Content…content…content….That word is everywhere.
To the casual observer, it seems that overnight, content has become a mantra on everyone’s lips. It’s a hard word to avoid in the Internet age though. This is because everything you read, watch or listen to online is a form of content designed with a goal in mind, whether it’s to entertain you, inform you, or educate you.
As digital marketing continues to encroach on traditional spaces, the ability to generate content, that is, content creation has become an important skill. In the context of online marketing, here is what the folks at SaaS Hubspot have to say about content creation:
“…is the process of generating topic ideas that appeal to your buyer persona, creating written or visual content through those ideas, and making that information accessible to your audience as a blog, video, infographic or other formats.”
Why has content creation become so important to modern marketing? According to Hubspot, it’s because of its unbeatable Return on Investment (ROI). They say:
- “Content marketing brings about 3x as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62 percent less.
- SMBs that use content marketing get 126 percent more leads than those that don’t
- 61 percent of online purchases are the direct result of a customer reading a blog.
- Companies that publish 16 plus blog posts per month get 3.5x the traffic than those who post four or fewer posts per month.”
The case for including content in your marketing is clear.
No matter the kind of content- video, podcast, infographic, blog – it all begins with writing. Your video and podcasts need scripts. Your infographics need a written component. The blog is perhaps the cornerstone of Internet content and is, with the exception of an added video, audio, or graphic, written content. Let’s start with that.
Types of Content Writing
If blogs were food, they would be bread. They are ubiquitous. There are said to be some 570 million blogs on the Internet. It prompts the question if there are so many blogs, how do they help you stand out? The answer to your question lies in the uses people have for the Internet. They are primarily searching for information. On clothes. On music. On the current events. On which books to read and which TV shows and movies to watch. The person who is able to provide them with this information in a timely fashion and in a form that is pleasant to consume will get their attention. And attention, in the attention economy, translates to dollars.
It is especially helpful if your blog isn’t sales-focused but actually adds value to your potential customers’ lives in some way. According to digital marketing professional and academic, Bill Sebald, the best blogs are:
- Actionable – The reader is called to do something about what they read
- Offer strong opinions – The reader has an emotional reaction to what is said and is moved
- Are provable to some degree – The reader comes away having learned something
The writing is conversational and relatable, almost as though you were talking to someone face to face.
Does your blog do this? Is there a way to improve things?
While you have room to expand with a blog, social media posts have to be short and punchy. There is a balance you need to strike with social media. You want to develop a clear voice for your brand, but you also want that voice that is appealing to your audience. So, it sort of calls for a completely different approach.
On social media, you are also more heavily dependent on video and graphics than on your blog. People are also more likely to consume video, photos, and pictorial content than they are text on social media, so keep that in mind when crafting your posts.
You also want to post your material at times when your intended audience is actually likely to see it. You may need to do some research as to the best times to post on the various social media platforms and which platform is best for your audience. If you post on multiple platforms, you may need to tailor your content accordingly.
Like your blog, your followers on social media want content that is relevant to them. You’ll have to decide whether you want humour and comments on controversial social issues to be a part of your brand voice. They can both reap huge benefits, but they can also backfire massively.
If blogs are bread, the website content writing is the alphabet. Just as you can’t write without the alphabet, there’d be no Internet without billions of websites providing written content.
Good website writing should have:
- Short simple sentences and little to no jargon. People of all demographics come to websites and you can’t assume they’ll be able to follow
- Should put the most important information to the top. People have short attention spans. You can’t assume they’ll read all the way to the end to get the gist of what you’re saying
- Should be easily readable at a glance. Huge chunks of texts, unrelieved by white spaces are unappealing to the eye
- For this reason, also, you should attempt to break up text with other media
- Should conform with SEO best practice. You want people to find your information
- Use calls to actions of CTAs CTAs encourage the reader to do something. This can be an invitation to read more. Or a request to click here for more information.
- Not plagiarize another site’s content. Search engines can penalize you for “borrowing” someone’s copy.
Ad, Sales, and PR copy
With ad and sales copy, your primary goal is to persuade. Remember those millions of blogs and websites competing for the reader’s limited attention? Your ad and sales copy has to hook them and convince them that your product/service/business is the best solution for their needs.
