Content analytics can help you understand what your audience needs and therefore it can help your business grow. The first question is: how to write engaging content?

Creating content no-one is interested in is going to do absolutely zilch to help your business grow.

From all the data collection we’ve done, across the many brands and news organisations we work with, we know this to be true: engaging content will help you optimise your business goals. It will bring in more frequent visitors, who will better value your content, be more loyal to you, start sharing & engaging with your content and even convert to different things (subscribe to newsletters, join online conversations, sign up for webinars, leave email addresses in order to download info, or even buy stuff.)

So, in this edition of Tips & Tricks we’ll give you simple suggestions about how to create more engaging content.


Check out this use case with Badische Zeitung for how they grew their subscriber base by focusing on creating engaging content.

Create more engaging content tip 1

1. Address something your audience cares about

At the risk of being Captain Obvious, take a moment to check your latest blogs, articles or posts and ask yourself: what are you actually trying to get across? Is your audience even interested?

In our experience, stories can almost always be improved, and they can be improved by refocusing on audience needs and expectations.

  • Why should they care about the topic?
  • Did you tell them what they are missing out on?
  • How will their business improve by what you’re offering?

You’d be surprised how often these simple questions yield massive results. And you’d be even more surprised to see how often we find these simple questions aren’t being asked, let alone answered.


Keep your audience and your brand at the centre of all your content planning and creation efforts.

Create more engaging content tip 2

2. Think about the user need you're going to fulfil

Here at smartocto, we were so full of admiration for the user needs model, originally created by the BBC, that we adopted (and adapted) it with one of its most vocal evangelists, Dmitry Shishkin. The original BBC model, created after much data research, yielded six user needs. In March 2023 we launched the 2.0 version of the model, adding two additional needs. Together, they give a focus and direction to your stories and are essential to your online business model. The universal needs are:

  1. Update me
  2. Keep me on trend
  3. Educate me
  4. Give me perspective
  5. Divert me
  6. Inspire me
  7. Help me
  8. Connect me


There’s one really important point to make which is that in almost all newsrooms 'update me' stories dominate - even though they return some of the lowest levels of engagement. These are the basic, factual news stories (“Dog bites man” etc). If you are able to make that story inspirational (“Hero girl provides first aid to man bitten by dog”), there is a better chance engagement levels are going to start to look much more interesting.

The trick is to find a good balance in user needs that suit your brand. Smartocto can help you get the right insights and visualise them - for example in a quadrant. With our feature, Smartify, we’re able to send you notifications presenting the actions you should take to get the best results. You can even add Smartify to different data tools.

Create more engaging content tip 3

3. Make sure the headline indicates what you’re actually going to write about

If you want to grab the attention of your easily distracted audience, you need a headline that reveals precisely what they can expect from the content you’re serving them. A question in a headline is a good idea, but hinting where the answer will lead to is even better.

For example:

  • Will the Taliban keep their word in today’s Kabul?
  • What these 6 former Taliban actions tell us about the trustworthiness of their promises.

Trust in media has roots here: if a headline suggests to your audience that they’re getting one thing, but ends up somewhere different, your readers aren’t going to thank you for the time you’ve just wasted.

This use case explored how AI can help with headline A/B testing.

Create more engaging content tip 4

4. Get your timing right

Various studies have shown that people do different things at different moments of the day. If your audience consists of mainly young mums, trying to connect with them on your website in the morning by sharing tips about the best places to get cheap car insurance, is probably less effective than an article about the best food and drink to help alleviate a lack of sleep, or ideas for last minute costumes for your kid’s World Book Day event at school (whoops).

What are your audience’s rhythms?

Create more engaging content tip 5

5. Understand which format fits at what time

This tip is somewhat related to the previous tip, but it’s all about the format you choose to package your content in. A longread is asking a lot of effort from your audience, so when they’re in the middle of morning rush hour, trying to get the kids to school and weaving through traffic to avoid their boss yelling at them for being late 3 days in a row, that’s not the moment to try and feed them a 7 minute video on how to organise yourself better.

Many surveys have proven that in the morning people have little time for anything save caffeinated beverages. Until that kicks in, most just want updates, information in little ‘easy to understand’ bites so they’re able to get a quick overview - the day’s Cliff Notes. Just enough of the essentials to enable them to connect to colleagues or other parents in the schoolyard. This goes mainly for news, but is even more the case for content that’s related to brands, services or products. Don’t try to sell your product in the morning unless it’s coffee, train tickets, newspapers or gas (or anything else that will help your audience through the first hours of the despair of daily routine, though we’re curious to know the viewing figures and stats for purchases of dream vacations during these hours).

Create more engaging content tip 6

6. Use the input the audience is giving you

The best way of making sure your audience will engage with your content is to tell them directly what you want them to do. Create a clear call to action (CTA). Vote here for … please tell us about your experiences … share your pictures here etc.

And make it visible. People are lazy and tend to scan rather than read - and if it’s not clear what they need to do (and what they get in return) it will disappear in the mist of daily fuzz.

The biggest mistake you can make is neglecting the input the audience is giving you - and they are giving you input all the time: you just need to look for it.

You should never be absent in the online discussion if something of value is contributed.

Just answer questions, investigate things your audience is not clear about, and reply. People like to be in touch with people and social media (where 95% of all the engagement takes place) is built to connect. You’re not exempt from that just because you’re the publisher. Far from it (though many neglect post-publication communications). So, hop hop hop - start to be out there! Need any help to get a better overview of your social media performance? Smartify for media companies is your tool.

Create more engaging content tip 7

7. Be personal, authentic and real (if you can)!

The best way to engage with your audience is to share authentic and honest content. People engage more easily with personal stories. Especially when it explains or gives insights on how you (or your product or service) helped somebody make their life easier.

If it’s a story you can relate to it will help to open up yourself and start to engage. We all win.

Sure, it’s not always possible. Sometimes, news updates are just that: updates. But, as we’ve said before, this is just one part of the publishing puzzle - there’s plenty more opportunities to connect, and if everything you put out there is clearly stamped with your DNA, people can start to understand what you stand for and what they can expect. That, as Bogart might say, is the start of a beautiful friendship.

And last but not least, a total knock-out tip that will change everything you do online for ever.

Create more engaging content tip 8

The knockout tip!

Of course we wouldn’t leave you without something actionable. It’s what we’re known for and frankly we can’t help ourselves.

All the tips here will help to give you a better shot at creating engaging content and you should definitely work through this list immediately, right this second (ok, we’ll give you a chance to grab a coffee first. We’re not animals). That said, we have to be honest: audiences are fickle, and even if you do these things, it may not guarantee an engagement turbo charge.

This is where we use our in-house mantra: your gut is good, but smartocto is better. The best, most consistent way to make sure you are creating engaging content your audience actually cares about is to look at the data. And that’s where we come in. The trick we have up our collective sleeve has a name - heck, it even has an acronym.

Our Content Performance Indicator (CPI) is a really, really, really precise algorithm that calculates which content is the most engaging to your audience.

This clever little number will help you understand what’s really important for your audience and furthermore also signals when you should act on it. We mentioned a Client Case at the beginning of this (were you paying attention?) and we’ll mention it again now because in it we outline how Badische Zeitung managed to grow their online subscription base by acting on the CPI. It’s super insightful stuff and you can read all about it here.

If you’re wondering how this CPI or other solutions look, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear about your challenges and show you our features and solutions in an online demo!