I want you to think back to your last trip to the grocery store. Here in my area, I go to Publix.
OK, so you go to Publix and you walk the aisles. And… let’s take just the cereal aisle.
You walk through that cereal aisle and you’re presented with a few hundred options for different kinds of cereal. There is some variety in terms of taste and things like that, but in the end it is all mostly the same kind of thing. I mean, cereal is cereal. 🙂
What differentiates one box from another? Why would I pick one cereal over another one?
Well, it might be brand affinity. Through past experience, I have already decided that a particular brand of cereal is just something I like. So, I go directly there and I get it.
Another would be the packaging. All these boxes have their own branding, their own colors, certain pictures on the outside, etc. And because I have not personally opened up the box and eaten a bowl of that cereal right in the store, I decide whether I want to give it a try based on the packaging.
What Does Cereal Have to Do With My Blog?
Your blog post is much like one of the cereal boxes in the cereal aisle. Only, instead of being in an aisle with a hundred or so other brands, you’re really competing with thousands – if not millions – of other options when it comes to your content.
They might pick to read a certain post because of brand affinity. They’ve come across a certain blog in the past, already decided that they liked it, so now they seek you out. In this case, they’re probably subscribed to your RSS feed or (even better) they’re on your email list.
But, all too often, even if they’re subscribed to you, you are STILL in competition with the rest of the stuff vying for their attention.
So, that brings you to packaging.
What’s the “box” look like for your blog post? How does your blog post look from the outside?
Are you assuming that this person is having a bowl of your cereal every time you post? If so, then I’d bet you’d be depressed to see just how few of your subscribers actually do.
Are your rice krispies getting soggy?
^^^^^ That’s packaging.
That’s a sub-headline. It stands out from the rest of the content. It is supposed to get some attention, raise an eyebrow, and make you want to read what’s right underneath it.
And that’s “packaging” when it comes to blog content.
Your content is the rice krispies. And, as anybody knows, if they don’t get eaten, they just sit there in the bowl and get soggy. Not cool. 🙂
Packaging is an important part of marketing – and we KNOW this when it comes to physical products. You walk into any retail store and you see all those similar products sitting next to each other, and we know that packaging is super important.
Packaging is just as relevant when it comes to your content.
How Exactly To Pull Off Good Content Packaging
The main questions are:
- How is your content presented to your audience?
- Is the outward appearance of the content set up to attract your readers in their current mindset?
Now, I want you to really understand that last point. Its important.
So many bloggers write from within their own heads. THEY think their content is useful or good, but they never even bothered to find out what their target audience thinks “useful” and “good” look like.
Bloggers are often told to write good content, to offer lots of value, or as Corbett Barr likes to say… “write epic shit”. But, what is epic? How do you know a piece of content is actually considered to be “epic” by your readers?
Well, you ask them! And you constantly keep your ear to the ground (so to speak) so you know where your prospect is at (mentally). How do they communicate their problem to themselves?
Now, when you understand your prospect’s hot buttons and how they communicate them to themselves, then you can ensure that your content’s packaging matches up to that and hence pull them in.
You make the outward appearance of your content pull them in because it jives with the internal chatter going on in their heads, then you deliver the value.
There is a difference between the meat of your content and the packaging of your content. You can have some really great meat in your content – offering tons of value – but if the packaging is off, the content won’t have legs.
Obviously you always have to actually deliver on it, but the packaging has to be done so that it is OBVIOUS that your post has what they want.
Enticing headlines is an example of packaging. An attention-getting feature image is another example of packaging. A provocative video thumbnail before the person hits PLAY is packaging.
When you go to the store to buy something, you usually don’t get to play with the product before you buy. You have to judge it based on the packaging. It is the images on the box. The bullet point features on the sides and back.
The 2 Types of Blog Readers
There are two types of reader on your blog:
- The one who actually reads your post.
- The one who scans your headline and a few bullet points in order to decide whether your post is worth their time to actually read.
Most of your visitors are the second kind.
Packaging is about catering to the secondary reader path: SCANNING. That’s because packaging will attract them in, but packaging also has to communicate value to the person who has arrived and they’re scanning you over to see if you’re worth their time.
What do they do? They SCAN your content. They don’t read it.
So, is your content catering to the secondary reader path? Effective images in your post. Sub-headlines which are phrased to make them want to read the text under it. Quotes. Bullet points which stand out. Basically, anything which will visually stand out from the rest of the text as the person scans it over. That’s all packaging, too.
Good vs. Bad Packaging
Crappy packaging includes:
- Boring headlines
- Little (if any) sub headlines.
- No bullet points.
- Long paragraphs
- No images.
- No text which stands out from the other text. It all looks alike.
On the flip side, good packaging can include things like:
- A headline that actually makes the person want to click on it.
- Headline which contains a promise of value. (This is why list posts work so well, BTW. It is a promise of quick hit of value, without too much time commitment.)
- Sub-headlines interlaced throughout the post to break up the flow, and entice scanners to read the text beneath.
- Bullet points to break up flow.
- Imagery. Humorous imagery works well. Infographics also an option.
- Text which is highlighted in different colors (don’t do it willy-nilly. Use it for highlighting key points).
How I Personally Apply It
When I write a blog post for this site, here’s what I do:
- Write the post. Save to draft.
- Preview the post so I can see what it looks like on the web.
- As a SEPARATE task, I then go through the post and clean it up with specific attention on the packaging.
- I design a feature image to go at the top (which is also used on social media to share the post).
- I go through and insert sub-headlines (if it doesn’t look like I did enough during the writing phase).
- I format any bulleted lists using a special CSS class I have for making them stand out a lot more.
- I select a few key points from the post and, once again, highlight them using CSS.
- I do the same thing by creating tweetables (little quotes which can be 1-click tweeted by readers)
- After doing all this, I then refresh the preview and look the post over, paying specific attention to what the post looks like as an outsider.
Here’s the big thing I would hope you get from that:
Writing your content is one thing. And tweaking the packaging is a SEPARATE (but equally important) action you have to do.
After you’ve been doing this long enough, you can get to a point where you can write your content with packaging in mind from the start.
Packaging Is How Good Content Gets Noticed
It is kinda sad just how much awesome content is out there that just doesn’t get noticed.
And sure, there is also the very important element of traffic and SEO and all that stuff.
But, content packaging is about maximum leverage for any content you create. Packaging drives social shares. It is what attracts your email subscribers over to the blog. It is what will earn you organic backlinks.
The alternative is soggy rice krispies.
Got A Question? Need Some Assistance?
Have a question about this article? Need some help with this topic (or anything else)? Send it in and I’ll get back to you personally. If you’re OK with it, I might even use it as the basis of future content so I can make this site most useful.