How do we involve our experts in the content creation process in a non-coercive way? Read on and find out here.
The post How to Create Expert Content: Separation of Responsibilities by @alexmorozov appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
The rise of content marketing has made content creation a key focus for businesses, and the issue of how to improve their content and its performance is at the forefront of many marketers’ minds.
At the Summit on Content Marketing earlier this summer, I gave a presentation on “15 ways to improve your content writing”. In Part 1 of this article, we covered eight of those tips, including creative brainstorming, grabbing the reader’s attention, content length, layout and formatting.
Here are seven more ways that you can improve your content creation and see better performance from your content marketing.
Pick the best headline
A headline is probably the first thing that someone notices about your content. Whether people discover your content in search results, social media, or a homepage, a title contributes to their decision to click on the link.
What are the elements of a great title?
- Clarity: Your headline should be clear and descriptive. Any confusion can only keep the readers away from it.
- Brevity: A headline doesn’t have to be long to offer the right context. From an SEO perspective, a title doesn’t have to be more than 60 characters. Thus, you only have up to 60 characters to offer the right preview to your topic. That’s even half the limit to what Twitter allows you!
- Relevance: Not everyone is aiming for relevance when crafting a title and this may be part of an attempt to entice people to click on a post. “Clickbait” techniques are usually not helpful in a long term basis, especially if your actual content has nothing to do with the headline. Be as relevant as possible.
- Emotional appeal: How does emotional appeal affect the click rate on a headline? We are all human beings and this makes us susceptible to powerful language that offers an emotional appeal.
You don’t have to create an exaggerated headline to convey the right emotional element, but you can still think of how words can facilitate a reader’s decision towards your content.
My favorite tool to analyze the possible performance of different headlines is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. This is a free tool that grades your headlines, while it also offers useful tips on how to improve them.
Its analysis of word balance and the use of words gives the user insights into the science of an effective headline, and it has been a useful ally for me when thinking of my next topic.
Aim for simplicity
It’s good to aim for simplicity in your content writing, as this will make your content accessible to a wider audience and improve its ease of readability and parsing. There’s no need to use overly complicated words to make a point.
Here are some examples on how to simplify your writing:
in order to –> to
ways by which –> which
despite the fact –> although
leverage –> use
Proper spelling and grammar, of course, are still important in any type of content.
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:
Avoid passive voice
Your copy gets stronger when focusing on the subject. Passive voice can create a distance between your message and the readers, while an active voice is direct and clear. It can engage and motivate your readers, making your copy interesting and stronger.
Avoid using unnecessary adverbs
Adverbs don’t always contribute to the clarity of your content. It’s better to use them only when they make sense. Think of removing the ones you’ve already used, and test whether your copy can still stand out without them.
Write what comes naturally
There’s no need to shoehorn in buzzwords to impress your audience. It’s common in marketing content to think that jargon enhances your message, but in fact, it only makes your content seem trite and predictable. Think like your readers, and create content that they’ll enjoy reading.
Be consistent with verb tenses
Longer sentences can end up confusing your readers. There are also more chances to mess up the tenses that you’re using. Pay attention to each sentence, and you’ll find the consistency of the tenses that will improve your copy.
Don’t ignore SEO
Search traffic can be a powerful ally in your bid to increase your audience through content writing. While it might seem like a lot of extra work to think about SEO as you’re creating content, it actually fits fairly naturally into the content creation process.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
The title helps search engines understand what your content is about. There needs to be a combination of relevance and brevity. It has to be useful, both for readers, but also for search crawlers.
Keywords can be very useful as part of your text, provided that they are added naturally in the right context. There’s no need to overuse a keyword simply to make sure that a crawler discovers your topic (an old tactic known as ‘keyword stuffing’). In fact, this may lead to negative results.
As we covered in the previous part of this article, headings are a key part of clear content structure and formatting. They’re also important to SEO, as they give search engine crawlers an idea of what you’re covering.
A good rule of thumb can be to add your focus keyword at least once in a heading, as this makes it easier for search engines to understand the main topic.
A meta description is a short summary of a topic. It’s the text that shows up right after the title in search results. This makes it the second most important part after your headline, and it may affect whether users click on your page.
For an SEO-focused guide on how to write good meta descriptions, check out ‘How to write meta descriptions for SEO (with good and bad examples)‘.
Readability refers to the level of comprehension for your text. This encompasses things like language, the writing style, the use of sentences, or even the words that you choose.
