The Missing Guide to Writing for Content Marketing
- What literary techniques can you use to keep your audience engaged?
- Is your writing aligned with your content pillars to maximize its value for your audience?
- Do you have the correct keyword phrases to optimize your article for organic search traffic?
- Did your photographer/graphic designer optimize your images for SEO to align with your writing?
- How can you use your blogs to generate leads for your business?
Table of Contents
- Rule 1: Always Be Helpful
- Endgame Copywriting
- Refining Your Message
- The 7/Eleven Test
- Architecting Cornerstones & Content Pillars
- Persuasive Copywriting Frameworks
- Rethinking SEO for Content Marketing
- SEO for Photography & Graphics
- SEO for Video
- SEO for Content filetypes
Rule 1: Always Be Helpful
If you’re an old-school sales professional, you may have heard the phrase, “ABC: Always Be Closing.” That doesn’t work when your goal is to build an audience. Your audience will tune out constant sales pressure tactics. On the other, people rarely refuse help.
Set being helpful as your number one priority for your audience.
It would be best if you always defined the journey you are taking your audience on before you start writing. If you don’t know where you’ll end up, your audience won’t either. Malcolm Gladwell once said that he writes the end of his book from the beginning. Then the writing process becomes a journey to get there.
Writing for content marketing requires starting with the call-to-action you want your audience to take. Take some time before you begin writing to define your CTA. Be clear on what your audience will need to know to move from no-decision to the one you desire. This process will add force you to make your writing crystal clear.
Passing The 7/Eleven Test
As an education executive, my superintendent and I reviewed the agenda items we needed for board meetings. My responsibilities included oversight of all organizational technology investments. That made my agenda items highly technical. The superintendent always asked me if my agenda items had passed the 7/Eleven test.
What is the 7/Eleven test? He explained the 7/Eleven test this way, “If I presented your agenda item to the person working at the 7/Eleven, would he understand it without any additional background?” The bottom line was that there was no need to prove our smartness. We need to pass the agenda item to get on with our business.
The 7/Eleven test is a constant reminder to simplify, not dumb down. Your goal should be to increase accessibility to your insights, not prove how smarter you are to your audience. So, how do we apply the 7/Eleven test in writing for Content Marketing?
One of the most popular reading-ease tests is the Flesch Reading score. The higher your Flesch Reading score, the less difficulty your audience will have consuming your content. Shoot for a score above 60 to pass the 7/Eleven test.
Refining Your Message
The number of products or services you provide is no excuse for sloppy messaging. If someone asks you how you can help, you can’t look up your website! You must clearly state what you can do in less than 30 seconds. PERIOD.
Clarify your message so that your audience will grow. It sounds simple. However, this is precisely where most businesses lose their customers. If your value proposition is confusing, your business won’t grow. Or, as the kids say, “you’re doing too much.”
Your brand story is an invitation to a hero’s journey. Guess what? You’re not the star of this epic. Your audience is the legendary hero. Connect with your audience to bring empathy and humility to your brand story.
Architecting Cornerstones & Content Pillars
The first benefit of clarifying your message is your communications are more aligned. Now, you can hone your conversations around big macro ideas for your cornerstone topics. Cornerstone topics (also called Content Pillars) are the domains of expertise for which you seek to build your brand authority.
Use your cornerstone topics to build content appropriate for your audience. The content depth should match your offerings. The content scope should reflect your audience’s needs.
Your Content Pillars will be pages on your website. The subtopics of your Content Pillars are the story arcs across your customer journey. Use your subtopics to add more authority to your brand. Break down your cornerstone topics into micro-content for your social media posts to attract your audience to your brand story.
Persuasive Copywriting Frameworks
The most challenging part of writing content marketing is getting started. A writing framework will help you organize your thoughts into a coherent strategy to convince your audience of your position. But what’s the proper copywriting framework for content marketing?
It’s disappointing that most business schools are not teaching persuasive writing frameworks. So, you will need post-graduate work to remain current on the latest literary techniques. Here are some writing frameworks to build into your repertoire:
PAS: Problem – Agitation – Solution.
PAS is a straightforward copywriting technique for conversion copywriting. Use the voice of your customer to describe the pain their experiencing. You can draw them towards your offer by convincing them that alternative paths won’t make them happier.
AIDA: Attention – Interest – Desire – Action.
As one of the oldest frameworks, AIDA draws its strength by creating a compelling opening to arrest the audience from scrolling. AIDA works best when you have an offer too good to refuse.
