In the mostly fascinating and enthralling world of fiction, there’s this concept known as pacing. I say mostly because there are works of fiction out there that aren’t just as compelling as the likes of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station. Half the time, the reason why these works aren’t as compelling isn’t because of the lack of quality within the material but because it’s simply being told in a way that’s just not compelling; they simply have bad pacing.
Pacing is the speed at which the story is told but not the speed at which the story takes place. Good pacing is neither fast nor slow, but one that feels appropriate. While pacing is typically applied in the world of fiction and storytelling in general; this concept can be applied almost anywhere. Here, however, we’re going to talk about pacing strictly in the world of content marketing, which should be of special relevance to SEO services and marketers as proper understanding of pacing could mean the difference between users getting bored halfway from your content or reading them up until their satisfying end.
Avoiding a dragging pace
Avengers: Endgame is three hours long and yet, I don’t know a single soul that was bored by the film. Conversely, I’ve seen quite a number of films lasting shorter than 90 minutes where I was already nodding off by the halfway mark. The quality of the story can sometimes be secondary to how the story is told. I was at some level aware that Endgame would have a happy, if somewhat somber, ending but that awareness didn’t keep me from enjoying the film because it was told in a compelling way.
Books, usually great ones, are often described as a page-turner because they have excellent pacing. The Harry Potter books might not be works of great literature but the reason why kids and teenagers were able to devour all 700-ish pages of The Deathly Hallows is because Rowling knows how to pace the story. This issue of pacing isn’t just important for longform fiction and even shorter contents such as blog posts would have to consider the issue of pacing as the public’s attention span keeps getting shorter and shorter.
Pacing in the world of content marketing
In the world of content marketing, the user’s journey is can be broadly illustrated in three general steps. First, you have to create contents that you think would be of utmost interest to users. Second, you have to ensure that this content is compelling enough or you’re going to risk the users getting bored to a point that they back away from your site entirely. And last but not least, the third and final step is conversion, where they fell in love with your content so much that they could be gently nudged to subscribe or make a purchase from your website.
The first step has much to do with your content planning and strategy and rely on your ability to come up with an idea that could captivate your target market. The final step is about conversion which has quite a bit to do with sales since conversion is all about sealing the deal. The second step, and one that’s actually relevant to this piece, is about content execution. It’s about ensuring that users stay excited while in the process of reading or watching or listening to your content which as I’ve mentioned before is all about pacing.
It’s all about the intro
First of all, you want to start with a strong hook. Every great piece of writing starts with a killer opening line, Pride & Prejudice comes to mind, and content marketing abides by the same philosophy. Your hook should be both direct and succinct; it should be reflective of the issue you’re going to raise but imbued with a level of profound wisdom that users are going to be very interested in what you have to say next. This is something that might take a while to master but can be a very useful tool once you’ve got the hang of it.
Include breaks every now and then
Even if you’re technically working 9 to 5, you don’t really work for eight hours straight, do you? No, those 8 eight hours is interspersed with a lunch break, a coffee break or two, toilet breaks, power naps and just random walks around the office. The same philosophy can also be applied to the writing process as you want to include breaks every now and then just to grab some air. These breaks can be actual paragraph breaks or they can be soft breaks like including an illustration between blocks of text or perhaps a joke or two just to lighten the mood.
Content writing is all about striking a balance. You shouldn’t try to be funny and entertaining all throughout the piece since the goal is typically to inform and educate users but at the same, you shouldn’t act serious all the time since that would be simply dull. If you’re going to use humor, use it sparingly, and if you’re going to use an analogy, make sure to not go on a tangent and to stay on the message. Always remember to keep everything in moderation.