How to Write Great Content That Fascinates From Start to Finish
“Does it hurt when you give it away for free?”
Let’s talk about writing great content. As writers, it is something we obviously aspire to and determines whether or not we attract readers. I don’t want to regurgitate anything from the enormous body of knowledge on this topic but instead, add a few nuggets on to the pile and hopefully help you better navigate today’s sea of digital content.
Imagine you wrote a great title, rallied up your social media channels at the right time and, as a result, you snagged yourself a reader. This person is stepping through that front door, crossing that threshold that separates your title and your content, and is about to consume your introductory paragraph. Good job, tap yourself on the back, and now, swap the mental image of your reader with one walking on a tightrope high above a deep and scary ravine. It’s figurative, but any bad move at this point and… splat.
Nothing short of perfection will get your readers to the end of your piece and am not talking about perfect writing skills, though important, I am talking about delivering perfect value skills.
No Introductory Paragraph
Earlier, I mentioned that introductory paragraph, but it is an illusion! It doesn’t exist… There is no such thing as an introductory paragraph anymore. It may still be a thing in academia or you may get some oohs and ahhs in a creative writing class; in the real world, anything that doesn't offer direct and constant value will fail and your readers will fall off to their deaths, well, move on, but definitely dead to you.
We have a very short attention span and zero free time. If you want to get somebody’s attention, you have to steal it, actually more like pry away from somebody else’s content.
You can still use storytelling techniques, like starting with a problem, developing conflict and ending with a resolution, as long as you weave value in each and every step of the way.
How Can You Tell If It’s of Value?
How can you tell it’s of value? That’s easy and I have a surefire tip that I share with others all the time and still use myself — ask yourself this, “Does it hurt when you give it away for free?” By this I mean, while you are writing it, if you feel like maybe you shouldn't be giving it away but instead use it in your next book, Udemy class or master webinar series, then it has value, hit the publish button and move on.
The Waterfall of Value
Instead of an introduction and conclusion, think of each paragraph as a vehicle to release value. I call this “The Waterfall of Value”. Each paragraph digs deeper into the level of granularity of whatever value you are providing.
The first paragraph should deliver the “big picture” value, the second digs in a bit deeper, and so on. This allows the reader to leave at any time depending on their time budget and still feel like they‘ve got their time’s worth. If they want more, then they’ll keep reading. Regardless of where they leave, they’ll remember your piece, your site, and you as a source of value. They will come back and may even bring friends.
You can still throttle the number of tips you’re giving away to lead them to your call to action, but you have to give value at each and every step.
How many times do you look at your piece from a holistic perspective? If you are anything like me, not often and, when you do, it’s usually after the fact. This is usually done by counting the likes, going through reader comments, or going through web traffic analytics.
So here is an experimental approach to measure where and how much value you are giving away before releasing anything.
Print your article and highlight all the areas where there is a clear nugget of value. Put it on the floor, stand above it and take it all in. You should be able to see where you are giving value, where you aren’t (value deserts) and if that value is well balanced throughout the piece.
Here is the breakdown of value in a post I wrote entitled: “You Want to Go Viral? Then Say So — Here Are 3 Simple Tips to Increase Your Site’s Traffic”. In this case, each link represents an area of value. Overall it isn’t bad but I do see a few areas that could offer more value, such as the last third of the piece.
A Few More Tips — No Fluff, to the Point, Use Images
Eye-tracking software showed the world that most people usually only scan pages and do so in a pre-determined pattern following some sort of F or E shape. This means that only the first few lines are diligently read while the rest is skimmed. This is where keeping it short, having some inviting images or graphics and avoiding fluff words will discourage the reader from scanning or, worse, leaving.
Call to Action and Conclusion
And then there is the call to action! Always end your piece with what you want your reader to walk away with — it can be your stuff, somebody else's, or simply good advice… But you always should finish your piece with a bang, with a grand finale! Thanks for listening.