In two days, I used the strategy in this article to write one piece of content for my client that boosted their audience engagement to 43%. This meant more customers through the door and more sales for my client.
Today, I’m going to show you exactly how I did it.
To measure audience engagement, I used the Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR) of the emails sent. CTOR compares unique clicks to unique opens. A higher CTOR means the content was more engaging to the audience.
Maybe you’re thinking “well, surely she just sent it to more people and included more links to get a better CTOR”.
I actually had around the same number of recipients and FEWER links.
Pretty cool, huh?
Alright, let’s dive in.
Format your content well
1. Plan first
What does planning mean?
Planning means coming up with steps to take before doing an action. It can be long and in-depth or short and brief.
Why is planning my content important?
There are three reasons why planning your content is important:
- It helps you include all relevant information. This means your audience has the information they need, so they don’t waste time asking questions.
- It helps you get straight to the point and remove babbling. This saves you writing time and your audience reading time.
- It helps you achieve your purpose. This means your content does what you want it to do — whether that’s describing your services or explaining a process.
How can I plan my content?
When planning your content, you need to consider three things:
- Who your audience is
- What they need to know
- How to present the information
First, think about who will consume your content. Are they adults or kids? What’s their English level like? Do they have background information about the topic?
Next, you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Come up with questions they’d ask about your topic. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who: Who is this product for?
- What: What is this product?
- Where: Where can I go to learn more?
- When: When does the sale end?
- Why: Why is this product important?
- How: How do I buy this product?
Remember to focus on what your audience actually needs to know and not what you want to tell them. Always put your audience’s needs first.
Lastly, there are many ways to present your content. It could be:
- Online written content: blogs, website copy, and email newsletters
- Offline written content: posters, flyers, and brochures
- Online multimedia content: podcasts, videos, and audiobooks
- Offline multimedia content: radio ads, tv ads, and billboards
To work out what’s best for your audience, you need to understand their skills, abilities, and preferences. It may sound obvious, but if your audience aren’t tech-savvy, then they’re not going to enjoy content on a screen. Instead, consider an offline content type.
2. Structure content in priority order
What does “structure content in priority order” mean?
Content structure means the way you lay out your content. What goes at the start, middle, and end? Priority order means putting the most important part first, the next most important part second, and so on.
Why is it important to structure content in priority order?
Structuring your content in priority order is important for three reasons:
- It helps your audience engage with your content right from the start. This means they’re more likely to keep reading and interact with the content the way you want them to (and take the desired actions you want them to take from your content).
- It helps your audience quickly understand your content. This means they can read your content without wasting their time. This makes them trust you and your brand more, too.
- It helps your audience remember the most important information in your content. This means they’re more likely to remember the key points rather than getting bogged down with irrelevant information.
How can I structure my content in priority order?
Structuring your content in priority order is really simple. There are two steps:
- Work out which information is important
- List that information in priority order
When writing the press release for my client that boosted audience engagement to 43%, I prioritised the key information. This helped me work out which paragraphs they’d go in.
All this information was necessary, but I had to think about what was most important. I asked myself “If they only read the first paragraph, what would they know about the event?”. Well, there wouldn’t be any point talking about stallholder numbers and product types without first telling them we were holding a market.
3. Use headings
What are headings?
Headings are organisational elements in written content. Headings are the main titles that tell you what the main topics are in the content. Subheadings are secondary titles that sit under the main headings. Both of these guide your audience through your content and show them what to expect.
Why are headings important?
Headings are important for three reasons:
- They help your audience navigate and read your content. This means they can easily scan your content and quickly find the information they need.
- They grab your audience’s attention. This means they’re more likely to continue reading your content and turn into a new customer or client.
- They improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This means Google can better understand your content and show your content to people who search for relevant terms. And that means more potential customers and clients for you.
How can I work out what headings to use?
In the last two steps, I planned and structured my content. Here’s the plan and structure I came up with when writing the press release:
I grouped similar questions together to come up with two sections. The first section is about the event, and the second one is about the blanket drive at the event.
Then I came up with the following headings and subheadings:
To create these headings, I listed the main ideas and came up with 5 possible headings for each one. I also used active verbs like “support” and “bring” to sound more confident and interesting. I could have said “[Brand Name]’s Annual Blanket Drive on This Weekend”, but it sounds boring. So what? Who cares? BUT if I add in “Support Canberrans in Need”, now there’s a reason to go to the event.
