Questions, Questions, and More Questions
There are two very easy ways to generate interest in an article: ask a question and offer a solution to common problems. Common problems are really a kind of question if you think about it, and thus it is possible to accurately state that asking questions is a great copywriting idea. The only question that remains is: how do you ask the right questions?
Questions as Headlines and Headers
Before answering that question, let us briefly touch on suspense. While that sounds like a great inside joke to put in a piece such as this, it is actually critical to hooking readers. Hooked yet? Place big questions in places where they can be seen, preferably by both human readers and search engine robots. Humans see questions and may have their interest piqued, but search robots might latch on to questions included in different style headers in a different fashion than they would if it was just part of a block of text.
The bottom line is that search engines and human readers both benefit from questions being asked in the title, headers, and possibly even in meta-description fields. If a question is seen as part of a SERP, it could very well lead to a click. And then another. And hopefully a flood of clicks before you know it.
Choosing the Right Questions
People have problems, fears, and concerns. Questions that expose these and allude to a solution are effective. Perhaps I should have titled this article something along the lines of ‘Want to know the best copywriting secret?’ or ‘Do you know the one truth about copywriting that is holding you back?’ The first example exposes a concern that there might be some hidden gem of knowledge that has gone undiscovered, while the second is a little more on the head and overt. Simply put, questions need to be relevant to an audience, something that can be answered (even if only with theories and top-level understanding), and enticing. While it might be interesting and pertinent to know how many calories are in a pound of fat, that does not make a great question.
‘How many calories are in a pound of fat?’
‘How hard will you have to work to lose a pound of fat?’
It is also worth noting that you should never ask simple questions that have simple answers. Anyone that knows that a pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories will answer the question and move on without clicking.
Finally, note that secrets and/or insider knowledge are great ways to lure many readers. These techniques will not work with everyone, but consider these alternate headlines with built-in questions:
‘Want to know the secret to losing a pound of fat?’
‘Want to know what doctors know about losing fat quickly and safely?’
Answers need to be withheld until a certain point, and it might be a good idea to continually pique interest with new questions. A good rule of thumb might be to watch mysterious television shows for clues on pacing. Lost happens to be a personal favorite, but there are plenty of others that ask more questions than they answer. This is a great way to lay out content: start with multiple questions for every answer, and then end with multiple answers for every question. A lingering question as the end creates suspense and the possibility for a follow-up piece of content that will have a built-in audience.
What About Suspense?
Remember that readers need to sort their way through content before giving them all of the answers, just like a good mystery. That does not mean that little tidbits and morsels cannot be left along the way to keep the audience rapt. As previously mentioned, consider giving away answers along the way. The best answers alternate between solid and those that are targeted more to the realm of understanding and theory. For example:
Want to Lose Weight?
If you want to lose weight, you need to find a balance between diet and exercise. Every pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories worth of physical output, so a slightly uneven balance between what goes in and what goes out is important. Too big of a difference between caloric input and output can be dangerous, especially considering the dietary needs of those trying to find the sweet spot between different exercises. So, what kind of exercises should you do to find your own sweet spot? How about the most effective combination of techniques ever? What are those techniques? A balance between low-impact cardio, weight training, and interval training!
This example starts off with a question and immediately moves to answer it but ensures that the reader does not stop at the end of the first paragraph by suggesting three new things that they might need to read more about? A hard statistic is included to let readers know that they are not being strung along, and the inference that there is some magical balancing point that will help them reach their goals keeps them wondering what that balance is, how it is achieved, and possibly what interval training is if they have not already heard of it.