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Storytelling was pretty much the buzzword a few years back when it came to creating and developing content – and there were certainly hundreds of posts about perfecting your storytelling for your brand, customers and products.

Where storytelling isn’t so much as a new theory around content, as its been around for hundreds of years, it does seem that we have overlooked some of the basics that are vitally important when it comes to the reader of your content and how they digest it.

I am going to (take us back to circa 2008 and onwards) offer 7 quick tips that you need to consider when creating a piece of content for your site and readers.

Get your point across quickly

Being concise is a great attribute when developing content. Think of the readers attention span, will it fade halfway through one of your paragraphs? If you can get your point across quickly, it allows the reader to flow through the article with and digest the information quickly. Try to make sure that you insert the “important” part of the information at the top, to hook the reader in and keep their interest enough to keep on reading.

Create persuasive copy

Persuasive content or design is not about manipulating people towards your own opinion and getting them to do something, its about creating an understanding. If you can create understanding by offering context within your content (from the audience perspective), you’re on your way to persuading the reader about what you are offering, whether it be a product, service or knowledge. Nathalie Nahai shared her deck via Slideshare on The Secret Psychology Behind Persuasive Content, that’s certainly worth a view.

Secret of Psychology - State of Digital

The age old scanning of content

Yes it still plays a major part in how people digest content. Think about your own behaviour and devices you use to read content, do you meticulously read every single word? People want information quickly and they need to know if your post will answer their questions.

As mentioned earlier, start with the most important information first, with any supporting information last. Make sure to create meaningful sub headers for your paragraphs, so the reader can quickly scan what the next piece of content is about – this is ever so present when people are using mobile to read your content. Below is an example from the BBC, a global platform for news and sports. I went through a number of their articles and found many with non contextual sub headings, no bullet points or lead into the next paragraph (I am not condemning the BBC on this, afterall they are global publishers, but it does help the reader to know whats coming next).

BBC Content Example - State of Digital

What are your audience pain points

If you have done your research for your personas, audience and search demand, you should know what they are looking for and be able to create content to help with their “paint points”.

As a part of any content strategy work I undertake, I always visit forums, Yahoo Ask, Twitter and Facebook and various competitor sites to see if there are repeated questions or issues that crop up. If one question seems to be asked over and over, its sure to be a topic that you should include in your content marketing – become the authoritative voice on it. Make sure that you write with the audience perspective in mind, to solve their pain points, rather than fill it with your own views or opinions.

If you have an established customer database that you can email, or social following then create a survey and ask them what they would like to see more of, it could yield some really interesting areas that you could answer quickly and easily. Make sure your survey isn’t filled with free form text boxes, because if you get a lot of responses it will take a while to sift through all the raw data.

Where is the call to action

Once someone has ended up on your site, taken time to read a post, what is it you want them to do? Do you want them to click on a link, sign up for a newsletter or head off to one of your product pages to take a look at what you offer?

All too often the call to action is overlooked, adding a hyperlink to a keyword isn’t enough anymore. With a little more effort, have something that stands out. Taking a look at a Moneysupermarket article (below), they have crafted  great article around balance transfers for credit cards (UK only), with great sub headings, handy links to tools and a great big call to action alongside to compare credit cards – I don’t think you can miss it, can you? Not all call to actions need to be this prominent, but the reader isn’t left at the end of the story with a “…erm, what shall I do now? Close the browser window?”

MSM Content Example - State of Digital

Break up the ever rolling reams of plain text

I know it sounds simple but can you turn your one long article into something shorter or more appealing to the reader? Make sure to;

  • Add in some contextual images
  • Try to shorten any long paragraphs with bullet points
  • Embed a video that could help convey the story
  • Pull out any facts into stand alone quote marks

We have become accustomed to websites that have very long web pages and articles, if an article is interesting then the reader will carry on, but it will help those reading on device to have it broken up a little.

Socialise, socialise socialise

I came across two interesting infographics recently that gave me an overview of the activity around content on Facebook and how much content is shared, added etc to a number of social media platforms – which was eye watering. Firstly, KISSmetrics Facebook Stats where its stated 30Bn (yes billion- the post is 2013, so a little behind Mashable) pieces of content are shared every month. I am sure its inclusive of people posting a picture of their lunch, or cat, or dog.. well you get the message. Then there is a Mashable infographic which is mind boggling when you look at each platform.

Once you have done all the hardwork, then the old saying ..”distribution is queen..” couldn’t be more poignant. Make sure you socialise the content via your own platforms, and make it easy for readers to also share it. Social tookits need to be easily found no matter where the reader is during the article, incorporate sharing via one click of the icon. Use a social toolkit with analytics, so you can access and see hats being shared and what platforms – if an article gets lots of social love, then make sure to add more of the same to your content marketing.

If you think I have overlooked some basics, or have come across a “trend” that annoys you, then feel free to comment below. Bringing back some of the above basics, should help you when developing content for your own site, or if you have an agency providing it for you use them as a measuring stick to see if they incorporate them.



Russell O’Sullivan is an all-round Senior Digital Marketing Manager. With over 15 years of experience in the digital environment, he has worked across varied disciplines such Content Strategy/Marketing, PPC, SEO, Ecommerce, Social Media/Marketing, Web Design and UX.