In this guest post, Nital Shah (pictured below), MD at Sydney digital firm Octos, says anyone and everybody is making content for online. But here’s his six tips to make sure yours shines over the competition’s…
As more and more brands embrace content marketing as a cornerstone of their online marketing strategies, the digital world is in the midst of a content gold rush. It’s no longer enough for brands to simply have an online presence; they must now also authenticate their brand identity with compelling content.
But don’t fall in the trap of simply churning out content for content’s sake. Everything you publish should be original, informative and relevant for your intended audience. Here’s a few golden rules to keep in mind when mapping out your content marketing strategy.
- Keep it Crisp and Clean
When you’re developing content for the web, bear in mind the mode and method of consumption. Some people still like to curl up on the sofa with a book or newspaper, and pore over its contents for hours. But many of us simply don’t have the time.
These days, much of our reading happens online, on-the-go and in a fragmented fashion. With mobile Wi-Fi becoming the norm, it’s not uncommon to squeeze in a few minutes of reading time over lunch or during a morning commute. So web content should be crisp, concise and easy-to-read. Save the heady jargon and flowery superlatives for your next textbook or novel. Make your content informative but accessible, and easy to digest in bite-sized morsels.
- Turn Heads with Strong Visuals
To make your content more engaging and user-friendly, avoid dense, long-winded blocks of text. Where possible, break up your text with striking images that reinforce the central messages of your content and capture the imaginations of your readers. The online marketplace is very crowded, so use eye-catching images and compelling visual elements (such as graphs, video and illustrations) to attract eyeballs and make your content stand out. Or make your content interactive to really engage readers in the reading experience.
- Make Sense with Structure
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This basic principle also applies to web content. When developing online content, every story must also have identifiable value. Before you get started, decide on the central idea that you want the content to convey – the ‘point’ of the piece. That story concept is the fundamental core of value that you will create for readers.
Once you’ve established ‘the point’ of your content, you must introduce a logical structure to ensure that the piece reads well. First, introduce your readers to the main purpose of the article. Then explore that purpose in the body of the piece before you offer readers advice or valuable ideas to conclude.
- Hook ‘em With Catchy Headlines
First impressions are lasting. If your online content leads with a dull, uninspired headline, readers will typically move on to the next, more interesting headline. For this reason, headlines are just as important as the content itself – if not, moreso. When composing your headlines, be playful, witty, clever and provocative. That said, don’t be sensationalist or sneaky. Today’s Internet users are savvy and if you spam them with click-bait, you just might lose a friend for life. Use relevant keywords where possible to optimise the content for search – but only if the keywords are a natural fit.
- This is Not a Sales Pitch. Use Your Authentic Voice.
It’s an oft-made mistake and one that you should avoid at all costs: sounding ‘salesy’. Content that is laced with schmaltzy sales jargon and shameless self-promotion sticks out like a sore thumb and is an instant turn-off for readers.
Create content that sounds authentic and authoritative, but never pushy or hungry. Using plain speech, share valuable factual information in a comprehensible, compelling way. Give your audience some credit and write for them in your own natural honest voice, with no sparkly lingo or thinly veiled ulterior motives. When you treat readers with respect, you’ll win them over.
Keyword stuffing is a shortsighted content marketing practice that does more harm than good. Search engines are hip to keyword stuffing and they don’t like it one little bit. In fact, excessive stuffing can incur over-optimisation penalties.
When you force-feed keywords into your content at every available opportunity, it shows. More often than not, the repetition of words makes for a dull read. Natural synonyms, on the other hand, keep things interesting and hold a reader’s attention. Don’t shy away from key search terms altogether – just use them sparingly and naturally. There’s no need to jam them into every URL, every page title, every image tag, every H1, and every sentence.
Gone are the days when news websites and publishers were the only ones who were expected to replenish readers with a never-ending reservoir of news and content. We now live in an information age where all brands must regularly validate and qualify their expertise and merit with quality content. If you don’t see how content can increase your brand’s competitive edge, you simply don’t understand the power and function of content marketing.