In the realm of law, the term “actionable” refers to activities or behaviors that may precipitate a lawsuit—in other words, activities against which legal actions may be taken.
However, in the content marketing world, “actionable” blog posts are not only legal, but they’re also exactly what you should aim for. Actionable content incites readers to take action. Simple as that.
But how do you find out what kinds of actions readers should take, and how do you create content that encourages them to take those actions?
Here are three lists to help you determine what actionable content does, what tools you’ll need to start creating it, and six concrete ways to actually drive your readers to take action.
List #1: What does actionable blog content do?
1. Provides value to the reader.
Your content could solve a reader’s problem or answer a question. Readers are selfish—they’re seeking out content for a reason.
If your content provides a solution for them, they are much more likely to engage with it. It can’t just have a great headline, either. If readers have a great experience with your content, they will be encouraged to interact more with your brand as a whole.
2. Makes a reader identify with (and share) your brand.
If you’ve done a good job targeting your audience, they should be stoked to share your content. Many people share content simply because they want others to associate them with the concepts embedded therein.
This can help expand the reach of your brand, but it can also make readers feel invested in your products. People like to feel included in a brand’s community, and creating shareable content is a great way to help them take specific actions to involve themselves more closely with your company.
3. And the most obvious answer: It compels a reader to take action.
Whether that’s clicking a link, watching a video, or making a purchase, the whole point of actionable content is that it communicates to the readers a single action (or clearly-outlined combination of actions) to take, leaving the reader with the obvious choice to opt into that action.
List #2: What tools do you need to start creating actionable blog content?
You need to have a clear idea of your content’s purpose. Are you trying to convert readers into customers? Or do you want readers to share your content and increase your brand’s visibility?
In order to figure out what actions you want to prompt from readers, you need to set specific goals that you want to acheive by publishing each piece of content.
2. Information about your audience.
Sit down with your team (or a notebook, if you’re all you’ve got), and brainstorm all of the different segments or personas of your audience.
This article by Stephanie Beadell for BuzzStream suggests some great questions that you should be asking about your audience and to make your content relatable. Try to gather as much data as possible, including reader demographics. Consider, too, asking your audience some of these questions directly in a survey or one-off case studies to get information from the source.
If you know your audience, it will be much easier to make educated guesses about the kind of content that will entice them and the types of stories that they’ll share.
This is pretty straightforward. If your content isn’t reaching your readers, it won’t matter whether it’s actionable. You’ll also need to consider how to make the right reach, or ensure the right content gets in front of the right reader.
Two particularly important factors to consider with reach are a) where your reader will likely be reading your content and b) how.
You need to understand the different platforms that you’ll be publishing on and tailoring your content to that space, since channels vary considerably. This Unbounce article has a great case study from BuzzFeed about a post published on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
As for the how? Well, here’s a quote from Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, who knows a thing or two about content trends,
“…If your site doesn’t work well on mobile, it guarantees that nothing you do will be shared.”
This goes way beyond reader analytics. In order to understand how to make great, actionable content, you really need to have an understanding about what reader actions will mean for your content. Over time, tracking how readers interact with your content and your website will help you determine what is working (and not working) with your audience. In other words, make your actionable content actionable for you, too!
Buffer did a neat content audit of their blog and wrote a great article about the results. Google Analytics is a great tool, but if you use common CMSs like HubSpot or WordPress, you should also check out and make use of their native analytics.
Not sure what metrics to be looking at? Check out this article about content marketing from Curata.
List #3: So, what are some specific things you can do to make blog content more actionable?
1. Make it clear. Clearer than you think you need to.
If readers feel confused or intimidated by your content, they will navigate away. People don’t tend to be attracted to convoluted concepts. Can you blame them?
You’ll need to engage readers in order for them to take action, so make the content concise, and introduce important concepts early.
2. Make it interactive.
Asking the reader to take smaller actions while reading (such as clicking to watch a video or hovering over a picture to see an explanation) may help keep them engaged, and encourage them to take larger actions (such as purchases, shares, or submitting forms) later on.
3. Include a defined response channel.
Make sure that if a reader is interested, there is a clear line of contact to get in touch with you.
4. Add calls-to-action to guide readers to the next step.
A call-to-action (or CTA), is an image or text-based link that tells a reader what to do, then allows them a direct path (via click-through) to the exact place where they can do it.
For example, if you want a reader to make a purchase, you can have a CTA saying “Buy Now” that sends them directly to the page where they will add the item to their cart, or input credit card information. You can check out our CTAs at the bottom of this page, prompting filling out a form if you’d like to ask a question or subscribe to our newsletter (do it!).
“Without a CTA, you don’t compel your readers to do anything. That means they come to your site, read a post, and leave.”
CTAs can also be effective ways to tackle #5 and #6, below.
5. Give your readers a project or a challenge.
“By ‘actionable’ we don’t just mean leading people to make a conversion on your own site, but instead we want people to go out and try a new tool/product/method, think about changing the way they perform a certain task, or inspire a completely new creation.”
Even if you are not trying to sell something to your reader, you can engage them with your content by encouraging them to take action by, for example, encouraging them to follow step-by-step instructions to help them acheive a goal.
6. Tell your reader exactly what action to take.
You don’t want to leave this up to chance, because chances are, if your reader doesn’t know what to do after reading your content, they wont do anything. By giving your reader a highly specific action that they can take, you will significantly increase the chances that they actually get it and take that action.
OK, so now here’s the challenge: Pick a number of readers you want to reach and decide what action you want them to take, then tailor your next post around that action. As you start integrating the creation of more actionable content into your blogging strategy, you’ll find that readers are more receptive and more likely to share. Now, go write that blog post!