Once you’ve found exceptional writers for your business or taken the plunge to write yourself, you need to know and communicate the ingredients required to produce a great piece of content.
Writing a killer blog post isn’t exactly a piece of cake. From understanding your audience and picking a topic to ensuring readability and proper SEO, there’s a lot to be taken care of.
Moreover, if you don’t know what ingredients go into a great piece of content and specifications to share with freelance writers, how will write or check the quality of work delivered by them?
So based on my analysis of content that people like to read, bookmark, share or link to, here are a set of basic guidelines to keep in mind when writing or outsourcing content.
The following checklist will help you write or outsource blog posts that engage your audience and drive results.
The topic for your article or blog post should be something your audience’s would want to read. A good idea is to visit social media websites, blog comment sections, forums, Facebook groups and other places where your prospects hang out.
This will help you identify what your market talks about and cares about. Another way to come up with ideas is keyword research. If you can find keywords with high search volume but not very good quality search results, those are sure to be the winners.
The idea is to teach your audience something they have wanted to know for a long time, answer their pressing questions or help them make better decisions.
It may seem pretty obvious, and you may already know this, but your content should not be a copy of other content available online. By copying and pasting content from other websites, you risk your business growth in more ways than one:
#1. You make yourself prone to legal action because you’re breaking copyright law.
#2. You create poor user experience.
#3. You cause suspicion and distrust in the minds of visitors.
#4. Search engines would rank the original piece higher than copied content.
Writing something fresh in your own unique voice or approaching a topic from a new angle is the only way to avoid these pitfalls and engage your prospects.
Making sure a piece of content is unique enough has two aspects: subjective and objective. The subjective aspect requires you to put yourself in place of your prospects and sense what they may already know and what they want to know.
Take a look at other popular content in your niche and identify any gaps which aren’t being filled. Objective aspect is about making sure the semantics of your content are different from other content online.
This includes the arrangement of paragraphs, structure of sentences and usage of words and phrases. For instance, when you outsource content to a freelance writer, you’ll want to make sure he hasn’t blatantly just copied and pasted paragraphs and sentences from somewhere else.
There are many free and premium plagiarism checkers online, but the most well-known is CopyScape. If you outsource content writing to freelance writers, CopyScape is a must have tool.
Every time a writer submits content for your approval, you can paste the content in Copyscape and it’ll search and detect if the content is original or copied from somewhere online.
This way you can be sure that the writer is actually doing the work and not ripping you off. Copyscape premium costs $10 at the minimum, in which you get up to 200 searches in a year.
It doesn’t matter if you run a B2B or B2C business. There is no excuse that can justify use of a cold, formal, corporate kind of tone in writing content.
In the end, it all boils down to people communicating with people. So it helps if your content has a personal touch.
For instance, it’s better to address yourself as I and the reader as you in your content. Writing in a tone as if you’re talking to a friend helps engage your audience better and build real connections.
Poor spelling and grammar errors send a message to the reader that you’re careless and lazy. And if you can’t maintain high standards in your content, there’s no reason you’d do so in your product or service.
People do business and purchase products from people and businesses they trust. Errors in communication don’t just compromise on clarity and readability of your content, but also create suspicion and distrust.
So before you hit publish on that blog post, or click send on that email, make sure you have proofread each piece of content carefully.
If you have taken the time to identify and understand your audience, you’ll get to know them as who they really are. You’ll learn their pain points, wants, challenges, and demographics.
Customer-centric content that entertains, inspires or informs is a more effective promotional tool as compared to a full-blown sales pitch. This is because it gets past your prospect’s natural defenses.
With valuable content (such as tips, tutorials, reviews, news, stories, trends and more), you’re no longer seen as a pushy salesperson. You become more like a friend looking out for your prospect’s interests. You share good ideas and warn them against bad ideas.
Let’s take a review for example. You pick one or more products in your niche and cover them with a critical perspective and in depth. The review covers everything from benefits and photos to positives and negatives.
Once you’ve shared your honest opinion of the product, prospects can click through your link to reach the product website. Not only does this help the readers, but also helps you build a relationship with other business owners in your niche. This is because you’re writing about their products.
Reviews also act as great landing pages for SEO and PPC campaigns. However, don’t just cover the same things as mentioned on the actual sales page of the product. The purpose of the review is to share your experience with the product, not to sell it.
You can ignore this rule, but only when you’re comparing 2 or more products. If it’s a positive review, it should make the reader curious enough to visit the product page. And then the product page can do the selling.
Another popular form of content is a list post. You list a number of tips, products or resources connected to the same purpose or topic, along with your short opinion, image, or link to each.
This format works because your prospects get a number of options, to fulfill a need or solve a problem, listed or compared in one place. Then if they are interested in learning more about a particular product, they can click on the link to reach the product page or a detailed review.
Enticing Headings & Bullets
Compelling headlines and bullets grab your prospects’ attention and keep them reading till the end. It’s a process that starts with thorough market research.
Your content can only move the prospect to action if you know him, his habits, goals, needs and aspirations as well as possible. Identify with your readers and show an understanding of their pains.
