When’s the last time you paid any attention to a banner ad?
Let’s face it — web users have become adept at glossing over ads, no matter how well-placed they may be. These days, if you want to expand your customer base, you’ve got to have a solid content marketing strategy.
People are tired of the hyped-up, fluffy ads that don’t provide any REAL information. Instead, they’re looking for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. The only way to give them what they’re looking for is through solid web content.
The main difference between content marketing and advertising? It isn’t good enough to pique people’s interest for a few seconds. Instead, good content grabs their attention and keeps them intrigued for several hundred words (or more!). In the end, readers feel like they’ve actually learned something.
Recommended for YouWebcast: A Week in the Life of an Agile Creative Team
But how exactly do you create web content that does all of that?
- Start strong
If you don’t open with something interesting, you’re never going to get people to stick around. For example, I recently read an article about roofing that was (supposedly) written by an expert roofing professional. However, the very first sentence in the article was, “The roof is an important part of a building.”
That sentence is so blatantly obvious that it insulted my intelligence. More importantly, though, the sentence immediately showed me that the writer had nothing of substance to offer. If he did, he wouldn’t have started with a sentence like that!
So, how SHOULD the article have started?
After doing about a minute’s worth of research, I discovered that most homeowners ignore their roof until a problem pops up. That being the case, isn’t it much more interesting to start the article off by saying something like, “Are you one of the millions of homeowners who doesn’t give a second thought to you roof until it starts to fall apart?” A reader is going to see that question and think one of two things — either, “Yes, I am!” or “I don’t know. I could be!” In either event, the reader is going to keep reading to find out why that’s such a bad habit. Just like that, they’re hooked!
- Take advantage of the inverted pyramid
On my first day of Broadcast Writing class, my professor showed us the importance of writing according to the inverted pyramid — or, talking about the most important points first. It’s a technique that every journalist HAS to follow, but it’s equally important for web content writers, too.
Because it’s crucial to informing people! If, for example, I wrote, “This afternoon, a car was going 60 mph in the snow, when it crashed into a mountain. Police think that speed and weather were responsible for the crash. By the time all was said and done, all five people in the car died. ”
Did you zone out before I got to the main point (that five people had died)?
Here’s how the inverted pyramid gets to the point faster: “Five people were killed this afternoon, when their car crashed into a mountain. Police think that the car’s speed and the snowy conditions were to blame.”
Remember, a good content marketing strategy focuses on informing people. If you bury the most important details, your readers won’t take the time to uncover them!
- Make things scan-able
Most web readers scan things first to see if the content on their screen is actually worth their time. So, if you have gigantic paragraphs and long, flowing sentences, your content is going to look like it’s too much work to get through.
The solution? Make sure you only discuss one thought per paragraph. And, use lists whenever you can. (Just be warned — not EVERY piece of content can be turned into a list format!)
- Use active voice
Doing so means your readers will have fewer words to muddle through. Plus, active voice automatically makes your writing more clear and concise. For example, which looks better to you — “Mr. Smith rang the bell,” or “The bell was rung by Mr. Smith”?
- Focus on “YOU”
Using the word “you” will make your content more conversational, which is a big plus on the web. It’s also a great way to keep readers interested!
If your readers start seeing things that can benefit them specifically (instead of content that’s directed at the vague, broad “they”), they’re going to be eager to find out what’s next.
- Don’t cross-contaminate your content
If you’re writing an article, make sure the entire thing is informative. If you make part of it a sales pitch, your readers will think you’re trying to trick them instead of teach them. In a good article, the only place your company name should be found is in the resource box!