Have you ever started with a great title, then realized halfway through a piece that it just doesn’t work?
What if there was a checklist you could follow during the content creation process to make sure that never happened again? Check out this list of errors to avoid.
Why is good content important?
Content is everywhere – it’s part of both outbound and inbound marketing, email marketing, and many other marketing campaigns, including link building. There’s only one way to stand out, and that’s to create really good content.
If you’re looking to put your content together to build a personal brand, one option is through a blog. Check out this comprehensive guide on starting your own.
With our handy checklist, you’ll be on your way to making original, shining, page-turning content that grabs readers and shuns skimmers. Search engines like Google love good, long-form content. The better and more comprehensive it is, the higher the chances of success are. Great content also helps with:
- Brand loyalty: readers are more likely to return when the content is of high quality
- Brand awareness: amazing articles can leave a lasting impression that leads to the middle of the funnel product discovery
- Social sharing: good content has a better chance of being shared on social media
Let’s look at the steps to achieving all of this and more!
10 content marketing tips
1. Write down a slug
Instead of spending time deciding what your title should be, consider simply setting yourself a clear subject when figuring out your editorial calendar for the month or quarter.
Called a ‘slug’ by the print newspaper industry, it’s normally a 2-3 word proxy for a title. It should focus the piece on a key subject, but not constrain it.
Slugs are great because they’re both short and long enough to guide your content, but they’re not so long that they’ll get in the way.
Deciding on a title later on in the development or research of your content is a much better process. The research will take you towards a perspective, and only then will you be able to write a title that really encompasses that idea and hooks the reader.
2. Research the audience
Many content writers don’t spend enough time listening to the audience when creating a content marketing strategy for their business.
A common sales technique called “match and mirror” has its roots in psychology. Think about it from the perspective of a reader. You’re much more likely to trust something you read if it sounds like it could have come from you, a family member, or a neighbor.
When you want to appeal to an audience, increase brand awareness and improve your marketing goals, you need to spend a little time researching what people are saying. Use Google search, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media.
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Some dedicated tools like Answer The Public or Ubersuggest can also help narrow down how people talk about your topic. Audience research with tools such as Google Analytics can also help with figuring out what your most popular content is.
You can use customer reviews, user-generated content, testimonials, and social media comments as source material to understand the words used, tone of voice, and common subjects mentioned about your topic.
Keyword research tools can also allow you to understand how much people talk about each sub-topic.
When forming your content, you will want to emphasize things that other people emphasize and take your own stance.
Regardless of how radical your perspective is, you can resonate with your audience if you use their words, analogies, and tone. If you’re targeting an audience to sell a product or service to them, ask yourself: what specific words and phrases does this audience use to describe your product/service?
You might even have in-house customer research without knowing it.
Support calls, emails, and questions customers asked in the past can make a great starting point to understand your audience.
Once you’ve researched your audience and customers, you’ll want to create personas to represent them. Personas are like stand-ins for real people, with all of the same attributes of a real person.
Using a template like this one can help make sure you don’t miss anything important in your audience research.
When you’ve created your personas, you’ll be that much closer to creating content that matches your target audience.
3. Make an outline
Start with the rough structure of your content.
Do you want to use a persuasive framework? Add in examples of quotes, reviews, tone of voice, marketing tips, analogies or specific words used, and keywords. Then, fill in the questions you want to cover.
A persuasive framework is a type of content that convinces people by presenting information to them in a particular way.
A common framework used in marketing content is PAS or Problem-Agitate-Solution.
The pain points that customers often have (which should resonate with your audience) are presented first. Then, you present even more reasons why those pain points hurt.
For example, a mattress company ad might ask, “When’s the last time you had a really good night’s sleep?” Then, they’ll go on to say, “A poor night’s sleep can cause irritability, low productivity at work, or even permanent psychological issues.”
At the end of the article, after presenting a few more tacked-on issues you might be having as a result of your bad sleep, the solution is presented, “Meet tomorrow morning fresh with the BluTek pillow, with NASA developed technology to ensure perfect spinal alignment all night long!”
Each framework, such as PAS, lends strong psychological research to the structure of your content, but can also add a sense of familiarity since today’s digital natives are exposed to so many ads of the same format, and what is familiar makes us feel safe.
If you want to stand out a bit you can use some other writing frameworks, such as AIDA or attention-interest-desire-action. Or, you could break the mold entirely and write your content in a narrative style, complete with dialogue and action.
