If you are a small or medium sized business, you'd know the feeling. If you've just started content marketing, or if you've been going at it for a while, you'd probably also be familiar with it. The unending struggle of making yourself known amidst a sea of voices can be a challenge for even the most accomplished of businesses, let alone the fledgeling company. So how do you break free of the pack? How can you make your mark on the virtual world? And most importantly, how can you reach your ideal customers in a way that would have them respond and eventually purchase from you?
I've compiled a short list of the things that will get your content the right kind of attention. We're addressing how to write and structure content better, as well as how to make it appealing to users and the search engines that will point said users your way.
So, let's have at it, shall we?
Step 1 - Write Better Headlines
'Better' is kind of a subjective word, but here are some interesting things to remember about your headlines:
- They're four times more likely to be read than the body copy
- People remember headlines more readily than the rest of your content
- They're your 'in' for engaging readers
On social media websites and the like, often readers will just see the headline of your content. Perhaps they'll see your opening paragraph too, depending on where they are, but for the most part, your headline is the most and only visible part of your content to the complete stranger. This means that it needs to be clear, easy to read, and compelling, so that people who read your headline are going to want to read the rest of the article.
You can write engaging headlines by:
- Clearly stating what your article is about
- Directly addressing issues your ideal customers would have
- Promising an easy/practical read
How can you promise an easy or practical read in your headline? We like reading articles based around numbered or ordered lists. They quantify what the reader is going to learn with the article, and make us feel like efficient readers as a result.
What's worth flagging here is that your article has to be backed up by what your headline is selling. The quality of your article needs to exceed the expectations set by the headline in order to actually succeed in making people stay interested and stay around - you're just manufacturing clickbait otherwise (and absolutely nobody wants that).
Step 2 - Use Better Images
If I got a dollar for every corny stock image I saw in the last year, I'd need significantly deeper pockets. The second thing that readers see before they read your content is the accompanying image. It need to be just as compelling as your headline to encourage readers to click through.
Our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than any text, and around 40% of people will respond better to an image over just plain text. Do your content pieces use visuals to help convey your message? Because they should. An accompanying image needs to reinforce the point your article is making. It can't be there as an afterthought. Your readers deserve better than a green screened businessman wrangling a computer-generated giant magnet.
There's a variety of high-quality, free stock photo websites available for the public to use now - my current favourites are deathtothestockphoto and Unsplash. Using websites like these often means that you have to think a little more abstract to find an image that's related to the topic at hand, but I find that the image quality and compositional value of the images add weight to the words I'm saying, and they're much more effective at catching the eye in either case.
Furthermore, when your article is shared around social media websites, they will often only show a thumbnail of your selected image. As an added bonus, you could add text overlays to your selected image (with your article title or the like), doubly ensuring that the headline for your content is conveyed in a highly visual manner.
Step 3 - Write Clear and Direct Copy
The text that makes up your content (your copy) needs to clearly and directly address the problem or concern of your ideal customers. It needs to do this in your headline, in your opening paragraph, and all the way through the rest of your content.
One of the biggest challenges with standing out from the crowd when writing content for your website is being able to capture the attention of your readers. This is easiest to do when you get to the point, and you stay on point for the duration of your content. You can make your content clear by:
- Scaffolding your content before you write it - draft up a list of relevant dot points you want to cover in the content, and then expand those points into paragraphs.
- Writing your content for your buyer personas
If you've not encountered buyer personas before, I'd suggest you read this article to get them in full detail (as well as learning about how to construct your own). A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer - they're ideal for helping content creators (as well as everyone else in the business) understand what their real customers' priorities are and how to best meet them.
Overall, you want your copy to be engaging and to cover a variety of subjects. Doing so will keep the interest of your subscribers, and will help grow this group of regulars. It will also increase the opportunities for your subscribers and leads to become customers, which, really, is what you want.
