Choose your words wisely!

Article

However your business communicates with the outside world, then this should be considered your content. Contrary to what you might think, your ‘content’ doesn’t necessarily need to be written down, just recorded in some format for others to see (this could include articles, videos or podcasts for example). I’d like to talk to you about the importance of your content. So long as your words are out there on the web they are your ‘content’ and should be thought about in some detail. During this article I’m going to look at the various angles that your content should be approached from including looking at your voice and tone, writing for SEO, social media and content marketing strategies - sounds thrilling right! Trust me, producing good quality content is easier than you might think - just follow the simple steps I’ve suggested below and you’ll be well on your way.

At what point does content become something worth thinking about?

This is a simple question to answer really, your content is gold no matter where it appears and at what scale. From a fairly lengthy article such as this, to the couple of words you write inside a button on your website - it should all be considered.

You might think that using the text inside of a button as an example might be overkill but if you put some thought into it rather than simply filling the space with ‘click here’ you’d be surprised at the results.

‘Click here’ for example is ambiguous. Why should I ‘click here’? what’s going to happen if I do? Will I be slapped in the face with a pop-up? Will I whizz off to someone else’s website? Will I be downloading a file onto my computer? By putting some more care into the simplest of buttons you can improve the usability (and accessibility) of your site no end. For example a better use of the button space would be a more literal message: 

“Learn how to paint” - ok, now we know it’s going to take me to read more about the painting article I’ve been reading about. One word buttons such as “More” or “Download” are different, though they hint at what’s going to happen they’re lifeless and lack personality - you’re talking to a human being here so why not act like one yourself? By spelling it out to your users using a more human voice you’re making their life much easier and they’ll be thankful for it. 

One handy trick for writing button content is to write it in the first person. By completing the sentence “I want to………” you will find that conversion rates will improve. For example, during a recent study, Unbounce found that there was a 90% increase in conversion when they changed their button copy from “Start your free 30 day trial” to “Start my free 30 day trial”. Simple but effective. 

Got it, so what’s ‘content marketing’?

Advertising has changed. Joe Bloggs records his TV programmes so that he can fast-forward through advert breaks, he skips passed printed flyers and adverts in the paper without much thought and his ‘targeted’ Facebook ads are starting to blend into the background.  Some marketers are turning to content as a longer term investment. By writing an article, producing a video or recording a podcast covering a subject that your clientele might find interesting (let’s say writing an article about content marketing for example…) the intention is that by covering the topic in detail you are perceived as an industry expert. By reading through or listening to your original content, your audience will buy into your voice and your values and they will want to apply some of those same values to their own business or personal life.

“Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” CopyBlogger.com

Defining your content strategy. 

Your content must have a strategy, without one you run the risk of appearing confusing, generic and inappropriate. By targeting your content in a particular direction you will identify with your audience more directly, your search rankings will improve, your message or ethos will become clearer and your business will become more credible. To define your strategy you must compare your own goals, your unique selling point and your values against market research (which includes both customers and competitors). In particular when conducting your research you should aim to discover trends in both voice and tone.

The difference between voice & tone

When thinking about your brand’s messages and how you want to get them across it’s important to first think about your brand’s personality or ‘voice’. Your brand’s voice must be consistent, if you think of your brand as a person, let’s call it ‘Tina’ for arguments sake, then Tina’s personality can’t just change overnight otherwise she might come across as a bit two-faced or untrustworthy as nobody really knows who Tina is. So what’s tone? In contrast to your business’ voice it’s tone is circumstantial and can differ depending on a particular situation. It’s important to remember though that the tone of any piece of content should still tie in with the business’ overall voice or personality. Tina might be upset or happy (changes in tone) but she’s still Tina and Tina’s friends (your customers) can tell that by how she speaks to them (she has a consistent voice).

Getting your voice right

Getting your businesses personality nailed down is key and is all down to research. If you research your clientele or target audience then you can learn how to adapt your content to create a tailored experience for them. Let’s look at how two businesses approach a simple explanation as an example:

The Content Marketing Institute describes ‘content marketing’ as, “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

However, to put it another way, you could say that, “content marketing is writing content that people will find interesting in the hope that they’ll think you’re interesting too”

From their definition you’d assume that the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has a quite formal, professional and business-like voice, their description is long, highly specific and uses ‘business-focused’ phrases such as ‘acquire a clearly defined audience’ and ‘driving profitable customer action’. On the other hand, our second definition may not be as specific or detailed but still gives a pretty accurate summary of what content marketing is. The differences between the two are their personalities, their brand and their voice. As a consumer, if you’re used to interacting with the business language that’s used by the CMI then you may prefer their analytical approach whereas if you aren’t quite so accustomed to the jargon then the second approach may be easier for you to get your head around.

