Does your Post Keep the Reader Engaged?

anchored engaged by hans cc0 public domain from pixbay

How do you keep a read­er engaged? It is vital to keep them on the page fol­low­ing your every word. It is about know­ing and inter­act­ing with your readers.

In these trou­bled, uncer­tain times, we don’t need more com­mand and con­trol; we need bet­ter means to engage everyone’s intel­li­gence in solv­ing chal­lenges and crises as they arise.” ~ Mar­garet J. Wheatley

From the out­set we enter into a loose con­tract with the read­er. A promise to share knowl­edge in return for which the read­er promis­es to stay till the end, read­ing every word; pro­vid­ed we con­tin­ue to engage them. A deal that is silent­ly struck.

 

Engaged?

If you are writ­ing a blog know­ing how to keep the read­er engaged should be one of your first pri­or­i­ties. There are many ques­tions a writer may ask to ensure their work has been cre­at­ed to sat­is­fy the needs of the read­er, including:

  • Have I laid out out all pos­si­ble options?
  • Have I answered their prob­a­ble questions?
  • Did I lave a cru­cial part of me behind?
  • Is it Straightforward?

Engag­ing read­ers isn’t just about writ­ing a arti­cle for your blog, but about know­ing how to mar­ket it effec­tive­ly as well. Arguable read­ers want access to the most effec­tive infor­ma­tion as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. This starts with hav­ing a catchy title, for the blog post an excerpt will also appear on the search results which should adver­tise what it is all about. Search engines and Social Media  draws the read­er in, how you inter­act with them oper­ates from then on. The net result the read­er feels engaged when the click on the link.

 

Too much Content?

Proverbial junkThe Inter­net is sat­u­rat­ed with con­tent and in writ­ing your mate­r­i­al it is vital you set your­self apart from oth­ers. There are many ways to do this, for exam­ple by ask­ing (or answer­ing) the ques­tion that oth­ers don’t ask/answer. One les­son I learned ear­ly when writ­ing web con­tent is not to skim the sub­ject, pick one aspect, then demon­strate how it may have val­ue to the read­er and exam­ine the details. Imag­ine for one moment a how-to piece about chang­ing the bag in a vac­u­um clean­er which shows all the steps that must be tak­en, except putting the new bag in place. That step may be obvi­ous to most, but it may be the very rea­son why one read­er may be on your page.

There may be too much con­tent on the web, but there is always room for con­tent that pro­vides answers, or the post that guides peo­ple through the com­plex­i­ties of a project they wish to complete.

 

Research and keep your Knowledge up-to-date

Do you have a spe­cial­ist sub­ject? When was the last time you improved your knowl­edge? It is dif­fi­cult to keep read­ers engaged when you are out of date.

Spe­cial­i­sa­tions need con­sis­tent and ongo­ing research, you need to read those jour­nals that tell you when a team in the Con­go dis­cov­ers some­thing new, or when a team in Chi­na refutes some­thing con­sid­ered to be com­mon knowl­edge. You need to know about all these major advances.

 

Titles and Pictures 

Titles, excerpts, and pic­tures mat­ter. You must make the unknown read­er feel wel­come. The read­er selects a piece to read large­ly because of the page title, the sum­ma­ry (or excerpt) and the fea­tured image. If rel­e­vant to the reader’s needs it will draw them in, using two of their five sens­es. This first inter­ac­tion with the poten­tial read­er is all impor­tant and is about engag­ing the read­er then man­ag­ing their expec­ta­tions. You should try to open up the oth­er senses.

things-unknown

Pic­tures, images or dia­grams in the page brings changes that allows the mind to absorb what it has tak­en in, then pause for a moment before going on. I have been on pages that have no pic­tures on them and find the con­tent is dif­fi­cult to read, even though there is noth­ing wrong with the Eng­lish used, it sim­ply fails to con­sid­er my needs as a read­er. Many psy­chol­o­gists that say there is a good rea­son why peo­ple find a pic­ture to be engag­ing. Many writ­ers have told me that they don’t use pic­tures because they have none of their own they can use, ignor­ing the fact that there are plen­ty of roy­al­ty-free images avail­able, on the web, for gen­er­al use.

Take a look at Pix­abay next time you are writ­ing, it is where the fea­tured image for this post was sourced.

 

A Story to Tell

There is noth­ing bet­ter than telling a sto­ry to make the read­er feel engaged. Even with non-fic­tion it is pos­si­ble to tell a sto­ry, the sto­ry of what hap­pened, how to do it, etc. is all valu­able infor­ma­tion that will allow the read­er to under­stand what you have to say. To write suc­cess­ful­ly you have to devel­op the art of sto­ry­telling, show why this top­ic mat­ters. If you are writ­ing fac­tu­al con­tent then your sto­ry must be the truth, some­thing that actu­al­ly hap­pened, not a work of fic­tion. It is your sto­ry that can sell the article.

The major­i­ty of peo­ple remem­ber sto­ries and not facts, so it is impor­tant to tell the sto­ry behind the fact. For exam­ple how did Roger Ban­nis­ter pre­pare to be the first man to break the 4 minute mile? What is the sto­ry behind the first moon walk by Neil Arm­strong? It is through that sto­ry they remem­ber the facts.