In a more scientific explanation, the measurement of readability takes into account: the speed of perception, the visibility, the effort required for reading speed, the eye movements and the fatigue in reading.
How can you increase the readability of your content?
- Pay attention to the font. Pick a clean and simple font and make sure that the size makes your text legible without further effort.
- Allow enough space for your content. Whether it’s the number of paragraphs you’re using or the line height, they all contribute to the concept of readability
- Use simple writing, avoid jargon or complicated words. It’s tempting to use an improved vocabulary, but it’s also important to ensure that the content is still understood by your audience.
- Avoid long sentences. Aim for clear and simple structure. As with the use of words, simplicity is appreciated. Moreover, it also reduces the chances of getting your readers tired while reading.
Think of social optimization
A good indication of content success is its performance on social media, the number of likes, shares, or comments it receives.
The chances of social success can be improved by working on social optimization. Social optimization is the process that reminds you the importance of social media in a content’s journey. If you want to reach a wider audience, then you need to make sure that your content is as optimized as possible for social media.
Here are 5 quick tips on how to focus on social optimization:
Think of the headline
As with SEO optimization, your headline will determine whether social users find your content interesting enough to click on. However, beware of employing clickbait techniques such as withholding key information from the headline in order to attract clicks – it may see your content penalized by social platforms, and your readers won’t thank you either.
Pay attention to the images you’re adding
Use a featured image that’s large enough to be shared on all social networks. Every social platform has its own dimensions, so a large image will still be clear and eye-catching regardless of the platform. Moreover, an image may be the first thing that someone notices about your social post.
Adjust the description
As with SEO, the description helps readers get an overview of your post. Optimizing both for search engines and social media requires the right balance between keyword optimization and personal appeal. Be creative and spend some time devising the best way to describe your content in just a couple of sentences.
Add sharing buttons
It may sound obvious nowadays that we need to include sharing buttons in our content. However, it’s still a good reminder when we’re thinking of social optimization to consider that readers will be more likely to to share our content if we make it easier for them to do so. Make sure you’re including the sharing buttons in the right place on your page.
Encourage likes and shares
Except for the default sharing buttons, there are many plugins and tools that encourage readers to show their social approval for a post. For example, a Facebook like button can be more appealing than a “share to Facebook” button, as it involves a faster process to show your social approval.
Think like a user
This is a combination of blending user experience with psychology, in an attempt to produce the right content for the right audience.
Google Analytics can help you monitor your readers’ habits. From the length of their visits to the most popular posts, or even the pages with the highest bounce rate, you can start understanding which pieces of content are most effective.
What made these pages more effective? Was it the value, the language, or even the images that you used? How about the content that wasn’t effective?
This is where user experience can offer very interesting insights.
You don’t need technical knowledge to understand how user experience affects your content.
For example, here are three quick ways to test whether your content has a user-centric design:
As smartphones dominate our lives, content tends to get more consumed in mobile devices. Not everyone creates content with mobile users in mind, and this may be a good opportunity to start thinking of it.
Your content and your pages have to be responsive enough to allow readers to use them as much as possible. An error or a non-functional plugin may lead to a missed opportunity of converting a new reader. Usability, accessibility and page performance are three key areas for your readers and the way they see your content.
The user experience has to be smooth enough to help readers move through your pages. This increases the chance of turning them into loyal readers and even customers. A combination of design and content strategy can improve your content appeal to your new readers.
The user experience honeycomb by Peter Morville shows us seven facets of a good user experience. A good user experience then has to be useful, desirable, accessible, credible, findable, usable, and valuable.
Using free tools
There are so many tools out there to help improve our writing, and luckily many of them are free, so here are a few to try out.
- Hemingway: Hemingway App helps you improve the clarity in your text by identifying long, complex sentences and common errors. It makes your writing bold and clear by suggesting the parts of text you need to improve.
- Grammarly: Grammarly is another useful tool to instantly check for more than two hundred types of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. I find very handy the Chrome plugin when creating online content, as it may even turn out useful when adding additional spaces or unknown words.
- Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo helps you analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor. It’s one of my favourite tools to test the “virality” (if that’s the proper term in that case) of my content, as it offers an insight on the most shared posts. For example, I can search for my name as an author, or the most popular posts in the sites that I’m writing on, and I can get a great overview of the content that got the highest number of shares on social media.
- Readable: Readable is one of the apps that help you monitor your content’s readability score, along with keyword density, sentiment analysis. Time to cut out the noise.
- CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser: This is my favourite tool to explore the art of an effective headline. You even get a score for the suggested headlines you’re adding. It’s useful when you’re trying to understand the overall headline quality and its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value.
- Writefull: Writefull is an app that gives feedback on your writing by checking your text against databases of correct language. Did you use the right phrase? Should you change it? You may be surprised with the results.
- StayFocusd: StayFocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay focused on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Yes, this mainly refers to social media and it’s a very useful plugin for every writer.
You don’t have to be a professional writer to create online content. What’s important is to set clear goals for the reasons you’re creating content, while considering your target audience.
Improve your content by focusing on:
- the writing process
- different content types you can create
- the length of your content
- its structure and
- the language you’re using
- along with SEO
- social optimization
- user experience
It’s all about understanding how content works and what opportunities it can unlock for your business.
After all, if the goal is to create content that your readers will love, you’re the only person who knows the best way to achieve it.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series on how to improve your content creation. For a recap of Part 1, read ‘8 tips for improving your content creation‘.
For the full presentation on ’15 ways to improve your content writing’ from the Summit on Content Marketing, check out the slides on SlideShare.
The rise of content marketing has brought content creation to the forefront for all businesses. This makes it more important than ever to explore the best ways to create effective content.
The definition of effective content for every business may be different, but in general, it still has to bring you closer to your goals.
That’s why effective content has to resonate with your target readers.
Earlier this summer, I gave a presentation entitled “15 ways to improve your content writing” at the Summit on Content Marketing. Here are the first eight of those tips.
Set a writing process
A structured writing process can help you save time and become more productive. As there’s an increasing need for content nowadays, it’s important to find the best process that can help you focus on content creation.
For example, it might be helpful to dedicate a set block of time on your calendar for content writing, putting aside all distractions.
If you start to get stuck, it may be a good idea to stay away from the copy for a while and either take a break or have someone else read it for a fresh perspective.
It’s not always easy to come up with a new content idea, and this can sometimes require some creative brainstorming moments with other team members.
Keeping a content calendar or notebook can help you organize all your ideas, ranked from best to worst – any of these can offer a new perspective on your content goals.
If you’re still struggling for content ideas, take a look at our 21 quick ways to find inspiration for creating content to help you with your next great post.
Grab the reader’s attention
Although the widely-reported ‘fact’ that we now have an attention span of 8 seconds has been called into question, internet users are more discerning with their time than ever before. There is a huge abundance of content available online, and your content needs to be able to grab the user’s attention, and hold it, in order to succeed.
In the digital world, there is any number of competing demands on the user’s attention. Our attention shifts from one task to another as we open new tabs or check multiple screens. Why should the user keep reading – or watching, or listening to – your content? You need to hook their attention and keep it there.
Explore different types of content
One way to convince users to pay more attention to your content marketing is to mix up your formats. The last few years have seen an explosion in the types of content available to create and host online, with each one serving a different purpose.
Images are the most popular type of visual content. They offer a powerful impact on a message and they certainly create a memorable experience. It is easier for the human brain to actually process an image and this increases the chances for your copy to be remembered.
As 65% of people are visual learners, there is more chance your readers will notice your content if you pair it with the relevant images.
Information graphics, or infographics, are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. The use of graphics enhances our ability to see patterns and trends, which makes complex information more appealing and shareable.
Readers tend to spend more time processing an infographic, compared with a written text, and that’s what makes them engaging, especially when they are added as part of a blog post. They’re also more shareable than other types of content. In fact, infographics are shared and liked three times more than any other visual content.
This makes them a very useful addition to the promotion of your content, and it’s no surprise that marketers are using them more and more in their content marketing strategy.
Video content has taken the lead as the most popular visual type of content over the last two years, a trend which has been boosted by social media. According to Cisco, videos will make up 80% of all internet traffic by 2019. This highlights how video content is going to become even more important. Even if we don’t use it as our primary form of content, it is still a powerful medium to support our message.
For example, we can use a short video to:
– share tips and “how-to” ideas
– build trust
– increase engagement
– add value
Live video is another emerging trend, and it offers an immediacy that online users seem to enjoy quite a lot. Marketers and business owners have placed video among their top priorities for 2017 in an attempt to create more appealing and effective content.
Remember, it’s not always necessary to hire a video producer to create short and entertaining videos that offer value to your audience.
A GIF, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format, is a type of an animated image that was developed more than 30 years ago. It may not be new, but it’s a popular form of media with online users, as a quick way to share visual content that straddles the line between an image and a video.
