Long before the Internet was invented, the defining axiom in print was that “content is king.” Today, where online content dominates print content, many of the world’s top SEO and web marketing experts still say that “content is king.”
Why is this the case? That even after decades, no matter the medium, content is still the crux of good marketing?
==> It’s What Builds Loyalty
Businesses aren’t built on first-time visitors. Companies like the Wall Street Journal don’t make most of their money from people picking up their papers for the first time.
They make money from people who’ve read their content and then decided it was good enough that they either want to purchase again or subscribe to a subscription. If the business had to get a new customer every time in order to get paid, they’d all have gone under by now.
Yet many online publications approach their business that way. Instead of focusing on repeat visitors, they focus on optimizing for search engines so they get more new customers.
At the end of the day, however, the really famous and successful blogs like Huffington Post or TechCrunch ultimately still get most of their traffic from repeat visitors. Yes, search engines love them – but their businesses would be a fraction of what they are today if they didn’t have great content.
==> The Evolution of Search Engines
For many years Google and other search engines have worked towards making their search results pull up better and better results. They want people who search on their engines to find the best content possible in relationship to what they’re looking for.
As search engines get smarter, marketers who focus primarily on marketing tactics rather than actual content will die away.
Google has proven this repeatedly by continually downgrading the importance of low-quality links and upgrading the importance of usage statistics and other metrics to actually measure the content of a website.
If you build your website around great content while having a decent understanding of basic SEO, your site will flourish. If you put all your attention on SEO and don’t pay much attention to your content, you’ll always be trying to stay one step ahead of the search engines.
==> The Ability to Sell High Ticket Items
A low quality content website might be able to sell $0.20 clicks via AdSense. But a high quality website could sell $5,000 DVD sets by the hundreds.
Having great quality content allows you to build a relationship with your readers. That relationship allows you to sell any number of things to your readers. From high end items to recurring memberships to one on one coaching, it all starts from having high quality content.
In the long run, only content that really helps people is going to succeed. Content that doesn’t do so is likely to get downgraded more and more as time passes.
The Basics of Good Content Structure
Having good content structure is crucial to writing content that people can easily consume and understand. Having a good structure also makes the writing process easier for you. Here are the main elements to well-structured content.
==> The Introduction
The first sentence of any article needs to be carefully crafted to catch attention. People should instantly be able to grasp what the gist of the article is just by reading the first sentence.
Likewise, the first paragraph should elaborate on the first sentence and get people interested in reading the rest of the content.
==> Let Them Know What to Expect
Before jumping into the meat of the content, let them know what to expect in the rest of the content.
This can be as detailed as “we’ll cover X, Y and Z now” to as simple as “here’s how to do X.”
The most important thing is to prepare people to receive whatever you’re about to discuss.
==> Main Talking Points
Go through each of your talking points, one by one.
Make sure to separate your content into easily digestible chunks. Don’t just write a 500-word article from top to bottom, but break it up into subsections and subheads.
Also make sure that you word as much of your content in “what’s in it for you” terms. Users should feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
It often helps to present a few different solutions, angles or opinions in your main points. If you’re talking about investing for example, give them a few different techniques they can use.
Give examples. The more theoretical your article is, the less likely they are to remember it a few weeks from now. Examples help take something that’s theoretical and turn it into something more concrete. People are much more likely to remember an example demonstrating a principle than just the theory.
==> The Conclusion
The last paragraph of your article is the conclusion. The conclusion should sum up everything you just wrote about, plus perhaps reiterate the most important point.
Sometimes it’s best to leave the user with a concrete piece of action they can immediate take at the end of the conclusion. At other times, the conclusion just wraps up the whole article nicely.
If you’re selling a product, the conclusion is where you want to put your call to action. Tell people exactly what it is you want them to do. Be assertive and make sure to recap all the main benefits to them taking action now rather than later.
These are the main parts of good content structure. Following this structure will help give your users a good sense of what to expect from your article and keep them engaged as they’re reading. It’ll also make it easier for you to organize your thoughts into a coherent chronological order before you start writing.
The Four Different Forms of Content
There are four main kinds of content on the internet: text, graphics, audio and video. Each of these kinds of content has its own benefits and drawbacks, with each appealing most to different audiences.
Here’s an overview of each of these four kinds of content and when they should be used.
==> Text-Based Content
This is by far the most common type of content on the internet. Just about every webpage you see is based on text content.
One of the biggest benefits of text-based content is that it’s very search engine friendly. Search engines can’t understand videos or audios, but they definitely can understand text.
In other words, if you’re running text-based content you stand a good chance of ranking.
It also requires less preparation to create text content. You don’t need microphones or videos, or expensive graphic editing programs. All you need to do is type.
==> Graphic-Based Content
The main type of graphic-based content online is infographics. These are essentially graphics that contain information in and of themselves.
One of the biggest benefits of infographics is that it’s often more entertaining and informative than just text.
For example, if you’re illustrating the history of a war, it’s much more alive to actually have graphics than just to describe it in words.
Audio content has really taken off ever since the iPod became popular.
In the past, audio content had to be consumed in cassette or CD format. That was both expensive and quite a bit of hassle, and it just wasn’t that popular as a format.
But today, people can listen to audios anywhere they go. In the car, on the bus, while walking, at lunch, etc. It saves time and is extremely convenient. Audio content works really well for many businesses.
Video content is one of the most dynamic methods of distributing content on the internet. You can put funny content, informational content, interesting content, high tech content, personal content – just about anything you can think of.
Video content also has some of the strongest “share culture.” It’s very easy to share video content with friends on Facebook for example.
A video has a much higher chance of going viral than say an audio podcast.
The only downside to video content is that it does take more effort to produce. You need to shoot the video, edit the video and finally render the video. The whole process could take many hours, rather than just 30 minutes to write an article.
So which content format is right for you and your business? It really depends on what kind of content you’re creating and who your market is. There’s no harm in trying all four different kinds of content and seeing which one(s) your audience responds the best to.
Why Your Content Should Pack an Emotional Punch
When you’re writing content online, you can write it in such a way that it sounds very factual and impersonal. Or, you can write in a way that really packs an emotional punch.
By and large, most small publishers will do better with the latter approach. Of course, if you’re starting a website like Wikipedia or WebMD you’ll probably want to take on a professional tone. However, if you’re a smaller website looking to gain traction, you’ll want to aim to engage your reader’s emotions.
==> It Makes People Remember You
People browse dozens if not hundreds of websites every day. Most websites fail to draw their readers in emotionally.
How many website do you visit each day that gets you to laugh, gets you to feel touched or gets you to get angry about something? How often do you feel like a website is talking directly to you and your problems and that they understand where you’re coming from?
These kinds of websites stand out. There’s a reason why YouTube videos of shocking clips, funny clips or touching clips tend to get passed around a lot. They make people feel something, and that’s memorable.
==> It Gets You More Links
Content that evokes a lot of emotion tends to get linked to a lot more. Naturally, people are a lot more likely to want to share or endorse something that really got them riled up.
It gets more shares on Facebook and gets more retweets. In other words, it has a higher chance of getting passed around immediately, but also has much stronger long-term potential.
==> Develop a Stronger Reader Relationship
Finally, emotional content will help you build a much stronger bond with your readers.
People reading your content will feel like they can relate with you, as opposed to feeling that you’re just an objective website on the internet.
This translates to people coming back more often, to a more lively community around your blog or business and finally to more loyal buyers and customers.
As an added benefit, people will also want to partner with you more. If they can tell you’re really passionate about something or that you have a way of being able to move an audience, they’re likely to want to invite you to speak at their events, do teleseminars for their audience and in general open up their customer base to you.
There are many benefits to creating content with an emotional punch rather than just factual information. Adding a dose of personality is great for just about any small to medium sized business. Unless you’re trying to build an encyclopedia-type site, try to make your website as emotionally engaging as possible.
