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How to Build Compelling Content By Leaving Readers Wanting More

Posted By Darren Rowse 7th of August 2009 Writing Content 0 Comments


“The other thing that comes to mind about compelling content is that….. it leaves me thirsting for more. There’s something about compelling content that drives me to subscribe, join or bookmark because I’ve had a taste of something I’d like a second helping of.”

This comment was left by Grant* on my recent post asking readers to tell me what compelling content is to them. I think it sums up pretty well what I want to write about today in the continuation of this series on the topic of compelling content…. creating momentum with your content.

As Grant points out above – one of the most common reactions to someone reading something compelling is that they want more of it.

I know this reaction for myself.

  • When I read a book from a new author that I enjoy I immediately look for more information on the author to see what else they’ve written.
  • When I read a column in a newspaper or magazine (yes I still read them) by someone that I find insightful I make a mental note to look out for what they have to say next week.
  • When I find see someone tweet something that grabs my attention or makes me think – I check out their other tweets and usually follow them.
  • When I watch a TV show that entertains me, makes me laugh or gives me something to think about – I tell my wife to remind me to watch it next week (I need a Tivo)
  • When I read a blog post that informs me, teaches me or stretches my mind – I look at other recent posts and will generally I subscribe to the blog.

I do these things because when something is compelling it gives me a thirst for more. Anticipation kicks in, momentum has been built without the person really needing to ask me to become a loyal consumer of their content (although a call to action and suggested next step can be helpful).

Take Home Lessons:

1. On one level the content itself and how good it is creates momentum whether the author of it tries to build momentum or not.

2. Having said that – there are also ways to help to build momentum and anticipation in your blogging even more than just writing good content.

Other savvy media producers do this – that’s why publishers add pictures of the covers of other books by an author to back covers of books, it’s why magazines often dedicate a page to highlighting what’s coming in upcoming issues, it’s why newspapers run ads for features coming in tomorrows paper and why on TV they show snippets of next week’s show at the end of this weeks one.

As a blogger I’ve found that similar techniques can definitely work in creating anticipation in readers.

9 Ways to Build Anticipation on Your Blog

I’ve written about this previously in How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog and More on How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog but let me touch on a few methods that I find particularly useful:

  1. Have Your Own Sense of Anticipation – perhaps the most important thing about helping others to have anticipation about your blog is to have it yourself. If YOU don’t have some kind of an idea about where your blog is headed how will you help others to have that? This means knowing what your long term goals are for your blog but also setting aside time to plan your medium an short term next steps. Things like knowing what you’re going to post about in the next week ahead of time mean you’ll be better placed to communicate that to readers and help them get the feeling that you’re not just flying by the seat of your pants but are being intentional about creating a space for them to keep coming back to.
  2. Write Series of Posts – whether its writing a series of 31 daily posts over a month on a similar theme or writing 2 consecutive posts – signaling to your readers that you’re going to explore a topic over a number of days definitely creates anticipation and helps to build momentum in your content.
  3. Polls – I didn’t mention this in my previous posts on anticipation but lately I’ve noticed readers coming back to my blogs to see what the results of polls that they’ve voted in are. If the topic is interesting enough it piques interest and curiosity into what others think on the topic.
  4. Competitions – a good competition can really stimulate excitement in readers and give them a reason to keep coming back.
  5. Sharing your Vision for Your Site – I find that occasionally sharing with your readers information about how your site is going and what your plans are for its future can help to build buzz, good will and anticipation on a site. One way to do this is by having a ‘Town Hall Meeting‘ on your blog.
  6. Highlighting Your Best Archived Content – one of the best ways to show people that you’re going to produce great content in the future is to showcase what you’ve already done. Creating sneeze pages of your best posts, interlinking posts or suggesting relevant reading can help do this.
  7. Ask Questions – it struck me today when I was rereading the comments on my ‘what is compelling content to you?’ post that quite a few of those who commented left comments that included things like ‘Looking forward to your take on this’ and ‘I look forward to reading the posts on this subject’ and ‘Looking forward to reading further!’ That post was nothing more than me asking readers to share their opinion and signaling that I would write more on the topic – yet it seemed to create a thirst for more in many.
  8. Suggest a Next Step – it is one thing to create anticipation and another to convert the person with the anticipation into acting upon it. One important thing to help increase the chances of this is to make it easy for them. Include an invitation to subscribe or become a member, share a link to the next thing that you want them to read and/or give them a strong call to action for the thing you want to them to do. Not all first time readers to your blog will know what to do next so make your calls to action clear, simple and easy to follow.
  9. Don’t be Too Comprehensive – Sometimes a blog post can cover a topic so well and so fully that there’s little more to say on the topic. If you write a definitive guide that answers every single question that a reader might have they might simply go away knowing everything there is to say on the topic. However if you write in a way that shows that you’re still learning, that you’ve got more to share, that you’ll explore other questions or related topics you give your readers a reason to keep tracking with you on the topic. While it’s OK to write in an authoritative and comprehensive tone I find I’m much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog if they show that they’re human and still learning and still exploring than if they present as a know it all (or is that just me?).

