The saying goes that ‘storytelling’ is SEO for the human brain. That is to say that it is the most powerful form of content that we are naturally designed to enjoy consuming. If you can structure any piece of information as a story, then your audience will find it all the more interesting, all the more engaging and far more motivating.
SEO is ‘search engine optimization’. This is the method that marketers and bloggers use in order to ensure that their sites will be picked up by Google and taken to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages).
So, if storytelling is SEO for the human brain, what does that mean? It means it’s a kind of writing that is optimized for the way that the brain works. The ‘algorithm’ that defines what the brain finds interesting or otherwise.
And this is very true. Humans have been sharing stories since the beginning of history and as such, we have evolved to be particularly susceptible to them. When we hear a story, it will normally involve a character or several and this allows us to relate more to the subject matter and picture ourselves in that situation – to feel the emotions as the person in that story does.
At the same time, stories are sequential. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. Often they have lots of smaller ‘cliff hangers’ throughout the text. All this means that we are continually compelled to keep reading to the next line.
Combine this with:
- Lots of paragraphs
- Lots of headers
- A thin format for the text
- A direct, personal writing style
- Rhetorical questions to engage the reader
And now you have a highly compelling and engaging system for reeling in an audience and getting them to stay on the page.
How to Turn a Dull Subject Into a Great Story
This is all good and well if you are a journalist writing about how you tried a new wonderful supplement and lost 5% bodyfat in a week. You could write about how you felt, about how nervous you were trying it out for the first time, about how great it was to be able to fit into your clothes…
But what if you are writing about something like insurance or window cleaning?
That can still be made into a story. You simply have to create a narrative around the benefits that your product offers. This can be fictional, it can be about you, or it can be about someone you know. The key is to feed into the emotional aspects of your product and get your audience keen to know what will happen ‘next’ and to feel the importance of what you’re offering.
For instance, if you sell insurance, then you can talk about the time you nearly fell at work and realized how important insurance is. That’s a far more gripping approach than simply reeling off lots of facts and figures.
Why Great Content is SO Important
When it comes to the success of a website, content is perhaps the biggest factor of all. The vast majority of the time, we visit a site or a blog because we want information or entertainment. Whether we need to know something specific, or we just want to pass the time reading about our hobbies and interests, the web provides a wealth of information that ensures we're never bored so long as we have a smartphone to hand.
Thus, one of the very most effective ways to ensure the success of your website, is to fill it with fantastic content and to add more regularly. This way you will give your visitors an incentive to keep returning to your site and you will provide Google with lots of text to crawl and index, taking you to the top of more and more search results.
But just adding content isn't enough. What's more important is that content be high quality, such that people actually enjoy reading it. This will make them much more likely to return regularly, it will improve your reputation and your authority within your niche and it will hopefully result in more links.
Storytelling and Great Content for All Circumstances
Even when writing content for a website, this is true. For instance, if you are writing the text for a business home page, then the writing style you use and the content of what you write is going to make the difference between someone who lands on your page and leaves, or someone who keeps reading and reading to the bottom and who understands what your business is about and why it matters.
Often we use the:
Method in order to structure this kind of content. But again, writing well and writing in a more narrative and engaging manner is the key.
And for selling? Your story needs to illustrate the value proposition. The emotional hook that will get your audience to really want your product and to make the impulsive decision to buy.
Writing outstanding content is an absolute must then and perhaps the most important way to trump the competition. But what if you aren't a natural when it comes to writing? Next we'll look at some tips to help make your writing and your storytelling shine.
Top Tips for More Engaging Content
Have a Structure
When you sit down to write an article, it often helps to have a structure in mind first. If you're writing a list article (like this one), then that will be predefined, but if you are just writing a regular blog post, then it pays to think about how you're going to structure it first to avoid it being a directionless waffle. Including some kind of 'call back' (saying something in the introduction then returning to that subject at the end) can demonstrate that your article is well thought out and give it a nice sense of closure.
Grab Them With the Opening
Like we said: when writing a piece that you really want to engage your audience, starting with a story is often a very effective way to begin. We are naturally inclined to listen to stories and o relate to them, and this way you can sell the emotional element of your writing well and make it more innately interesting and memorable. Remember – the opening of your blog post is probably the most important part.
This is why many journalists will use something call a standfirst: a small amount of text right below the main heading that summarises the main bulk of the story below. It’s also why they use a structure known as ‘reverse pyramid’ – a method that places the most important dry facts at the start of the story and then expands on that with more information and background details.
In your case, this might mean grabbing your audience right away with a sales page:
‘I couldn’t believe that losing this much weight was possible…’
Or it might mean making sure to immediately tell the audience what it is your business does:
‘At [business name] we provide beautiful, well-designed websites that anyone can afford.’
A common mistake many businesses make is to try and sound ‘professional’ or to impress their readers by using jargon. All this does is confuse them and therefore drive them away from the site.
How to Beat Writers' Block
If you find yourself with writers' block, this is often a sign that you don't find what you're writing very interesting or engaging. This in turn means it's likely that your readers aren't going to find it particularly interesting either, so it's often a sign that you need to rethink your approach. Even a dull subject can be made interesting if you relate it to something else or find an emotional hook. Don't force yourself to write dull content – find a way to stop it from being dull. Here are some other more 'creative' ways to beat writers' block.
Again, thinking in turns of storytelling is highly beneficial here.
Proofreading is absolutely crucial if you want your content to seem professional and high-quality. While even top websites have a few errors, they can still undermine your authority so it's worth spending the extra time or better yet – getting someone else to go over what you've written.
Use Short Paragraphs
Short paragraphs are highly advisable when writing for the web. Not only does this make your text look less dense and more approachable, but it also aids flow and makes the reading experience more comfortable for your visitors.
A story lends itself perfectly to leading the readers from one beat to the next. By using shorter paragraphs, you can keep them moving all the way down to your checkout page.
Add in bold text, italics, colored fonts and more and you can create something that is very eye catching and that will keep the reader moving and reading.