Get out your pencil and paper.
Go ahead; I'll wait.
You'll want to jot this down. The information's that good. You'll use it over and over... even if we never see each other again.
But, we will. I can almost guarantee it.
And you'll want to share this information with your friends and colleagues.
Now, isn't that what you want to accomplish with your own content marketing articles?
You want to write content that's so insanely useful and relevant that your reader will save it, maybe forever. And you want to write content that's so insanely useful and relevant that your reader will want to share it with her colleagues and co-workers.
If that's what you want, then measure your content against these three key standards. Your content must be:
- Relevant information
- Immediately usable
- Highly readable
Let's start with relevancy, shall we?
It must be useful and relevant to them
Your content must be relevant to your reader's CNI factors – Challenges, Needs and Interests.
If not, why should she bother reading it? When your reader takes the time to consume your work, make sure you reward her with a valuable takeaway. Sonia Simone – Cofounder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media – says you should treat your readers like dogs. You need to give them Cookie Content.
I've got a dog…I understand where she's coming from. When we got our little fox terrier – The Sugar Babe – she needed training. Mary took her to classes and we taught her at home too. One thing that the pro taught us is that good behavior needs to be rewarded.
So when she did something that pleased us, Sugar got a treat. A biscuit, a chewy stick – it didn't matter. It was something special and it reinforced her actions.
You reward your reader by giving her useful, relevant information that makes her life better. The desirable action you're rewarding is the reading and sharing of your article. Give her enough content she can really use and she'll follow you anywhere.
And bring her friends along.
But, there's another standard to follow.
They need to be able to use it now
And I mean RIGHT NOW.
Not three years from now, three months from now or even three weeks from now. I'm talking immediately, if not sooner.
Here's an example.
Which of these two content articles are you more likely to save and share?
- A 5-Year Strategic Plan for Increasing Your Search Engine Results, or
- 5 Easy Things You Can Do This Weekend to Improve Your Website's SERP Ranking
I don't know about you, but that second one gives me goose bumps. I can find the time to do five things this weekend, especially if it will start improving my site's ranking. But if it's going to take five years… well, I may not be around by then.
Write about stuff your reader can use right away.
But here's one more, vitally important standard.
Your content must be highly readable
It was American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, that said:
"Easy reading is damn hard writing."
He was so right. And for many writers, the hardest part of writing good content for the Web is making it easy to read.
It's because people read articles differently on the Web than they read print articles. Books, magazines and newspapers are written for people who can sit down, take the time to read dense copy and, if interrupted, pick it up later to read further. That's what many writers learned in school.
It's not that way on the Internet.
Some would have you believe that the Internet audience has a short attention span. I don't believe that for a minute.
Remember…these are the same people that also read printed books, magazines and newspapers.
They're just in a hurry, on a mission, when online. They need good information and they need it now. If yours is not relevant, useful and easy to read then it's, "Hasta la vista, baby!"
Here's how to ensure your content gets read, saved and shared.
Write magnetic, attention-getting headlines and useful subheads.
I never read an article without reading the headline first.
However, I have read many article headlines and didn't read any further. Does that explain the importance of good headlines? Thought so.
The headline grabs the reader's attention and often makes a promise of what is to come.
Subheads are important as well. They serve as roadmaps for the article. Additionally, without them the content is one big, scary blob of copy.
Without good subheads, further reading is often a flip of the coin. Always remember that most, if not all, Internet readers are scanners. They're looking for indicators that the time invested reading your work will be time well spent.
Use magic bullet points and irresistible numbered lists
Bullet points and numbered lists are extremely useful.
They can be used as mini tables of contents or used to highlight important points. Note the bulleted list at the top of this article. It briefly explains what the article covers…which is reinforced in the subheads.
They can also be used to vary the cadence, the rhythm of the article. This prevents the text from becoming a "monotone" chore. Rhythmic writing entices the reader to continue on.
There's also a bit of psychology to use when it comes to choosing either bullets or numbers. That may be an article for another day. But suffice it to say that numbered lists are good for showing sequence or ranking, while bullets let the reader know that all points are on equal footing.
Other forms of text formatting are equally important. Bolding and italicizing bring emphasis to your points. They also draw attention as the reader scans your text. But use them sparingly.
Finally, write like you're talking to one person
Content that's saved and shared is often written in a conversational tone. And it's best if it's a dialogue, not a monologue. There are times when a more technical, exacting form of writing is necessary. But right now, job number one is to get your reader on your side, to feel confident about your intentions.
The meatier stuff will come later.
You want to become someone who she can know, like and trust – a likeable expert. You do that by having a one-on-one conversation with her. If she feels comfortable with you, she'll save your work for future use.
And she'll share it with her friends and colleagues…today.
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