Content is one of the key ingredients to a successful online strategy: whether used in email marketing, social media or blogging, great content engages prospects and keeps them coming back to your brand for more. Without it, an inbound marketing strategy can’t get off the ground, making it a core concern for online businesses.
But as anyone knows who has spent any amount of time online, there’s a big difference between boring content and engaging content. Google knows this too: that’s why several years ago, the search engine was updated to boost blog posts and articles that keep readers interested and engaged.
In 2019, every SEO strategy should be focused on content-creation. Providing value to prospects is the first step to building client loyalty, and free content is the best way to provide value while earning traffic and leads.
But how do you create content that walks the thin line between promotion, education and entertainment? In this article, we’ll answer that question with a focus on short-form and long-form articles.
- Tell a Story
If you’ve ever scanned a newspaper, you know how easy it is to skip articles with boring introductions. The best content begins with a hook that engages the reader and draws them in. But how do you keep them on the line?
The answer is to tell an interesting story.
This doesn’t mean that every post or article you write needs to begin with a personal anecdote or historical trivium. However, every post you write should have a beginning, middle and end; an introduction, climax and conclusion.
There’s science behind why this works: research shows that the human mind processes narrative in a similar way to arguments, and that’s why politicians and other public speakers use them all the time.
- Use Visuals
In 2019, visual content has finally surpassed text-based content as the norm. This includes infographics, videos and social media posts.
However, you don’t have to create strictly visual content in order to benefit from the visual format: blogs, white papers and emails can all use header images to introduce a topic and illustrative images along the way.
According to one famous A/B test, articles with images receive 94% as much attention as those which lack them. Furthermore, it has long been understood that pictures of human faces increase reader interest and engagement.
Beware of stock photos, however: the purpose of an image should be to illustrate your content or brand. Stock photos rarely serve this purpose, acting instead as a placeholder for effective visuals.
- Choose a Different Angle
Web content needn’t rise to the heights of journalistic brilliance. However, engaging web content should at least be interesting to read – and that means it should be easy to differentiate from the mountains of information your readers can find elsewhere.
Finding an interesting angle means that an article about changing tires need not begin with a history of the wheel beginning in prehistoric Babylon. Likewise, not every article needs to be an explainer or a how-to.
While most readers will stop by your site for practical information, they will also want personality and color. There are plenty of ways to inject some:
- Begin with an anecdote or personal story (about needing to change tires)
- Begin with a recent event (a celebrity broke down and needed to change their tires)
- Begin with a statistic (x% of drivers don’t know how to change their tires)
Any helpful, whimsical and interesting trivia can be used to kick off a post on almost any subject. Use that to your advantage.
- Use Principles of Rhetoric
Web content is meant to provide value for your readers; it is also meant to persuade them. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, which – as it turns out – has been very useful to people, even before the Internet came into being.
For over two thousand years, people have been studying rhetoric, and since ancient times, three “modes of persuasion” have been discussed. Here’s a brief primer on what they are, and how to use them:
- Pathos – pathos is persuasion through emotion. Emotion sometimes gets a bad rap, because it is considered manipulative. But this isn’t entirely true: sometimes emotions are completely legitimate. When providing a solution to customers, businesses depend on the positive and negative emotions that a customer feels: a negative emotion towards the problem that a solution solves, and a positive emotion when the solution solves it. An appeal to pathos means relating to the emotions of your audience.
- Ethos – ethos is persuasion by character. Put simply, an audience needs to know they can trust their rhetor (speaker). Showing experience and trustworthiness is a good way to increase your ethos. When businesses share customer testimonials, they are appealing to ethos. When they share industry certifications, past experience and case studies, these are also appeals to ethos. Use ethos to build your credibility and win trust.
- Logos – “logos” is the Greek word for “logic” or “reason”. This is what philosophers and scientists use to argue for certain beliefs or points of view. As a business, it’s important to have logical reasons why your prospects should agree with you. A simple way of appealing to logos is the use of statistics. For instance, if 70% of your customers report positive results from using your product, citing that is an appeal to logos. Use logos to show your audience that your view is reasonable.
Although the theory behind rhetoric can be abstract, the reality is very practical. Writers and speakers use rhetoric all the time. Understanding it will help you to be more persuasive and to analyze content from your competitors.
- Format for Readability
Numerous studies have conclusively shown that prospects consume web content in a very particular way. For instance, they do not read from left to right – they scan from top to bottom in an ‘F’ shape.
These studies have produced a few good rules of thumb for writing:
- Do not use long paragraphs.
- Do not use long lines of text.
- Do use lists to organize content
- Do use headers to introduce new subjects
Although these rules may seem obvious, they can be easy to neglect unless content is made with an Internet audience in mind. There are plugins to help you follow best web-writing practices, such as Yoast SEO and these can make your job as a content writer easier.
Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR