SCORE

What does it take to look like a content pro? A great subject and well written text is a start.

But content that really shines and looks like the work of a professional offers that little something extra: an intriguing title, visual branding, clear organization, and outside support for its points.

With a few simple content tricks, your content will shine like the pros, even if you’re just getting started. Think of these tips and tricks as keyboard shortcuts to boost your article’s professionalism.

Create a Title Image

For each article you write, create an image that includes the title of the article. Period. End of story.

If you aren’t currently doing this, you are making it hard for your readers to share your content on social media. Social media has made a big swing toward visual content with the rise of Instagram and Pinterest, and even the 140 character based Twitter finally displays uploaded images within tweets rather than as attachments.

To share your content on Pinterest and Instagram, you must have an image. And Facebook and Twitter users are more likely to pay attention if you include an image rather than just text and the link to your article. Don’t miss out on an easy opportunity to get noticed, shared, and remembered by your audience.

In addition to making your content shareable via social media, your article images are a branding tool. Don’t make them all the same, but do try to use consistent typefaces and colors. Place them near the top of your post every time. Creating this consistency builds trust and recognition that leads your audience to view you as an authority.

Write Killer Titles

Like your image, your title is a major factor in your audience’s first perceptions of your content. You have 8 seconds to make a good first impression and entice your readers to keep reading. A strong title and image works hard to grab their attention and keep them reading your carefully crafted words.

Fortunately there is a great tool to help you figuring out if you have a killer title or not. The American Marketing institute developed the EMV headline analyzer. The Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) is a calculation of how many words in your title are known to evoke emotion from readers. The higher your EMV score, the more emotionally compelling your title is. But this isn’t just a fuzzy concept: posts with higher EMVs perform better than posts with lower ones.

Take the title of this post for example. I had a few others in mind and ran them all through the EMV calculator:

  • 5 Content Tricks to Amplify Your Article’s Professionalism, EMV 37.5%
  • 5 Simple Content Hacks to Make Your Writing Ooze Professionalism, EMV 30%
  • 5 Simple Content Hacks to Make Your Writing Astonishingly Professional, EMV 40%
  • 5 Content Tricks to Take Your Writing From Basic to Professional, EMV 27%

My winning title scored 50%. Typically a title that scores 30 to 40 percent is a solid, engaging choice.

Use Sub Headings

Readers need to be able to quickly see your main points. Why? Because readers scan content; they don’t read word-for-word. Sub headings essentially show the flow of your content and outline your main points. Sub headings allow readers to effectively scan your content and get value..

Sub headings do more than just help you avoid the appearance of info dump. They also make your article look shorter. Have you ever looked at a huge chunk of unbroken text and just felt your brain give up then and there? Be considerate to your readers and do the organizing and outlining for them by consistently using sub headings.

Keep Your Paragraphs Short

Have you ever read an article that you didn’t realize was 3,000 words until you were finished? It was probably broken up into small, palatable paragraphs. Short paragraphs keep even the longest article from feeling intimidating.

Info dumps and long paragraphs are a sign of disorganized thoughts. Short paragraphs make you appear organized and professional. Short paragraphs are also much easier to read on a smartphone or tablet.

While you are keeping it short, keep your sentences concise as well. Your words may be complex but your sentences need to be short and easier to digest.

Use Sources to Support Your Ideas

Of course you need to link to your sources to avoid plagiarism. But do you realize that using sources also helps you look like a real expert? This is a tip that I picked up in college. Linking to your sources proves that you are an expert in your field by showing that 1.) You are well read in your field of expertise and 2.) Your content isn’t just personal opinion and conjecture (source).

Using a source isn’t a crutch or a sign that you aren’t creative. In fact, it helps show that you are creative: you’ve read other great pieces of content and were able to synthesize and link it back to your unique ideas.

For your next article I encourage you to use each of these five tricks to make your content really stand out and shine.