Content marketing is a strange beast. What used to work for TV and print doesn’t necessarily work for online content; old rules no longer apply, and there’s no new rule-book, as the business is rapidly evolving and changing. There are, however, some lessons that can be applied to content marketing in the post-Web 2.0 era.
The attention span of website visitors is often compared to that of a goldfish, just three seconds. This is wrong on more than one level, as goldfish can remember stuff for up to five months, whereas the average internet reader stopped reading this post before we even mentioned goldfish, statistically speaking.
This message will self destruct in ten seconds
This means quality content must captivate the reader in a matter of seconds, otherwise all that glorious copy beyond the first paragraph is pretty much a waste of effort and money. Researchers put the figure at just ten seconds, so make them count – come up with a great title, funny sub headers, try out some factoids; they are an interesting choice as they can motivate the reader to check out the rest of the text for additional context.
Don’t forget about the visuals, either. Many people expect to see an interesting image or two. Alternatively video is another choice, albeit a bit pricier. Keep the videos short and to the point; people often don’t like to watch long clips on their tablets and smartphones. Basically, once they are already there, it’s up to you to make them stay, and you’ve got only seconds to do it.
Be original, or hire an original editor
There’s no reason to splurge on a star writer if you can’t afford one, or you don’t base your business model on a news site format. However, an average writer can do a great job with proper guidance, or a good copy editor.
The style must be unique, in many cases conversational, colloquial even. Go the extra mile and give your content something special, either a whole new angle, or a bit of zest and original humour. Doing what everyone else does simply isn’t enough, and there’s plenty of room for creativity. On the web you can be both professional and informal at the same time, you can be concise and informative, funny while delivering a serious point – one doesn’t cancel the other one out, provided it’s done right.
Focus the content on the reader rather than your company; give it some thought and try to put yourself in their place – give them what they need, not a bland sales pitch. Also, keep in mind that many readers are skimmers and scanners, so make sure that your copy is neatly arranged, with paragraphs or bulleted lists if applicable.
What not to do is just as important
Good advice is easy to come across, but the same goes for bad advice. Search engines update their algorithms on a regular basis, so designing your content marketing solely around keywords is not a very good idea (trust me I work in SEO you will get penalized sooner or later!).
So avoid keyword stuffing, and avoid keywords that can’t be worked into the content seamlessly. Unlike Google bots, actual readers hate them. There is no substitute for good copy.
Try to be careful with calls to action. Just like keywords, they can and should be used, but only when they really make sense. Adding them randomly, or adding more than one of them in a single piece can have a negative effect – unless your target audience are people who spend their lives watching home shopping channels.
Lastly, be yourself and let your personality shine through!