Spending time building a website is great, but all of that hard work is only worth it if you invest as much time into creating content.
People that come to visit your business online will be encouraged by a fast loading website and eye-catching typography, but that’s not why they are coming.
Nobody visits a website simply to marvel at your use of an image slider or to see whether you have opted for a three or five-pixel bevel. They come in search of information. They find you because a search engine has listed your site as a place to find answers to their questions.
It sounds a bit ruthless, but without content your website is nothing.
Back in 1996, Bill Gates wrote what is arguably the most influential sentence in the history of the internet – “Content is king”. Today, that sentence is cliché, but you should never dismiss it because it is true.
While a website is vital in ensuring a pleasant user experience, content is the real driving force behind any successful online business. It is central to your internet marketing campaign and is almost single-handedly responsible for driving traffic, building trust, enhancing reputation, and positioning your business as a leader in its niche.
When it comes to producing great content (I keep mentioning ‘great’ because, as I’ll get onto soon, anything less is not an option), there are two paths you can go down: produce the content yourself or outsource it to the professionals.
You might choose to produce your own content, and I’m definitely not against you doing so – it is cheaper, and who knows your business and its products or services better than you, right? However, you need to be very confident in your ability as a writer – knowing how to speak to your audience in a way that engrosses and compels them, with words that encourage them to invest in whatever it is you have to offer.
If you have even the smallest bit of doubt in your mind – outsource. Find a writer or agency with a proven track record of producing content that gets results. Writing is easy, writing well, is not. Content writers are familiar with what words to use to grab the attention of readers and know exactly how to structure content in a way that drives traffic and increases leads.
Whether you intend on creating your own content or hiring someone, it is still important that you know what is required to make content stand out. Creating effective content has a few key elements – nine of them, in fact:
- Strong headlines
- Actionable content
Content, particularly that which is written (around 95 per cent of your total content, on average), must embrace each one of these ingredients in order for it be considered great. Let us look at each element, starting from the top.
If you can produce original content, search engines will be more than happy to reward you for your efforts. Google has a no tolerance approach to duplicate content and makes it very clear that it will penalise any website it finds guilty of plagiarism.
With every Google algorithm update comes greater focus on quality, and those falling short of the search engine’s increasingly high-standards will pay the price. A few years back, Ezine Articles and submissions to directories were all the rage; today, you’ll have to venture well into double figure pages of search results to find them. Their quality was not good enough and Google punished them for it.
Originality is not just about producing content in your own words, though – it is about producing content from your own ideas.
If you do not have anything useful to say, don’t say it. Repeating the same concepts is not going to get you anywhere – people will become bored in a hurry.
Be original, be creative, and do not be afraid to make a point … as long as it’s useful!
Headlines are pivotal to your content. In one of many famous quotes, advertising godfather David Ogilvy once said:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
What he means by this is that you should never overlook the title of your work. Spend as much time as it takes to craft the perfect headline.
The following statistics from copywriting advice resource Copyblogger, back up the point Ogilvy was making:
80 per cent of people will read your headlines;
Only 20 per cent will read the rest.
Headline copy is one of the most impactful elements for lead generation and it is essential that it’s able to draw in readers.
A good headline needs to:
- Be value-centric – Featuring a central message that piques interest and promotes the benefit the reader will get from reading more.
- Be specific and upfront about your accomplishments – If nine out of ten people recommend your product, tell the reader. However, do not think about lying; people can smell a rat from a mile way.
- Use Sub-Headlines – These are brilliant for adding detail and clarity to the headline. Sub-headlines can also be used effectively throughout content to break up segments and concepts.
- Summarise the content that follows – headlines have to let the reader know what the article is about. Do not use a headline to tell a reader one thing and proceed to talk about something completely different in the article.
- Be Compelling – Always give the reader something to be curious about. Capture their attention with the headline and use the rest of the article to convince them.
People will decide to read content based on the headline alone. Do not disappoint them.
If you need to find the answer to something, how do you do it? If you are anything like me, most likely by typing the question into Google.
It is the search engine’s job to produce answers and it will do this by providing the user with a host of links, images, and videos. You could be one of those links.
If someone is clicking through to your website in search of answers, they will want to find them fast. Your content will need to do this by being clearly laid out and easily digestible.
The information you provide must also be factually correct, otherwise the answer a reader is looking for will be of no use – which brings us nicely on to the next element …
Writing informative, engaging content is the best way to build your reputation online – people gain knowledge from your articles and begin to trust you as a thought leader.
Now, imagine you published a blog post that wasn’t completely accurate. Think of the impact this could have on your company, the damage it could cause.
Every piece of content you produce is a reflection of your brand – people will judge your entire company on the quality of your content.
Every quote or statistic that you publish must be able to be verified with a highly respected source. Quality sources from authoritative websites will go a long way to helping you build trust, and the more you are able to backup what you write about, the more respected you will become.
Great content gives users the information they need and provides them with advice on how to use it. If you are able to demonstrate your expertise on a particular topic, telling the reader what to do will not degrade them – it will help them and they will respect you for it.
As your reputation grows, people will come to you to learn and better themselves.
