One of the most disillusioning things about being a content marketer is putting the time and energy into creating A+ content only to have it fall on deaf ears.
It can be incredibly frustrating when you pour your heart and soul into content but it never really resonates with your audience. Instead, readers leave prematurely, don’t explore your site any further and never convert.
I know I’ve been there more than a few times.
In my opinion, the problem primarily lies in the fact that content marketers talk a lot about delivering valuable content and storytelling techniques, but they fail to mention actionability.
This often overlooked aspect of content marketing is vital because it helps you persuade your audience and encourages engagement.
What are Some Elements of Actionable Content?
Before we can know which strategies to implement, it’s necessary to understand what makes for actionable content in the first place. Here are some common elements:
- It targets your specific audience
- It provides value
- It establishes trust
- It addresses your audience’s needs
- It aligns with your marketing goal
- It gets your audience involved
- It communicates clearly and effectively
The “Actionable Content Pyramid” really puts things into perspective.
So what are some ways that you can make your content more actionable?
Here are some specific strategies that I’ve found to be highly effective and should work for you too.
1. Explain What Readers Will Walk Away With
People are busier than ever these days, and many are suffering from “cognitive overload.” This stems from being barraged with an endless stream of information on a daily basis.
The key to creating content that clicks with your readers is making it actionable all the way through — not just in brief bursts.
I’ve found that I’m often able to pique my audience’s interest and grab their attention by clearly stating what they’ll learn from my post early on.
For example, by just looking at the title and reading through the introduction of this post, any logical person will be able to figure out that they’ll learn about the concept of actionable content and what they can do to make their content more actionable.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you’ll want to explicitly state what your audience will walk away with after reading your post and how it will positively impact their lives.
In other words, let them know what’s in it for them.
This should provide them with the motivation to read (or at least skim) through your content in greater detail.
2. Be Image-Centric
Images are great for a few reasons.
First, they make it easy for readers to digest information without having to read through an arduous body of text. This makes it ideal for those with short attention spans or those who are just plain lazy.
Second, images connect the dots and serve as an effective way to bridge information together.
Third, pictures just look pretty. Humans simply enjoy looking at images, and this graph shows us just how integral visual content is to marketing.
If there are any uncertainties about a point you’re trying to make through text, you can clarify it by adding an image.
Screenshots are ideal because your audience can see exactly what you’re talking about, which greatly minimizes the potential for any miscommunication.
3. Get Your Audience Involved
Engagement is an integral aspect of actionable content, and you want to ensure that your audience is in on the action.
You want them to be participants and not just bystanders.
Unfortunately, “producing engaging content is one of the top obstacles that marketers face, and studies have found that 58 percent of marketers report this as being their biggest challenge.”
So how can you increase audience involvement?
I’ve found that incorporating various types of media can help. As I mentioned earlier, images can be incredibly powerful.
Some other possibilities include:
One piece of content that’s the perfect example of getting readers involved is The Virtual Water Project by Angela Morelli.
It’s highly interactive and allows readers to learn about water consumption in a way that really hammers her points home.
They leave feeling like they’ve really learned something and have had a really interesting experience.
I recommend checking out her site just to get an idea of how interactive content can be.
4. Use Examples
When I was in college, the professors that I learned the most from had a penchant for using real-world examples.
By doing so, they were able to take incredibly abstract concepts and break them down in a way that fledgling students could easily understand them.
I’ve also learned that examples are tremendously important in content marketing.
While you may not be explaining intense subjects like advanced trigonometry and Aristotelian metaphysics, concrete examples are a surefire way to make your content more actionable.
The most straightforward way to do this is to get comfortable with using one single phrase — “for example.”
Here’s one my posts that demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about.
If there’s any doubt or confusion in the minds of your readers, you can quickly eliminate it by providing some examples.
Or if there’s just no way you have the time to adequately cover an intensive topic in your post, you can provide links to resources (external or internal) that cover the topic in better detail.
Just remember that there is usually a disparity in terms of your readers’ knowledge level. While some may know exactly what you’re talking about, others may not have a clue.
When in doubt, you can ensure that everyone is up to speed by offering some good examples or additional reading.
5. Throw in Some Stats
You may have noticed that I use a lot of statistics in my content.
This is by no means an accident.
I find that adding some well-placed statistics is an incredibly effective way to backup any arguments I make and lends credibility to my overall content.
For example, “61 percent of consumers are influenced by custom content.”
If you really want to bring one of your points to life, just search for a relevant statistic and weave it into your content.
For an even bigger impact, trying using graphs or charts that display statistics like the one above.
This kills two birds with one stone because it provides concrete evidence and appeals to your audience’s innate desire for visuals.
6. Answer All Pertinent Questions
Remember my first point where I mentioned how it was important to state what your readers will walk away with at the beginning?
Well, it’s equally important that you go back to ensure that you’ve covered everything and fully answered any burning questions your audience may have had beforehand.
With Google placing more attention on semantic search with its algorithm update Hummingbird, it’s essential that you focus on user intent and that there are no question marks left behind.
In other words, leave no stone unturned.
One way that I handle this is to put myself in the shoes of my average reader. I ask myself:
- What queries might they have?
- What are their pain points?
- Does my content address these areas?
After finishing my first draft, I like to go back over it to see if I’m leaving out any vital information.
If so, I simply make the necessary adjustments so that I cover everything to the best of my ability.
7. Use Clear CTAs
Creating calls-to-action (CTAs) is an aspect of marketing that sounds incredibly easy on paper.
But when you get right down to it, it can be quite difficult to create the perfect CTA.
That’s because there are a plethora of different factors and variables involved with the process, and if you mess one little detail up, it can hurt your overall conversion rate.
When creating a CTA, you need to remember that it should evoke a sense of urgency. That’s because if a person doesn’t go ahead and complete an action right away they probably never will.
For example, someone might be interested in buying a product, but they aren’t necessarily compelled to make a purchase at the moment.
In turn, they may bookmark the page or copy and paste the URL only to forget about it and never return.
This obviously doesn’t do you any good because no matter how intrigued they were with your product, it’s not resulting in an actual sale.
So what’s the recipe for creating a clear CTA?
- Make it short and sweet
- Convey the benefits
- Make readers curious
- Create a CTA button (this has shown to increase conversions by 62 percent)
- Experiment with split testing (e.g. try different colors, fonts and CTA positions)
You’ll also want to throw in some persuasive words. According to Copyblogger, some of the most persuasive words you can use include:
Although actionability is somewhat underrated in the content marketing realm, it’s extremely important. Not only does it help establish your content as being valuable and trustworthy, it’s essential for driving engagement and ultimately maximizing your conversion rate.
By implementing these strategies, you can have a stronger impact on your audience and should see bigger results from your efforts.
Do you have any specific techniques that you’ve found effective for boosting engagement and getting your readers to take action?