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Creating content nowadays is easy enough to do, whether it’s written, visual or audio – we have so many tools at our disposal. But creating content that compels the reader to engage and take action?
That’s a whole different game.

At the same time, as a business or marketer, creating content just for the sake of it simply doesn’t cut it.

After all, you’re spending all this time creating content, so you need it to get you results; not just something to populate your website, your blog or your social media.

So how do you create content that gets your audience to take action? What are the secrets to great content?

In this ultimate guide, find out how to create content that compels, in order to generate more engagement, more leads and more sales for your business.

Why do you need content?

When you create high-quality content that compels your audience to action, you can get amazing results for your business – and reach almost any type of marketing objectives:

  • Brand awareness – for a small company, for example, achieving brand awareness is crucial. First of all, you have to let consumers know you exist, make your company visible to them and try to get their attention. How to do this? Through great content, obviously: publish quality content on your website, blog and social media platforms and start guest posting on big sites in your niche
  • Lead generation – by offering value to your audience, you get leads in return. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that; but, by leveraging content marketing lead generation tactics, you can considerably boost your number of leads. For example, great content gives people a reason to subscribe and give away their contact information; plus, you can use PDF and other content resources and offer them for free, in exchange for an opt-in
  • Thought leadership – great content leads to value and thought leadership. If you create and publish trustworthy information related to your industry that is needed by the target audience, then you could start to be considered an authority in your field and earn thought leadership status.

This is a strategy that has worked for numerous companies; just think of Hubspot’s amazing marketing and sales blogs, as well as their numerous resources, that help make them some of the biggest authorities in the marketing and sales space

  • Traffic: another big reason to love content? More traffic to your site; and, what’s more, when you give people good content on your website, you also give them a reason to stick around for longer. And maybe later on, even convert.

Having said, in order to achieve these results, you need compelling content first.

Here is what you need to keep in mind in order to create content that compels:

1.    Write for your audience

You already know who forms your target audience: the people or the businesses that would need your products or services.

And if you’re creating content already, then you’re probably keeping them in mind so that you can cover topics that are relevant to them and to their industry.

But are you truly writing for them?

Because there is a difference:  it’s one thing to create content that is relevant to your target audience and a completely different thing to create content that your audience is actively searching for.

In order to create content for your target audience, you need to:

  • Create buyer personas: you can use a tool like Hubspot’s Make my Persona to help:

hubspot persona tool

  • Perform keyword research: put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think of the keywords they might use that could lead them to your business. Using keyword research tools, research these keywords and get other ideas you can use (plus, this step also helps with SEO, which makes it a win-win)

Basically, the idea is to create content that your audience actually wants, discussing the topics they want to learn more about and using the formats that the want (videos, blog posts, podcasts, etc.)

2.    Offer something new

There’s a lot of content out there – it doesn’t even matter what niche or industry you’re in, chances are it’s overflowing with content on any topic you can think of.

So if you want to compel your readers/viewers/etc., you need to offer them something new and unique.

Something that makes your content stand out so that your audience sits up and takes notice.

But that’s easier said than done: precisely because there is so much content out there, it can seem impossible to come up with something new and original.

And of course, you can’t make each and every piece of content you create a work of art.

But what you can do, is make your content better than others.

You can give it a unique spin that’s all you.

And you can come up with new and interesting angles that others might not have thought about before.

Most importantly though, focus on being better than your competitors.

One great example that comes to mind is Backlinko; while the topics covered on the blog aren’t original per se, they are incredibly well-researched and backed up with stats and evidence.

You might find a lot of guides online that show you how to create a SEO strategy for example, but Backlinko’s version is easy to understand/read, it’s packed full of actionable tips (and not just vague advice) and it offers evidence to support the claims brought forward.

backlinko screenshot

3.    It’s all in the headline

There’s no denying the power of a strong headline. Most often than not, it’s how we all make the decision to read a piece of content, watch a video or open an email.

If the title isn’t compelling enough, it will be difficult to get people to check out your content.

Luckily, writing great headlines can be a learned skill – some have it in them from the start, but for others, it’s all in the exercise.

And, in following certain rules – and using certain words.

Buzzsumo have authored a really interesting study, whereby they analysed an impressive 100 million headlines in order to understand what makes a headlines work.

For example, here are some of the most commonly-used phrases in the most popular posts:

buzzsumo headlines study

And here are the top phrases starting headlines:

buzzsumo headlines study

One of the first things that pops up is that emotion is very important. Compelling headlines evoke emotion in readers.

From the second chart, one thing is immediately noticeable: listicles are hugely popular, getting by far the most shares.

And following listicles, how-to’s are up there too in terms of popularity.

Luckily, that also makes it easier to create great headlines:

  • Use numbers whenever possible: for e.g., “10 rules of writing headlines that compel” or “10 amazing tools that will skyrocket your conversion rates”
  • Show your audience how to do something; for e.g. “How to write subject lines that convert like crazy” or “How to generate leads on autopilot”

For more tips on how to write great headlines, check out my guide here.

