Tell Them What You’re Going To Tell Them, Tell Them, Then Tell Them What You Told Them
There’s content marketing gold in that tongue twister
One writing technique I don’t see often enough is the use of an abstract or summary at the beginning of marketing content. Repetition is a tried and true way to get a message across, but it has added value in a time when reading attention is changing.
The two sentences above are an abstract of the subject matter of this brief article. During the process of revamping an entire inventory of blog posts for a client, I realized that adding a summary at the top of each would have an immediate impact. Information researchers, seeking specific answers, aren’t going to wade through mountains of text. Unless you tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Always review your content on a phone screen
Viewing content on mobile is easy these days. For example, most responsive (mobile-friendly) WordPress editors allow you to see how things will look on various size screens with one click. If you write in long blocks of text, or even long sentences, your stuff will look too dense.
This is not a matter of today’s readers being lazy or dumb. Reading patterns have changed. We use subtitles, short paragraphs, and brief sentences to maintain attention. They ‘push’ the reader through your content.
Build a hierarchy into your structure
Let’s look at the example of a landing page hierarchy. Here’s one I wrote for a translation client: https://www.languageintelligence.com/market-research/
The headline defines the problem:
Your clients want their research results now (in eight languages…)
The three downward arrows break it down. They, in turn, are followed by additional statements of the challenges, taking the reader down the page.
Maintaining the set of three, the next section shows how we solve the three challenges, and we see the first call to action.
The next section is social proof comprised of a testimonial and client logos.
Finally there is a call to action in the form of a question and a contact form.
Funneling attention with the abstract and the subheads
Each section leads down the page, funneling attention. The three challenges are addressed three times. In this case, the headline serves as the abstract. In the case of an article like the one you’re reading, I’d put a brief paragraph at the top, then I’d use my subheads to sketch the content out, then I’d fill it in.
Wrap it up by telling them what you told them
- Abstracts give context to a reader seeking a specific piece of information.
- Repetition reinforces the core message.
- Skimmable subheads give them an idea of what value lies within.
- Short text blocks are easier to read on mobile devices.
A final tip:
Revamping old content can often be done by going through and rewriting subheads. I don’t recommend changing titles as you may cause problems with search crawlers and backlinks. Another reason for writing a basic abstract is the way your content appears in search results. Unless you use a plug-in like Yoast that allows you to customize a search snippet (the text the engines shows below your page title), the first sentence or two is what will display.