Do you hear crickets when you publish new content?

It’s easy to get discouraged, burned out, or even feel like quitting if traffic or engagement doesn’t materialize, especially if you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a piece of work you’re truly proud of. Nearly all content creators struggle with gaining readership at some point in their careers; but despite what you may think now, there are solutions to this problem.

No one’s promising overnight success, but implementing some or all of the strategies and lessons in this article can take your content from the desert to the oasis of engagement and readership. Let’s dive into the three main reasons why nobody is reading your content.

1. Your Content Is Missing A Hook

National Geographic does a fantastic job of capturing the attention of its target audience across all of its platforms. In fact, National Geographic is so successful that its monthly organic search volume is roughly 6 million visitors and its Instagram has nearly 90 million followers, making it the leading brand on the site. So what’s their secret?

Nat Geo’s content is eye-catching, littered with great storytelling, and backed by striking visuals that make you want to know the full story. The material it produces almost always contains a “wow factor” that stops readers in their tracks and makes them want to escape to the unknown location – or at the very least, learn more.

So how can you mimic some of that success?

For starters, it doesn’t matter if your article is Pulitzer Prize-worthy. If your headline and intro aren’t attention-grabbing and downright spectacular, then no one will ever read it.

Here are a handful of tips that can help you grab your audience’s attention right away and keep it:

Dedicate a lot more time and effort to nailing the headline

Ann Handley sums it up best: “Spend as much time writing the headline as you do an entire blog post or social post.” Seems excessive, right? Perhaps not. Consumers are flooded with headline after headline across all platforms vying for their attention. The headline you choose is the first, and possibly only, chance you’ll have to make an impression on a potential reader.

The #1 tip for writing magnetic headlines is to keep it simple and answer the question, “What’s in it for the reader?” Convey usefulness and make it clear what reading that article will do for them.

Write the introduction last

The thesis, or meat of your story, should drive what’s in your introduction, not the other way around. Similar to the headline, the introduction is your first impression. You’ve spent all that time on the headline to get them there – now you have to keep them interested.

Here a few proven hooks for article introductions:

  • Lead with interesting and relevant facts or stats such as, “Marketers in nearly all industries are investing big in email marketing because every one dollar spent on email marketing provides, on average, a return of $38.”
  • Try using a proven formula for your introduction like Brian Dean’s APP (Agree, Promise, & Preview). Lead with something you and the reader agree on (typically a pain point or problem), promise you can show them a better world, and preview precisely what you have in store for them, what they can expect to achieve, or what they will learn from reading your content.
  • Use emotion or controversy to grab their attention. Ask a thought-provoking or challenging question. Marketing to their gut instead of their brain is akin to selling benefits, not features. People aren’t as logical as we would like to think, so leading with an emotion-provoking statement or question can hook readers from the start.

2. Your Content Promotion Strategy Is Weak

Back in the day, a strong content promotion strategy was building black hat links, tweeting a dozen times a day, and stuffing keywords throughout your content. These days, it isn’t so cut-and-dried. Google and social media sites don’t care about the content you create. It’s all about more links, more followers, and higher domain authority.

For better content promotion, try these strategies:

1. Have a list of influencers you can call on when you publish

Asking influencers to share your work before publishing is more interesting and sincere than sending a link to already-published content and appearing spammy. Start by creating a list of people who’ve shared content similar to yours in the past. BuzzSumo is an excellent tool for this, but you can also search for articles with related keywords or find hashtags of people talking about the subject to reach out to.

Begin prospecting by sending emails using a service like Mailshake to automatically follow up on a preset schedule. Connecting with influencers and content creators in your space is an invaluable content promotion strategy and shouldn’t be overlooked.

2. Contribute to communities to establish subject authority

Small active communities in every industry exist online and can grant you loads of engagement, shares, and free promotion if they’re approached correctly.

Sites like Quora, Reddit, and even Facebook groups can be melting pots for industry discussion. Communities like these drive a lot of quality traffic and promote engagement but aren’t tolerant of blatant self-promotion, so proceed with caution.

Try becoming an active member of the community by answering questions, giving feedback, and posting your own questions. With a little authority and credibility built up, the community will be more welcoming if you make a post or answer something with your content, as long as it’s highly relevant and high-quality.

3. Your Content Lacks Real Value

According to a NewsCred Insights post, the median average time people spend on an article is 37 seconds. We all value skimmable content, but how often do you come across an article that is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish?

Chances are, if people aren’t sharing or engaging with your content, it’s because you’re not providing enough value. So how do you do that?

Strive For Evergreen Content and Avoid Mirage Content

Don’t create “Mirage Content,” which is basically recycled content that’s unoriginal, vague, won’t stand the test of time, and lacks any real actionable advice. You know this content the minute you see it. It has headings like:

“Use your Facebook and Twitter Accounts to Boost Engagement” or “Update the Content of Your Site Frequently.”

Reading articles with “hard-hitting” advice like that leaves you wishing you could get those five minutes back. Instead, try creating content that you yourself would read. Create content that you can’t find anywhere else.

Focus on writing evergreen content. Evergreen content transcends time. It stays fresh for readers throughout the years and remains relevant long after the post was originally published. It’s quite common for evergreen content to produce more traffic as time goes by, instead of the other way around (as with most content).

Evergreen content typically involves detailed case studies, data or statistics to back it up, dives deep into a subject, and is characterized by being difficult to produce. But even though it isn’t easy content to create, it’s worth all the extra effort.

Make Your Content More Memorable Through Storytelling

In the book “Made to Stick,” author Chip Heath performed a study with his students at Stanford. They were asked to share facts with their classmates and after 10 minutes try to recall and repeat the information. The result was that 63% of the students remembered the stories that were told, while only 5% remembered the actual statistics that were cited.

Sticky ideas and memorable content often involve some sort of case study or storytelling. The blog Wait But Why by Tim Urban has a massive loyal readership that naturally gravitates to his gift of breaking down extremely complex and interesting subjects into stick figure drawings that tell stories and make subjects easy to comprehend.

Or check out Seth Godin’s article on How To Tell A Great Story from a marketer’s perspective.

Create Content That Isn’t Salesy Or Untrustworthy

One thing your content absolutely shouldn’t be is salesy. If your content reads like a giant brochure for your product, then you’re likely turning off customers. It’s like only talking about yourself on a date – it seems selfish, fake, and downright untrustworthy.

Rather than writing about your product or why your company is so great, try to serve your audience. Give away secrets, provide in-depth actionable advice, and help them solve problems or achieve their goals. Be a Go-Giver. Become a trusted advisor, win their heart, and in all likelihood, you’ll win their business.

Content that serves its readers rather than its creator often has hard evidence to support its claims, such as statistics, data points, or case studies. That kind of content includes voices other than your own, which gives the content greater credibility.

As Ann Handley says in her book Everybody Writes, “What would your content look like if your customer signed your paycheck? That’s how you should write.”

How have you improved readership and engagement with the content you publish? Share your advice in the comments below: