Writing content is not just about purveying valuable information or even interesting information. There is a type of content that subliminally annoys people, and a kind of content that feels satisfying to read. Satisfaction is a whole different emotion than curiosity or even need fulfilment.
Satisfaction, especially in the sense that makes meaning to readers of content, lies in the small things. The eye feels glad to be on the page, the mind finds assimilation easy, and the whole piece flows like casual conversation. The reader doesn’t have to backtrack to catch what was said, or get “interrupted” by a choppy layout, or have to hurdle mentally over passages that suddenly get pedantic. Can you write content for “reader satisfaction”? Sure you can …
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Why reader satisfaction can be more important to achieve than repeat reading or sharing!
I recently came across two fabulous reasons why “evergreen” content cannot be relied upon to repeatedly hook the same or new readers back to your site to read your content, and also why you have to live with people just giving your content a quick scan through and not much more than that! In short, marketers may have to learn to survive – or even thrive – in a world where the reader’s “passing interest” is made satisfying enough, so even if he doesn’t return or share out your work, he will at least retain a good residual feeling about having spent his valuable time casting his eyes over your piece!
Daniel Slomka, writes in his article titled “It’s official, a goldfish can pay more attention than you. Don’t you think you deserve better?”:
A recent research by Microsoft states that the human being’s attention span is constantly shrinking and has now reached a new record low of eight seconds. What used to be estimated at around 12-15 seconds is now thought to be shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.
What does it mean? It means that when starting a task, you have in average 8 seconds before getting distracted by something else. If you are reading a book, you have 8 seconds before you take your telephone to check for a new text message. If you are online, you will spend 8 seconds on a page before jumping on to the next one.
Forget about generations X, Y or Z. We have become generation ADHD. Quotes
In another very interesting research study by Boost the News, findings show that:
Online articles enjoy a short period of high traffic followed by a sharp decline … the research analyzed 30 articles, published on different websites and blogs, of varying sizes. It analyzed the traffic of the articles through a time span of 4 months, from September to December 2015 …
In 74% of articles, traffic reaches its peak on the day the article is published. 25% of articles reach their traffic peak on the first or second day after publication. Less than 1% of the articles reached their traffic peak more than 2 days after the day of publication: the hypothesis is that these are cases in which articles were published tentatively in a hardly-visible section of the website, and exposed and promoted only after a certain time. The peak in traffic is quickly followed by a drastic drop. Within one week, traffic of articles drops in average by 90%. After one month, the average daily traffic of articles is equal to merely 1.7% of the initial traffic during the peak.
Given this kind of attention-and-interest-challenged audience, how can any piece of content, no matter how wonderfully broad and deep it is, expect longevity or “evergreen-ness”? Wouldn’t it be far better to aim for “quick reader satisfaction and good residual impression” rather than an addiction to your brand content?
6 ways to create reader satisfaction with the very first read of your content!
1. Watch the article’s structure!
You can bet that very few writers worry about an article’s structure. In fact the closest advice I have come to reading about good structure is when I read an article about how to use related long-tail keywords in a particular sequence through the article so that it all “adds up satisfyingly”. Leo Widrich, founder of Buffer, who wrote 100 guest posts in 2 months to get Buffer into a high orbit, talks of having his structure inside his head somewhere, even if not always on paper, and his articles always follow that structure.
No doubt his structure satisfies his audience, because there is a clear head, body and tail to all his articles, and one gets used to his “flow”. Most satisfying articles, you will find, have some structure that pleases. There is some method to the layout and logical stream, and a question the article provokes you to begin thinking about also gets answered in a well-rounded way by the time you’ve finished the article. You feel like you’ve done a circle instead of being led up a path with no beginning and no end and you’re all lost in the woods.
2. Keep the language very natural!
Natural language is another key to a satisfying read for the reader of content. Imagine the nightmares we would all have with this kind of information overload we’re swimming in, if all of this content was written in the style of a heavy textbook on Mechanical Engineering! Even when writing about technology, there’s no call to get geeky or throw jargon around, because no one’s impressed with that kind of thing any more.
At the last seminar I went to for instance, a couple of young chaps sitting near me were giggling throughout and noting down all the “i-sations” that the speakers were spewing (like globalisation, marginalisation, improvisation, decentralisation, commercialisation … you know what I mean!). If you write with that kind of stiff upper lip you won’t be read, you’ll be laughed at by Gen Next. Write as you speak, let the tone be informal even if the points are heavy, and don’t throw it all out in huge chunks. Let the reader breathe every now and again, and stop to ponder a bit. Give satisfying pauses.
3. Give the who, what, when, where, why and how!
No piece of content is truly satisfying without the five “Ws” and one “H” type of information. Human thirst needs to be given the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, whatever else is given. So like all good journalists do, start your piece with these six mandatories sequenced in. Journalists also believe that if this order of information is maintained (i.e. if the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How are ideally be presented in that same order), readers find it even more satisfying, perhaps because they have a need for the Who before the Why, and the What before the Where etc. I don’t have research to confirm this, but I can guess it must be true, for I have read pieces critically and found this to be true for my own reading satisfaction. Remember, if even one of these six questions remains open and unanswered, there is a residual feeling of lack of depth in the writing.
4. Garnish with some influencer validations!
It always adds satisfaction to know that other people – especially important other people – validate the arguments in the article. So seeing quotations of influencer names that matter, matters more than the quotation itself! It’s not exactly what is said by the biggies that makes you feel good to read about it, it’s the person who said that who makes you feel good to be in that company!
5. Let the headline evoke some emotion!
A lot of content is for business growth, and so marketers may see it as a form of “logic to sell”. But nothing sells logic like emotion. So make sure the headline of the article roundly and soundly emphasizes a deeply felt emotion. If you want to write about a tool that your company has created that can help small businesses, you don’t talk of the merits of the tool, you talk of the change it can make to the business owner’s life. In a survey I read about recently, people were exposed to headlines of content like “Get 500,000 people to visit your site in just one and a half days!”. Did they get awed by the number 500,000? No they got all fired up by the “ease of life” that was hinted at in the “one and a half days”.
6. Don’t sound like a tabloid – or a PhD thesis!
A final point about content that is satisfying to the reader … neither style at the extremes of the continuum is comfortable to a reader. The frippery tabloid style of writing is as hard on the reader as the ponderous thesis style of writing. Tabloid writers often feel compelled to “make a piece juicy” and the lumbering effort behind the seeming frivolousness shows itself up to the reader. Similarly, writing too much detail like in a dissertation is very hard on target audiences, who (as we have heard) are close to ADHD, and simply can’t cope with too much sideways travel along a topic.
So what’s the formula? Maintain a straight road from beginning to end (for the structure) … have less tangential meandering off-track … use simple spoken language … put in a lot of emotion with the logic … and try not to betray how hard you worked to try and sound easy …
If you’ve managed all this, you’ll satisfy a reader enough to make him nod his head wisely and say: “That was good!” … and he’ll probably rub his belly like after a good meal. Whether he wants to keep returning to the piece to re-read it, or wants to share it with others is not really in your hands. You should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst!