your Reader Interested

Nobody’s going to read your content.

Your client may, or he may just skim it for errors. Your mom might, should you forward her the article. Mommies are good for that.

But the typical web user isn’t “reading” your content to read it. Instead, the typical web user is searching for information.

Are you providing that information? Can your reader find it? Is your audience staying on your page long enough to look for it?

Here’s what you need to know about keeping your reader interested.

 

1. Your readers are more likely skimmers.

Your reader isn’t going to sit down with a cup of steaming hot cocoa and pore over every word you’ve written. You’re not Stephen King.

It’s not that you’re not as talented as he is. You very well may be. But, simply put, as a content writer your job description is much, much different. So is your audience.

Here’s what your reader will do.

  1. (Hopefully) notice your post on social media, Google or somewhere else.
  2. (Hopefully) click on your post because your title looks interesting or informative.
  3. Read the first few lines of your content. The first few paragraphs, if you’re lucky.
  4. Skim the subheadings in the remainder of the article for information that seems pertinent.
  5. Decide whether to read more or find a new resource.

Your web reader wants to be able to make a quick decision as to whether she’s come to the right place.

If you can’t convince her that within your subheadings and the first few paragraphs, you’ve lost your reader.

The Takeaway:

Put your most important information first. Make sure your subheadings are clear and skimmable. And, while it’s okay to use your creative voice, try not to add too much fluff to your content.

 

2. Your readers are checking your grammar.

I don’t care how knowledgeable you are about a subject.

If your grammar sucks, you won’t keep your reader interested.

Now, before you say anything, I want to make something clear. When I say “watch your grammar” I don’t mean that you can’t use contractions. I don’t mean you can’t start a sentence with the word “and.” And I certainly don’t mean you shouldn’t write like you speak.

What I mean is saying loose weight instead of lose weight. Or saying there instead of their.

And honestly, if you don’t know the difference you might consider reading a bit more. Or taking an English Composition class at the community college. An above-average command of the English language is imperative for every English language writer.

Using shoddy grammar, spelling and sentence structure ruins your content. You’ll:

  • Turn your reader off to your brand.
  • Slow your reader down – remember, he wants fast!
  • Make yourself look uneducated and ignorant.
  • Be passed over for guest blogging and paid opportunities.

The Takeaway:

Watch your spelling. Watch your grammar. Watch those random apostrophes. (You’re using apostrophes. Not apostrophe’s.) If you need help, you can at the very least use an app like Grammarly. You could also take a basic writing course for extra assistance.

 

3. Your readers don’t want to read your college essay.

Your content should look nothing like that essay you wrote in college. Here are a few differences.

  • College essays have a conclusion, or a recap. In content, you’re more likely to find this in the first few paragraphs.
  • Speaking of paragraphs, essays have longer, more structured paragraphs. Content paragraphs are short, usually around three sentences.
  • Essays demand proper grammar and follow “styles,” like AP. Content does not. You can have fun with your content.
  • Your college essay was written at the college level. Your content should be written around a 5th or 6th grade level.

Your readers aren’t stupid. But they don’t have the time to sort through your openings, paragraphs and conclusions. They want easy to digest snippets of information they can realistically use.

The Takeaway:

If your content will force your reader to do work, it needs to be revised.

Readers don’t want “main topic sentences” in each of your paragraphs or Chicago Manual of Style citations.

Read through your post as if you were a ten year old kid. Better yet, have your ten year old kid read through your post. If there are questions, it’s time to rewrite.

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