Again – if this is new to you I talk more about these techniques (and others) in my previous posts at How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog and More on How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog.

Creating a sense of anticipation in your readers is great for converting them into loyal readers. These techniques show readers that you’re not just a one hit wonder and are seriously interested in the topic and are developing your ideas on it and you can genuinely help your readers to grow and develop on a topic over time.

Your Homework For Today

Take 15 minutes out today to plan your next week of posting. You might not be able to plan every post that you write if your blog is more ‘news’ focused but think about what posts you might be able to write that you can tie together and build into a series (remember a series need not be lots of posts – it can be as simple as two related posts over a few days).

Once you’ve got your plan begin to make it a reality. One thing that can help make it a reality is to publicly commit to it. I find that when I announce a series of posts that I’m much more likely to actually do it than if I simply quietly plan to write it. Announcing it makes you accountable to do what you say you’ll do.

A Word of Warning about Anticipation

Sometimes too much anticipation can be too much of a good thing. I don’t know about you but there are some TV shows where the cliffhanger that they leave viewers on at the end of every single episode leaves me with the kind of anticipation that isn’t necessarily a positive one. There’s nothing wrong with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting to know what happens next on occasion – but if you do it every single week it can become a bit tired and leave those watching or reading wondering if they’ll ever have the answers.

Take Home Lesson: Build anticipation naturally but don’t over do it. Treat your readers with respect and keep in mind that your content needs to be useful. A post that simply ‘teases’ but which provides no real value in and of itself could do the opposite of what you’re wanting to achieve with some readers.

Stay Tuned….: Of course it would be remiss of me on a post like this not to let you know that I’ll continue this series of posts on creating compelling content in the days ahead (I’ve got 2-3 more posts lined up for next week). Keep an eye on the ProBlogger feed for these updates.

What Do You Have to Say on the Topic?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this topic – share your thoughts below. Here’s a few reader comments that have been left previously that I think are relevant to get you thinking:

  • “What makes compelling comment? Something that either brings people back or makes a new visitor subscribe.” – Shannon
  • “(it) causes me to want to learn more about a particular subject, perhaps do research, and then take action if there is any to be taken.” – Krissy
  • “Compelling content is content that draws me in and keeps me coming back.” – Celes
  • “It makes me want to come back for more and to follow them.” – Martin

*Grant, if you have a URL I’d love to give you credit for your quote.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. It just so happens that I’m actually writing my first series of posts this week (on “fear of success” for entrepreneurs) – wish me luck :)

    Point #9 (don’t be too comprehensive) was really helpful to me. I often struggle with the amount of information to put in my posts … perhaps making things a bit simpler and breaking a topic down into several posts is the better way to go.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. The “in series” plugin allows you to tie multiple parts together (with a table of contents at the top of each part).

    I’ve broken a few of my fiction stories ( http://www.observingcasually.com/category/fiction-friday/ ) into two parts.

  3. On a blog I recently started, I used a 5 post series to help kick things off. It really helped traffic for the first month.

