Fur coatHow often do you search for the answer to something on Google and Bing and click on what looks like a great headline, only to find your questions are not answered at all? Let’s say you search Google for “how to get more followers on Twitter” and you see a headline in the results that says exactly that – “How to get more followers on Twitter”. Then you click through to the article and find the first half of it is dominated by an explanation of what Twitter is and why you should use it, then very little advice about how to get followers other than four or five tips that tell you what to do without telling you how.

I’ve been reading lots of articles like this recently. I see headlines in search results and in newsletters that promise me an exciting article about how to do something technical, like create an XML sitemap or manage 404 errors or optimise Facebook – there are lots of them where the promise in the headline is not delivered by the article itself. All fur coat and no knickers.

This prompts me to raise this important point for your own content planning (and it’s a good reminder to myself). Make sure your content does what it promises in the headline. If you are promising to show people how to do something, make sure you do that instead of focusing only on why. With so many companies producing content for the sake of SEO and social media marketing, there is a lot out there that lacks the substance a potential customer is looking for.

Tips for writing content that readers want

  • Readers are generally looking for answers – how to do something or where to buy something. They don’t generally need to be told why to buy something.
  • Don’t just re-hash a small part of someone else’s story without adding new information. A lot of bloggers copy an idea from another site, write a small intro to that idea and then link to the original article. Why not just create your own article in full?
  • Give detail. For example, if you are writing a list of tips for winter garden management, don’t just say what to do, also say how to do it, why you should do it and what the benefit will be. Leave your reader feeling fully informed – when something requires a lot more detail, link them to another article on that one thing.
  • Use images or videos to provide additional guidance. A how-to article can work well in video format, or with photos showing actions at each stage. Taking the trouble to create images and video can also help to make your article more shareable on social sites.