In our How to Write for the Web series, we’ve covered the importance of planning in Keyword and Competition Research, and the importance of crafting a compelling title in The Power of the Title. So now that you have a solid content concept and a title, it’s time write your content.
If you’re going to write an engaging piece of content and stand a chance of nudging your potential customer towards a conversion, it’s got to be built around your user; their needs, wants and behavior. So when writing content, you must understand four things:
There’s MASSES of competition out there. Everybody wants a content marketing strategy or a Facebook page or a blog, so the amount of content generated on a daily basis makes the entire broadcasting history of CNN look like a Tweet. This isn’t a bad thing because it would suggest that there’s a real demand there, but what it does mean is that your potential customers have more to choose from. So you need to work harder to convert those that find you.
People are busy and don’t have time. We’re all living busier lives these days. We have more choice of things to do and less time to do it. When we get some spare time, we can watch a video on YouTube or Vimeo; check Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn; catch up on emails; watch an episode on Netflicks or Tivo; play around in an app. You see, you’re not just competing with other articles; you’re competing with the rest of the internet for a slice of someone’s scarce free time. So you’ve got to treat every single one of your readers with absolute respect because they’re giving up everything else to spend time with you.
People don’t care about you. They care about them. So if you spend all your time banging on about how fantastic you are, you won’t make many friends. Whereas if you spend your time genuinely adding value, educating, entertaining and meeting their needs, you’ll earn the trust needed to form a relationship and make a sale.
People Don’t Read. Despite what content marketers across the globe would have you believe, users don’t actually read… much. We’re all far too busy these days, so most people don’t make it to the end of the article1. Some people even tweet articles having only read the title and first paragraph.
The above points are all things that are out of your control. You can’t change any of it, but it completely changes the way you design and write content.
What you can do, is use the above to understand the user so that you can create valuable content that meets your business needs, while embracing the user's behavior.
Here are a few techniques to use and skills you can develop that will give your content a better stab at success:
Tell a Story Through Your Headlines
Your headers and sub headers aren’t just important for SEO purposes, they allow your users to scan your blog or article and pick out the main points without having to spend four days reading every word.
Bullet points and numbered lists help users digest content because they:
- Make it easy to scan
- Are quicker to read
- Look more presentable
If you have a few points to make, always split them up into bullet points and do your reader a favor of helping them take on board your content.
Why take four sentences to say something that can be said in one? Why use 16 words if you can use 8? By being concise, we make our content less daunting, easier to take in and accessible.
Use the Pyramid Style
Put your conclusion first, then work through your supporting information. A user should be able to tell if they’re in the right place after reading the first few words of your content, then read on if they want more.
This is the pyramid style of writing that newspaper journalists use and it can be applied to writing for the web so that we help those that are busy understand the general point of our article without having to read the entire thing.
By understanding your potential customers, you can create content that embraces how they behave online. If you can meet their needs through providing value with your content, then by respecting their time and helping them digest your it quickly and easily, you’ll begin to shape a positive relationship that could lead to sales and conversions.
Let’s Get to Work
You now have all you need to start creating, original, attractive and compelling content that embraces your user’s natural online behavior. If you do your keyword and competition research, create an engaging title, and write for your user, you’ll be reaping the real rewards of content marketing in no time.