  4. If you write the stuff helpful,intresting for users then why not they want more?
    If I need some knowledge and here I am getting then I definitely I’ll force by my conscious to Subscribe to this blog.
    Every blogger tries to do the best but his parameter is different then other.

  5. When choosing compelling topics to write on, I often get stuck between choosing topics that appeal to a wide audience (within my niche) or very specific group of people within my niche. Perhaps I should experiment writing posts for wider audiences, but then have previews and links to posts designed for more specific areas. Sort of funnel traffic to the different topics within my blog.


  6. I own a website, storyz.org, where I post writing and blogging tips, as well as stories. (hence the name)
    Does posting parts of stories, (200-500 words in each post), and making the end of the post suspensful, count, as making readers want more?

    And I don’t see too much suspense being a bad thing. If you stop a story at a suspensful moment, then all you have to do is have another part to the story ready to go, before the audience get’s too tired of waiting. Now, if you have a story, and in it, it says “What will happen to our heroes, now?”, or any other cliffhanger phrase, and you fail to have an immediate followup, and your readers get sick of waiting weeks to get a sequel, you may have a problem.

    Thanks for the tips!

  7. I started a series of posts that show up high in my statistics a lot. I have a series on Top Indie Hard Rock MP3’s of the week. I try and post it every Friday. It’s a double edged sword though. Sometimes it takes me until Friday to find enough indie bands that are good enough :) Also, many thanks to you Darren for your site. Today I made my first direct advertising deal. Your site is an informational gem for bloggers and helped make that possible! Thanks man.

  8. Great Article Darren! I love the everything about this article the whole “HomeWork Task” section is a great idea and it gives us the readers something to do next, so it keeps us reading and gets us moving or productive! Great post!


  9. I like post series. But I always write on the first post the scheme of the content of each post.

  10. I created a series on how to prepare for college a few weeks ago and it went great! My readers loved it!

    I’ll think of another series to do for next week. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Nice post Darren.Lot of inspiration I got from this post.


  12. nice picture… also a nice post.


  13. Question: When planning out your posts for the week, do you find it helpful to sit down and write out a series of posts all at once (then schedule it for timed releases), or do you get better results by writing in little chunks (a little every day)?

  14. If only my life had shades of cliffhanger, even once in a while. Maybe I can drum up a little drama.

    Or a series. A series. Hmmn. There is our on-going house remodel — 15 years with no signs of stopping. Now we’re even remodeling the remodel, and I’ve got boxes of before and after pix. By George, I think I’ve got it! Not only a series idea but perhaps a cliffhanger, to boot. Will they or will they not get drywall on that framing? Where do the mystery stairs really lead? Will Jim choose the vermillion or the chartruese for the master bedroom trim? Fascinating stuff of sheer anticipation!

  15. This is such a helpful post. As I’ve recently found in re-designing the structure of our own blog, it is hard to create content that is both current, stimulating for readers and the authors as well as unique among the hundreds of blogs that are trying to do the exact same thing. Do you have any recommendations on the differing styles or approaches for the individual that blogs vs. the company that blogs? Any trends you see in the mistakes or successes of companies who are beginning to build brand recognition based on engagement through their blog?

    Zócalo Group

  16. Yeh, nice tips here. Anticipation is important to returning visitors in many cases. I’ll give some of those steps a try.

  17. I agree. As an example, this year I have started doing monthly themes. Each month I’ll pick a principle or idea I want to develop further and I’ll write 10-20 posts about various aspects of that principle. I usually try to schedule the pre-planned posts for every other day, leaving a day in the middle that I can fill with a sudden thought on the subject or some other emergent topic altogether.

    I have found that folks have really liked the monthly thematic posts and it has definitely increased my readership.

    An added benefit is it allows me to do an intro post at the beginning of the month and a recap at the end. These end up being teasers and link lists – I think maybe you call them “Sneeze pages” – pages that draw readers down into my archives.

    Thanks again for a great post – I’ve gotten a couple of good ideas fromthis post that I’ll try to implement on my blog.

  18. Thanks for the good advice. I just started my blog http://www.livingwithballs.com a couple weeks ago and your book and your web site have been a major help. I also just did a short series for a fantasy football preview.