According to Giphy, there are currently around 150 million original GIFs out there online. They can be more powerful than an image, but they are also smaller in size than a video. Although GIFs are usually funny and informal, they can still fit with your content strategy, provided that you know how to use them in the right context of course.
For example, how about using a GIF to explain a process in a “how-to” post? Or how about using a funny movie quote in an attempt to show your casual side while trying to show a more personal approach?
GIFs can help you to:
– show your brand’s personality
– divide large chunks of text
– explain a process
– tell a story
What all of these types have in common is the creative way to present content, reaching people who like consuming content in different ways.
For example, if you want to explain a complicated concept, you can use an infographic to make the process easier for your audience. You can still create a blog post, and integrate the infographic with the rest of the written content.
This increases the chances for your audience to stay engaged and enjoy what you have to offer.
Decide on the ideal length for your content
Content marketers often wonder whether long-form content is dead in the era of ‘bite-sized’ content. It may seem logical to assume that readers prefer shorter content, but this isn’t always the case.
According to Orbit Media Studios, blog content is actually getting longer year by year. In 2016 the average blog post length was 1054 words – up from 887 words in 2015.
This means that readers still value long-form content – provided that it’s interesting of course.
Of course, length alone won’t guarantee the success of your content.
However, the length of your content can indicate the depth of the topic you’re covering. If the goal of your copy is to increase awareness, build trust and offer value, then the length may be a key part of your success.
You just need to find a balance between quantity and quality.
Aim for clear structure
Your readers will appreciate a piece of content that is clear and organized. There’s no need to suffocate your writing with big chunks of sentences.
Another point to consider is how people consume content through different devices. Not everyone accesses your content through the same screen, which means that your content has to be optimized for all devices.
This includes its layout. What seems like a small paragraph on a desktop may turn out to be a really big paragraph on a mobile device. And that’s a good reason to test your content on all devices before you publish it.
Moreover, you can organize your thoughts using bullet points, which has the dual benefit of being direct and practical, while also being more clearly readable, helping readers to focus on the most important aspects of your message.
Bullet points can be useful at the end of a piece of text as an overview of what you’ve covered. This is a quick way to allow readers to get back to the things they need to remember from what they’ve just read.
Beware, though – too many bullet points can produce the exact opposite result.
Spend time on formatting your content
How does formatting differ from structure? This has to do more with the way you present your actual content, rather than the way you organize the sentences. However, they are both important in their own way, with the ultimate goal being to convince readers to spend more time on your content.
For example, if you want to make your content more appealing, then you need to add images throughout the text. It’s usually suggested we add the images in a way that they separate the longer paragraphs. If you want to make a point through a series of paragraphs, then break those up with an image that supplements your content, giving the readers’ eyes a break.
When it comes to formatting, one of the most important tips is to pay attention to headings.
Headings allow you to divide your content into logical sections, each one headed up by a catchy title. Spend a decent amount of time thinking up each heading – and don’t be afraid to use plenty of them.
Ranging in terms of importance (and font size), headings span from H1 to H6. You can use a range of different header sizes if you want to label certain sections of your content with subheadings, or you can stick with just a couple throughout.
It’s also useful to keep in mind that headings contribute to SEO and the way search engines discover your content. As crawlers, the magic bots that search for content, access your writing, headings make your content structure easier to parse, and help to highlight the important bits.
Thus, if your headings are relevant and interesting, you’re also going to help your content rank well in search.
Set a goal for your content
Before you dive into content writing, it’s useful to set a goal of what you want to achieve with your content.
There are many ways to use your content. Not every post should serve the same goal and in fact, it’s useful to have a variety of content with different purposes.
For example, your latest post can promote your new product, but it’s probably not a good idea to do that with a series of ten posts in a row.
Readers don’t like overt promotion via content, but you can still create valuable content that happens to also be promotional. Just ensure that your content serves a genuine purpose beyond promoting whatever you want to draw attention to. Ask yourself: What would I, as the reader, be able to learn from this?
While setting a goal for your content, make sure you’re not turning your content into an automatic machine of business jargon. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of the outcome more than the actual process before it. If you’re only thinking of the goal and not the copy, then you risk losing your unique brand voice and your readers along with it.
Set a goal, then start writing, leave the goal aside and focus on your content. Once your post is published and you’re tracking metrics, you can return to the initial goal and see whether you’ve come close to achieving it.
