Structure is an important and often overlooked element of content marketing. The topic gets a lot of attention, and should, because it determines whether or not people click on your article and helps you establish relevance with Google. The writing itself gets attention, and should, because it determines the strength of your material.
But what about the structure of your articles and material? The structure of your article can instantly invite a reader in or turn a reader away. It can enhance the readability of your content or make your otherwise eloquent paragraphs impenetrable.
That’s why you should be using these seven tricks to better structure your content and maximize your readers’ experience:
Even if it’s just a couple of sentences, you should always provide an introduction to your topic. Assume that the majority of your readers will need to get up to speed on background information before delving too deep in your subject matter. Doing so will help acquaint your deep readers with a more thorough understanding of the landscape of your topic, but this also has a secondary effect; your block of opening text will help guide readers’ eyes to the juicer, more substantive paragraphs and bullet points that follow. It’s like a road sign that helps your skimmers get to the main point.
These features are so ubiquitous in modern web content that they should be well-integrated staples of your campaign by now. If not, you no longer have any excuse. Include more numbered lists and bullet points in your material. These are great because they make your article more readable and more skimmable at the same time. Skimmers, only interested in the high points of your article, can gloss over the list while deeper readers can dig into the points they think are most valuable or interesting. In short, they give you the best of both worlds.
This is a simple structural choice that many content writers miss. Some equate value with depth of detail, and go on long tangents to prove a point. Others load up with statistics and supplementary evidence to flesh out their content. For some types of material, like whitepapers or reports, this level of detail is necessary. But with online content, readers need you to get to the point. Each one of your paragraphs should be no more than a few sentences long, and each sentence should contribute concise and original meaning to your point—eliminate redundancy at all costs.
At the bottom of your piece should be a “bottom line” style paragraph, or a conclusion, that serves to wrap up all the main points you made throughout the rest of the piece. For a reader who’s just skimming, this will serve as a concise round-up of all the points you made. For a deeper reader, it will serve as a rewarding end to an enlightening read. Either way, it will help “bookend” the appearance of your article, and will let readers know that you really do have a main point.
Bold and italics are your friends. If you have a strong point to make in the middle of a sentence, don’t be afraid to highlight it with one of these formatting options. If you have subheadings or list items, do the same. You don’t want to go overboard and have your content look like a jumbled mess, but the occasional highlighted entry can really help your text stand out. It’s easier on the eyes and helps guide your readers to the most important points.
Every written article should have some kind of visual attached to it. Unfortunately, many writers simply choose a stock photo for the header of the article and let that be the end of it. But articles are much more visually and aesthetically engaging when they feature visual material embedded in the body of the text (especially when those visuals complement or demonstrate what you’re trying to say). Look for key relevant images that can take your content to the next level.
This is less about the structuring of your article and more about the structuring of everything around your article. Your goal here should be to keep users’ eyes on the page, no matter what, and eliminate any opportunity they have to leave. Some modern sites have taken to spreading their articles out over the course of several pages in an effort to gain more clicks. Doing so might get you some extra clicks in the short term, but it will lower your reader retention. Keep your content all on one page whenever possible, and keep the side ads, interfering content, or other distractions on your site to a minimum.
These seven tricks should help you produce content with a more aesthetically pleasing, more inviting, more readable structure. It may seem like a basic process, but it makes a big difference in terms of reader retention. See for yourself—take a snapshot of your users’ average behavior onsite before and after you implement these changes in your content campaign. Chances are, you’ll have lower bounce rates, greater conversion rates, and greater times spent on page from your inbound readers.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.