  19. Yes, I took the advice on creating a blog series on “How To Build a squeeze Page”.

    And it was a great success.

    I agree that if you inform your readers that you will be creating a post series on a particular topic, it will get them condition to want to know more.

  20. Darren,

    This is really good advice. I have been planning to do a series on how to get out of debt and a lot of this just reinforces my feeling that it’ll be successful. Some great new ideas too.


  21. Less is more. Content is still king or queens.
    Provide SINCERE value to peoples’ lives and
    they will come back.

    When was the last time you
    read something that changed your life ?

  22. I don’t do well pre-announcing anything. Invariably, I’ll make an announcement about doing something that seems great at the time, then something will come up, or I’ll just get bored with it, and gaff it off. This makes me lose credibility.

    On the other hand, I do well at just quietly getting stuff done on it’s own time. Then when I publish or release, it comes as a pleasant surprise to everyone. Including me sometimes. This makes me gain credibility.

    Anyone else have this experience?

  23. Superb!
    Problogger doesn’t miss anything that can be used elsewhere.
    I can’t think of any more way to make people comeback to my blog. But another simplest ways are
    1) To add readers is to get a unique name, like problogger or my blog 86blogger or something else. these kind of names can be communicated via Cell Phones, Letters, Word of Mouth etc. ( But i think this too has been covered on problogger)
    2) Talk about something which is in series. like a tournament or Tennis. Cricket etc. ( or anything else related to your Niche)
    3) Simply ask them to come back for more qualiy information, if you really have solved his problem, he will come back, no matter his internet costs him $10/Hour. :)
    4)Treat readers like your friends, ( If friends don;t come to you, you go to them) Take the advantage of Social Bookmarking/Networking Sites.
    5)Talk about your Most recent project or something like that. People will come back to your blog to see the progress.
    6) Use the Software People’s Technique ( They release their software in Alpha, Beta then Final. it is bound that 99% users upgrade to the next available thing.
    I Have More…….But I am scared of Darren Rowse.:)

  24. I too have the problem of promising something to come, then losing time or motivation and never delivering. Because of that, I’ve stopped promising things to come in posts unless I already have them written. More recently, I’ve been suggesting further uses or accompaniments for the recipes or tips I give (I write a food blog), without promising to expand. If I do manage to write a post on that topic, I go back and link the suggestion to the new post.

    I’ve been planning series posts, but haven’t gotten any going yet.

  25. “and will generally I subscribe to the blog.”?

  26. Peak their curiousity and they will keep coming back.

  27. I write infrequently, but that’s because my blog is my hobby and I seldom have time to write the indepth posts I’d like to publish.

    That being said, some of these just do not apply to the average blogger. I’ve found that when posts arise “asking questions” or “sharing vision” you end up talking to yourself, or getting the wonderful comments of “I like your writing, I too will blog about this topic very much thank you.”

    When you act anticipatory, using the whole “oh gee, I can’t wait to share my next post with you, it’s going to be awesome!” 99% of the time it’s been a marketing pitch, a product pitch, or in general, a big build with a total let down.

    Take the flip side with my friends with higher traffic blogs who rely a lot on their writing, and you’ll see them do the series of posts (because those WILL bring people back, and DO encourage genuine anticipation).

    My issue is generating a series of posts and getting them set up so I can have a back log. Every once in awhile I can get that going, but otherwise I feel I can’t set aside the time to have a truly kick-ass blog.

  28. short, sweet, spicy and strategic… what about end with a question?

  29. Believe it or not writing in such manner is an art and that reflects that you know the nerves of your readers or visitors.

    Once you got such nerve you will be at winning position. I am trying to learn that and also successful as well.

  30. I think compelling content needs to have a ring of truth. If I get the feeling that I can learn from someone elses’ mistakes without having to go through them myself that’s a compelling reason to keep reading.

  31. As I commented on a previous post, finding decent content to write about is a challenge, not to mention content that captures the imagination of the audience.

    My blog http://www.knowledgereform.com/ is only three weeks old and it has been a struggle some days to find something interesting to write about – the other days idea pour out from my head like a waterfall.

