Valuable Content is the Only Content That Counts.
Unless the content you provide is valuable to your reader, you might as well dump your work into the trash can.
All the SEO and paid online ads in the world won’t improve traffic and conversion if no one clicks on your web page or blog article and takes actionable steps—like filling out a contact form or downloading a white paper.
People know quality from drivel, and the only win today’s content wars is to publish content that is worth the readers’ time. The good news is that you can take the nine concrete steps below to boost the value of your content and reach digital marketing goals.
Here are 9 ingredients for creating valuable content.
I’ve organized the nine ingredients into three larger categories:
- Focusing on the user,
- Proving that you and your content are trustworthy, and
- Providing useful knowledge to your readers (as in the table below).
Hopefully you can combine these nine value-creating elements into content that is fresh, appetizing, and nourishing.
Know Your Audience in a Meaningful Way
1. Start with the Basics.
The first rule for any marketing effort is to be audience-centric. Your content’s focus should always be based on what is important to your customer.
For example, if your ideal customer’s overriding concern is purchasing a technology that makes their team more productive, an article about the five lowest priced items on the market isn’t a great topic.
Let’s look at a few more examples:
B2C example: Say you own a hip Asian fusion restaurant in the downtown area of a large city. You primarily serves a younger crowd that enjoys an innovative menu. Based on their interests, habits, and behaviors, a good topic might be about hottest places to get an after-concert dinner–not where to get to get the best early bird special in the suburbs. Beyond the topic itself, your audience will impact your language, tone, and writing techniques–not to mention how you promote the article.
B2B example: if your company sells B2B financial software, you wouldn’t consider your audience to be everyone who uses or buys software or works in the finance industy! You would select a topic and writing style that appeals to certain audience segment, such as a mid-level technology manager in the finance industy, whose company is mid-sized and has “x” budget.
Once you have a good idea of who you are writing for, it’s worth digging a bit deeper into what your readers care about. This is at the heart of any type of valuable content and why the task of developing research-based “buyer personas” is so popular among marketers.
Personas move beyond knowing audience demographics of your “ideal buyer” to understanding their lifestyle, behaviors, and motivations. These psycho-social elements help provide maximum insight into your readers’ concerns and how you can most effectively answer their questions.
Learn more about buyer personas.
2. Identify Relevant Topics.
You probably already have a lot of good topic ideas, but you can do additional research into what people care about (and what they ask Google about). This research can validate your topic ideas, indicate new story angles, and help you discoover entirely new topics to add to your list.
In addition to brainstorming with yourself or others, here are more ways to uncover valuable topics:
- Ask your sales force about their conversations with customers.
- Identify your most popular blog articles and web pages.
- Look at user response and comments from previously published content.
- Look for topics your competitors are publishing content about.
- Look at surveys and research about your industry sector.
- Type a relevant search term into your browser and see what the top articles are about, what’s in the “People also ask” section (underneath the top articles), and the “Searches related to…” listings at the bottom of the page.
- Peruse articles, reviews, editorials, and reader questions in online industry publications.
3. Address Emotional Pain Points.
To address readers’ concerns in the most meaningful way, it’s worth thinking about emotions factors related to certain topics. Pain point often refer to problems such as low productivity, budget limitations, and management skills. At the same time, there are emotional pain points that can be triggered when discussing certain problems.
As an example, perhaps you determine that your readers want to know how to decide between two brands in the same product category. You can provide just facts, with a list of features and benefits. However, a more engaging way to draw in the reader is by addressing the emotional aspects of making this decision. One scenarios might be that the reader is worried that a poor choice will prevent a potential promotion. On the flip side, a good choice may make them confident in their ability to help the team.
You have some choices when appealing to emotional pain points, and each has its place depending on the audience, type of content, and goal. You can alleviate a negative emotion (such as fear), reinforce a positive emotion (such as confidence), and sometimes even drive a negative emotion or uncertainty to provoke them into taking action (“Don’t miss out!”).
Give Your Readers a Reason to Trust You.
4. Demonstrate Expertise.
Not only do you want to know about your audience, your audience wants to know about you. People want information from an expert, someone whose judgment they can trust. Specifically, they want to know why they should listen to you—if you’re the real deal or if you’re faking it. Good content can help you become the resource they turn to again and again when they have questions.