By telling the sto­ry behind the facts you dis­tin­guish your­self from the oth­er writ­ers talk­ing about the same sub­ject, who sim­ply pro­vide the facts. This is all the more impor­tant if you have per­son­al expe­ri­ences to share. What hap­pened dur­ing the exper­i­ments you per­formed? Why did it go wrong? What did you learn? These lessons, which were very per­son­al for the writer can also be felt by the read­er. You will have an advan­tage over those who seek to pro­duce facts and fig­ures with­out any con­text. The sto­ry that unveils the rea­son why a par­tic­u­lar sta­tis­tic is so impor­tant and why the read­er should care will be more popular.

 

Write Plainly but Powerfully

quillYou do not have to be a pow­er­ful nov­el­ist or clas­si­cal writer to write pow­er­ful­ly. Know what type of per­son you are writ­ing for and write mate­r­i­al at the appro­pri­ate lev­el. For gen­er­al mate­r­i­al it is argued that the knowl­edge lev­el is that of a fifth-grad­er (10 year old). If your audi­ence has a spe­cial­i­sa­tion then you should use lan­guage appro­pri­ate to that profession.

Spell check­ing and gram­mar check­ing are all vital. I would say you start with the spell check­er linked to your word proces­sor or brows­er. There are var­i­ous web­sites that enable writ­ers to check the read­abil­i­ty of their work and I intend to review some of these capa­bil­i­ties in the future. Ulti­mate­ly your writ­ing should flow well, present your thoughts styl­ish­ly, and with a purpose.

When pre­sent­ing non-fic­tion­al work you have a duty to tell the facts as you see them, tell sto­ries that help the read­er under­stand the con­cepts that you present. Those sto­ries should be based on real events, not made up. The duty not to fic­tion­alise con­tent is a part of the ‘con­tract’ the writer has with the read­er. It is how you see the events, your inter­pre­ta­tion, that’s all.

 

Power Words

David Aston believes writ­ers should use pow­er words in to pro­duce more engag­ing con­tent. The idea: pow­er words tap direct­ly into the emo­tions of the read­er. Some of these words are clear and sim­ple, like “you”, or “your” but oth­ers he sug­gests are less obvi­ous, see the dia­gram below for Aston’s list of words that keep read­ers engaged.

power-words-david-aston

Some words like “inva­sion,” “dis­cov­er,” or “haz­ardous” do evoke cer­tain emo­tions. If peo­ple speak such words you ears will perk up, and even if you hear noth­ing else they will spike an inter­est in what was said. All Aston is doing here is using that same phi­los­o­phy in the con­text of the writ­ten arti­cle. The impli­ca­tion here is that each writer needs to study the work they pro­duce and see which has the great­est impact on read­ers (in terms of the num­ber of peo­ple read­ing the piece) then attempt to repli­cate that approach or style in oth­er work.

Words like “you” and “your” are a way of involv­ing the audi­ence, when the dia­logue is writ­ten con­sis­tent­ly in sec­ond per­son. There is anoth­er pos­i­tive impact of involv­ing the audi­ence this way, it means you are less like­ly to fall into pas­sive voice.

 

Sub-Divide Your Work

Head­ings and sub-head­ings are a vital ele­ment of pre­sen­ta­tion, it breaks your work down into man­age­able chunks which aids both the read­er and the writer. Sec­tions can break the thoughts down into a log­i­cal order, iden­ti­fy­ing the nat­ur­al flow of the work. Do you recall those maths ques­tions at school where the teacher told you to show your cal­cu­la­tions? Blog writ­ing has much the same need. You may have reached a con­clu­sion, but you have to show the read­er the log­i­cal steps tak­en to reach that result.

It is pos­si­ble you have three or four ques­tions to pose on the reader’s behalf and two or three options in answer­ing each ques­tion. Break­ing these down sep­a­rate­ly into sec­tions and sub-sec­tions will allow the work to appear well con­struct­ed. A part of this is to ensure that every­thing builds towards, and sup­ports, your log­i­cal conclusion.

A future piece will explore the head­line and its part in bring­ing read­ers to your work and engag­ing them early.

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Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee as thanks for dis­cussing how to engage your read­er. The images includ­ed here are from roy­al­ty free pub­lic domain image col­lec­tions, pho­tographs from Pix­abay, or from Peter Giblett’s per­son­al collection.

 

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5 Replies to “Does your Post Keep the Reader Engaged?”

  1. Peter, great arti­cle! I always learn from you. Thank you for shar­ing your wisdom.

  2. Peter B. Giblett says: Reply

    Nan­cy, it is always a plea­sure to help.

  3. […] Well writ­ten con­tent that engages the reader. […]

  4. […] today, are look­ing for a quick, infor­ma­tive and engag­ing read. They may also be seek­ing to under­stand how some­thing works. Titles are what brings them in and […]

  5. […] Does your Post Keep the Read­er Engaged? […]

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