In a space as crowded as that of online content, it can be pretty frustrating to feel like your content is just another drop in the ocean.
Here, I’ll explain how you can use a few simple techniques to make your content stand out from the rest, so you can get more readers, more engagement and more prospective customers.
Avoid Shallow Hooks
If you’ve ever taken a speech class, then you’re already familiar with the idea of a “hook.” Hooks are designed the grab the audience’s attention, and often involve trying to relate to the audience. That’s why many students’ speeches will begin with a something like “How many of you have ever watched a superhero movie?” or “Raise your hand if you love birthday cake.”
Of course, an opening hook like that is fine for a presentation, but many inexperienced content creators fall back on them for what’s supposed to be professional-grade writing. They do this because it’s a relatively easy and familiar tactic–find a way to relate to the vast majority of your audience, introduce your point and then dive in.
However, simple hooks like that are often completely transparent to readers, especially if they’re overly lengthy or only loosely related to the body of the content. To avoid this, you’ll want to spend a little more time on your opening sentences to make sure they’re genuinely relatable and intriguing.
Try to write hooks that are:
- Closely related to the body of the content.
This way, your introductions won’t come off to readers as superficial, pandering or low-effort, and you’ll be able to foster more meaningful connections with your audience.
For example, in an article about cybersecurity, you might start off with a hook that looks something like this:
“According to a recent study, there were an astonishing 160,000 cybersecurity incidents in 2017. Clearly, the cybersecurity measures already in place aren’t adequate, and it’s high time we do something about it.”
A hook like that works because it’s only two sentences long, incorporates an interesting statistic and references an action.
Once you’ve written the hook, you can explain what the article will specifically address, which in the case of our cybersecurity example will be the prevalence of breaches, the security that’s being used and the security that should be used instead.
If you can establish credibility for yourself, your company and your content, you’ll automatically set yourself apart from the competition.
The easiest way to do this is to do deep research in your content and demonstrate your unique expertise while referencing and linking to credible sources. Of course, research and hard facts are ideal, but a thought piece that reflects the author’s personal opinion and viewpoint will do just fine as well, especially if the author is an established industry analyst or executive.
To take your expertise to the next level, start poking around to see if you can write a guest post on a popular blog or get a mention from a prominent person in your field. To do this, you’ll need to reach out to people you don’t know–in other words, you’ll have to start cold emailing. The Harvard Business Review has a helpful guide to cold emailing that includes tips like:
- Tailor your email to the recipient.
- Validate yourself.
- Keep it concise and actionable.
The more you put yourself out there, the more likely it is that someone will respond and accept your request to write a guest post or get referenced in their content.
Additionally, you can establish credibility in the eyes of Google by following their Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
According to these guidelines, a site’s quality is determined by four primary factors:
- Expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, which depends on factual accuracy, expert sources and professionalism.
- Main content quality and amount, which can be determined by evaluating the time, effort and skill that went into creating that content. Sites with too little content are generally rated lower than sites with more content.
- Website information/information about who is responsible for the website. Websites that provide clear information about who is responsible for the website generally receive higher ratings than those that do not.
- Website reputation, which can be gauged with the help of Better Business Bureau ratings, customer reviews and information from sites like Wikipedia.
If you adhere to these guidelines and meet Google’s standards of high-quality sites, your website will likely rank higher in Google search results, and will thus be more likely to experience an influx in traffic.
Chat a Little
If you comment on five companies’ social media posts and only one company responds to you, which company are you most likely to engage with again? Although I probably don’t need to say it, the answer is the company that responded to you.
This is why responding to your readers whenever they do reach out to you is so important. Especially if you have a small audience, fostering a sense of personal connection is absolutely crucial to your growth and your audience’s loyalty.
When chatting with your audience, be sure to keep it thoughtful, amicable and respectful. Address your readers by their first name for an extra sense of personalization, and remember to thank them for asking questions or contributing thoughts.
While responding to people is certainly important, it can sometimes be more important to know when to restrain yourself. In the age of social media, many companies have permanently tarnished their reputation by responding less-than-professionally to aggressive or critical comments. Learn from their mistakes, and always remain polite when interacting with critics. When in doubt, simply ask them to contact a member of your team to receive further help.
With these strategies in your tool box, you’ll be able to take your content from generic to noteworthy. If you remember to keep your hooks interesting, establish credibility whenever possible and engage with your audience at every opportunity, you’ll have no trouble standing out from your competition.
If you need some help making your content truly exceptional, check out bizbuzzcontent’s content creation services–we’ll work with you to ensure that your content will never go unnoticed.
Do you use any other tactics to make content stand out? Feel free to share them in the comments!