Small Business Guides
How to do great content marketing
7 min read
Do you want to create brilliant content? Not sure where to start? Whether you're writing a web page, a blog or a tweet, the right words will attract and keep customers. So let’s look at the ways you can up your content marketing game this year.
Your writing needs to speak to your audience
If you want to communicate with people, you need to know who you’re speaking to. You need to focus on your target audience and put them first. Try to get inside their heads and understand what makes them tick. The tone of voice and the words you choose speaks volumes. So take time to make sure everything you publish is well thought through.
Everyone is a publisher these days, whether it’s a blog post, a video or an email. So it’s never been more important to ensure that the content you create is quality. Writing well is a skill, so in this guide we’ll look at what it takes to produce great written content.
Getting started – identify your target audience
As mentioned, you need to start by knowing who you are you writing for. Different audiences will respond well to different types of writing. Try to identify one or two audiences to target, as you can’t target everyone. Ask yourself:
- Who will use your product?
- What information do they need?
- What language would they use when talking about your product?
- Who is their tribe – who do they interact with?
Try to build up a mental image of the typical customer for your product or service. Use market research to help you create a clear picture of your target audience. Next, look at the actual words and what makes for content that surprises and delights people.
Eleven tips for creating content that rocks
Business writing isn't easy, and it takes practice to do it well. Your writing should be informative, helpful and authoritative, with a healthy dose of personality. And of course you need to also be able to get your message across. Here are some hot tips:
- Keep it real
Write the way you would speak – be conversational and use the magical word ‘you’. What would you say to a customer’s face? Read your content out loud and pretend they are sitting across from you. Don't be over-friendly or too familiar though, or you might lose some authority.
- Make your content bite-sized
Little snippets of information are more likely to be retained in your readers' minds. Aim for about 20 words per sentence and chunk your content into logical paragraphs and sections. The attention span of someone reading online is not that long. So you need to ensure you get your point across quickly.
- Focus on a theme
Start with one or two related themes and stick to them. Focus will help you build up site authority, in the eyes of your readers and in search engine algorithms.
- Make it scannable
Use short, punchy bullet points when it seems natural. Consider using numbered lists too. People love these because they're easy to read and are memorable. Make sure you use easy-to-read design. It’s important you have enough white space around your text and avoid using distracting colours.
- Pitch at the right level
Use language that's suitable for your target audience. If your audience is large and diverse, use simple, familiar vocabulary and plain English. If your audience has a specific level of education you may be able to get away with more complex words.
- Use meaningful headings and subheadings
Memorable headlines will encourage your readers to take note of what you have to say. For example ‘Bookkeeping’ is a pretty meaningless title. But ‘Basic bookkeeping to run your business’ tells the reader more about what they will be reading about.
- Build in keywords so your content can be found
Know in advance which keywords to use to help with search engine optimization (SEO). Incorporate these into your writing as you go along – don't try to add them later. Not sure what a keyword is? Read our guide on SEO writing for small business.
- Test your writing in a reading app
Use online readability tests such as read-able.com to see whether your writing is pitched at the right level. If it's not, shorten the sentences, simplify the vocabulary and try again.
- Don’t duplicate your content on other sites
You run the risk of being penalized by Google in search rankings if you post the same content on another site.
- Make it trackable
Use tools and link shorteners such as bit.ly or goo.gl to help track your readers. You'll be able to find out where they come from, where they go, which articles are popular and which are not. This will help you create good content.
- Make it easy to share
Use social media buttons to make it easy for readers to share your content. Target top social networks and actively try to spread the word about your business. Spend 15 minutes a day highlighting your content on social networks and let your work contacts know.
Write the way you would speak – be conversational and use the magical word ‘you’.
So how much should you write?
The short answer is, “it depends”. Readers on a blog expect content of about 500 words. Yet some consumers, like business buyers, appreciate more detailed articles of over 1,500 words. Of course, the information still needs to be relevant.
The key is to experiment to see what works best for you. Try different lengths and use analytics tools to see which articles get the best response.
Leverage your audience
Your audience can help you create good content. Many of your readers will be happy to contribute, especially if you mention them by name. Here are three things you could try:
- Quote your readers' comments, or interview them if they have something interesting to say.
- Invite them to write or blog on your site – but make sure you edit their work before publishing it.
- Use their feedback as a starting point for your own writing.
Be careful to strike a balance. User-generated text is cheap and plentiful – but it can be less authoritative than content you write yourself.
Seven ideas to get started with now
You might not think you have much to write about. But any business can be made interesting with a bit of creative writing. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Interview your customers. Ask them what they look for in a product.
- Write about what you've learned from working in your industry – be an expert.
- Collate relevant news articles, with a short introduction and conclusion. Make sure you avoid breaching copyright.
- Publish some industry data, perhaps with your own comments. Make sure you acknowledge the data source.
- Choose some of your clients to interview for case studies.
- Review any books, movies or magazines that are relevant to your business.
- Check out a few tools and sites such as Wordstream, Copyblogger, Content Marketing Institute and the Google Keyword Tool (you will need a Google account). A great content marketing book is ‘Epic Content Marketing’ by Joe Pulizzi.
Avoid writing about your business and focus on writing about what will be interesting for your audience. For example, ‘Mary’s ice cream shop is the best!’ sounds like it’s going to be a sales pitch. But ‘The surprising history of ice cream’ is relevant and engaging, and not all about you. This will help you build trust with your audience and keep their interest levels up.
Great content is the gift that keeps on giving
Quality writing is the foundation of an effective website, blog or social media campaign. If you can produce interesting content that your readers find valuable, they will engage with your brand. This will lead to higher sales and free word-of-mouth marketing.
Writing is like exercise or sport – the more you practice, the better you become. Try to write a little every day, to get into a routine. And don't be afraid to ask for help.
Keep your target audience in mind and treat them and their time with respect. Give them useful information but don’t lose sight of your commercial message. Remember, good content is one of the most effective marketing tools available – and also one of the cheapest.