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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