What Questions Work Best for Reader Engagement?

One of the biggest challenges of writing online is enticing readers to click the link and read the content. Questions are a powerful incentive to get people reading, but you need to ask a question they want to know the answer to, and ask it in the right way. Like, for example, our title above. How much do you really know about what questions to ask your readers?

Why Questions?

Why, you might ask, should we use questions? The answer is in the very shape of the punctuation. Questions are hooks, ways to catch a reader’s attention and make them curious about the answer. Reading a question snaps a reader to and makes them wonder “Hmmm, what is the answer?” So, really, why aren’t you asking more questions?

SEE ALSO: When Audience Engagement Fails (and How to Get Them Engaged Again)

How Interesting Is Your Answer?

The first step to asking the right question is having an answer worth reading. Remember, the key point here is not to ask a good question, it’s to get readers interested in how you answer it and why you chose the response that you did. In short, before asking any questions to bring in readers, ask yourself this: Do they care?

This is also important for longer-term engagement. The style of headline and tease so popular on sites such as Upworthy has quickly become reviled and readers have quickly learned that the headlines are either misleading or exaggerated. A good answer means more readers, and consistently good answers means consistently more readers.

How Binary Is Your Question?

If you’re on the Internet for any period of time, you’ll quickly learn some of the Internet’s immutable laws, and one of them is Betteridge’s Law Of Headlines, which can be summed up as follows: Any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with the word “no.” Sure, it’s cynical, but it offers a hint to writing a better question.

If your question can be answered with a one-word response, then readers will not click.

They already have an answer, so why would they bother? Read your question and think about it from the reader’s perspective. If they can glance at it, answer it, and keep reading, you need a better way of asking.

Can Your Question Be Clearer?

Google has been a boon to journalists in one very important way: It’s forced us back to concision. True, it’s annoying to have to stay under an arbitrary character limit, but it also serves as a useful tool for figuring out if your question is worth answering. The more jargon and detail you have to pack into the question to make it interesting, the less interesting the answer is actually going to be.

How Many Other Questions Does It Raise?

Finally, anticipate what other questions readers will have. You don’t need to get bogged down; questions can become hydras, with two taking the place of every one you answer. But if there’s a relevant question readers will ask, make a point of answering it. In the long term, the best value of a question is what we can learn from asking it.

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