The old-school “hard sell” formula is out. It makes copy come across as gimmicky and insincere. Today’s audience is specifically targeted and the copy cannot be one-size-fits-all.
Other characteristics of good ad and sales copy include:
- Calls to action. The copy must encourage the potential customer to do something about what he’s read.
- Tell a story. Customers like to make emotional connections to brands.
- Must sell benefits. The customer wants to know how your product/service helps him solve his problems.
- Identify possible objections and work to ease the customers mind about them.
- Be relatable and conversational. Sales copy should be written as though you’re speaking to your prospect in person.
PR copy is a different animal. One of the most common forms is the press release. It is written to convey information. It should be concise and factual because you are sending this to journalists.
The most important information should be towards the top like a news story. Journalists write in the inverted pyramid format. In the event an editor cuts their story, what you really need to know is at the top. There’s a greater likelihood of their using your release if you follow this convention. There are different types of press release according to the nature of the event you want publicised. While they all maintain certain conventions, like having contact information, as you can see here, press releases can be customized according to the situation. It all depends on what your particular needs are.
We come now to the behemoths of content writing. Where social media posts are only a few words long, and blog posts and website content can go to a few thousand words, case studies, e-books, and white papers can get up to 10,000 words or more.
A case study is an overview of a problem a company encountered and how they solved it. More specifically, a good case study takes a customer’s problem and shows how the company solved it to the customer’s benefit. The focus should be on the customer.
These are some other characteristics of good case studies:
- Like the other types of writing we’ve discussed here, it’s best if your case study tells a story. Case studies tend to be data-heavy. It’s good for the reader to have a narrative to link all the bits of data together.
- They use multimedia. A good case study would use video and graphics, not just text to tell its story. Remember people use case studies as educational tools. Not everyone learns the same way.
- They are written for the audience. Understandably, your case study will be written differently depending on if journalists or B2B customers are reading it.
- They summarize, then explain the problem to be solved. They explain the solution. Then they explain the importance of the case study’s findings.
An ebook is a good way to create an opt-in on your website so that you can build your email list. Its subject matter can be anything that your audience is interested in.If you are the chef-owner of a restaurant, you can make an ebook featuring easy to prepare meals for busy professionals. Chefs often have huge social media followings as people admire both their skills and photographs. They would value such an ebook because they want to be able to recreate some of their favourite chef’s meals. In return, the chef is able to build a contact list already partial to buying anything else he might want to sell, as his new line of kitchenware or his recipe books. The same principle applies to almost any product or service.
Good ebooks contain:
- Good visuals. An ebook should have an eye-catching cover and bold designs and photos within.
- An attention-getting headline
- An easy to follow format, where information is easily referenced and found
- Links to your blog and social media
- Calls to action
White papers are the weightiest tomes in the long-form family. They usually give a company’s view on a particular topic. The intention is to establish the company as an authority in its industry. Very much like the case study, it presents a problem and then discusses solutions. The main difference here is that the focus is on what the company thinks and what the company does, not the customer. White papers also have more of an “academic” feel. Many of them contain pages of references and notation.
Longform content, like the three mentioned above, is typically created by ghostwriters.
Video and Audio scripts
These two deserve a short mention even though video and audio themselves are not “written” content.
You begin to see how important the written component of a video script is if you were forced to ad-lib over the footage. You would be wracking your brain to come up with words to describe what you were seeing from moment to moment to an audience.
The best kind of video and audio scripts allow the video or audio to shine. They play a supporting role in what the video or audio is trying to convey to our senses.
Ending things the “write” way
When you started this journey, you didn’t realize how important content was to both the Internet and digital marketing. Now that you’re going away, we hope you leave understanding just how useful written content is. Well thought out and written content can:
- Increase your sales
- Increase traffic to your website
- Lower your marketing costs
Not only is it useful, but it is versatile. It comes in varying formats that you can adapt to your business needs.
We sought to introduce you to the most common forms, show you how they can be used, and illustrate what the best examples should look like.
The next time you have content to write, we expect you to approach it with an open mind and a spirit of experimentation.
We encourage an open mind so that you can find what is the best written content mix for you and we urge you to experiment because this is how you find what best reflects your brand voice.