4.    Do your research

As I mentioned earlier, the quality of your content is extremely important. But in order to deliver great content, you need to do your research first.

In other words, you need to:

  • Find out what your audience really wants to read/see/hear etc and what topics are truly relevant to them (as discussed in point 1)
  • Research the content in your niche: in order to create amazing content, you need to first see what other content is being shared in your niche and understand what makes the most popular posts, so popular – you can use a tool like Buzzsumo or Social Animal to help – and, of course, there’s always Google: just look up your keywords and check out the first results

google search

  • Research your topic: this depends on the type of content you’re creating; but, if you’re offering any kind of information to your audience, then you should perform as much research as possible on the topic. This will make for better, more compelling content and it will show your audience that you’re very knowledgeable
  • Ensure you’re using the right information: make sure any claims you make are backed up by real data and that you have a credible source (for example, a popular and well-established website, such as The Next Web or Forbes) – misinforming your audience or directing them to a poor website can damage the trust they have in you (or starting to have!)

Not to mention, it’s good practice to link to big websites and great sources of content: it provides more value to the reader and it’s a good SEO practice.

5.    Make your content more “readable”

If you want to create content that compels, then you need to first make it easy for your audience to ‘consume’ that content. This is especially relevant to written content, although with most types of content you should follow certain best practices.

Readability essentially refers to how easy it is to read through a piece of content.

It’s kind of like the difference between a professor who talks in a low monotone voice for what feels like hours on end and one who is animated, constantly changing gears and engaging and interacting with their students.

It’s pretty much the same with content: a long page with 2-3 paragraphs and nothing else to break up the words that seem to swirl together, versus a page with numerous sub-headlines, different formatting, helpful images and screenshots and other similar elements that help make the content more engaging.

So whenever you create a new piece of content, simply follow this checklist to boost readability:

  • Use sub-headlines wherever possible: break up your content with h2 headlines, where relevant (it’s an important step for SEO too!)
  • Use bullet points where possible, it makes the content much easier to digest and skim through to get the information you want (like I’m doing here, in fact)
  • Add media throughout your content: not only does it break up the content more, but images, videos and the like capture people’s attention, and in some cases (for example, with explanatory videos, relevant screenshots and so on) they also help provide more value to the reader
  • Use short paragraphs: it’s really simple, really: long paragraphs are boring. They’re difficult to read on a screen, especially on a mobile phone screen. No one likes a long paragraph – why would you ever? – so try to stick to 1-2 sentence paragraphs.

Just by following these simple rules, you can greatly improve the quality of your content.

6.    Use visuals

We’ve already touched in this on the previous point; but, it’s so important, it deserves its own space.

Visuals are incredibly important when it comes to written content. Big chunks of text don’t really get people reading; you need to make it more interactive by adding visuals aids wherever possible, as well as other forms of relevant imagery:

  • Add screenshots to demonstrate how to do something; for example, in our guide to creating an editorial calendar, we used screenshots to show readers what an editorial calendar would look like:

editorial calendar screenshot

  • Add videos: adding videos in your content can help increase time spent on site
  • Use charts, tables and graphs as they can make data easier to understand
  • Create infographics – another great way to present data in a visual (and highly shareable) way
  • Use quote images – get your point across by turning an important quote in your content, into an image
  • Use gifs – they’re a fun way to break up your content and get your point across

7.    What is the reader getting out of this? Make your content actionable

Why are you reading this guide? I’m going go ahead and assume is because you want some truly actionable tips to help you create compelling content.

And hopefully, it’s delivering.

My promise from the start was to show you what you need to do in order to create content that works so that when you’ve finished reading, you know what to do next:

  • What types of headlines to write
  • What types of visuals you should use to offer more value
  • How to make your content readable, etc.

The goal was to give you actionable tips that you can take – and actually use.

After all, what better way to capture your audience’s attention than to give them something truly useful?

This is especially true today, when there is so much content available. By providing actionable content, you’re providing real value to your audience and not just “fluff” content.

So whenever you think of a new topic, ask yourself this: what can your audience take out of this and use for themselves?

8.    There’s always room for improvement: update your content regularly

This is a great lesson I learned from following Neil Patel’s blog: take the time to regularly update your content and you can see some great results.

Namely, improved search engine rankings, more traffic to your website, and more leads generated.

Here’s how to update your content:

  • Remove dated/incorrect information (for example, if you wrote an article on top marketing automation software, you’ll want to update your content by removing any tools that no longer exist). Likewise, go through the links in your piece of content and remove/replace any links that no longer exist/work
  • Add new information/data, if relevant
  • Improve your content: sometimes, it’s simply a question of improving your content. After all, the more content you produce, the better you get at it – so look back at your earlier content to see how you can improve it
  • Improve readability: you might some gems in the rough in your earlier content; update that content by improving its readability (using sub-headlines, images, etc.)


Creating content that compels isn’t easy, especially now when there is so much amazing content being shared left and right. But by following these tips and guidelines, you can considerably improve your content and boost your results from it.

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Creating content that compels: The ultimate guide

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