In this post, we’re going to explore exactly how to do so. We’ll look at what makes for great online content and provide you with a bunch of tips to get you on the fast track to writing some of it for yourself.
WHAT IS CONTENT?
Content is a super broad term, making it a little difficult to define. In the world of online marketing, it is loosely used to refer to written information like blog articles, social media posts, and web copies that companies use to engage their audiences and ultimately sell their products and services.
However, content doesn’t always come in the form of text. It can also refer to visual information, such as image slideshows and videos, or even audio material like podcasts. For the purpose and scope of this article, however, we’ll be using the term to describe written information.
WHY IS CONTENT SO IMPORTANT?
“The success of your website is determined primarily by its content. Ultimately, content wins the wallets of your customers. All other components of your website (design, visuals, videos, etc.) provide a secondary support role. If you have effective taglines, great design will only enhance their effectiveness. Design itself does not sell”, writes Andrew Kucheriavy in Intechnic.
Apart from helping companies drive up conversions, content also allows them to engage their audiences through their social media channels. By sharing high-quality content with their followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other channels, businesses are able to develop their brand and present themselves as experts in their industry.
This, in turn, helps them build trust and brand loyalty, which is what eventually keeps customers coming back for years to come.
Lastly, with the development of sophisticated and complex search algorithms by search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, great content is now more important than ever before for SEO.
A few years ago, companies were able to rank in Google simply by spamming keywords. Nowadays, Google is much more focused on the usability and quality of a website. For a detailed breakdown of the importance of great content for SEO, check out this article by kissmetrics.
HOW TO WRITE GREAT CONTENT
Now that we’ve defined what content is and briefly discussed why it is so important, let’s get down to teaching you how to write great content yourself. Here are 6 tips to help you write content like a pro:
1. KEEP IT SHORT
All great content needs to be concise and clear. Don’t waffle on for hours like a university student trying to meet a word limit, and definitely don’t try to impress anyone with your complex vocab.
Here are some simple ways to make sure your content is clear and concise:
- Replace phrases with words. For example, phrases like “the reason for” and “due to the fact that” can be replaced by “because” or “since.”
- Use an active voice. While passive sentences are easy to understand, they can be wordy. To learn about the differences between passive and active voice, click here.
- Remove redundant pairs. These are words with similar meanings, such as “each and every,” “specific details,” and “final outcome.”
- Remove unnecessary determiners and modifiers. These are words which add no meaning to a sentence, such as “basically”, “specific”, “individual”, and “definitely”.
Visit Purdue University’s Writing Lab for more concise writing tips.
2. FIND THE VALUE BEHIND YOUR MESSAGE
Before you get started on a piece of content, make sure you understand the purpose of what you’re doing.
A simple way to do so is to summarise the goal of the content your writing as concisely as possible (aim for 1 to 2 sentences). Once you’ve got it, write at the top of the page you’re working on to remind you of that goal.
Spending some extra time to understand the value of what you’re doing will help you stay focused and save you time in the long run.
“As a copywriter, your job is to first and foremost figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words”, writes Eddie Shleyner on HubSpot.
3. MAKE YOUR READERS FEEL SPECIAL
If there’s one thing all humans crave, it’s to feel special. Make your readers feel exclusive and you’ll be one step closer to having them lap up your offer.
There are a number of ways you can evoke exclusivity in your content. Try telling your readers they’ve been “hand-picked” for an offer or that they have “exclusive” access to an article.
Here are some examples of content that uses exclusivity to reel in readers/customers:
- American Express: Membership has its privileges.
- Google: Invited select user to trial Google+ beta software.
- Spotify: Used invite-only to reel in new free users and encourage paid subscriptions.
- The 11K Club: Promoted a limited amount of subscriptions to a club with one unspecified benefit.
4. USE EMOTION
Emotion is at the heart of big decisions. It’s what encourages us to make a change in our careers, it dictates how we interact with one another, and it’s also what drives sales.
“When it comes to converting a prospect, the features of your product or service will only get you so far. Why? Because features appeal to your prospect’s logical brain. And purchases aren’t driven by logic. They hinge on emotion, which explains why good commercials make us want to laugh or cry or pick up the phone to call home”, writes Eddie Shleyner.
However, working emotion into things like sales or marketing copy can be hard, especially when you’re dealing with a complex technical topic.
A good way to work emotion into your content is to focus in on why you’re creating it in the first place and forget about the features or benefits of the service/product you’re promoting.
Imagine your writing sales copy for a website selling home security systems. Rather than focusing on the features of what you’re selling, hone in on why your customers should be looking to buy what you’re selling, namely to protect their themselves and their family.
Doing so will allow you to connect on a personal level with your customers rather than boring them to death with technical details. Here is an example of a great emotional paragraph about WordPress security, taken from an article on Copyblogger.
“My wife and I had that nightmare once. Our dream was taken from us by someone we never met, someone who could care less that the website they ruined for us helped put food in our kids’ mouths.”
5. CREATE URGENCY
Good content encourages people to take action. Great content encourages them to take that action NOW. Using urgency in your writing allows helps give your audience the extra nudge they need to buy a product or participate in a promotion.
A simple way to create urgency in your writing is to use terms like “now”, “today” or “final”.
“Those words help to reinforce that the offer exists only for a limited time and, if they want to take advantage of that offer, they need to take action soon”, writes Nicki Krawczyk in an article on Filthy Rich Writer.
It’s important to note that going overboard with these terms can make you come like a pushy car salesman. Make sure you use urgency sparingly or you may risk pushing your audience away.
Here are some great examples of terms/phrases that create urgency:
- Limited time
- End of
For a more complete list, check out this article on The eCommerce Expert.
6. KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
This is probably the most valuable tip for anyone looking to write content. No matter how well you master the previous tips, if you don’t try to know your target reader, you’re groping in the dark.
“The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They know that bass, for example, goes after earthworms. Carp love corn. Crappie respond well to rubber lures. Fishermen also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season”, writes Eddie Shleyner.
Just like the fishermen in this analogy, if you’re looking to hook your readers, spend some time getting to know them.
A great way to learn more about your audience is by doing some market research. Look at popular websites producing similar content to what you’re planning to publish.
If you’re writing for a sports blog, for example, follow other popular sports blogs and take notes on the kind of stories they publish, the way they write, how they phrase their headlines, what images they use, and even what resources they reference.
Also, consider researching some social networks concerned with your topic. If you’re writing about SEO, for example, explore some popular online forums and social media pages to get a feel for what your readers are discussing.
Finally, create a “reader persona”. Think of this as a representation of your ideal reader, based on the information you’ve gathered as part of your research.
Creating killer content isn’t easy. Developing the skills to move people with your writing can take hard work, determination, research, and plenty of trial and error.
However, the tips we’ve discussed above provide a solid foundation to help get you started. For more content writing tips, check out some of the following online resources: