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7 Design Hacks to Increase Your Contents Engagement

People don’t read on the web. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group revealed that 79% of users only scan a webpage when they land on it, with only 16% of users reading a webpage word-by-word.

As a result, we all need to seriously up our game when it comes to getting users to engage with our content marketing efforts. Whether it be asking for a share, or convincing a journalist to link to you. You need to package up your content right. If you’re creating text-heavy content that lacks in the visual department, prepare for failure.

Above, you can see a side-by-side comparison of a content piece with two different executions.
One is a standard article format, the other an infographic packed full of data visualization, a click-bait headline and reduced branding.

Which would you link too? It won’t surprise you to learn that the Infographic version picked up over 29 pieces of media coverage. The article version generated zilch, nada, zero.

There are several advanced tactics you can use to make your content more engaging whether it be simple design tweaks, using clever plugins or snappier copy.

Make the Content More Digestible & Minimise Branding

iFixit Guide Layout

Break up your written content into more digestible chunks by using a simple step-by-step format such as Buzzfeed-style lists or iFixIt style how-to guides.

Ensure that every 2 to 3 paragraphs you utilise a sub-heading that summarises your main point and visualise it with a contextual image.

You should also avoid brand guidelines like the plague when it comes to editorial content designed for outreach. Your color scheme, design and layout should be representative of the story you are telling. This isn’t an advertisement you’re making, it’s an editorial piece. Push back or risk your content being seen as less credible by those who you are trying to get a link from.

Once, we were asked by an old client to change a blueprint illustration we made to a ‘purpleprint’ to ensure we stuck to their main brand color, purple. Everyone knows what a Purpleprint is right? Sigh.

Host the Content On a ‘Distraction-Free’ Landing Page

A distraction-free landing page

One of the biggest challenges with creating branded content for link building is making sure that your content is perceived as credible, editorial and useful – rather than an advertisement in disguise.

When publishing a piece, don’t whack it on the generic template that you use across the rest of your site. Doing this creates a ton of distracting call to actions for your user – big company logo, telephone number etc. that can harm it’s credibility. You have to remember the primary aim is for people to view the piece, and then click share or link to it – that’s it.

Just imagine that you are a journalist, receiving 100’s of emails a day from PR & marketing agencies. By stroke of luck, they click on the link you sent them and all they see above the fold, rather than the content, is that you are having a half price sale on ladders and buy 2 get 1 free on emulsion paint. Say goodbye to that link opportunity.

Create dedicated landing pages for your pieces such as these examples or the one above. Host it in a separate sub-folder, so that users can enjoy the credibility and usefulness of your content first and later – at the bottom – introduce your brand, and any other relevant call to actions and internal links.

Use Social Media META Data

Open Graph & Twitter Card META data are your ‘shop window’ on social networks. These tags allow you to prepopulate the headlines, descriptions and images that users see when shapring your content across social networking sites.

Ensure that your content piece contains both Open Graph Tags and Twitter Card META data within it’s. Below is the standard template I recommend using.
<!— Open Graph Tags –>
<meta property=”og:locale” content=”en_gb” />
<meta property=”og:type” content=”article” />
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Content Title. ” />
<meta property=”og:description” content=”Description of your content.” />
<meta property=”og:url” content=”https://www.domain.com/content-url/” />
<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”Site Name e.g. Kaizen” />
<meta property=”article:publisher” content=”https://www.facebook.com/fb-page-url” />
<meta property=”og:image” content=”http://www.domain.co.uk/thumbnail-image.jpg” />
<!– Twitter Card Tags –>
<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary”>
<meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@TwitterHandle”/>
<meta name=”twitter:domain” content=”http://www.twolittlefleas.co.uk/”/>
<meta name=”twitter:creator” content=”@TwitterHandle”/>
<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”Content Title”>
<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”Description of your content”>
<meta name=”twitter:image” content=” http://www.domain.co.uk/thumbnail-image.jpg “>

Add In-Copy Social-Share Buttons

Example of Click to Tweet

On text-heavy content pieces, such as blog posts, guides or tutorials – markup the content with share buttons prompting users to ‘Tweet This Quote’ or ‘Share This Image’ as they are scrolling throughout the content.

Social Image Hover’ and ‘Click to Tweet’ are two fantastic free WordPress plugins that can do exactly this.

Use ‘Official’ Social Buttons Over Pretty Ones

Battle of the social share buttons

Unfortunately, the ‘Official’ social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t exactly the prettiest things in the world. The designs, admittedly, do lack consistency in terms of style and dimensions.

However, based on our data, they drive up to 15% more engagement, dependent on placement, when compared to ‘prettier’ non-official social share buttons. In my opinion, this is simply down to users being more familiar with the branding.

AddThis.com let’s you easily integrate the official share buttons within your site easily, and track their performance. I recommend integrating buttons that ‘float’ on the sidebar as a user scrolls and also at the bottom of the article to maximise engagement post-reading.

Always Have an Embed Code

Example of a Thumbnail Embed Code

It surprises me how often I land upon content that doesn’t have an embed code that allows Bloggers & Journalists to easily copy and paste a piece of content on there site, complete with a keyword-rich link back to author’s site.

The biggest mistake I see is people not using an embed code as their content is interactive. One of the easiest solutions for this is to create an embed code that is simply a ‘Thumbnail’ version of your piece that has a call to action that drives people back to the ‘interactive’ version of the content. Try the below template or see it in action here.
<a href=”http://www.domain.co.uk/your-content/”>
<img src=”http://www.domain.co.uk/your-content/images/embed.png” alt=”Name of Content” width=”[Width e.g. 640px]” height=”[Height e.g. 320px]” />
</a>
<br>
<span style=”font-size:12px;”>
<a href=”http://www.domain.co.uk/your-content/”>View Interactive Version</a> (via <a href=”http://www.domain.co.uk/”>Your Webname Name</a>).
</span>

One last hack for this, Paddy Moogan created a tool that allows you to create an embed code that within it has ANOTHER embed code. So if a publisher features your content, you create yet another link building opportunity.

A/B Test Your Content Headlines

Upworthy makes their writers 'crap' out a ton of headlines

This is my last tip. Upworthy.com make their writers ‘crap out’ 25 different headline variations for every piece of content. Upon publication, they then A/B test a handful of these headlines to massively increase page-views as you can see below. Their presentation on ‘How to make things go viral‘ is well-worth a read.

Upworthy's A/B testing in action
But what’s the perfect formula for content marketing headlines? This incredible infographic by Neil Patel really nails it.

A formula for perfect headlines

You can A/B test headlines yourself by using KingSumo Headlines ($99) for WordPress. This plugin will show different titles to visitors as your post is shared, and then over time optimise towards the best performing headline to maximise traffic. Pretty sweet.

I’m always on the hunt for new desk hacks that increase content marketing engagement and would love to hear about any other examples.

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