Halloween is upon us, and that means kids (and kids at heart) are getting ready to go door-to-door and say, “Trick or treat!”
While the offer of either trick or treat is considerate, we all know that any costumed kid with an outstretched pumpkin bucket prefers a treat rather than a trick. Not to mention, if they’re treated to something special, they might even share it with friends and come back for more next time around.
Publishers: Your readers are no different. You could either trick them into reading your content for meaningless clicks, or treat them to consistent, high-quality material that earns their loyalty and trust.
In the spirit of the season, here are five ways to treat your readers instead of trick them.
1. A/B test your content to learn what works.
All readers are different. Some might respond to headlines that contain questions or numbers, while others are drawn to words that address them directly, like “you” and “your.” By testing different combinations of story elements — headlines, images, and social copy — using tools such as the ShareThis Social A/B tool, you can get a better sense of what your readers are looking for, and optimize to deliver just that.
The trick to avoid: Clickbait headlines, like “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!” because Facebook penalizes you for doing that.
2. Share social content at the right times.
Social media never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean you have to post every minute of every day. In fact, you’ll have a better chance of engaging your readers if you publish social content at just the right times. You can use analytics platforms to find out when your audience is most active online. Or start with some general rules like this one: It’s best to post on Facebook in the early afternoon, especially between 12:00 and 1:00 PM on weekends.
The trick to avoid: Flooding people’s feeds with social posts.
3. Use white-hat SEO tactics.
White-hat SEO is just a fancy term for smart strategies that will get your content seen by Google. For instance, it used to be acceptable to stuff your posts with as many searchable keywords as possible, but now Google will penalize you for that. That’s why it’s important to use white-hat SEO tactics, such as including a few relevant keywords, linking to other posts on your site, and making sure your publication is easy to navigate.
The trick to avoid: Black-hat SEO tactics, like spam comments and duplicated content.
4. Clearly label sponsored content.
Want to build trust with your audience? Just be honest with them. Make sure to call out all sponsored content with a disclosure that simply says “Sponsored” or “Ad.” For instance, above its native ads, The New York Times has a small banner that reads, “Paid for and posted by [brand].” And remember: If your native advertising is engaging enough, readers won’t care whether or not it came from a brand. They’ll be too busy enjoying your content.
The trick to avoid: Concealing ad partnerships.
5. Optimize for mobile.
According to a recent comScore study, 65 percent of all digital media time is now spent on mobile. Evidently, if your website isn’t compatible with smartphones and tablets, you’re going to get left behind. It’s crucial to make sure your publication loads quickly on mobile, is easy to navigate, and contains text and images that translate well to smaller screens. This way, your readers can enjoy a comfortable and intuitive mobile experience.
The trick to avoid: Frustrating readers with slow loading times.
Trick-or-treating may only happen on Halloween, but these rules for publishers apply year-round. By taking these steps to treat instead of trick your audience, you’ll be well on your way to building loyal and trusting relationships with your readers.