“Serious gains in conversions don’t come from psychological trickery, but from analyzing what your customers really need, the language that resonates with them and how they want to buy it”  Conversionxl.com

This is often an area where people get their content wrong. If you’re writing some text for your new website for example, you may want to come across as being at the top of your game and your instinct may be to write in the language that you’ve become accustomed to as someone who has been part of the industry for 30 years or so. This is fine, so long as you’re marketing your product to others within the same industry, with the same background and knowledge as you. On the other hand, for most of us we’re marketing our product or our services to people who don’t know a lot about what it is that we do. They don’t need to after all, all they want to do is to understand what it is you do and in most cases how much it costs. By connecting with them through a similar use of language they will be more inclined to buy into your business because, well, it ‘sounds like them’.

A statistic from Janrain tells us that

“74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when their content appears irrelevant to them”

So let’s get it right people.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) through content

Google and other search engines want to know that your content is trustworthy and relevant. Besides from its general body copy, your website’s content also includes page titles and page descriptions (or meta descriptions) - make these relevant and unique to each page (including a couple of keywords that you feel are relevant to the page’s topics) and you’ll do well. The other thing Google looks for is regularly updated content. The best ways to achieve this are to review the text on your website every few weeks to keep it fresh and to get yourself a news or blog page that’s frequently updated. That’s it really, there’s no real wizardry to it and with a CMS at your fingertips there’s nothing stopping you boosting your own search rankings.

“Companies that publish an average of 15 blog posts per month generate 1,200 new leads” Hubspot

Writing content for social media

I read an article recently that stated a pretty shocking truth about marketing on social media: “99% of brand-created content generates little to no engagement on social media.”

When you think about it though, this shouldn’t really be such a surprise, people have better things to do than share your 140 characters of stale product marketing. You might now be thinking, “ok, so what’s the point then?!” The point is that this percentage is so high because most people aren’t using their social media marketing in the most effective way. So how do you join the 1%?

The way we see it, the main mistake most people make is trying to sell products in every tweet, this direct approach is tedious and uninteresting. Instead you should be focusing on building on your brand’s personality by sharing tweets, posts and articles that your customers might be interested in hearing. These topics might only be tenuously linked to your products and services but overall you’re creating a lasting favourability with your target audience. This indirect approach to social media however, could be considered ‘the long game’, and as such measuring its effectiveness has to become more general. By this I mean that you can’t necessarily measure the success of an individual tweet using this method, instead you’re more likely to be able to measure a growth in followers over a longer period of regular tweeting.

What are the benefits of content marketing?

By writing your own content online you are adding value to your business, not only in the perception that you know what you’re talking about but also because you ‘own’ your content. Your original content is free but your thoughts and ideas are valuable. 

“Custom content is 92% more effective than traditional TV advertising at increasing awareness and 168% more powerful at driving purchase preference.” Fast Co Create

The benefit from a consumer’s point of view is that they’re reading something that they’re interested in, they’re not being approached or prodded at, instead they’re browsing through your content on their own terms, at a time that’s convenient to them. 

“75% of consumers prefer informational articles to ads” Brafton.com

OK so what’s the plan?

We've put together our quick guide to getting your content right, follow these steps and you'll be well on your way:

Do your research.

Know your customer, how they speak and what they might be interested in and write using language they can engage with.

Plan your content marketing.

Create an editorial calendar to stick to over the next year. This might include a set number of blog posts a month, an average number of tweets or posts a day, or a schedule for your email marketing. 

Set some goals.

Marketing with no goals would be a mistake. Though content marketing is a long game it’s important that you know whether or not what you’re doing is effective. Your goals could be as simple as achieving a certain number of likes, favourites, retweets and followers on social media, it could be the tracking of how many visits your blog (or your site as a whole) reaches in any given month, or it could be measuring your performance on Google for various keywords.

Manage multiple editors.

If you have a team of people producing your content (adverts, blog posts, general website management etc.) then it’s important that there’s consistency in your businesses voice. Put together a brief ‘tone of voice’ or ‘content’ manual that explains how your business might approach various topics, how it writes certain phrases and highlight certain words that your business should never use (alternatively you can commission such a manual from your local marketing agency or copywriter).

Promote your content.

Adding a blog post to your website for example might gain interest from your regular visitors but there’s a big world out there! Shout about your latest article, let people know on social media, link to it from as many outlets as possible and encourage your followers to have their say - this way word will spread even further.

Review your website now!

Now that you’ve read this article, take a look at your own site and read through your content (including the buttons) but from the perspective of a consumer. Make some tweaks, your customers (and Google) will love you for it.