“Are you having trouble with your XYZ? Don’t you just hate it when ABC? Aren’t you sick and tired of XYZ, only to find ABC?”
Your market’s pain points will help you craft headlines which focus on benefits instead of features. Once you’ve reminded the audience of their pains, you can then offer a solution. Compare these two for example:
- Ms Excel Course With 10 Bonus Training Videos
- Look Awesome In Front Your Boss With This Ms Excel Course
The first line focuses on a feature of the course. But the second emphasizes the benefit. It tells what the course can do for you. Once you have figured out the key concerns of your market, you can create great headings and bullets using some tried and tested formulas.
Bullet points are an excellent way to break down information you want to convey into exciting and digestible chunks. Describe key points and benefits to show how relevant the topic or product is to prospects’ needs. You don’t have to follow these examples word by word, but use them as inspiration for your own.
- Who else wants to … ?
- X ways/tips/secrets to …
- Closely guarded secrets to … revealed
- The x-step formula to … in just x minutes a day
- The strategy/process I use to achieve …
- Why you should never …
- X critical mistakes … make when …
There are lot more formulas you can find for free elsewhere. The more specific you get in your heading, the more credible your claims will seem.
And don’t make it seem like too good to be true. Your prospects won’t believe it. They are immune to overly hyped marketing pitches.
When a reader opens your email or a blog post and sees that it’s a long sequence of long paragraphs, he or she will feel overwhelmed. Your content should not beat around the bush and the fluff talk should be kept to minimum.
Cut the chase and come to the point quickly. Refrain from providing too much of a background and wasting your readers’ time.
This is not to say that your content should be short. It can be as long or short as needed to cover the topic at hand. But try to make your content quick and easy to read and skim for all types of audience.
Some readers will have the patience to read the whole piece, and some will just like to rush their way through the main points. So make sure your content has enough headings, subheadings, images, bullet points and numbered lists to give some breathing space in between paragraphs.
Each paragraph should be short, with just 3-5 sentences. Moreover, try to say just one thing in one sentence. This will keep your sentences short and easy to read.
Your content should include as many factors as possible to make your claims believable. Either because it’s based on your personal experience, others’ experiences or objective data from research studies or experiments.
Also offer them credentials about yourself. Who are you and why should your audience trust that you know what you’re talking about.
Maybe you’ve lot of experience in this niche, or you suffered from the same pain points as your prospects, or you’ve been featured in popular media.
You can add more credibility by sharing your name, real photos, a bit of personality (hobbies & interests) and contact information such as phone number and address.
These things show that there’s a real person behind the content and helps you connect with prospects. Other aspects that boost trust in your content are testimonials, case studies, free trials, money back guarantees and quotes from authority figures (also called influencers).
If the aim of your content is to sell a product or service, it’s also a good idea to justify the pricing. For example, you could say,”get it for less than a cup of coffee a day.”
Internal & External Links
Of course, the main goal for putting all this content on your website is to get the visitor to click on your enquiry form, products or add to cart buttons and put money in your pocket.
But a single piece of content isn’t enough to establish the level of engagement and trust that makes them enquire about or buy your product or service.
So in your piece of content, make sure you link to other related content that can help the visitor learn more about the parts which you didn’t fully address or which can help the prospect learn more.
Ideally, some of these links will be to your own content (internal links) and some to content on other websites (external links).
Not only does this help the prospect find more relevant information, but also allows you to be seen in a positive light by other website owners. Because by linking to their content, you are sending some traffic their way.
For each piece of content, you can target up to 3 keywords for which you want to rank high in search engines. The keyword research that you did when brainstorming topics will come in handy in deciding these keywords.
You want to pick and include keywords in your content that your prospects are searching in large numbers, yet not so generic to make them really difficult to rank high in search engines.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to repeat them again and again to adhere to a specific density or frequency. Include them only to an extent that they appear as a natural part of reading experience.
Call To Action
Sometimes I read a piece of content from top and bottom, and I get no idea what the writer wants me to do. Or may be I know, but the writer hasn’t made it easy for me.
Whether it’s an informative blog post, an email or a full blown sales copy, there should always be a purpose, an action (or two actions in some cases) that you want the reader to take.
This action doesn’t necessarily have to be directly related to your product or service. It can also be signing up to your newsletter, sharing your content on social media or leaving a comment.
There are many ways to include this call to action in or near your content. It can be in form of a sidebar widget, a flashy banner, a popup at the bottom, a big box at the top etc. It’ll take some testing and tweaking to figure out the placements that works best in your context.
And just telling the reader what to do isn’t enough. Make it easy. And make it look easy. Include social sharing buttons if you want them to share. Show them a short form to fill if you want them to sign up. Ask a specific question instead of a general question if you want them to respond. Got the picture?
Conclusion – Kickstart Content Creation
Quality content gets more and more significant with increasing competition and with each Google algorithm update. Hopefully this post will help you start on the right foot and get content which converts visitors into leads, and leads into customers.