The 4P’s: Picture – Promise – Proof – Push.
The 4P’s framework envisions a better world for your audience. It offers a plan to experience that world with evidence. The final stage is the Call-to-Action to invite the audience into the dreamscape.
FAB: Features – Advantage – Benefits.
The FAB Framework should be familiar if you’ve ever bought an app. In modern writing, brands highlight features as benefits. Marketers tend to show advantages through direct comparison with competitive offerings.
Storybrand SB7 Brand Script.
Donald Miller’s Storybrand SB7 Framework focuses on all brand messaging through its 7-step process based on storytelling elements. Your audience is the hero of the story. Your brand participates in your customer’s transformation as the mentor.
Regardless of the copywriting framework you select, your copy should always have these core components:
- Express empathy by using the customer’s voice in describing the problem you are solving.
- Create a “WOW! presentation” of what better looks like for them.
- Provide a plan to get them from their current state to their better normal.
- Deliver a compelling call-to-action to overcome your customer’s inertia.
Rethinking SEO for Content Marketing
With your Cornerstones in place, you can create your Content Universe. Build a universe of endless content discoveries for your audience to inhabit along the customer journey. This strategy is the new search engine optimization (SEO) thinking.
Google remains the dominant player in Internet search. YouTube is the number two search engine. Microsoft’s Bing rounds out the top three in the United States. However, there are more search platforms than Google and Bing.
People use Pinterest to search for inspiring ideas. If you’re looking for products, Amazon reigns supreme. Google Maps is the search engine for places. You should optimize your Content Universe for the type of searches your audience regularly does.
SEO for Photography & Graphics
While the emphasis is on writing for content marketing, your visuals are equally helpful when creating your Content Universe. An incredible hero image helps grab your audience’s attention. Let’s consider your imagery’s impact on your SEO.
Break your imagery into three categories: photography, illustrations, and infographics.
Photography: We recommend utilizing a professional photographer to build a custom stock library of images tailored to your branding. A custom image library is a new content asset for search engines to archive. These images will strongly associate with your content as the primary authority. Thousands of people can use pictures from a public stock library before publishing your content.
Illustrations: Illustrations have resurged in popularity for content marketing. Companies infuse their branding into graphics to convey their message with a unique identity. Another reason illustrations are trending is that they are mobile-friendly, small files. Hire an illustrator to bring character to your brand.
Infographics: Infographics are the standard when you need to pack a lot of information into a visual package. When you want to increase the virality of your content, use infographics. Infographics can also become a content upgrade as a downloadable print poster for your audience.
No matter what type of imagery you choose to pair with your writing for content marketing, there are some immutable rules you need to follow for SEO.
- Use your keyword phrase in the filename of your images. Create a new file if you re-use the image with content that uses a different keyword phrase.
- Use your keyword phrase in your Alt-Tag for your graphics. This field should be available to you through Content Management System (CMS).
- Optimize your files for mobile. Search engines prefer files less than 100 kilobytes.
- Prepare multiple versions of your images for high-resolution devices.
- Be intentional about metadata embedded in your photography. Either remove it entirely or ensure that it represents data you want to share (e.g., location data, copyright notices, etc.)
SEO for Video
Video is the stickiest form of content on the web today. Every search engine prioritizes video results in its search. You can use video to rank higher in search with the right strategy.
As previously stated, your words matter. Transcribe your videos to get more value from your spoken words. There are three immediate benefits of transcription:
- Search engines can find your keyword phrases to rank your video in search results for more traffic to your site.
- You can reach a new audience of people who are hearing impaired.
- You can extend your global reach by having your transcriptions translated into other languages.
Closed-captioning your video makes it more accessible to people who have your video muted. Web browsers and social networks mute audio in the video until the viewer unmutes it. Video SEO also improves the accessibility of your video for everyone.
SEO for Content filetypes
One of the most overlooked areas of SEO is content diversity. Your Adobe Acrobat PDF, Microsoft Word Docx, and PowerPoint PPTX are all excellent content assets for your SEO.
Search engines can parse your PDFs and Office documents based on open document standards. Your documents create another way to bring organic traffic to your website for offline content consumption.
Expand your Content Universe beyond webpages, videos, and images. Create a holistic resource for your audience to start their transformation journey.
Final Thoughts for Copywriting Magic
The written word is a marvel of power. You can use the power of words to create entire worlds for your customers to inhabit. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that brands need to be essential to their audience’s lives to thrive. Use this guide to move your business from surviving to thriving with better copywriting.