I’ve pretty much unsubscribed from most email lists.
There was a time when I found some of the content useful. I also liked to keep abreast of how other companies were using email marketing and blogging to engage their prospective customers.
But then it all became very predictable and everybody started copying everybody else.
Blog posts titled “10 TIPS TO….”
Emails headed with “WHY YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN’T MISS THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME…”
Much content structured in this way may be genuinely helpful to those new to blogging. And it is also true that without an attention-grabbing headline, email open rates can suffer.
But there’s now so much of the same crap out there.
Headlines that border on hilarious and bland regurgitated content that lacks any original thought.
And that’s a shame. Because email and content marketing absolutely works. If it’s done intelligently.
But your customers are probably already suffering from severe content nausea…
So how on earth do you get your online content read, let alone create a reaction? And why isn’t your content getting noticed and converting your readers?
What might you be doing wrong…
You’re Trying to Please Everybody
Whenever you write a post or add a page to your website, you’ll typically get one of three reactions:
Some readers will really like what you write, some will be indifferent and others might not like it so much.
Unfortunately, you can’t please everybody, no matter how hard you try; even though that’s what many websites are trying to do.
And if you’re writing for the approval and acclaim of your own industry, your content will fail to resonate with your visitors.
Strong statements, opinions and beliefs may polarize…
But honesty and passion will get you noticed and help develop an affinity with your readers and prospects.
As long as your content is relevant to your business and you don’t confuse passion with a rant from out of left field, your readers will appreciate something a little bit different.
Don’t be controversial for the sake of being controversial, but don’t be afraid to offer strong and bold opinions.
Your competitors may curse and whine – almost like you’re kinda expected to “fall into line” – but I’d suggest you totally embrace any such negative reactions.
You Have No Unique Angle
I’m going to use this article as an example.
I could have easily opened up another blog page and rehashed an article by simply rearranging sentences and substituting a few words here and there in each paragraph.
But in doing so, I would succeed only in padding out our blog with blandness.
There may be a small amount of SEO benefit to the additional content, but that would be counteracted by a lack of social sharing and would be very unlikely to convert any of our readers into future customers. And don’t forget: Google loves original content!
I choose to write about matters and subjects of which I care about and hold a strong opinion; one that may help our readers.
I write fast and dump my brain into thoughts on a page in barely legible sentences, before editing a couple of times into something that hopefully has meaning and value.
You see, if your readers have read the same article a thousand times before, in slightly different guises, then how will you or I stand out in any way?
I won’t. You Won’t.
Today’s reader is too deprived of time and way too savvy to waste several minutes reading yet another rehashed article titled “5 tips to grow your Twitter followers…” or “Why our customers only consider booking Mucky Boots Gardening Contractors”…
Embrace the likelihood that you will receive the occasional snide comment from a competitor or turn off a small percentage of your readers.
Ultimately, you’ll gain more fans by doing so.
You’re Forgetting Your Audience
We love web design and coding and we like to talk about it.
But most of our clients would completely switch-off within five seconds of an article or conversation turning highly technical.
And so it makes no sense for us to blog about the code of a website or to discuss the minutiae of a particular trend known only to web industry insiders.
We want you to understand what we’re about, whilst hopefully providing you with a clear sense of your website priorities. To achieve this, we try to write informally but with passion.
It’s a more effective way of translating your beliefs onto the page and engaging readers. And this informal style of writing can be carried through all your marketing literature; website pages, blog posts, emails, letters and flyers.
One of the best bits of advice I ever read about writing online is to imagine you’re writing a letter to a longtime friend.
It really does help you get a sense of how to talk to customers through your writing.
Don’t be afraid to drop the corporate tone, and instead start blog posts or emails with a short, interesting story. I know this may shock you, but…
You really are writing to human beings!
And Here’s Where I Sort of Go Back On Everything I Said…
Yes, I did indeed declare that the usual rehashed “10 Tips to Dominate…” style of the article is getting a bit tiresome.
Yet, there are some very important tips you can follow in addition to writing with personality and being a little bit different from your competitors.
Here are some key tips for writing more effective online content:
Editing for the web
It’s not just about correcting spelling mistakes (have you spotted any?!)…
You should edit your copy to ensure you’re not confusing your readers with words or terms they may not understand.
Don’t try and be too clever.
Break up your copy by using sentences of varying length and inserting headings or bold text when appropriate.
Remember that readers on the web will scan headings and sentences before deciding if there is value in your article or text.
Don’t overdo the long paragraphs.
And it’s perfectly OK to break the traditionally accepted rules of grammar when writing online.
Just don’t edit lazily and publish material riddled with errors or penned half halfheartedly.
Be generous with your knowledge. Your readers will respect you for it and therefore value your contributions.
Especially if you’re also emailing them regularly.
Sharing your knowledge helps with credibility and trust.
Whether you’re a web designer and you forsake a small fee by providing a bit of free technical guidance, or you’re a carpet cleaner who gives out free stain removal advice and therefore misses out on a small stain removal job, the benefits and future business you’ll receive will far outweigh any short-term payout.
The helpful web designer will no doubt get the full website refresh when the time comes along, just as the generous carpet cleaner will likely be rewarded with a more profitable carpet and upholstery cleaning booking, eventually.
And an unexpected side effect to blogging with generosity is that the search engines will probably reward you just as handsomely as your customers.
Because if you’re spending a bit of time researching and answering your industry’s search queries…you’ll get a pat on the back from Google.
A bit like real life this online malarkey isn’t it?!
Optimising your blog posts for SEO
You don’t have to pay an SEO company in order to get your content found.
Sure, it helps enormously in eliminating potential errors… and mistakes can be costly…
But, if you are the diligent sort, and you have enough time on your hands to learn the fundamentals, you can implement a local search strategy by following a few established steps:
1) List your business on Google Plus by first setting up a personal profile and then adding your business. Be sure to verify your email address and business and request your pin.
2) Research keywords for your website pages and most blog posts. It’s very handy to at least know what your customers are asking about. You can do this by using Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
Don’t be tempted to keyword stuff articles or write exclusively for the search engines, but do keep an eye on what pages would best match higher volume keywords and which articles would be suited to answering relevant search queries.
3) Install the Yoast SEO plugin on your site and use it to ensure each page is optimised for your important keywords. These may be location-targeted keywords or more general terms. It’s far from an exact science, but the Yoast plugin will help point out any errors and suggest improvements in page titles, headings, content, images and links for each page.
4) Write posts of sufficient length. This doesn’t mean that you have to crack entry into Google’s In-Depth articles section. But it does mean that a 100-word post is unlikely to cut it for search engine optimisation purposes. Does it need to be 200, 300, 500 or even 1000+ words? Who knows…but it would probably be sensible to write in excess of 250 words for most posts. And if you’re providing genuine value to your readers, this will almost certainly be the case.
Writing for the web is hard
It can be a daunting task for some.
It’s difficult to consistently come up with fresh content and new ideas. And it takes a leap of faith to break away from what your competitors are talking about.
But the results of a consistent content strategy will be more than worth the effort.
You will get results; whether that be measured by improved search rankings, increased engagement, higher customer conversions or a combination of all three.
Be sure to write regularly…with honesty.
Generously…with passion. And often with humour.