April 15, 2011

On the web, you are what you publish. Your written content is often the most important thing a potential client has to judge your company.

We know that content is king and you need to be publishing new content regularly, otherwise you will sink down the Google rankings and your competitors with their fresh content will rise above you.

It’s never been easier to create your own content online. Nearly all of our clients have a content-managed website or a blog, and a large number have Facebook pages too, but most people get very nervous about publishing content online because they don’t know the ‘rules’.

So how do you write content that…

  • people want to read?
  • people want to share with their friends?
  • makes people take action?
  • is easy to find in search engines?

Read on and I’ll give you some advice we’ve learned over the last ten years.

You need to tailor your content to your audience and the action you want your reader to take, but some things apply to any type of content you publish.

  • You should always have social media sharing buttons. These increase your readership by making it really easy for your readers to share your article with their friends. The most common and effective buttons are:
    • Like this on Facebook
    • Share this on Facebook
    • Tweet this
  • Use short paragraphs – no-one likes huge blocks of text
  • Make use of graphics – but avoid stock photos if possible. They always look contrived.
  • Narrow columns are easier to scan – just like a newspaper or magazine
  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists
  • The headline is vital, so make it good. As David Ogilvy said “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 80 per cent of your money.” People seem to like headlines like ‘7 social media tips I learned from Elvis’
  • Always finish the article with a call to action, e.g. Buy now , sign up here, fill in your details, place a comment.

If the purpose of the article is to sell something:

  • Use questions just like you would if you were selling to the reader in person.
  • Demonstrate the benefits of your product or service using facts and figures. You will improve your results by 60% if you do this (sorry, I just made that up, but you see what I mean).
  • Make sure you include testimonials from satisfied users, a money-back guarantee, and if possible, the offer of a free trial.
  • Don’t bore the reader. Don’t give them a reason to click the ‘Back’ button.
  • Don’t distract the reader with links to other websites (they might not come back!).
  • Give the reader a clear call to action: e.g. “Buy now” or “Start your free trial”.

If the purpose of the article is to inform

  • think of the article as answering a specific question, and stick to answering that question
  • use sub-headings to break up your article
  • provide links to further reading
  • at the end of the article, use a poll that asks ‘Did you find this article helpful? Yes or no’

If the purpose of the article is to entertain

  • make it entertaining! If you’re lucky it might go viral on the social networks (yeah right!)

And lastly, a word about search engines. You might think that you can fool Google and leapfrog your competitors in the rankings by stuffing your site full of keywords. But wait a minute… Do you really think that you can pull the wool over the eyes of a company worth US$200 billion that makes its living from delivering accurate search engine results? Dream on…

Just sprinkle keywords throughout the article like you normally would. and make sure the headline of the article is in the HTML title of the page, and then go out and tell the world about it. The more people that link to the article, the more Google will like it.

Simple.