I was reading an article today about overcoming writers block and I had one of those eureka moments, in that I realized that understanding good content structure is not only the key to creating content that people will understand and engage with, but it also makes the whole content creation process an awful lot easier.
I’m not saying that every piece of content should be produced along these lines, but understanding the basic elements of a well-structured blog post, article, etc. will help you create better more engaging content, especially when those writing gremlins appear.
We have just seconds to capture an audience’s attention and that means that the very first sentence of your article needs to be written so that it captures the attention of your audience. Your audience’s attention should be captured and they should have a glimpse of what your article is about, right from this initial sentence.
In a similar fashion the rest of your first paragraph should be elaboration of the first sentence, with your aim being to capture more of your audience’s attention so that they want to read the rest of the article.
Let’s Set Up Scene or Set your Audiences Expectations
You’ve no doubt heard the saying “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you just told them.” This means that you shouldn’t jump right into the main portion of your content, tell your audience what they should expect from the rest of your content.
You can present it in details like “We’ll talk about, A, B and C” or it can be as simple as “Here’s how to …”
The important takeaway is you are able to prepare your audience on what your content will cover and if you can make this about your audience so much the better. Remember everyone is interested in “what’s in it for them”… so use this knowledge to engage and build your audiences expectations.
The Meat in the Sandwich or Your Main Points.
Starting at the beginning, one by one, discuss your main points.
The secret it to separate your content into bite sized pieces so that it is easy for your audience to digest. Remember always that people skim read, especially online and only stop to read things fully when you have their full attention. This means you should break up into subheadings and subsections, rather than having one massive block of text. I like to write for readability rather than focusing on the grammar they taught at school, and breaking a paragraph down into two bite size chunks often increases the skim-ability of the content, meaning more of your audience will read it.
Ensure that the “what’s in it for me” question is answered quickly. Write it in a way that the readers will feel that you are speaking to them directly, so use words like “you” and “your” and this allows them to immense themselves in your story.
Oftentimes, presenting a few different opinions, solutions or angles can help a lot. So if you talk about content marketing for example, you could discuss a few different ways that they could get involved in content marketing.
It also helps if you can give a few typical examples that they can associate with, if you talk more on the theory side, your audience will most likely not remember it after a few weeks. Examples turn the theories you wanted to share with your audience into something concrete. And people being people are much more likely to remember examples that demonstrate the principle.
The End or Final Chapter
The conclusion will be the last paragraph or two (remember to break large paragraphs up) of your article. It should summarize everything written in the article. It’s also a good idea to emphasis on one or two important points. If you recall the saying at the start, tell your audience what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you have told them again to finish.
You might also focus on trying to leave your audience with just one concrete piece of action that they can take away and put into action. Often if just closes the content in a positive and beneficial way in the eyes of your audience. Or if it’s appropriate you can end your piece of content with a suitable call to action, informing your audience of what you want them to do next.
If you follow this outline content structure, you will provide your audience with a good sense of what is to be expected from content and you will often engage them much better. Organizing your thoughts and creating an outline, of what you want to discuss, the reason you are creating the content and the purpose of the content before you start writing will help the whole process flow much easier for you.