daily mailIt’s one of the most popular sites in the world and a guilty pleasure for pretty much every office worker; so how does Mail Online capture – and retain – your attention? And how can you harness these tactics in your content marketing strategy?

Admittedly, your business probably does not concern celebrities showing off body parts or scandalous news stories, so you should not expect to rival Mail Online in the popularity stakes any time soon; however, there is plenty to be learned from unmasking the magic that keeps you coming back for more…

#1 The art of titles

The newspaper headline is an art form: getting the right number of letters to fit the space afforded by the editor; piquing a person’s interest in just a couple of words; all the while, achieving humour or gravity, as required.

Okay, now throw most of that theory out for your online articles. Long is the new short. Feel free to give yourself a full line or two if that’s what it takes to gather interest. Equally, this will not hurt your article/site’s SEO, as you can include more search-friendly words.

Aside from the length of your titles, you should also think about the emotion/curiosity you inspire in people – essentially, does your title prompt that person to feel something or want to know the answer to a question you posit?

A less-respectable side of Mail Online’s tactics is the way things are alluded to in titles – particularly relating to the way people look (this one is fairly standard on Mila Kunis) – but you can do the same in a less scandalous way. Make an implication in your title that grabs people’s attention, but don’t let your boldness spill over into defamation.

#2 Give the people what they want

top view of bread and butter sandwichThere is no way that the news on Mail Online is objectively the most important news around; instead, it is the exciting stuff that people can digest easily without needing to think much. Manufactured celebrity narratives, outrageous local stories and reactionary interpretations of government activity – these are the bread and butter of Mail Online.

You probably won’t have such eye-catching topics to write about within your industry, but you can think about what sort of thing would inspire people to click through to your article or share it on a social network. Not all of your content needs to pander to the lowest common denominator – your whitepaper on the complexities of bathroom grouting in humid climates has a place on your site – but ‘pop’ articles can be much better for bringing people in, which means they may need to be part of your content mix.

Monitor your own website data and any other search analytics you have access to, so that you know what people are searching for and sharing.

#3 Regular updates

This is a two-fold point. Firstly, you want to make sure you are updating your site regularly – part of what makes Mail Online so popular is that people know they will find something different to peruse in the afternoon, even if they have looked in the morning.

For your business’s website, this means not letting your content section sit barren for weeks or months. Creating something new once a week in the long term is better than excitably writing an article per day for a month and then getting tired/bored/disinterested. Longevity can be an important part of building an audience.

The second part of this ‘updates’ malarkey relates to building a narrative over time; Mail Online will publish articles as part of a wider story arc, such as a young megastar getting into trouble every week, building up to their ultimate fiery crash into rehab or ‘time off for exhaustion’. You can do something similar by planning out an editorial calendar and using different types of article to fuel a broader strategy; you build interest and engagement over a matter of weeks or months, with the result that your reader sees you as a valued resource on that topic.

#4 Related content

Next StepsAnother absolutely vital part of the Mail Online strategy is the way that related content is always trying to tease you into reading one more article – that sidebar has devilishly captivating powers…

When you are creating and publishing your content, make sure that a reader does not get to the end of the article and have no natural ‘next step’, whether that be a little Related Content box (you know what they have just read, so you also know what they are interested in) or a call to action of some kind (e.g. more information on the topic, a download, contact form).

#5 Images

Without fail, every article is accompanied by a nice picture that is at least as big as the headline, if not much bigger. Adding that visual element to a story is guaranteed to enhance the story, even if it is just a picture of the people involved.

Of course, many of the images on Mail Online are pretty salacious, with the ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and bikini pictures of this world bringing in a certain type of reader. However, you should not underestimate the power of pictures to both develop the story at hand and make the reading experience more pleasurable. Often, Mail Online stories will have far more of the page taken up by (several) pictures than by text. This is no accident.

The sub-editors at the Daily Mail and Mail Online are highly respected in the industry and it is because they have perfected the art of getting your attention and retaining it. Whether the stories make you boil inside or flick over to the next article is a matter of personal taste, but as a marketer or business owner you should learn from their successes.