What Is “User Generated Content” and How Can It Help Your Business
User generated content is a new buzz phrase that’s been getting a lot of attention recently. Websites can take off in popularity if they have great user generated content, without the creators having to put much work into content creation.
What exactly is user generated content? How does it work? How do you encourage user generated content? Let’s take a look.
==> What Is User Generated Content?
User generated content is any content that’s generated by the user base and not by content creators of the company.
High profile examples include Wikipedia and YouTube. The staff at Wikipedia and YouTube don’t spend all their time creating entries or videos. Instead, their job is to make it easy for other people to create content.
Other people do, and Wikipedia and YouTube benefit from it.
Lower profile examples include forums and blog comments. Again, these aren’t created by the site owner, but can still draw a lot of search engine traffic.
So how does one encourage people to create more content?
==> Give Them Room to Express Something They Want to Express
It’s very hard to create desire. Trying to get someone to want something they don’t already naturally want is very hard.
On the other hand, giving someone an avenue to talk about things they already want to talk about can be a great shortcut to amassing a ton of user generated content.
YouTube exemplifies this principle. YouTube didn’t create the desire for people to share videos, they just made that desire possible through the internet.
What do your users already want to talk about that they’re not able to talk about yet?
==> Make Them Feel Like They’re Part of Something
A sense of community and purpose can go a long way towards inspiring content generation.
A forum, for example, often thrives when there’s a sense of people helping one another out. People are more inspired to post their success stories and help other people out in their hardships.
On the other hand, forums where there’s animosity and lack of community tend to die down over time.
Wikipedia also does this really well. People feel like they’re part of a larger purpose and that their time put into generating content is for a good cause.
==> Make It Fun
Don’t make it feel like work to generate content. Make it fun.
For example, when Gmail wanted to have users create a video for them, they didn’t make it sound like work.
Instead, they made it sound like a contest and made all the descriptions of the video they wanted very bright. They got tons of submissions and had a stellar video to use at the end of the day.
If you’re not employing user generated content as part of your web strategy, you’re missing out. The content generated can bring a lot of traffic to your website with barely any additional cost.
Use Customer Feedback to Answer “What Should I Write About Next?”
When you first started your content marketing business, chances are you had no trouble coming up with content ideas. But as you continually put out content, you’ll at some point hit a wall where you’ll start to have trouble coming up with new content ideas.
When you get to this point, instead of trying to figure out all your content ideas on your own, why not try asking your user? After all, at the end of the day it’s their opinion that really matters.
Here’s how to do this.
==> Asking through Direct Email
One great way to ask for feedback is to just ask by email. If you have a list of buyers or customers, just send out an email asking if they have any feedback.
If they get the sense that you’re really trying to help them by offering better content, they’ll be very willing to help you out.
This works especially well in environments that have a strong sense of community or a “we’re in it together” sense.
==> Using Surveys to Ask for Opinions
Surveys can be another great way to ask for people’s opinions.
Surveys can be a lot more involved, where you ask customers several questions and get a lot of useful feedback. You can ask questions about how they like the content so far, what they’d like to see more of in the future, any unanswered questions they have, demographic questions and so on.
Because surveys take more time to answer, usually you’ll need to create some sort of prize or incentive to get people interested. For example, you can give away a free eBook to anyone who answers the survey. Or you can give away a higher ticket item in a sweepstakes style.
==> Using the Phone
For marketers who want to go one step beyond what most people do, there’s the phone option.
If someone orders from you, chances are on their order form they needed to fill out their phone number. One way to get powerful feedback as well as to send a message that you really care is to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Let them know you’re calling because you want to make sure you’re providing the best service possible. Ask them if they have any feedback, or ask them 3-5 questions you prepared beforehand.
Once you have your feedback, use it to structure your future content so it really answers your customer’s unmet needs. If you do the feedback process well, you should have a very good idea of exactly what your customers want to know. If you provide that information for them now and consistently in the future, you’ll have loyal readers for life.