This is Part 1 of a two-part series on improving your content creation process. Read Part 2: 7 more tips to improve your content creation
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Buying a local blog and integrating it into your website is a great option for content creation and better rankings.
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Search engine Yandex has launched a platform for content creation and distribution, which it calls Yandex Zen.
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Digital marketing is finally beyond well-defined cookie-cutter tactics. It’s all about creativity these days. Therefore collaboration has become an integral part of digital marketing.
There are many forms of collaboration that can help marketing strategy: You can collaborate with your team members and employees to empower them to participate in your brand marketing efforts. You can collaborate with your customers enabling them to spread your message. You can collaborate with your peers inviting them to help you make better content.
The internet has given us the ability to work with people around the world, and there are a few powerful tools that offer different types of collaboration to enhance your marketing efforts.
Note: I am not listing any generic project management collaboration tools here. I am a big believer in a productively-managed workplace but I have yet to find a good project management tool that will solve all my problems. This article is not aimed at addressing that, but rather at listing tools that specialize in one particular marketing task.
1. Collaborate on idea brainstorming
Stormz is a new brainstorming tool you may have never heard about. It’s an easy-to-use platform allowing you to make your brainstorming much more effective. Collaboration is the most essential element of brainstorming and the tool handles it perfectly.
Stormz lets you create brainstorming dashboards allowing your team to generate, select and enrich ideas that can solve their business problem or challenge. Participants can contribute and organize ideas as well as vote for those they like most.
The tool uses two effective brainstorming techniques enabling your team to produce and pick the best ideas:
- NUF (New, Useful, Feasible) evaluation: Is the idea new? Does it solve a problem? Do we have the ability (skill, money, resources) to do it?
- Virtual budget. Ask people to spend a virtual $100 budget on the options they like most. Using money, even if virtual, gives a very clear way to evaluate ideas
More tools to make brainstorming easier and more effective:
- MindMeister is an effective brain-mapping tool that allows you to visually break down complex concepts and show how each idea flows into another. MindMeister lets you add contributors to work on a mind map together
- Scribblar is another useful tool allowing you to brainstorm with others in real time. It’s also a great educational tool if you want to teach and collaborate in a virtual classroom.
2. Collaboratively monitor rankings & competitors
SE Ranking is a powerful keyword position monitoring tool that has an extremely clear interface and top-notch usability. One of the most frequent problems of keyword ranking tools is addressed here perfectly: Setting up projects to monitor keywords is extremely easy. And once set up, it’s even easier to track positions and compare your site to competitors.
The tool supports keyword tracking in Google, Yahoo and Bing as well as all their localized versions. You can also compare rankings in different devices. You can target your position monitoring to any city of the world.
You can also add extra users to your account allowing them access only to the data you wish them to see.
3. Collaborate on social media promotion
DrumUp is a social media management dashboard with a big focus on in-team collaboration. They have launched the brand advocacy program enabling companies to encourage and monitor their employees’ sharing brand-sensitive updates on social media.
You can add your team members to your social management dashboard and post your URLs, reviews and comments encouraging the employees to actively engage with that content.
The built-in leaderboard lets you monitor who of your employees are most active on social media spreading your word and promoting your content.
This is a great way to encourage and reward employees’ sharing, making them part of your company’s public image and turning them into brand advocates.
4. Collaborate on content creation
MyBlogU (Disclaimer: This is the tool I founded) is a free blogging platform allowing you to collaborate on lots of aspects of content marketing, from content brainstorming to promotion.
One of its most recent features is called “Article Collaboration“. It allows you to upload an article draft and invite members of the community to contribute paragraphs to make the article more varied and indepth. Contributors can also leave inline comments with their thoughts and ideas.
Here’s a quick article describing how the feature helped me to turn a pretty boring draft into a great article featuring diverse opinions and various tools.
More tools to collaborate on content:
- Google Drive is a great free tool allowing to invite collaborators to an article draft. It also enables contributors to add feedback too
- Medium lets you invite any Medium users to an unpublished article draft. The collaborators can add notes sharing their opinion on your future article.
Pakwired also gives a good roundup of more collaboration tools to try (none of them made it to my roundup above, so it’s worth checking out).
Are there any other marketing collaboration tools you are using? Please share them in the comments!
Before you begin any content creation, whether you’re branding your own blog or helping a new client, you need to know the audience you’re writing for.
The post Know Your Audience: A Guide to Voice and Content Creation by @a_shostak appeared first on Search Engine Journal.