Last month, we explained the difference between content and copy and the purpose of both in the context of digital marketing. In this post, we’re spotlighting the Content Marketing side of the house—and our Content team is sharing their tips for writing compelling content that builds trust with audiences and search engines alike!
Consider the websites you spend the most time on. What it is about them that keeps you coming back again and again? They might have stunning graphics, impressive load times, or user-friendly interfaces, but there’s one thing that really motivates people to revisit websites.
The answer, of course, is that the content on these websites meets your needs. When it comes to digital marketing, we describe “compelling content” as information on a website that satisfies a user’s need and that works in tandem with copy to move people along the sales funnel.
At Hennessey Digital, we understand how important good content is to search engine optimization (SEO). From new, unique content to refreshing older pages that could be performing better, our comprehensive digital marketing strategy optimizes our clients’ websites with the content they need to grow their businesses.
We can’t share our secret sauce, but what we can do is give some helpful pointers for sprucing up your content free of charge!
Tip #1 – Write for Humans, Not Machines.
We all want our pages to rank well, but we’re long past the days where keyword stuffing gets you to the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Content needs to be written for the people who will end up interacting with that content: it’s really that simple.
Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines provide insight into what transforms ordinary content into high-quality content. For instance, you must make sure that informational content is:
- Accurately portraying expert knowledge while also being accessible
- Professionally presented
The content needs to satisfy the “why” behind the question that brought the user to that page in the first place. For instance, a user searching for a local accident attorney isn’t interested in what causes accidents: they’ve already been in one! They’re more interested in seeing what an attorney can do for them after their accident and find information on what they should do next.
Tip #2 – Satisfy User Intent Quickly.
A customer lands on one of your pages and the clock starts ticking. They will decide quickly whether your site has what they need, but how long is this timer?
It could be as short as 15 seconds.
You don’t have much time to grab and keep a reader’s attention. How do you keep a user on your page?
Your content needs to be front-loaded with the kind of information that signals to the user that you have the information or services they need. If a user has to dig to find information that’s important to their query, they may just give up and return to the search engine results to look at a different page.
(This is also why it’s important for your website development to focus on page-loading speed. If your content isn’t loading quickly enough, it won’t matter how good it is.)
Tip #3 – Format Your Text Properly.
While front-loading with valuable info is important, users should be able to skim your content and quickly get a sense of what your page provides. Research shows users best respond to content when it is:
- Easy to skim
You’ll also want to make sure your content is ordered logically, has clear headers dividing different topics, and that the spacing between headers and the paragraphs themselves makes the content easy to read.
Good Headers Make Good Content
The easiest way to make your content easy to skim is to use headers properly. A good header will catch readers’ attention while also explaining quickly and clearly what to expect within that section. Make your headers noticeable with larger fonts (H1, H2, and H3) and use title case, particularly if you’re writing for U.S.-based audiences.
Not All Screens Are Created Equal
Remember: a majority of website users access the web via their mobile devices. Long chunks of text may be easy to read on a monitor while you’re writing it, but walls of text are too much for a reader with a smaller screen in their hand.
Tip #4 – Anticipate Your User’s Next Question.
Part of satisfying a user’s intent comes from understanding what they need beyond the initial reason they visited your page. If you’re only scratching the surface of a user’s search, then you’re actually doing a disservice to your readers.
Say someone is looking for a local car accident lawyer. Beyond just finding any random attorney’s website the SERP pulls up, they may also be wondering:
- Is it worth it to even hire a lawyer?
- Should I still talk to a lawyer if the accident was a minor fender-bender?
- What’s it going to cost to hire an attorney to work on my case?
- Can I talk to an attorney for free?
Don’t miss the forest for a single tree. If your content is good, the user is better informed and will have follow-up questions you should answer. If you’re worried about going off on a tangent, interlinking between pages with more robust answers to niche questions can help the more curious users without distracting from the main point of the page.
Tip #5 – Show, Don’t Tell.
