In the same manner that people “stage” their property for potential buyers in order to turn it from a house into an inviting home, it’s important to ensure that your inbound marketing properties convey feelings that are warm, inviting, pleasant, helpful and convenient.
Why Presentation is Everything in Content Marketing
Real estate agents have been known to pull out all the stops when it comes to staging tactics – baking cookies to lend the house a wholesome aroma, clearing surfaces to provide the house with an uncluttered appearance, and strategically placing Pottery Barn furniture in the living room to foster an affluent and modern feel. Similarly, with inbound marketing, there are plenty of proven and recommended tactics for maximizing warm impressions.
Clear, concise language is pivotal. According analytics platform Chartbeat, most visitors decide whether or not to leave a content page within 15 seconds of loading it. If you take too long to get to the meat, if your language is disproportionately jargon-heavy, convoluted or otherwise difficult to understand, your audience will look elsewhere, fast.
Utilize active phrasing that gives the reader precise instructions, and active voice to make your content more direct, actionable and motivational.
Structure your paragraphs in an inverted pyramid structure, stating your primary thesis concisely at the very top and then following it with supporting sentences. This helps readers move from point to point quickly, and it enables them to decide where they’d like to dive in deeper. Keep your paragraphs to five sentences or less, and make sure to feature only one idea per paragraph.
Can’t Scan It? Ban It!
In his oft-cited web usability study of 1997, user experience thought leader Jakob Nielsen made the case that 79% of web users scan rather than read. While Nielsen’s data is now decades old, the results have been proven again and again, and today’s mobile, social consumers of content are even less likely actually to read content thoroughly than their predecessors.
Digital content is all about serving up readily available, quickly digestible information. Screen reading is about 25% slower than reading from paper. Audience members are busy, easily frustrated creatures who are only trying to accomplish their goals without encountering unnecessary obstacles. By ensuring that your content is scannable, the likelihood that the user will feel favorable about your brand and return for more information skyrockets.
As a publishing industry term, “scannability” refers to the cumulative effect of techniques that address the fact that most people don’t fully read content on the web. Always insert meaningful, action-focused subheadings throughout your content. Subheadings are important because they provide an outline of the information you’re presenting, so people can skip directly to the portions of your article that most interest them. Also, if your subheadings are intriguing, they will keep your readers engaged.
Secondly, bold the most critical concepts. See how your eye flew straight to that line? That’s because you’re normal. By utilizing selective bolding, your readers will be able to scan through and pick out the most critical information at a glance.
Thirdly, embed images, videos and other visual elements between larger blocks of body text, so that your readers won’t get too overwhelmed. Amazingly but not surprisingly, people are four times more likely to read image captions than body copy. Videos can also improve the experience of content, rather than forcing people to read. One study found that adults are 39% more likely to share video content online than text-only content.
Also worth mentioning is The F pattern. This construct is based on an eye-tracking study that documented how users read web pages. The long and the short of it is that web pages are consumed in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe. What does this mean for you and your scannability? Begin all subheadings, paragraphs and bullet points with information-laden words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their Fs. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.
Trust or Bust – Maintain Objectivity
Establishing credibility is essential for grabbing hold of site visitors. Nurturing trust is a process, and the first way to achieve it is by including references to statistics and research (see what we did there?) to back up your claims. Linking out to further information, citations or source material makes it easy for your site visitor to verify your information’s accuracy.
Another critical piece is staying clear of over-promotion. People detest over-hyped, disproportionately sales-y writing. Nobody wants to feel pressured, and once you cross the line into “We’re the best out there; buy now!” your readers will begin to question the credibility of your statements. Credibility and trust suffer when visitors start catching whiffs of hyperbole, boastfulness, and pressure.
Remove all “marketese” from your content by eliminating superlative adjectives (greatest, incredible, ultimate) and buzzwords (dynamic, guru, low hanging fruit) as well as any claims unsupported by solid evidence. Just talk about the benefits of solutions and convey your company’s take on issues that are relevant to your industry. Remember that the goal of your content is to build relationships of trust with prospects over time.
Create Inviting Content
Ultimately, your goal should be to create content that is inviting, useful and easy to consume. That’s how to stage your marketing materials effectively.
A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.