Whether it’s a business, organisation, charity, hotel/B&B, education establishment, medical practise, wedding venue… I could go on, all but a tiny minority are represented online by a website.
A website is simply a curated set of information that services, advises, educates or informs its visitors and, now more than ever, a website lives and dies by the quality of its content.
Search engine ‘spiders’ are continuously crawling the web (apologies to the arachnophobes but they really are known as spiders) looking at every single website, following every link and reading every word on every page.
Search engines love content that is highly relevant to the terms people search for, so it’s important to keep your website updated regularly with new, fresh content.
If your website has stagnated, with no new or interesting content being been added for a long time (this is surprisingly commonplace), search engines effectively lose interest. Your website will rapidly slide farther down the search engine results pages in favour of those with new, fresh content and, once you slip beyond page 2 of the search results, you may as well not exist at all.
Creating a steady flow of new content is the easiest way to bring your website back to life so it begins to work its way back up the search engine rankings.
As a side note; Google has become the most commonly used word for anything search engine related. So much so, it became a verb many years ago (e.g. “why don’t you Google that?”). This may seem unfair, given there are other search engines out there too. Well, sort of. To put this into perspective, the other ‘big’ search engine names, including Bing, Yahoo, and the world’s largest independent search engines by country; Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China, collectively hold around 7.4% of market share. Google owns the other 92.6% all by itself, so when we use the term ‘Google’ in a collective way, i.e. in a way that suggests we really mean all search engines, we really do only mean Google!
Whilst this may appear to be a blindingly obvious statement; the common denominator in all successful websites is the quality of content, not the mere existence of the websites themselves. To hammer-home the point further; having poor quality content is not dissimilar to having no website at all, in terms of how effective it will be in search engine results. Is that clear enough?
People continually search the Internet for information on, and answers to, every subject imaginable. The right type of content on your website will answer their questions; helping them to understand if what you’re offering is what they need. It is, therefore, essential to make sure that you’re creating content that’s relevant to both your business/organisation/charity etc. and your audience – the people visiting your website.
Sometimes, people make the ‘buy’ decision in a snap, mainly when desire (want/heart), overcomes logic (need/head); I want it, I’ve seen it, I’m buying it.
However, for the vast majority, it’s a journey; I want it, I need convincing that I should buy it, I’ll buy it when I have sufficient confidence that it will be the right decision.
In both cases, the point at which the decision to buy is made is called The Zero Moment of Truth. This can happen offline; e.g. high street shopping, or online; e.g. visiting your website.
The journey to the ZMOT is typically a series of unconscious steps, each of which has a positive influence on the buyer’s confidence, pushing them towards the tipping point of making that final decision.
If you want any chance whatsoever of helping your website visitors reach the ZMOT whilst they’re on your website, your content needs to be of high enough quality to prevent them from feeling the need to take further confidence-building steps, and just buy from you.
What is ‘high enough quality’ content?
The best type of content serves to inform, educate or instruct its readers. In general, it shouldn’t be salesy or overly self-promoting, as that’s just bad form and will very quickly put-off people reading.
Rather than your content simply telling people what they can buy from you, try explaining how the product or service will benefit them; what they’ll get from having it/owning it/using it. Give away some of your intellectual property (the specialist knowledge only you possess) as it will demonstrate how keen you are to help them, not just how keen you are to sell to them.
There are a few main types of content a website incorporates;
- Company/Informative: about us, history, what we do, why we do it, who we are etc.
- Product/Service: descriptions, features, benefits, pricing, ordering, delivery, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) etc.
- Contact: where we are, how to find us, when we’re available, how to get in touch etc.
Very little of this is of any real interest to search engines in terms of how relevant your website is seen overall to the key phrases people are searching for.
The truly valuable content is news and blog posts/articles as they each tell a story that builds the reader’s confidence in your ability to serve them well. FAQs are also vitally important as there are in the region of 300 million question-type searches in Google every day. If someone types a question into Google about a product or service you offer, including the answer on your websites will significantly increase the chance of your website appearing at/near the top of the search engine results for that particular query.
What to write about:
If you are the business owner and the business exists because of something you know, or something specific you do (or have done) that continues to be of great value to others, write about what you know.
Whether you’re a car mechanic, hairdresser, chef, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, it’s the things you’re good at and how you’ve helped others and/or solved their problems; changed their lives; changed the world even, that is pure gold.
Your customers (clients, patients, buyers, prospects) will unwittingly provide a valuable basis for content too because they ask questions; all the time. Think about your customers’ needs, the questions they ask and the responses you give – often repeatedly.
Ask your staff and support/helpline people to provide their insight into the things they get asked about all the time. Talk to them about the conversations they have with customers and the solutions they give. Ask them for funny, interesting stories too. Write it all down and create two lists; one should be a straightforward set of questions and detailed answers (FAQs), the other should be anything interesting enough to write a blog post (news or article) about.
The latter doesn’t have to be an essay. Each post need only be around 500 words (roughly an A4 page). However, what you’re writing is good, and you’re not waffling, then write as much as you like – just keep it on-subject, relevant and interesting.