Lastly, you could go down the expository route, which is perhaps the most common type of content you’ll find today.
Long, well-researched content like this blog post is considered expository. Expository content explains from the basic concepts to advanced or advanced to basic, to cover a wide amount of conceptual territory.
4. Frame your perspective
A headline is something you might start thinking about now. But what’s more important is the perspective and framing of your content.
To come up with a unique perspective, start by thinking up several truisms or idioms revolving around your topic. Then, you can use those concepts to ask critical questions.
- Are there any of these concepts that everyone accepts as fact, which you can turn on their head and argue the opposite?
- Can you create any situations where it’s essential to have these opposite experiences?
Have any of these situations happened to you?
Taking a unique perspective will make your content much more worthy of reading rather than restating what people already know. It’s also possible to repurpose your content and headlines if they don’t work out for a particular article.
5. Start early on your visuals
Your visuals can be conversation pieces that your content builds upon.
At least for now, you should insert placeholders for your images, with the general concepts in mind, and form your content around the concept. Great visuals increase social shares.
And if you want to dabble in creating visuals yourself, it’s really not difficult. Personalized visuals get much more reshares, so it’s worth the effort.
Then, use those visuals to expand on your content, draw attention to a concept, or tell a story without needing any words at all.
6. Emphasize Text
Visuals don’t just need to be pretty pictures. Think about text emphasis.
As with headlines, you should consider emphasizing text that turns a truism or idiom around, offering a new perspective, or doesn’t fit the mold.
Readers will think, “hmm, that isn’t what I expected”, and be encouraged to find out what you’re going to say in the next section.
7. Keep it concise
Keeping the text as short as possible increases the potency of what is being said, reducing dilution, and increasing engagement.
If you’re using words such as:
- Or – consider eliminating them.
If your content sounds more authoritative without these words, it might be a great way to be more concise and assertive with your opinions.
Keep graphics and paragraphs from taking up the entire height of typical viewports, to reduce the wall of text effect. Remember that users never bounce as quickly as when they see a wall of text upon loading a page.
8. Use writing and editing tools
Before publishing content, use tools like Grammarly, Microsoft Editor, and others, to teach yourself better grammar, build vocabulary, and lose your bad habits.
Some bad habits can be eliminated entirely with these tools, such as:
- Passive voice
- Split infinitives
- Prepositions at end of sentences
- Excessive use of non-content words
Most of these habits happen when writers focus on making their content longer, not on their framing, persuasive argument, or on making their writing as short as possible.
The cool thing about AI editors today is that they have rich details about why they are suggesting. So you learn as you receive feedback from the editor.
Before long, your native writing score will be high without even applying the editor to your text.
9. Call your readers to action
A CTA, or “Call To Action,” is the part where you get your readers to do something, like “learn more”, “download”, or “sign up”, and is one of the most important aspects of a well-executed digital marketing campaign.
But CTAs can be much more subtle and can be woven throughout the writing process. If you’re selling products or services with your content, remember that the most common framework is PAS, with the CTA at the end.
Because PAS is so common, users expect this, and tend to ignore it.
The CTA doesn’t need to be at the end, like in the PAS framework.
Less obvious, more natural formats exist, which incorporate subtle cues for the reader to take action, like learning more, diving deeper into similar topics, or leading to a purchase.
For example, natural or native advertising is a type of content where you talk about a topic in a valuable way to the reader, but advertise something else. It’s normally an off-hand mention, which happens to be useful for that particular workflow.
It differs significantly from display advertising or more overt formats, because the content is directly useful on its own, even without the sentence or two which lead into the advertisement.
With rich content and native advertising, content creators can appeal to more sophisticated audiences and also feel good about creating useful content for their readers.
10. Resist overediting
- Is your content done?
- Is the original intended length expanding out of control during the writing process?
- If your editing is working properly, shouldn’t it be getting shorter?
- Do you still have the overarching theme and perspective that you started out with?
Many content pieces die due to over-editing and perfectionism.
Maybe try having several peers read different versions and rate the result. You’d be surprised at just how many of them are satisfied with your ‘inferior’ early results.
And that’s it.
You’re now ready to start making shining new content with the wisdom of a fellow content creator in your pocket. Now go, stretch your writing and creative legs, and upload something no one has ever thought of before.