It’s a fair presumption to make that pretty-well every business, organisation, charity, hotel/B&B, education establishment, medical practise, venue… I could go on, has a website now, whether it’s a consultant selling time, a charity providing support, a venue selling tickets or a restaurant taking bookings. Whatever it’s for, 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.
Google’s ‘spiders’ are constantly crawling the web (sorry to all you arachnophobes for the analogy) looking at every single website, following every link and reading every single word. Search engines love new, fresh content that changes frequently and is relevant, so if your website has stagnated and nothing new or interesting has been added for a long time (this is surprisingly commonplace), then creating new content is the easiest way to bring it back to life and get it noticed again by Google and humans alike.
As a side note; Google has become the most commonly used word for anything search engine related and it became a verb many years ago (“why don’t you Google that?”), which 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 holds 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!
This may appear to be a blindingly obvious statement to make, but the common denominator in all 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 search the Internet constantly for information on, and answers to, every subject imaginable, so the right type of content will answer their questions and help them understand if what you’re offering is what they need. This means it’s important to make sure that you (or whomever) are creating the type of content that is relevant to your business/organisation etc, and relevant to your audience – the people visiting your website.
In relation to a business, if people are searching for information about the products or service you sell, then satisfying their need for specific and relevant content that relates to the products or service means that when they’re at the point that they’re ready to buy (otherwise known as The Zero Moment of Truth), they’re more likely to come to you pre-qualified and part-way along the buying process.
This doesn’t mean your content should be salesy or overly self-promoting, as that’s just bad form and will very quickly put-off people reading, let-alone sharing, what you’ve spent time and energy creating. Consider that instead of your content simply telling people what they can buy from you, let it explain 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 etc.
- Contact: where we are, how to find us, how to get in touch, enquiry form etc.
There’s a host of other stuff your content could be too, especially if you’re a bank or financial institution, or breakdown/emergency service etc, but none of this is really of any interest to search engines in terms of how relevant your website is seen overall to the key phrases people actually search for.
The truly valuable content is the news, updates and blog posts you create as they all tell a story, and these are what you need to get your head around creating because this type of content will keep your visitors interested and paves the way for them to formally engage with you.
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 (whether you’re a car mechanic, hairdresser, chef, butcher, baker, candlestick maker), write about what you know; the things you’re good at; how you’ve helped others and/or solved their problems; changed their lives; changed the world! It’s your key area of expertise – the stuff only you know and what you believe other people don’t know. That is pure gold.
Your customers (clients, patients, buyers, prospects) can unwittingly provide a valuable base for content too because they ask questions; all the time. Think about your customers’ needs, the questions they ask and the responses you give. Start with a list of questions (ask your staff/support/helpline) to chip-in with the things they get asked about all the time. Talk to them about the conversations they have and the solutions they give, ask them for funny, interesting stories. Write it all down and create a list that can be turned into a series of useful solution-type blog posts later on.
Each post doesn’t have to be an essay; around 400-500 words is fine, although if it’s good and you’re not waffling, then write as much as you like – just keep it on-subject, relevant and interesting.
Undoubtedly you know your business and your particular field of expertise better than anyone so the content itself should come relatively easily to you once you get your brain into gear thinking about it, especially now that you know that it forms the foundation of getting your website found online. When you think about the uniqueness and breadth of your own knowledge, writing short articles about diverse, but related-to-your-business subjects, suddenly sounds like something you could do, doesn’t it?
Still struggling for ideas? Consider this; if we met at a social event and I asked what you did and what makes your business different; or what’s unique about your products or services; or why customers should come to you instead of your competitors, you’d have absolutely no problem answering the questions and clearly explaining the ‘why’ behind all the questions. Well, guess what? That’s the basis of your content, right there.
Where to put your content:
The ideal place for this type of content is what’s commonly referred to as a blog. The word ‘blog’ is a portmanteau of ‘web’ and ‘log’, dating back to the late 90s, entering the dictionary as a common word in 2003 and 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 blogs are the foundation of content marketing and there really are no rules about what to do or how to do it, so there really is no excuse either!
A ‘blog’ is generally the repository, whereas the blog post is where you’ll be concentrating your efforts, one post at a time.
Each post should be about a different point of interest and its format can be whatever takes your fancy.
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 need somewhere for your blog posts to be available for people to read, of course. This should initially be your own website but also posted on other online platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook (if you use Facebook for business). 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:
When you decide to start writing a blog post, unless you have experience in writing such content, 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 your blog post will endeavour to answer (the goal).
Doing this 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 because Google will index the entire article to list in its 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
- Insight: The gem that will really be of interest to them
- Connect: Trigger an emotion (joy, laughter, surprise, outrage)
- Promise: What will this provide or solve
- How to: What they need to do
- Call to Action: What they should do next (contact/buy/subscribe etc., but not always relevant)
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 though, 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, following the structure above, and maybe test them out on clients, friends and family for feedback, but don’t publish them just yet.
Once you have enough posts (a handful), then launch the blog section on your website with all the posts written so far published, and start telling people/customers at every opportunity that there’s new, interesting content for them to read there.
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 and/or buy from you.
What if you can’t or really don’t want to write?
Writing isn’t for everyone. It’s a fact and its absolutely fine, but you need to be the creator, the thinker, the ideas person and the driving force behind the posts, or they simply won’t happen.
So, if you really 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 produce, will easily justify the additional cost and you’ll be up and running in no time.
However, Copywriters cannot magically create content for you, not content that is of any real value, at least. It’s a collaboration, a partnership. They will need input, guidance and, above all, 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 and nothing will be right or relevant about it. Use a local, professional Copywriter that you can engage with and who learns 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?
Originally published by Clive Wilson on LinkedIn in 2016. Fully revised and updated in August 2019.