The modern digital landscape and the phenomenal growth of social media in recent years has resulted in the conclusion that content is king. The American entrepreneur, author and Internet marketing expert, Seth Godin famously declared that ‘content marketing is the only type of marketing that’s left.’
Thankfully, writing great content is not just the premise of global corporations and professional writers. With a bit of thought and effort devoted to putting together an effective content strategy, small business owners can reap the benefits of the latest form of royalty.
Determining a Content Strategy
Like every aspect of business, it’s useful for small business to determine a roadmap for where they are heading. Common goals for content writing are to develop credibility for expertise within a particular field, increase sales, drive foot traffic or improve search engine visibility.
Putting some thought into what is desired from producing content in the first place and considering the potential audience will go a long way toward honing the approach.
10 Tips for Crafting Engaging Web Content
1. Web content should always be unique, but it’s worth noting that it should also be interesting. It’s a good idea to give due respect to SEO efforts but remember that content littered with awkward keyword phrasing is very off-putting to the majority of readers. Modern search engines are intelligent enough to recognize keyword stuffing activities and while specific search algorithms remain shrouded in mystery, it is generally accepted that Google et al will give preference to content written with the user experience in mind.
2. Keep in mind that web content is read differently than printed media in that it is scanned and not read word for word. Content can be made more user-friendly with simple techniques like interesting headlines that grab the attention of readers, avoiding sentence structures that are overly complex and using subheadings or white space between sections to break up the content of text. Using lists as opposed to long paragraphs is a great strategy to make sure content is less intimidating to readers.
3. Extend the reach of your web content by making it easily shareable across the various social media sites. Social networking sites account for around one in every six minutes spent online with approximately 30 billion pieces of content shared each month on Facebook alone. It’s easy to see why it’s worth making it easy for users to share your content with their social connections. Social plugins for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ should be incorporated into each website page, article or blog post.
4. Web users spend the majority of their time reading the content presented to them when a web page first loads. Considerably less time is devoted to content that can only be found after scrolling down the page, so remember to prioritize your need-to-know information ‘above-the-fold.’
5. Web content should be easily digestible. Consider those readers who are looking for an answer to a particular question and make it easy for them to get the information they need. Great web content combines plain language with concise and relevant information.
6. Visual content like infographics, charts and graphs presents a real opportunity to improve any content strategy. A picture is said to have the ability to convey a thousand words, so don’t discount the use of images, videos and so on to complement your content and explain complex data.
7. Lose the caps and the exclamation marks. THEY’RE NOT BIG AND THEY’RE NOT CLEVER!!! A better way to emphasize specific parts of content is to simply embolden important words within the text. Exclamation marks make content appear spammy or to have been written by a child.
8. While not discounting the fact that quality is preferable to quantity, posting new content once or twice a month won’t cut it. Lead Generation Lessons from 4000 Businesses, a study conducted by HubSpot in 2011, found that business blogs with over 200 blog posts generated over three times more leads than blogs featuring less than 20 posts. Make sure readers have a reason to come back.
9. The main aim of a content strategy may well be to increase sales, but there is no reason to let readers know that. Content littered with calls to action, advertising and product references is likely to be nothing short of boring. Stick to keeping content interesting and increased sales should be a natural result.
10. Use analytic tools to monitor progress. Keeping an eye on statistics such as visitor numbers, how they found particular content and how long they stuck around can be eye-opening. Tools like Google Analytics can tell you all this information and more. They offer a real insight into reader demographics and preferences, representing a real opportunity to tweak and improve any content-driven marketing strategy.
Follow these tips to ensure that readers don’t immediately reach for the back button on their browser. Professional writing skills are not necessary. Even small business owners who are not naturally gifted writers can follow these tips to creating effective content. Make it short, make it simple, make it easy to share and the rest should take care of itself.
Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Liverpool in the United Kingdom. She is a full-time writer, published author at Degree Jungle who specializes in social media, technology and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter at #seelindaplay
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