I also emphasised The Salvation Army in the third heading because they’re a well-known organisation in this space. This brings credibility and authenticity to the blanket drive.
4. Use short paragraphs
What is a short paragraph?
A short paragraph is a paragraph that doesn’t have too many sentences. Usually, I limit my paragraphs to eight or nine lines at most. Ideally, they’d be around five or six lines. Depending on sentence length, this is about five sentences.
Why is using short paragraphs important?
Using short paragraphs is important for three reasons:
- It helps you engage your audience better. This means they’re more likely to actually read your content.
- It helps your audience understand your content better. This means they’ll understand your content’s key points and learn something useful.
- It makes your content more accessible. This means people with reading or learning difficulties can understand your messaging easily.
How can I use short paragraphs in my content?
Make sure each paragraph only contains one main idea. You also need to check how many sentences and lines there are. If there are more than nine lines, then change the paragraph. This could mean splitting it into two paragraphs (if there are two main ideas) or removing unnecessary words to make the sentences shorter. Here’s another example from the press release:
The first paragraph is about general products on offer, and the second one is about the food and drink products. Originally, this was going to be one paragraph, but if I had put them together, then it would’ve been too long. Instead, I broke it up into two paragraphs — the first focused on general products and the second on food and drink products.
5. Use blank space
What is blank space?
Blank space is any space in your content that doesn’t have words, images, or other content.
Why is blank space important?
Including blank space in your content is important for three reasons:
- It breaks up your content into manageable chunks. This means your audience can digest your content and stay focused on it for longer.
- It helps make your content more accessible. This means it’s legible and looks great on smaller devices like mobile phones.
- It makes your content more organised. This means your audience can easily scan it and find the information they need.
How can I use blank space in my content?
If you follow the above two steps, you’re already halfway there. When you use headings and short paragraphs, you automatically give the content more blank space.
You can also make sure there’s enough space between each line of text. Depending on your font and design requirements, use either single, 1.15, or 1.5 line spacing. The exact instructions vary depending on which platform you use to publish your content, but a quick Google search will help you.
6. Use easier words
What do you mean by “easier words”?
English has lots of different words that essentially mean the same thing. I can say “acquire” or “get”. I can say “assist” or “help”. I can say “additional” or “extra”. In these examples, the “easier words” are the ones I’ve written second — get, help, and extra. They’re the words with fewer letters and syllables.
Why is using easier words important?
Using easier words is important for three reasons:
- It makes your content more accessible. This means you can reach a larger target audience who are from diverse backgrounds.
- It makes your content more engaging. Your readers are more likely to continue reading your content if they can easily follow it.
- It saves time for you and your readers. This means you can create your content quickly, and your readers can understand your main messages quickly, too.
How can I use easier words in my content?
You need to be critical of your writing. When you write, you need to ask yourself “is there an easier way to say this?”. If there is, then write that easier way instead. Here’s an example:
I wrote “praises” not “compliments”. Why? Because it gets the same meaning across in seven letters instead of eleven letters. I also wrote “says” instead of “comments”. Why? Because it gets the same meaning across in one syllable instead of two syllables.
If you know a word is complex but can’t think of an easier one, Google it.
Simply type “define [word]” into Google. This will bring up the dictionary definition and give you some similar words you can use instead.
Make sure you look at the right definition. In the example above, the first definition isn’t what we’re looking for because it refers to clapping our hands. But the second definition “show strong approval of” is what we’re looking for.
7. Use pronouns
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are words like “we”, “you”, “he”, “she”, and “they”. Pronouns replace nouns (things) and proper nouns (names) in sentences.
Why is using pronouns important?
Using pronouns in your content is important for three reasons:
- It personalises your content and helps you speak directly to your audience. This means they’re more likely to connect with your content and take action from it.
- It avoids repetition. This means your content is easier to read and your audience can engage better with it.
- It creates a conversational tone. This humanises your brand and makes you feel more approachable to your audience.
How can I use pronouns in my content?
Replace generic terms like “customer” with “you”. You can also add “your” in front of relevant nouns to help your readers see themselves in your content. I even did this in the previous sentence — I wrote “your readers” and “your content” instead of “readers” and “the content”. Why? Because it speaks directly to you and makes it more personal.
Instead of referring to your business by name, you can also use the pronouns “we” and “us”. This makes your brand feel more “human” and like your customers are interacting with a person rather than a company. (Because, let’s face it, they actually ARE interacting with a person). Here’s an example of this from the press release:
8. Use punctuation correctly
What is punctuation?
Punctuation is the symbols that help us make sense of a sentence. They include full stops, commas, apostrophes, question marks, quotation marks, exclamation marks, dashes, hyphens, colons, and semicolons.
Why is it important to use punctuation correctly?
Using punctuation correctly is important for three reasons:
- It avoids misunderstandings and ambiguity. This means you convey your intended message to your audience.
- It adds structure to your content. This means it’s easier for your audience to read and understand your message.
- It makes you more credible. This means your clients and customers will trust you more and want to take action from your content.
How can I use punctuation correctly in my content?
Punctuation is a big topic, so I won’t go into every single detail about it. But I’ll pick the top tips I have that’ll make the biggest difference in your writing.
Put full stops at the end of your sentence to show it’s finished. It’s important to only have one main idea per sentence. This makes your writing clearer and easier to read. Have a look at this example from the press release:
Notice how each sentence only has one main idea. Check each sentence and make sure you only have one main idea per sentence. If you’re saying more than one idea, then break your sentence up into two.
You can use commas in many ways. I won’t go over every use here, but I’ll cover the ones I used in the press release. Here’s the same paragraph as before, but I’ve highlighted the commas:
In sentences one, two, four, and five, I used a comma after an introductory phrase. Here are some other introductory phrases to use a comma after:
- Before X, …
- In conclusion, …
- Although X, …
In sentence three, I used commas to separate items in a list. I’ve used two commas in the list, but technically you only have to use one in this situation according to Australian style guides. Here’s what I mean:
- I used two commas: “…new and good quality clothes, blankets, and sleeping bags…”
- Technically, I should have used one: “…new and good quality clothes, blankets and sleeping bags…”
I’ve got A LOT to say about this, but basically it comes down to one argument: I think using two commas in this situation makes my meaning clearer. If you prefer to only use one, then whatever — you do you.
Hyphens and em dashes:
We use hyphens and em dashes for two reasons, but many use them interchangeably. Here’s what they look like:
- Hyphen: –
- Em dash: —
We use hyphens in compound words like “self-esteem”. We also use them in number ranges like “10-20”. We use an em dash to show a pause in a sentence. It’s stronger than a comma, but weaker than a semicolon. It’s also more stylistic. Here’s an example from the press release:
I used an em dash in the first sentence to pause a little. If I had used a semicolon (this: “ ; ”), it would have been too formal. I also used hyphens in “loose-leaf tea” and “cold-pressed juice”. Can you see the difference in when to use these?
Including relevant links means creating hyperlinks to other relevant content within your content. The links should also be contextual. This means they shouldn’t break up your content’s flow. Here’s what I mean:
- Contextual: Check out my website for more information
- Not contextual: Check out my website at https://theplainenglishschool.com/ for more information
Including relevant links is important for three reasons:
- It gives your audience more context and background information. This means they can easily click a link to learn more without having to open a web browser and search for it elsewhere.
- It can make you sound more credible and trustworthy. When you write facts, you can link to the relevant place you got it to show you didn’t simply make it up.
- It can improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This means you can rank higher in search results and get more organic traffic to your online content.
Read your content and ask yourself “would I want to go to another page for more information about this?”. Here’s an example:
Now, I could have simply said “Please visit our website for a list of stallholders attending our July Market, images, and background information on [brand name]”. But it’s not specific enough. The reader would’ve had to:
- Open a web browser
- Type in the web address (or Google the brand name)
- Scroll through the home page trying to find links to the relevant information
This is hard for the reader to do.
Or…I could link them to the relevant page to begin with. This is WAY easier, and the reader is more likely to click the link than do the three steps above. Not sure how to link to content? Google “how to add hyperlink in [platform]”.
Conclusion (and grab my free checklist)
And there you have it. The 9-step strategy I used to boost audience engagement to 43% for my client.
Wanna use this strategy for your own small business content? Grab your free checklist below.
Got no time to do this for yourself? Well, you’re in luck!
If you’re a small business owner in regional or rural Australia who needs someone to write content for you, please contact me for a free 15-minute chat.
I’d love to help you and your business succeed.