Digital marketing blogs are packed full of advice these days about how powerful of a strategy content marketing can be for your website’s promotional efforts. However, what they often fail to acknowledge is that all content is not created equal!
Simply plastering your website with articles, product descriptions and other content pieces isn’t enough to guarantee good results. So if you’re seeing lower engagement rates than expected, it could be any of the following factors at play:
Reason #1 – Your content is dry
The web is an inherently informal medium. Effective websites know this and – as a result – they’re able to capitalize on the casual, conversational style that attracts and retains readers.
Think, for a second, about the kinds of websites you prefer to read. Chances are you have a list of preferred blogs that you visit day after day – and the odds are good that you feel a sense of kinship with these sites because the voice used by the site’s author resonates with you personally. Yes, it’s probably also true that the site provides good information on a topic you’re interested in, but there are plenty of sites out there that share the same type of content. It’s the author’s unique voice that makes a difference.
If you aren’t confident in your website’s voice, there’s a good chance that your customers aren’t connecting with it either. To remedy this situation, ask a trusted friend or family member to give you honest feedback on your site’s content. If they uncover any dry sections (or find your entire site bland), either outsource your content to a stronger writer or take the time to find your own writing voice.
Reason #2 – Your content doesn’t offer anything new
If you’ve decided to undertake a content marketing campaign, your first question was likely, “What types of content should I start with?”
Well, the answer to that question is, “Whatever you have of value to offer your audience!”
Too many website owners start the content creation process by copying what other sites have published and been successful with. Because of this, the content they pump out isn’t inherently useful – it’s simply rehashing information that’s already been covered online. Your customers know this, and they’ll quickly learn to bypass your site in favor of others that offer more innovative content.
The simple solution here is to adapt popular content marketing post formats with your own experiences. Don’t just write a “Top 10” list post because that’s what everyone else is doing – flesh out your chosen list topic by offering plenty of your own insight and examples. By doing this, your posts will capture your audience members’ initial attention and then retain their interest by offering content that’s uniquely yours.
Reason #3 – Your content is poorly formatted
I don’t care how great your content is – if it’s published in one giant block of text without any headlines, sub-headers or white space, nobody’s going to read it!
When it comes to publishing great content that your readers connect with, consider the following “best practice” guidelines:
- Keep paragraphs to a maximum of 3-5 sentences. This prevents your content from looking overwhelming and scaring off readers who would otherwise enjoy your articles.
- Break up article sections with headlines and sub-headers. Not only is the use of <h2> and <h3> tags useful from an SEO perspective, it gives your readers a framework for better parsing and understanding your content.
- Use pictures to provide visual relief. Web readers tend to gravitate towards images, making pictures a useful tool when it comes to breaking up text and maintaining reader attention.
If, after applying these rules, your visitors still aren’t connecting with your content on a level that you’d like, give your individual content pages a quick “5 seconds” test to uncover any other formatting issues that might be preventing reader engagement. To do this, open your page, look at it for five seconds and then ask yourself, “Would I want to read more on that page?” If the answer is no, try to identify the specific visual variables that turned you off and then correct them!
Reason #4 – Your content doesn’t solve problems
There’s no arguing with the fact that the internet is a tremendous educational resource. Never before in the history of the world have people been able to access content on any subject with the click of a mouse – let alone take college courses and training programs from experts and institutions around the world.
That said, when most readers stop by your website’s content articles, they aren’t interested in learning – they’re interested in solving a problem. We don’t read articles about different weight loss techniques because we’re curious about the health sciences. We read them because our pants don’t fit anymore, and we need to solve this problem ASAP!
For this reason, if your content isn’t written with the intent of solving your customers’ problems, it’s likely that your readers will find your articles somewhat less than engaging. The easiest way to fix this is to determine what problems your customers are facing and then write articles that offer specific solutions to these issues. You can do this through the use of customer surveys, social media polls or a number of other techniques – the important thing is just that you tune into the issues your readers are facing and give them the solutions they’re seeking.
Reason #5 – Your content can’t be accessed
Of course, it might not be the content of your web articles that’s preventing your customers from engaging with them. It could be that they can’t get to your articles in the first place!
Accessibility issues are far more common than most webmasters are aware of, especially given the increasingly huge numbers of browsers we’re using to access the web. It isn’t enough to make sure your website displays correctly in Internet Explorer and Firefox anymore. Instead, you’ve got to account for the huge range of other desktop browsers in use (including everything from Chrome to Safari and more), as well as the number of digital devices your customers may be using to read your content.
The easiest way to eliminate accessibility issues is to run your website through a cross-browser compatibility testing tool like Browser Shots, which provides a mockup of how your site looks in different environments. However, because tools like these don’t cover every browser in use today, it’s also important to consult your analytics records.
Specifically, check your analytics tool for high bounce rates that are tied to individual browsers – not separate content pieces. To do this within Google Analytics, select the “Browser & OS” option from within the “Audience -> Technology” menu. There, you’ll be able to view bounce rate data by browser, as well as drill down to the individual browser edition that’s resulting in bounces. While having this information won’t automatically resolve your accessibility issues, it’ll give you a concrete place from which to begin the troubleshooting process.
As you’re diagnosing your site’s content engagement issues, keep in mind that it might not just be one of the issues listed above that’s affecting your readers’ ability to connect with your articles. Content marketing is a process that comes with a significant learning curve, but by continually monitoring for these problems and improving your skills in this area, you’ll dramatically improve your content engagement rates and overall website results.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!