Your business needs content. How else will you get visitors through your virtual door and showcase your expertise or services to potential clients?
But what happens when you put your heart and soul (and valuable time) into creating content and nothing happens? Or your visitor stops by and decides your content isn’t for them? Cue speedy exit and another bounce from your website.
Maybe content writing isn’t your core skill. Or you’re pushed for time trying to do everything yourself and your writing suffers. It happens.
As a content writer and editor, I see the same mistakes made by micro-businesses the world over. But these mistakes are easily fixed. And once you know how to fix them, you can take action and get yourself back on the content track – and your customer onto your sales train.
Headlines are so important. The internet is a noisy place and you need to attract attention. The purpose of your headline is to grab your reader's attention and get them to read the first line of your article. On average, 8 out of 10 people read a headline while only 2 out of 10 go on to read the body of the content.
You need to make your headline the rock-star of the piece.
What to do: Make your headline specific and attention-grabbing. Offer to solve a problem your target reader has. Don't oversell and be clickbait; you know, those Upworthy or Buzzfeed style headlines of the ‘you’ll never guess what happened next’ variety. Make sure your content delivers on your headline's promise.
Use numbers e.g. 5 ways to get anyone to read your article
Or a 'How-to' e.g. How to get anyone to read your article.
Try combining them: How to get anyone to read your article: 5 easy steps
One of the key benefits of content marketing is increased online visibility. If you’re creating content, you want people to find it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Your need to include relevant keywords to get you found in search engine results. Beware of over-stuffing your text full of keywords though, it won’t sound natural.
What to do: Include your main keyword in your heading, first paragraph, last paragraph and sub-headings. Sub-headings are great – they’re the power-house of your article. They make your content look good and get picked up by search engines.
A second reason your content isn’t getting found is lack of promotion. Do you subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ ethos? Don’t! Just because you publish something doesn’t mean it’ll get found. No promotion is akin to letting traffic find you by chance. Is that how you want to run your business? I know I don’t.
What to do: Promote your content on social media platforms where your ideal reader hangs out. Send out regular messages using snippets from your content. Then use Google Analytics to see what your best content is and create more of it. Reuse your best content in various forms across different platforms e.g. turn a blog post into a slide deck or infographic.
When I started re-using blog posts on Google+ I turned up on page one of Google for my keyword ‘small business content marketing’ and my web traffic increased.
Are you giving your reader valuable information? Teaching them something, entertaining them or solving a problem? No? That’s a mistake. Make your message about your reader. What's in it for them? Don’t make them think ‘so what?’
Write about things your audience wants to hear. If you don’t, they won’t hang around.
What to do: Understand what your ideal reader is interested in and write around these topics. Avoid making your topic too broad. Narrow it down to give focus. Also avoid it being too niche that only one person will be interested. Need help understanding your ideal reader? Use this cheat sheet to help you fill your blog with content your super customer loves.
You only have a few seconds to keep your reader’s attention. If you present them with a wall of text, they’ll run screaming. Or hit the back button.
Break up large blocks of text with a block-quote.
What to do: Break up text. Use three or four lines per paragraph. Use bullet points. Insert quotes using block-quote styling, or images. Ensure you include sub-headings. They help your reader scan your article. A great feature image will also help you stand out when promoting on social media.
Without flavour your words come across as bland and tasteless. But adding spice to your content doesn't mean peppering your text with chewy morsels such as very, actually, just or really. These don’t add anything and just bloat your sentences. Also avoid garnishing with gushing adjectives like: amazing, wonderful, successful or ultimate.
Adjectives? An adjective is the describing word before a thing or person i.e. dazzling colours or hairy dog. Many adjectives are overused and have lost their power. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. A little sprinkle is fine. And as for jargon that’s just over-salting your dish. Only use jargon if your reader uses it, otherwise, cut it out.
What to do: Edit your content to spot weak phrases. Cut out stale, empty words and replace with stronger alternatives. If your content is adjective-heavy, see if you can remove some of them. If your sentence still reads fine, then you know the adjective can go.
Making your words stronger
The ultimate guide to creating a world-class content strategy
A time-starved entrepreneur's guide to creating a content strategy
You need to ask your reader to do something. Think about why you want them to read your content and what you want them to do next. Do you want them to sign up for an email newsletter? To share the content with colleagues? To book a sales call? This is your call to action. Your content may be tick all the boxes. But if you don't ask the reader to do something once they've finished, then your content won't get you the results you need.
What to do: Add one call to action to each piece of content you generate. Make it clear what the reader should do once they’ve finished reading.
You push out loads of content one month on various platforms and none the next. OK, you’re busy. But if you want results from your content – leads, search engine rankings, whatever, you need to be consistent. Content marketing is more marathon than sprint.
What to do: Plan your content in advance. Note down what you want to publish, on which platform and when. Use time-saving tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule social media updates for the month ahead. You’ll get more traction and your efforts begin generating the positive results you want.
Your digital content needs to be in good shape if you want a decent online presence. But in most cases you only need to make a few tweaks to your existing content to see positive results. Try one of these tips on your content today.
Sarah is a freelance copywriter, CV writer and bid writer. She writes content for businesses, established entrepreneurs, and professionals, helping them get found by potential clients or recruiters, while saving them time.
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