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These five ways to formulate content can help you generate social engagement among your readers, which in turn can earn links and boost SEO.

Creating link-worthy, share-worthy content at scale can be a major challenge, even for content marketing teams where writing, editing, and Web production talent isn’t in short supply. Using standard content templates for the articles can speed up your production cycle; here are five that I’ve seen perform very well:

1. The List (or “Listicle” – a Concatenation of the Terms “Article” and “List”).

Because users have short attentions and tend to scan, not read content pages, the listicle remains an effective way to convey information. A typical listicle will consist of a short introduction defining the topic, followed by a list of items (typically between five and 10) that are often hyperlinked to the sources cited, and then a short “outro” or closing paragraph. Listicles travel very well on social networks, which is why you see so many of them today. While listicles are no substitute for content that attacks a problem in depth, they’re a great way to highlight and point users to any long-format content you’ve created on a given topic. The biggest problem with the listicle-style article is oversaturation. To make your listicle stand out, use humor, surprise, and perhaps an unconventional approach, but don’t try to be too cute (“10 Things You Never Knew About Listicles,” etc.).

2. The Tool Kit.

This template is similar to the listicle in form, but instead of containing a list of sources, a list of tools is supplied. People love tools, and the one of best ways to build loyalty with content marketing is to use information about tools to empower your readers. When you identify a tool worth discussing and linking to, you also have an opportunity to discuss how you or your firm has used the tool, giving you a chance to include a very brief case study that highlights your expertise. I love tool-based articles; their main problem is that they have a short shelf life because new tools are always emerging.

3. The Yearbook.

As I’ve discussed before on ClickZ, creating articles using the Yearbook Approach lets you “socialize” articles in a way that maximizes the likelihood that these articles will be passed along by each “yearbook member” to his/her social tribe. The reason that yearbook-style articles work so well is very simple: few of us can resist opening an email or social media message announcing “you’ve been mentioned in the press,” (even if “the press” in this case only means your own blog).

4. Quotable Quotes.

The quote-based article is probably the fastest kind of effective article you can make. Whatever your topic is, you can easily find people on the Web who’ve thought long and hard about it and committed their observations to Twitter, Facebook, their own blog, or to a reporter. Of course if these people are simply “talking loud and saying nothing” (as James Brown would say), your quotes won’t be very interesting. But if successfully curate them so that your list of quotes includes only the most penetrating, outrageous, or funny observances, your article can be a winner.

5. The Invitation.

This template invites your audience to weigh in on an issue that you’ve taken a stand on. In so doing, you function as a “crowd-sourcing M.C.” If the blog on which your article appears is set up to take comments, you can take your answers there, but doing this has its risks. If nobody takes your invitation, you seem unpopular. If the answers are idiotic, nothing of value is developed. I prefer to make my invitation-articles email based (e.g. “What do you think of native advertising? Send me some email and I might use your quote in a future article.”).

Naturally, you shouldn’t feel bound by these templates. They’re there to serve you, not to function as a straightjacket. You should feel free to change up the kind of content you serve at any time to avoid boring your audience. But if you’re charged with the task of creating a lot of content in a short time and need to hit your numbers, the five templates I’ve cited above can help you meet your objectives.

Anti-boring is the key. There is a place for dry, informational content, but if you are looking for social engagement, excitement is important. You want the reader to feel compelled to share because by sharing it makes them look smart. When your content is good enough to get shared it’s also very likely to get linked to, making is great fodder for SEO. Yes, links still matter.

Image via Shutterstock.