Step 4 - Be Speed-Read Friendly
Funfact: the paragraphs in written text have shortened considerably since we started reading with screens. Because we have less vertical room to read over and tend to scroll more (especially if we're using mobile to read an article), we've tended to have shorter paragraphs. This has meant that we've had to work out how to distil everything that needs to be said into smaller pieces, to make our articles easy to read in the five minutes our readers have on their coffee break or the like.
As well as using shorter paragraphs, you can also make use of bullet points to summarise all or parts of your argument. They, like the numbered lists, quantify the information that's being learned, and are speed-reading friendly (meaning you'll keep the attention of those who've got less than five minutes to smash through your article).
Step 5 - Have A Clear Lead Up To Your Call To Action
This can be a hard thing to do, particularly if you have a limited number of calls to action available and your content is pretty varied. Without thinking, the call to action can be slapped on as an afterthought - "Okay, so I've got this article on X, now, do I have a CTA that relates to X?"
Your call to action is supposed to nudge people to take a step closer to becoming a customer. Ensure that your content and your call to action transition well, and it'll become much easier to encourage readers to take you up on said call to action.
Step 6 - Have A Clear Call To Action
It follows that in writing content you're going to need to have a call to action in there somewhere. Otherwise your readers get to the end and then go "Okay, that was cool. Now, what else can I look at?"
If you want your content to play a part in bringing in visitors and converting them to leads and customers, you're going to need to place a clear call to action at the end. You're also going to need to ensure that the content you write points forward to that (see Step 5). You can make your calls to action effective by:
- Ensuring they stand out from the rest of your page - whether by colour, font hierarchy, size, or shading is up to you and your guidelines of style
- Clearly stating what the action you're calling for is - whether it's signing up for a newsletter, ordering a product, or scheduling a consultation, make sure the cause/effect relationship is communicated
Step 7 - Be User-Focused In Your SEO
SEO is how we abbreviate the term 'Search Engine Optimisation', and it refers to the many techniques we use to get on side of the search engines that are directing users to our website. Good optimisation is about establishing authority with search engines - proving that your website is trustworthy in what it has to say on a subject. This is usually built up with keywords, links to other trustworthy sources on the topic, and a slew of other factors, which we have a limited amount of control over. Optimising your content for search engines can be a difficult road to walk - on the one hand, you want to use techniques that will work well with search engines in order to be found. On the other hand, you need to be attracting actual humans if you want your content to be an effective tool for marketing your business.
The best option to take is to be user focused at all times. Yes, it is important to still optimise your content to make it easy for search engines to find and promote, but you should prioritise the user experience of your content over this. You can do this by:
- Only using your keywords when they are relevant during the content
- Sticking to the topic and theme of a page in your content
- Committing to producing deep and valuable content to the reader
By writing clear and concise content, you can certainly distinguish yourself from your competitors. You can do this by:
- Writing headlines that grab attention and demand a response
- Selecting professional-looking, high quality images for your content
- Writing content copy that clearly and directly addresses the issues of the reader
- Laying out your copy in a way that makes it easy to digest
- Smoothly connecting the argument you've made in your content with your desired call to action
- Making your call to action and its cause/effect relationship visible
- Prioritising user experience when optimising for search engines
In the end, however, writing killer content is only about 20% of the battle. The other 80% is promotion; something that can be realised through social media and comprehensive content marketing campaigns that seek to meet the reader where they're at with their problems, concerns, and pain points.
If this sounds daunting, you don't have to face up to promoting your content alone. We specialise in websites that want to promote their businesses with exemplary content, whether you're searching for someone to help you merely promote your content, write the kind of content that gets leads, or completely refit your website to make way for the many leads you have the ability to connect with.
If this sounds like the kind of thing you'd be interested in, why not schedule a consultation with us?
If it doesn't sound like your cup of tea just at this moment, then feel free to check out the ebook we have on offer at the moment. This one takes a look into next generation websites - the kind that are able to promote your business online in fast-paced, highly competitive, mobile world.