View more in
Jon Hawkins

A Writer’s Toolkit: How to Boost Your Article Engagement

Posted by 
Jon Hawkins
Jon Hawkins

3 easy ways to increase your monthly view & read times.

There is only one key way for digital marketers and content writers to assess the success of their work. And that is through stats and analytics.

Not any type of stats, either. The main indicator of an article's success is high engagement rates.

That typically translates into high view or read times, or— depending on the project at hand, it might be measured by conversion rates.

Here on Medium, view and read time is everything.

If you’re a content writer, you should be measuring success based on attention and read times, rather than mere clicks.

Modern culture has trained readers to expect instant gratification — if they don’t get it, they leave. According to Buffer, 55% of your readers will read an article for less than 15 seconds before deciding whether to stay.

It’s for this reason that captivating a readers attention can be extremely difficult. Never fear, there are several easy tips and tricks you can adopt which will directly increase your read time.

1. Draw Someone’s Eye With A Powerful Title.

First and foremost, you need to attract someone to your article. Because if readers aren’t clicking on your work, then your read time will be a big fat 0.

You need a title with some power and direction. Something that captivates your potential audience, such that once they see it — like a moth to a flame, they can’t help but learn more.

Of course, you want to keep bounce rates as low as possible; so once that reader arrives on your article; you want them to stay. To achieve this, you only want readers who are actually interested in its content to arrive on your work.

This means: no click-bait, or deceiving titles which cause the reader to feel somehow hard-done-by, lied to or wronged when they find out the article was not at all related to its title.

Instead, keep things honest and reliable, yet powerful and captivating.

To achieve this, there are roughly 4 rules I follow when writing a title. SEO specialist, Neil Patel, calls them the 4 U’s” of writing attention-driven headlines.Following them gives my titles that captivating oomph needed.

a. Be “Unique.”

There are millions of articles out there, and to set yours apart from the rest, you need to provide value. You need to offer something that no other article has.

But by having a common, generic title — at face value, your work provides no more value than any other. You have given your reader no reason to choose your content over someone else’s; because at face value – they are identical.

Therefore, the first step in producing a powerful title is being unique. This also comes with a variety of SEO benefits, because it offers the opportunity of being the highest-ranked articles on that Google search.

To test whether your article is unique, before publishing, just Google search it with “quotation marks” around it — if nothing pops up, you’re good to go.

b. Be “Ultra-Specific.”

As I said previously, you want to avoid deceiving your readers. Instead, to build their trust — you need to ensure that your title is closely related and focused on the article in mind.

That ensures the right audience is landing on your work — keeping bounce rates down. Rather than attracting people who aren’t interested and will immediately leave, you will attract people who have shown a genuine interest in your content.

This method is important — according to The New York Times, lack of focus, vision and planning is one of the reasons why 33% of small businesses fail.

How do you write an ultra-specific headline? It’s simple, write a title that closely relates and is aligned with your article.

For example, if your article is about Yoga.

Rather than writing — “Adopting This One Technique Will Improve Your Happiness.”
Instead, write — “Three Top Yoga Tips For A Happier Life.”

That way, rather than attracting an audience with no interest in yoga; only those who are eager to learn more, will arrive on your page.

c. Convey a Sense of “Urgency.”

You want your audience to read your article now. Not later.

If you fail to produce a headline infused with urgency, your readers will likely put off reading, or possibly bookmark your article and never come back to it.

You see urgency headlines all the time — even on Amazon when you see: “Only 3 left in stock.”

Tailor your sense of urgency to what’s going on in your content. Make it a need, rather than a want; something that will make their life better, and which they can’t live without.

“Effective marketing boils down to creating a fear of losing out on an amazing deal.” — Derek Christian, [Founder of Cleaning Business Today.]

d. Be “Useful.”

Lastly, there has to be a reason why people should read your work. It has to be useful to them in some shape or form.

Useful can mean several things —your title could contain several useful words; such as “practical”, “helpful”, “valuable”, “informative.”

In essence, your audience should be captivated at the thought that your article might solve some of their problems.

“When you are writing keep asking yourself “so what” until you are sure what is in it for the customer. “ — Ann Handley.

2. Keep Them Curious to Keep Their Attention.

Now that you have utilised these rules to draw in readers, you need to work on keeping their attention; ensuring they stay with you as your unveil your story.

Typically 50% of your audience will read your introduction, and decide within 10 seconds whether to continue or leave.

With that, you need a hook; something that builds curiosity in your audience that causes desperation to continue.

The introduction should build on itself and flow from one paragraph to the next. Start by explaining why your article is necessary, how it will help the readers, and hint at what type of advice they can expect to receive.

Keep it to 100 words or less.

Do all this without divulging too much information — you want to encourage readers to continue, without giving the game away.

Here are some tips for keeping your audience’s attention:

a. Use numbers — notice that in my intro I added a quick little statistic? It’s quite simplistic, but it illustrates I have done my research. It radiates a sense of legitimacy and authority; showing the reader that this article isn’t some pile of crap, it’s well thought out.

b. Paint a picture — everyone loves a relatable story; something which allows your audience to draw parallels of what you are writing with their own everyday life. Where you can, relate what you are saying to a little anecdote of your own personal experiences. Doing so distinguishes you from other articles by adding that little personal touch.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” — Seth Godin.

3. Doing Something Stupid Will Hinder Your Read Times.

Congratulations! You’ve done it.

You’ve written content good enough to attract an audience and held their attention long enough for them to read your entire article.

Just don’t do something stupid to cock this up.

a. Avoid Large Blocks of Text.

There’s nothing that makes my eyeballs bleed more than a big block of text. And that’s coming from someone who spends hours on end reading extremely complex academic Philosophy.

Trust me, they’re a massive turn off. They’ll have your audience running for the hills.

Instead, break down your articles into nice, manageable chunks. It improves readability, makes things easier to follow and ensures your article flows nicely.

b. Don’t Overdo the Hyperlinks.

A good friend and colleague, Reed, recently noticed some of my articles were littered with hyperlinks — something I do for SEO reasons, but he painted this strategy in a new light by sharing with me some important words of wisdom.

Each link you embed in your text is essentially an invite for your reader to leave you in favour of a new webpage. And that’s the exact opposite of what you want; you want them to stay with you, at all costs.

So stop inviting your readers to leave by using fewer hyperlinks.

c. Keeping It Simple.

You’re publishing work on the world-wide-web. That means, whether you like it or not, your work is going to be seen by a diverse range of people.

To capitalise on that diverse audience, you need to produce simple content that could be understood by anyone — even a beginner.

So avoid long, over-complicated sentences. And undefined jargon that wouldn’t be understood by your everyday reader is a no go.

If you can’t explain it to a 6-year old, you don’t know it yourself. — Albert Einstein

d. Avoid Basic Grammar Mistakes.

This is Medium writing 101. If you want to attract an audience or feature in a top Medium publication — your grammar needs to be on point.

No stupid grammar mistakes. They scream illegitimacy and unreliability.

After all, if you can’t be bothered to check over your work, how can you expect your audience to spend time reading it?

Grammar is important, it can make the difference between interpreting a piece in one way or another. It’s therefore your responsibility to ensure the grammar employed leads your audience to the right interpretation and understanding. After all —

“The greater part of the world’s troubles are often due to questions of grammar.” ― Michel de Montaigne

I write about Self-Improvement, Life Lessons, Philosophy, Psychology & Business — to help you reach your full potential.

To stay in touch, and to receive free and exclusive content, sign up to my mailing list.