    Well, one must try to learn something new everyday and implement what one has learned practically to whatever one is creating.

    Thanks again.

  32. Compelling content makes you want to talk to your computer. Whether it is a “really?”, a “wow!”, a snort, or a chuckle the content has you responding in a verbal way.

  33. I’ve been working on this idea, but never really put it into a concept like you talk about here. This post really helps. I now know what I’m trying to accomplish and have a better understanding of what direction I need to take my posts in.

    You are awesome!

  34. This is my first time leaving a comment after years of following your site, but I felt like I had to say I agree when you said “I find I’m much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog if they show that they’re human and still learning and still exploring than if they present as a know it all”.

    Compelling content is important, but the kind of person who I am learning from is even more so. The person has to be approachable, like you could ask a question if you needed to.

    Any writer should consider writing in that tone.


  35. If readers are wanting for more than most of the work is done because then the reader will be loyal and loyal reader = 1 sure shot reader, supporter and fan.

  36. I like to build anticipation in multiple ways.

    1) Each month I host a live poetry activity, the “fishbowl” on The Wordsmith’s Forge, in which audience members give me prompts and I write poems about those ideas. I post one poem free, and people can sponsor other poems to be posted if they wish. Afterwards, I post a followup report. If I’ve received general donations, there is also a “generally sponsored poetry poll” where people can vote for eligible poems to be posted. This is a popular event in my blog and people look forward to it. They actually requested that I announce it a week in advance so they could plan ahead.

    2) In Gaiatribe, I often write about holidays. Sometimes I do an advance planning post 1-2 weeks ahead followed by a celebration post on the actual holiday. Bloggers Unite is an excellent source for holidays.

    3) I also really like series. This makes it easy to break down a big topic into blog-sized pieces. It also works for covering all the items in a set. This year I’m blogging about the 8 Pagan sabbats in Gaiatribe, with advance posts about the themes and then about food and decorations. The food/decorations posts are the most popular, making a visible spike in my traffic.

  37. Darren,

    in this post you mention not to be too comprehensive, but I find this post to be just that. Too much take home lessons and information..


  38. Thanks for the suggestions.

  39. I’m a new blogger and am trying different ways to get my readers to stay. I’ve recently started to writing content to build anticipation and it has been paying off. Being very diverse in my writing seems to help me as well as giving a preview of my next post. Preparing to write a series of posts and telling your readers is a great way to build anticipation. Thanks for the tips.

  40. Great picture… and also a nice post.


  41. Great information. Arousing curiosity and using power words also make content compelling. People think they need to take some kind of action after or else they will miss something of value or something that can potentially change their lives.

  42. I totally agree with the idea of “planned anticipation”. However, if you are aiming at being comprehensive on a topic, it is a bit hard to give your readers just a spoon every day.

  43. I am so pleased to have found this series of posts. If you’re not creating compelling content; if you’re not leaving your visitors feeling that they’ve come away with something not only helpful, but which makes them want more, why blog at all? This series has really got the brain cells buzzing, and I can’t wait to sit down and mind-map my next couple weeks’ posts.

    Compelling content, to me, is content that not only makes me feel like I’ve been helped in some way, but like I can take that information, and help someone else with it.

    This series is compelling for that reason. It will help me to improve my own site, and it will help me to brainstorm ways to help my readers as well.

    Thanks! (And thanks to those who’ve left so many great comments, as well.)


  44. Reading compelling content as your blog’s makes me wish to have more capacity (especially time) to read all posts and to follow up on them.
    But it also makes me want to get to know the person behind.
    In the area of food-blooging where I’m at home, I try to get in touch with blog-authors via comments, Twitter and the like.

    #9 If knowledge or experience gets shared in a not too comprehensive way, then the relationship between author and reader is like between a mentor and the mentored person, which seems quite personal, even if it isn’t in fact…

    Even though I’m an unregular reader I’m a fan.

  45. I wasn’t sure how good of a fit this would be for The Casual Observer, but I think I am going to some some periodic group-written stories (where I write the first hundred or so words, and each commenter adds a bit more (and the end result is typically pretty choppy :)

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