Seize is a word that aptly describes what we're all attempting to do with content these days. If you can't seize someone's attention, you're out of luck in this game.
Search something, for example, like "top SEO tools 2017," and you'll get results from over 4 million different business websites. So, what you're doing is a battle. A tough one.
The reality is that only those blogs that take steps to actually seize people's attention win the content wars today. And while hitting on just the right headline will move you forward, it's only the beginning. Headlines, in fact, play a major role in getting high CTRs (click-through rates). But, do they keep viewers glued to any page? No.
The real "seizing of attention" happens after people click through your headlines and become transfixed by what they're reading. Here are a few effective tips to elevate your audience from scanners to avid readers:
1. Scatter weird points throughout your contentWeird stuff almost always captures attention. At least it does for the typical person. You see something that looks unusual and you just naturally have to pause to check it out. Take this post from veteran blogger Jon Morrow headlined, "20 Ways to Be Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives a Crap About."
Morrow starts off his post with the subhed "Telling Stories" as his number one way to be a mediocre blogger. And that's weird, too -- because almost every content guru out there is already preaching that stories are a key to engaging readers. But the weird point grabs your attention and leads you on. You want to know why Morrow says telling stories is a way to become a mediocre blogger.
The viewer, therefore, naturally wants to continue reading. However, as the writer, you don't want to scatter weird points throughout your content just because they grab attention. You should have good reasons for using them. Readers want to know why you're advising them using such points.
Another example: After Morrow's seemingly weird point gets your attention, what follows is the reason behind his strange advice:
People love stories, but that doesn't mean you should tell any. Here's why: telling a boring story is worse than not telling any stories at all, and unless you're trained in storytelling, yours are pretty much guaranteed to be boring.
So, yes, weird headings and subheads seize attention. But you need good follow-up to convince your audience members they should stay on for the ride.
2. Think about how to get weird points to use.Here's one style that works: Use loaded points. These are points that carry more meaning than they appear to at first glance. Readers can't entirely understand them unless they read further down into your content to learn more.
Example: A subhead like "Say hello to everyone" is straightforward enough for anyone to quickly understand and just move on. But try instead "The 'hello' power." This one will get readers wondering -- as they won't be entirely sure what it means. It's a loaded point.
A good live example is this post by Jeff Bullas, titled "Is The Web as We Know It Dying?" See how he uses loaded points to present his subheads in the piece:
But is the utopian web future vanishing?
A tipping point
The web future
As the reader, you have to ask, What is The utopian? The web future? The landscape? A tipping point?
Whoever wants to find out the answers will have to read every section of Bullas's post. Reason: They are all loaded points. They obviously carry deeper meanings than they appear to. Readers, therefore, won't understand them unless they read further.
Highlight your readers' fears in headlines and subheads.Tell someone the dangers of not using a deodorant, and chances are he or she will get all fired up to go buy and regularly apply the sexiest deodorant advertised. Fear has always been a solid tool for persuasion.
When you highlight readers' fears in headings and subheads, you get their attention. They want to see what you're saying about something they find challenging. You've seized their rapt attention. Next, suggest that you have solutions to their wildest fears, and you'll make these readers into fans.
Example: Derek Halpern's "How to Make People Like You in 5 Seconds or Less" post on the blog SocialTriggers.com. After reading this headline, you have to wonder, "How do I make people like me?"
This is a major fear for certain readers: introverts, people who've suffered rejection, even folks who previously were overconfident but recently had their ego cut down to size. Most people are overtly or secretly uncomfortable when trying to make new friends, or impress people.
The takeaway here is to notice how Halpern indicates that he has a solution to this fear by including How to overcome (the fear). Chances are high that as a reader, you'll want to click-through this headline in any feed. And, as a writer, beyond the clicks you receive on your headlines, you'll want readers to stick with your content.
To make that happen, keep leveraging their fears by highlighting them in your subheads throughout the post, indicating over and over, of course, that you have a solution to them -- that is, How to overcome (the fear).
I liked how Halpern did this in his post. His first two subheads read:
How I Introduce Myself To Almost Anyone
How I conquered Social Awkwardness
These two subheads highlight the fears that insecure people face. Introverts don't enjoy introducing themselves to new people or being in social gatherings -- that's awkward for them. So, subheads like these will naturally draw them in and pull them along.
How to find your readers' fears to use in headings and subheadings.The first question to ask is: "Who are my primary or target readers?" Once you're able to answer this, you will know who your chief readers are and it will be easy come up with a list of their fears. Enter Google. Simply search your target customers + fears, and up will pop a plethora of handy resources pointing you to scary headings and subheadings to use in your next piece of content.
Example: Say that your target readers are salespeople. You can search salespeople fears. The top result I'm seeing for that search term reveals 4 Things Salespeople Fear More Than Anything Else:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of asking for the order
- Fear of losing territory customers
- Fear of failing salaries and commissions.
These are fears you can build your headings and subheadings around. And it's the same process for every type of audience you want to attract. Simply search target readers + fears and you'll get the insights you need to relate to the fears your particular readers face.
What happens after you seize people's attention?I met with a client a few weeks ago who needed content for her new blog. And as I do with all my clients, I asked her: "What's the one action you want visitors to take away after they read your posts?" She had no idea.
She knew she wanted people to read her blog. But there was no clear view what action she wanted them to take during or after reading it. I had to ask a couple of more questions to extract the the goal she was trying to accomplish with content.
Your goals should guide the type of content you create, the topics you cover, the channels you use, the CTAs on your content and more.
That said, what happens after your forms get submitted is key. Where do you lead visitors after they sign up for something on your site? Many businesses today still underuse their thank-you pages. But smart marketers? They know this is a page that can increase their ROI.
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