If you’ve ever watched a late-night infomercial, then you’re familiar with the line “But wait: there’s more!” But does it work for compelling content?
No, burying the lede does not work when it comes to creating compelling content. Share the information you have right up front rather than leaving it to the reader to decide whether you’re the right source for their needs.
Be Exhaustive Without Being Exhausting
What happens when you have a lot of information to share? How do you present it? Well, for one thing, 50 bullet points don’t make for compelling content. Neither do ten paragraphs under a single header, even if you think it may be necessary to fully explain a complex topic.
To make your content concise, you must provide concrete, actionable information. You should also interlink to related information on your site. Let the reader know how to contact your experts to learn more.
Tip #6 – Signpost for Going Forward, Rather than Backward.
“Signposts” are words or phrases that signal to readers where they are in a piece of writing so they don’t get lost. Signposting is an effective tool for improving a reader’s comprehension of your content as signposts let the user know what to expect from your page early on. Show that you’re building a logical chain of information as you go.
One caveat here: don’t repeat yourself! For example, rather than adding something like “as we mentioned” further down the page, rephrase your previous point and build on it with your subsequent point(s).
Tip #7 – Don’t Use People as Rhetorical Devices.
If you’re trying to sell a product or service, remember that people trust people over brands. People know that you’re a business and that you’re trying to make money. This, of course, makes them skeptical. People tend to trust other people’s experiences with the company they’re interested in more than anything that company can say about itself, which is why client reviews can be critical.
However, don’t use people as rhetorical devices for your content. What does this mean? Well, using phrases like “People ask us,” even if it’s true, doesn’t add informational value to your content and can actually hurt your credibility. Present your information factually and clearly without leaning on who may have asked about it previously.
Tip #8 – Build Yourself Up Without Putting the Competition Down.
I can see you grinning here, but hear us out. You want people to know that the product or service you provide is the best around, and while it might seem appealing to emphasize what you do right by pointing out what your competitors do wrong… don’t.
Think about this: if the average reader will only take 15 seconds to decide whether your page is worth their time, and the first thing they notice within that time is a snarky or otherwise negative comment about the competition, are they going to stick around to read more?
When building content around your services, focus instead on what makes you worth your reader’s time. Do you have a team of experts across the globe who can provide your clients with white-glove service? Have you continued to be one of the fastest-growing companies in the Americas despite a global pandemic? These are items better worth mentioning.
Good content helps elevate your website and can turn readers into customers. Even if someone leaves your site without being converted on their first visit, a well-crafted, unique selling proposition can pull people back into the conversion funnel in the future.
Tip #9 – Evergreen Content Is Always in Fashion.
Some content is written for a specific time and place. It’s perfectly fine if certain blog entries have a limited shelf life.
However, the majority of your content should focus on information that’ll be as helpful to one person now as it will be to another in a couple of years. For content that isn’t time-stamped, a prolonged discussion of “recent” events that aren’t so recent anymore can and will confuse your readers. Worse, it can signal to your readers that you’re not providing the most up-to-date information, and that includes your products and services.
Evergreen content should always be relevant. If, for example, your business is impacted by new legislation passed in 2021, it’s better to say specifically when the change happened (in 2021) rather than make the user guess as to whether the “recent” legislation is still actually “recent” at all.
Be Prepared to Refresh Your Content from Time to Time
Even the most evergreen content needs adjusting from time to time. New legislation may pass, or more recent statistics may be released. You’ll need to be ready to tweak or add on to your existing content for…well…forever! Revamping your content can keep your page firmly seated amongst the highest Google ranks, or it can even boost it right to the top of the SERP.
Ready to Integrate Optimized Content for Your Site?
While the phrase “content is king” is certainly true, no monarch is as effective alone. A robust digital marketing strategy that includes high-quality, original content is essential to growing your digital business. From cutting-edge SEO to PPC and analytics, Hennessey Digital has you covered.