October 15, 2015

Content Creation Best Practices

Content: a term that everyone seems to use but no one appears to completely understand. Much like “storytelling,” the definition of “content” has become so diluted that the question should really shift from “what is content” to “what isn’t content?” A nice definition provided on Contently states that content is “…any form of media that others will want to lean in and consume, all supporting a brand in some way,” and ultimately distinguishes that piece of media as content rather than advertising.

For the sake of this post, let’s forget about all the different types of content or media available and just focus on copy: the text on the website, landing page or email that’s designed to inform, engage and/or convert your audience. Despite the proliferation of videos, images and animations aimed at achieving the same goals, copy still plays a vital role in content marketing. Yet so many companies still manage to produce ineffective copy. Why?

Generally, the companies that tend to get copy wrong are the ones that either don’t give it enough thought or think about it in the wrong way. A company that doesn’t think enough about their copy likely has long, jargon-filled blocks of text that scream “I’m trying to sell you something!” blanketing their site, or rambles on and on with details that the user isn’t interested in (we’ve all heard the saying, I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one). A company that thinks about their copy in the wrong way is likely so focused on finding an exact equation for the optimal number of words in a headline, CTA or blog post that they lose site of the bigger picture: what those words are actually trying to convey.

When it comes down to it, creating compelling content comes from clarifying your goals and understanding your audience. And even then, it’s not a solid formula; the only way to find out what works best for your unique audience in your unique industry is to A/B test your copy yourself.

That being said, there are a few general concepts that tend to ring true across the board:

  1. Keep it clear and concise – One of the most important things to remember when writing website copy is that unfortunately, very few people will actually read it. Study after study has shown that most internet users simply skim your webpages, reading a few sentences here or there before moving on. That means you only have a few opportunities to grab their attention and get your message across, so you need to think strategically about what that message is and the best way to convey it succinctly. A good rule of thumb is to write out everything you want to say, then cut it in half, then cut the result in half again. Seems extreme, but your users will thank you for it later. And in case you need to see the data for yourself, there are some great tools you can implement on your website that will track users’ time on your site and which content they engage with the most.
  2. Break it up visually – Huge blocks of text don’t only look bad, they also drive people away. Breaking up text into small, digestible chunks with different formatting, bullet points, lists and so on is a great way to grab the viewer’s attention. If you can’t beat the skimmers, encourage them to skim to the right places by providing them with visual clues.
  3. Encourage action – Even the shortest, most compelling copy isn’t going to convert if it doesn’t have a clear offer. Every page on your site should have some sort of call to action–whether that’s downloading a white paper, filling out a contact form or making a purchase. If you don’t know exactly what you want your audience to do when they visit your site, they aren’t going to know either. Writing effective calls to action is tricky, but it’s one of the most essential parts of creating compelling copy that also converts.

Need to create new content for your site but aren’t sure where to start? Want to know if your current content is as effective as it could be? Let us know! We’re experienced in content strategy, content audits and SEO best practices.

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