Actionable content can be applied across articles, blog post, videos, social media, pay-per-click – anything.
An effective article or blog post is one that is able to capture the attention of the audience and have them hanging on your every word. Each sentence must provide a gateway to the next so that readers are compelled to read on.
Engaging an audience starts with what you write. The topic of the post must be relevant to your industry and in line with current trends. Engaging content will typically leave the reader with questions. Not in a way that confuses them or leaves them feeling unfulfilled, but in a way that makes them reflect on what they have just read and ponder how to put their newly gained knowledge into practice.
You need to hook readers immediately with a well-written and hard-hitting introduction. People that read beyond the headline will typically make their mind up about whether a blog post is of interest to them within the first few sentences.
Make them count!
Make it immediately clear what you are writing about and tell readers why they will benefit from sticking around. A good way to do this is by weaving an anecdote into your post. People love a good story – they are engaging and brilliant at getting a point across.
The end goal is to create content that encourages interaction. The more comments and shares you get, the greater the exposure for your business. In addition, Google loves popular content.
Long blog posts have been shown to perform better when it comes to lead generation, but a high word count does not always make great content.
As I have already mentioned, people like information fast – they do not have time for a rambler, especially one that continues to digress from the main point.
The best performing content is that which eliminates the fluff. Writing filler just to push an article over the 1,000-word mark does not work. What works is a post that is brief and to the point. Keeping an article short is often a more difficult task than stretching it out, but getting rid of the bits that are not needed will certainly serve you better in the long run.
Word count doesn’t matter, particularly in a market that is increasingly dominated by mobile Web browsing.
Ninety per cent of shoppers at a major online retailer’s website said they find video helpful in making shopping and buying decisions.
According to the Online Publishers Association, 80 per cent of people recall watching a video on a website they visited in the past 30 days.
But wait, that’s not all …
Forty per cent of people respond better to visual information than plain text; and
Viewers spend 100 per cent more time on pages with videos on them.
While the written word will always be at the forefront of your content marketing efforts, you would be a fool not to incorporate visuals.
Whether you use videos, pictures, pie charts or infographics, everyone benefits from visual content. Looking at endless blocks of text on a computer screen is uninspiring for the reader – throw in some relevant videos and images and your content will instantly become more valuable.
Regardless of what you are writing about, there is always a piece of visual content to suit.
The most effective websites are the ones that use blogs to publish regular content. The more good content you publish, the more successful your business will be. It’s as simple as that.
Now, committing to a blog takes a lot of effort. Far too often, businesses will create a blog with the best of intentions, only to abandon it after a few posts.
If you cannot write regularly yourself, employ somebody that can. Keeping a blog updated is great for attracting new readers and turning them into customers. Not only this, search engines appreciate regular content and will promote them over sites that neglect blogging duties.
How often should you update your content? That’s really up to you. However, you should definitely make an effort to publish more than once a week.
Types of Content
Companies that blog get 55 per cent more traffic and generate 67 per cent more leads than those that do not.
Therefore, it makes sense to keep things ticking over nicely. To keep things fresh you should explore as many different content types as possible when creating your blog. The variety of content is endless, but here’s an idea of the types you should be considering:
Infographics are everywhere at the moment and are liked and shared on social media up to three times more often than other content. If you are not familiar with the term, an infographic is basically information presented in a visual way. The viral potential of this content type is huge, but you will need the skills of a graphic designer.
Social media loves memes. They are simple to make, humorous and, most importantly, viral. Memes are not ideal website or blog content, but they are perfect for Facebook and Twitter.
Guides are long and very detailed articles that are designed to teach the reader. For example, ‘A Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Second Hand Car’. They can be extremely popular and are great for helping to promote thought leadership.
A good way to promote guides is to offer them as PDF downloads, maybe bundled in with newsletters for subscribers.
Reviews are simply you giving your take on something such as a book, movie, or new gadget. These are also great for helping to establish yourself as a leading authority in your particular niche.
A carefully researched and well thought out opinion post is wonderful for engagement. Everyone has an opinion; some will share your viewpoint, others will not – that’s the beauty of this type of content. If you want comments and shares, don’t be afraid to rant.
Identify a problem and provide the solution – that’s the idea of a how-to content. The long tail search potential of these posts is excellent.
‘5 Ways to…’, ‘10 of the Best’ – everyone enjoys a list. You really can’t go wrong with this type of content. Whether it’s a list of three or a list of 100, people will always be tempted to read more.
This content is designed to explain what your product or service is, and show how it has helped a client. If you are selling to other businesses, a case study can be a real deal closer.
Free ebooks are another great way to get people to sign up to mailing lists and can help to strengthen your authority in a field. You need to make sure you have enough content to make it book worthy, which can be challenging, but the benefits are plentiful.
A press release is a written statement to the media. If you have a new product or service to promote, or have some exciting news regarding your business, you should say it with a press release. These are a fundamental part of PR and a great way to gain press attention.
Content is the driving force behind your business and will have the biggest say in whether you succeed or fail in your online endeavours.
Nevertheless, simply producing content is no way of guaranteeing success. People have to read it, and for them to do this takes marketing.