You are likely to know your business better than anyone, so content should come relatively easily to you, once you get your brain into gear. When you think about the uniqueness and breadth of your own knowledge, writing short articles on diverse, but related-to-your-business subjects, sounds like something you could do, doesn’t it?
Still struggling for ideas?
Consider this; if we met at a social or business networking event, I would ask what you did for a living. You’d tell me you were in business. I may ask what type of business it is and what makes it different from others. I may also ask what’s unique about your products or services, or perhaps why customers should come to you instead of your competitors. We would have an engaging, interesting conversation and you would very likely have no problem whatsoever clearly explaining the ‘why’ behind all my questions.
If you can do that face-to-face, that’s the basis of your content, right there.
Where to put your content:
Typically, news and articles will appear in a section of your website known as a blog. The word ‘blog’ is a portmanteau of ‘web’ and ‘log’. It’s use dates back to the late 90s and entered the dictionary as a common word in 2003, thereby spawning a whole series of new words; to blog, blogging, blogger/s, blogged etc.
Regardless of how comfortable, or not, you are with these terms if they’ve never been part of your vocabulary, the fact remains that blog posts are the foundation of content marketing and there really are no rules about what to do or how to do it. There really is no excuse not to either.
It’s not complicated, it shouldn’t be seen as a burden on your time and it shouldn’t be a chore either. It can be fun to write blogs, and doing so turns you into an instant author. Your mother will be proud. Your clients will be impressed. Your bank manager will be delighted and your contemporaries will wish they’d thought of it first.
You will need somewhere for your blog posts to be available for people to read, of course. This should initially be your own website. However, other online platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook (if you use Facebook for business), or even Medium, provide an excellent source of new readers. Posting your blog posts to your website (no stamps required) and sharing them through social media is part & parcel of your own content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is basically the creation of material (such as your blog posts) tailored to a specific target audience (your existing or prospective customers) which is then shared using mainly, but not exclusively, the Internet, in order to create interest in you and/or your business.
If your website doesn’t already have a blog or news section, speak to your web-developer as it’s easy enough to set up, especially if your website was built using WordPress as that is fundamentally a blogging platform.
How to start writing blog posts:
Once you decide to start writing, unless you have previous experience, it’s a good idea to make a plan first. Think of its structure (the flow of the information), the point you’re trying to get across (its purpose) and the questions someone might ask that the article will endeavour to answer (the goal).
Creating a writing plan also helps you incorporate the all-important keywords and phrases that are searched for online but, by focusing on the questions, it makes you think of these phrases in advance, and not whilst you’re trying to write the content.
This blog post, for example, incorporates a many key-phrases such as ‘how to get found online’, ‘writing a blog post’, ‘how to write a blog post’, ‘content marketing’, ‘marketing strategy’ etc. All of this makes it easier for people to find in Google’s search results.
The blog structure is relatively simple and, whilst you can be flexible in your approach, it should follow these basic rules:
- Attention: Grab their attention to get them to read the article
- Insight: The key information that will most likely be of interest to them
- Connect: Trigger an emotion (joy, laughter, surprise, outrage)
- Promise: What information will this article provide or problem will it solve?
- How to: What they need to do
- Call to Action: What they should do next, e.g contact/buy/subscribe etc.
It’s quite likely that once you start the thinking/creative process you’ll come up with lots of new ideas to write about and you won’t know where to start. Try not to get overwhelmed, just begin with a plan to create a bank of posts, maybe 6-8 (you can’t really publish just one post on your website). Write the posts one at a time in draft form, roughly following the structure above. It’s a good idea to test them out on clients, friends and family for honest feedback, but don’t publish them just yet.
Once you have a handful of articles completed, you should launch the blog section on your website. You can add all the posts in one go but you should, ideally, change the published date of each to make it look as though they were written over a period of weeks.
If your website is business-critical, then directing people to your blog/news section is really just another way of driving new traffic (visitors) to your website so they can see what else you do.
What if you can’t or really don’t want to write?
Writing isn’t for everyone. It’s a fact and its fine, but you do need to be the creator, the thinker, the ideas person and the driving force behind the posts, or they simply won’t happen.
However, if you’re convinced you have neither the time nor the inclination to write content, consider outsourcing it to a copywriter. The speed at which a professional Copywriter will write, and the quality of work they will produce, will easily justify the additional cost. It will also help you get up and running more quickly.
There is a caveat. Copywriters cannot magically create content for you – at least not content that is of any real value – without your input and guidance. It’s a collaboration, a partnership and you still need to be involved. A Copywriter will need your input and guidance as this will form the base content on which they will expand.
Also, do not, I repeat – do not – outsource Copywriting to online services offering to write posts for $10. You will get a page of words but the language, terminology, tone and style will bear no relevance to you or your business. Use a local, professional Copywriter that you can engage with and discuss what you need. Someone who will be able to learn about you and your business.
Finally, a reminder to not get hung-up believing you have nothing to write about. Writing new, fresh, interesting content will re-engage your customers and bring new people to your website, so enjoy it.
What are you waiting for?