How to Create Interactive Tools That Captivate Your Audience

Let’s say you’re the head of user experience at your company. Part of your job includes performing regular audits and checkups of your site. Since you’re interested in testing the load time of your web pages, you Google “test page load time.”

That’s how you find Pingdom.

Rich with reliable data and takeaways about the speed of any web page, Pingdom’s performance tool is useful for anyone who deals with website testing. You can gauge page load speed from seven locations around the world, and it’s totally free. So not only do you add this to your toolkit, you also share it. With your team, your network, your boss.

I’m not the only one who thinks the offering is beneficial. Pingdom’s page load testing tool has attracted more than 1.3 million backlinks from third-party websites. According to SimilarWeb, the tool receives more than 1 million visits per month. The benefit for Pingdom’s bottom line? Those who love the free tool just happen to be the exact same people who would want the paid version.

Tools like this can give us insights far beyond page speed. If you’re looking to cut through all the noise and differentiate your brand from the flood of competing content, one of the most effective ways is interactive content, which is uniquely positioned to drive meaningful long-term results.

For starters, interactive tools are different than articles because people will only share them with the right audience. You wouldn’t share Pingdom’s page speed tool with a friend from your soccer team, but you would if that friend works on websites. Many interactive tools also encourage repeat visits. You may need to check site speed every Monday, but you don’t need to reread that blog post once a week.

This all creates a memorable (and ongoing) relationship with your brand. Then, when the user needs the product or service you offer, there’s a good chance they’ll think of you first.

4 lessons from popular interactive tools

The payoff of interactive content ultimately depends on the tool’s utility. It also has to make sense for your brand’s overall marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at what marketers can learn from four examples of successful interactive content.

1. Tableau Public

The lesson: Promote shareability

Tableau Public is a free service that lets anyone build interactive data visualizations. Everyone from students and journalists to golf and football fanatics have used it to create data-driven content.

Tableau Public data tool

The free version functions just about the same as the paid product. The key difference is shareability. All Tableau Public projects are available to the public.

The power of this decision is two-fold. First, since these graphics are public, they generate a lot of backlinks and word-of-mouth marketing for Tableau. Second, there will be some companies that want to keep their data private and/or want to access analytics. With this setup, Tableau encourages a slice of their target audience to upgrade.

2. HubSpot’s Website Grader

The lesson: Design supplemental tools that don’t compete with your main offering

The folks over at HubSpot are masters of providing free tools and templates for digital marketers. Unlike Pingdom’s page speed tool, these resources aren’t just samples of their paid products. In fact, they’re completely different tools.

That gives HubSpot the flexibility to get creative with interactive content, expanding into a wide variety of tools their audience would find useful. HubSpot’s Website Grader—which scores domains based on performance, mobile, SEO, and security—has generated over 1.9 million backlinks alone.

Website Grader tool

3. AccuRanker’s Google Grump

The lesson: Personality + usefulness = a winning combination

AccuRanker offers a suite of SEO tools that helps marketers research keywords and content, track rankings, measure results, and more. The free Google Grump tool monitors fluctuations in Google’s algorithm and shares how that affects search rankings. If you’re trying to diagnose a traffic drop, you can also filter data by different time periods, locations, and devices.

This is all really practical information for SEO strategists to know, but it’s not exactly thrilling. AccuRanker’s creative solution is to personify Google’s “moods,” creating a memorable character called Google Grump that has generated over 1,500 backlinks. It’s catchy, fun, and just might be something you’ll want to share with your industry friends.

Google Grump interactive

4. Grammarly

The lesson: Free tools aren’t just for the software industry

Interactive tools can be created for any industry. Just ask Grammarly, a go-to website for writing assistance. The free version of the tools will check spelling and alert you of critical grammar errors. There’s even a free Chrome plugin that allows you to check your grammar and spelling all over the web. Writing errors impact people in all industries, which has led to a whopping 3.9 million backlinks for Grammarly.

Grammarly tool

Start with your audience

If you’re just getting started exploring options for interactive content, start with your audience. What do they need to calculate? Create? Plan? Forecast? Simulate? Brainstorm? Design? Write down your ideas, then add to your list using search data and competitive research..

Just as in the examples above, make it as useful, engaging, and indispensable as possible. Would it be helpful for a page load time testing tool to have seven geographic options? Enable those capabilities in the tool. As long as your audience will find it highly valuable, then it’s time to hammer away until your tool is ready to go live.

Image by Z Wei

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