With B2B in particular, you can buld trust by demonstrating that you are well informed and knowledgeable. In many cases, this means backing up your arguments with proof points by providing relevant statistics, sharing care study results, or being linked to another credible source. I enjoy doing research, so I tend to back up arguments with data, and here are my words of advice: always be accurate, attribute data to the proper source, use well-respected sources, and use the most current data you can find.
5. Take the Time to be Credible.
A number of factors play into a reader’s perception that you are a top-tier, reliable professional. The first thing many readers will notice first is not the point you are trying to make. Rather, it’s the perceived level of professionalism you display.
For example, poor spelling and grammar make a very poor first impression. Everyone let’s a typo slip now and them, but consistent errors will cut you off at the knees. Not only won’t they trust what you say, they’ll also think you don’t care about them, eroding trust in your brand. Likewise, if you don’t provide sources for your data, the validity of information you provide is questionable. Beyond typos and grammar, there are other common writing pitfalls to avoid.
6. Create Something Original.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that plagiarism and copyright infringement in any form are never acceptable. This means more than not copying materials or attributing a source. Directly using someone else’s exact thoughts and just switching around some words is also considered plagiarism.
Unfortunately, there are many authors whose expertise amounts to just this—stringing together someone else’s words and ideas. There is so much content online that it’s hard to find a topic that no one else has written about. But it’s important to put your own ideas, slant, thoughts, and experiences into each piece your write.
If Content isn’t Useful and Usable, Don’t Bother
7. Make Your Content Easy to Consume
You don’t want your reader to work hard just to read your content. Making content easily digestible requires editing and proofing your work relentlessly. Sometimes it even means tossing it away and starting over again.
With so many distractions, plus the ability to instantly click away from your content, you want to reader to be comfortable and stay awhile. Some key areas to consider include:
- Language: Avoid jargon, poor sentence structure, and needlessly complex words.
- Personality: Even B2B articles should make the author sound like a person—not a robot or an encyclopedia. Tell personal stories, share your own emotions, use humor, be relatable, and show that you understand their situation. Write the way you speak, with contractions and examples.
- Headline: Did you know that, according to Copy Blogger, 80% of readers never get past the headline? Make all of your headlines count, and make sure the article or website copy follows through on what the headline promises.
- Format: Use headlines and subheadings to increase scannability, include bullet points and lists to highlight details, and use short paragraphs to break up dense copy. Build these elements with SEO in mind.
- Graphical Elements: Graphics add interest and help break up the page, along with videos that engage readers.
- Informative: Salesy copy and hype are turn-offs and can distract from the message you want to convey.
- urls: Blog article and webpage urls should be informative, not just a jumble of letters and numbers. The title of your content shoudl be in the url–to help the reader and Google identify your content easily.
8. Provide Constructive Help and Advice.
I’m all for sharing interesting concepts, but readers will appreciate your taking that extra step to help them apply concepts to real-life situations. For example, in the previous section, one of the bulleted items was to add personality to your writing. Then I gave some examples of how you can convey your personality, rather than leave it to your imagination.
Not every step of an article needs to be a how-to, but at least sprinkle in some pieces of immediately useful information. These constructive tips will help the reader better understand the article and give them ideas on other applications.
9. Plan for a Positive User Experience (UX)
You are writing for real live people, not search engines algorithms. Instead of focusing on SEO while you write, focus on writing in a way that keeps readers on the page. It’s good advice to build in keywords and other front-end SEO techniques into your title and headlines after the initial writing process.
Google rewards you when people respond positively to content, as indicated by factors like click rate, backlinks, and pages per session. Yes, a writer can support SEO efforts, but it’s not your priority. In the end, creating valuable content for readers is your best contribution to your organization’s digital marketing program.
Follow the Recipe For Effective Content
Written content is best served up in ways that are valuable to readers. You can do this by using the highest quality ingredients–knowing your audience, sharing your expertise, and providing useful information that answers important questions.
Creating aluable content takes time and effort–and your readers deserve nothing less. If you need content support content a freelance writer. Boston-based Westebbe Marketing is here to help with all your content needs. Contact us at 617-699-4462 or email@example.com