One of the primary goals of any type of content you create should be to get the reader to take action when they reach the end. We always talk about the number of shares and backlinks when judging successful content. But part of that involves creating genuinely useful content in the first place.
And that often comes down to creating content that the reader can use in some way. Content that provides guidance and instruction that they can put into action. If your content is falling flat, there’s a good chance you should be making it more actionable.
So how should you do this?
Carry Out a Content Audit
Before you start creating new content, you should review your existing content.
Look at the performance of your previous posts. Did they get many shares? Did many readers leave comments? Did people Like them on social media? How long did readers stay on each page? What were the bounce rates like? Spend some time gathering this data because it will give you a good idea of whether you’re on the right track. You’ll also be able to see which posts are working, and you can use this to work out why they are working.
For more details on carrying out a full content audit, Marketing Land has a useful guide.
Decide on a Goal for Every Piece
When you create a new piece of content, decide on the action that you want the reader to take once they have finished. And the goal should be something that the reader should actually do for themselves or their business (i.e. the goal should not be to share the content or leave a comment).
For example, for this very blog post, the goal is to get you writing more actionable content.
Do the same with your own content. Decide on exactly what you want your readers to be able to do once they have got to the end, then use this to give your content more focus.
Tell the Reader What They Will Be Able to Do
Whatever the goal of your content, state it clearly to the reader right at the start and make it clear what they will be able to do. For example: “After reading this you will be able to plan and put into action a keyword research strategy.”
Your aim is to highlight how reading the content will be worthwhile for them because it will teach them how to perform a specific task, which should give them more motivation to read it in the first place.
Show the Reader How to Carry Out Tasks
Now we come to perhaps the most important instruction of all. When you are creating actionable content, one of the things to avoid doing is simply telling your readers what they should do. Instead, show them how to do it.
Saying what your readers need to do is one thing, but showing them the exact steps that they should take makes it a lot easier for them to take action themselves. For example, if you are writing about setting up a PPC campaign in AdWords, you might suggest they use a specific tool to make it easier.
But that’s just telling.
Instead, you should provide them with detailed instructions on how to use the tool, ideally accompanied by screenshots. Your readers can then use this information to take action. Show them how to take action, and your content suddenly becomes a useful resource that they can use and refer back to. By helping your readers, you become more valuable to them. And the more valuable your content, the more likely they are to come back for more.
Use Concrete Examples
Real examples—not just theory—are important when you want to make your content more actionable. Using examples is one of the best things you can do to clarify abstract concepts. Often you will be writing about something that your reader will be unfamiliar with. They may be learning information that is completely new to them.
It’s easy to gloss over topics that you know by heart or to think that you have covered them in the level of detail that they deserve. But when you are teaching your readers something that is new to them, even your detailed explanation may go over their heads. A clear and concrete example can help to clear up any confusion.
Rather than write paragraphs of text on a new concept, slip in a short example and you will again be showing rather than telling, clearing up any confusion and helping your readers to take action.
Answer All Their Questions
When creating actionable content, your aim is for the reader to go away knowing everything they need to know so they can take action themselves. But if they have lots of unanswered questions after reading your content, they will be less likely to act and more likely to go elsewhere to seek the answers they need. Avoid this by thinking of all the most important questions your readers will have before you create your content, and then make sure you answer them in the content.
Once you have finished the draft, go over it and decide whether you answer them in enough detail. If not, this is something to rectify on the next edit. You might not cover everything (people will always have questions you did not think of), but you will significantly improve your chances of creating valuable and actionable content.
Get the Reader Engaged
Try to get the reader engaged with your content as much as possible if you want to make it actionable. After all, they are far less likely to take action if they don’t even get to the end because they get bored. By engaging them, you are getting them in the right mood to be actionable.
Encourage them to participate in your content by asking questions throughout. Simply asking a question encourages the reader to think of an answer, and before they know it they are engaging with your content. You can also encourage greater levels of engagement by making your content more visually attractive.
Use images to get your point across visually rather than using text. Throw in a few well-placed GIFs, and use infographics to pack in a lot of information in a visually interesting way.
Remember the basic rules about web content to make it more inviting, such as using short sentences and paragraphs as well as headings and bullet points to break up the copy and avoid presenting the reader with large blocks of text. So keep it simple so readers can skim read the content and still take in the most important information.
End with a Clear Call to Action
Finally, actionable content should come with a call to action to encourage the readers to do a task as soon as they have finished reading the content. This is easily done by simply resuming the information contained in the content and then telling the reader what they should be doing now.
Even a single sentence is enough. Make it short, clear, and benefits focused to remind them of what they will get out of it, and make it the last sentence of the content so it is the last thing they read.
Make Your Content Actionable
Could your content be more actionable? Do you ever get the feeling that people forget about your content the moment they finish reading it? Follow these tips to create more actionable content from now on. Whatever your end-goal with your content, making it actionable will help. When people learn something new—and discover how to put it in action—they are more likely to find value in your content. And, as we all know, it is valuable content that gets shares and builds links naturally.
So put these tips into practice with the next piece of content you create, and start creating more actionable content from now on.