How to Create Content That Actually Gets Read

I’m continually shocked by how much advice about content creation is based on the assumption that people are idiots. That they have the attention span of toddlers and that you have to fight every second for their attention using sneaky tactics, bright pictures, and fluffy content.

But you know that doesn’t work on you — in fact, you hate reading articles like that. And you also know that there are those posts from people that you can’t wait to read, those ones that you open every single time they pop into your inbox.

Not-so-surprisingly, the secret to writing the second type of content is treating your readers like they’re actual human beings, just like you.

So the way you create content that actually gets read is only halfway about writing — before you can even start writing, you have to start out by knowing who you’re writing to and why they should care about you to begin with.

Who are you writing to, really?
 
By this I mean not only the demographics, but who they really are — what they really value and care about.
Think about the parts of them that would remain the same regardless of circumstances, like their values and their fears. When you get to know somebody to that deep a level, then you can really start to write to them in a way that instantly appeals to them and makes them want more.
Now, obviously every post you write doesn’t have to be some deep, get into their emotions type of post — but even a lighter post should show that you know your readers down deep by the subject matter you choose and how you present it.
Why should they care?
It should without saying, but you can’t expect people to want to read your content if you’re not giving them anything in it.
Everything you post should benefit your readers in some way, and there’s no excuse for doing this halfway, especially once you know who they are and what they really care about.
But it’s not only about making the post valuable to them — it’s about making them care about you specifically, because that’s how you get people who love to follow you and open whatever you write.
Regardless of the subject, each of your posts needs to be presented in a way that’s unique to you, because bland content is a recipe for a high bounce rate. So figure out who your readers really are, and then where aspects of you overlap with that.

This will help you come up with better post ideas (because it’s always easier to write about something you know a lot about) and provide more value to the readers, which is the fundamental requirement for any content to be desirable.

This positions you as an expert, and more importantly, their expert — the person they want to go to again and again because they know that you’re going to give them high quality content that’s tailored to their needs and presented in a memorable way.

Now start writing.
 
When you finally start the writing process, you need to focus on three things: your headline and first sentence, the structure of the rest of the post, and your conclusion or call to action.
Headline and first sentence: These need to grab their attention right out of the gate — but in a way that makes them want to read more.
So I’m not saying that you should write something startling to grab attention, then switch to your main article, because that’s just a bait and switch. What you need to do is to write something that is eye catching, but also tells them how you’re going to provide them with value.

Structure: The most important part of the rest of the content is how you structure it (always assuming throughout that you’re providing value throughout).

Think about how IKEA is set up. It’s designed to lead you through the store like a maze, but it’s done subtly, so it feels natural to walk that way. They don’t have big signs up saying: “Go this way right now!” They make you naturally walk that way.

That’s exactly how your posts should be structured. They need to be arranged so that they’re really easy to scan (because that’s how people read on the Internet.) So think short paragraphs, easy-to-see headings that break up the different parts of the content, and other add-ins like pictures or videos as appropriate.

The conclusion and call to action: Many posts that you write won’t need a traditional conclusion along the lines of “this is what I told you”.

That’s boring and people tune it right out.

But if you do want a more traditional conclusion for your post, you need to leave them with something memorable that serves as an anchor for the post in their minds and makes them remember your point.

And finally, you need to add in a call to action. This doesn’t have to be super-complicated — in fact, the simpler it is, the better.

This could be a question that you ask your readers, or asking them to share the content or join your mailing list. The key here is to not be shy in asking for what you want, and to keep it to one request, because that dramatically increases the chances that they’ll actually do it.

So if you’re asking questions, then ask questions, don’t ask questions and tell them to sign up for your mailing list.