When writing for your site, it’s true that content is key and plays a very large part in increasing conversions and keeping people coming back to your site. However, there is a big difference between user-friendly content and… well, not-so-user-friendly content. Consider what draws your attention – would you rather read a list of key points with subheadings or lengthy paragraphs of copy? Personally, and I think it goes for most people, I tend to scan things before I read them and if I find something interesting, I go back and read the rest. A good thing to keep in mind is that if it looks like a research paper, chances are users are probably not reading it.
However, creating ‘easy-to-read’ copy is a lot easier said than done but because it’s so important, it’s vital to understand what it takes to create user-friendly content.
The Key “Points” of Readability
- Bullet points provide an easy way to break up text and draw the readers’ eye to the most important points (see what I’m doing here?).
- Lists, again, are a great way to break up content to make your content appear more user-friendly. From numbers to bullet points, lists are the perfect way to wrap up your key thoughts without overloading the user with text.
- Bolded subheadings also aid in breaking up text and let the reader know what they’re about to read. This makes it easy for the user to skip around the page to read only the parts the interest them.
- White space cannot be stressed enough – don’t make your web pages look like research papers. You can use short paragraphs with white space in between to make it more readable and easier on the eyes.
- Mixed media is another way to break up text to make your site content more readable. From pictures to videos, give your reader something to look at that relates to your content.
It’s About Design, Too
While content is a key component to a great site and has a strong influence on readability, there are certain web design aspects that also affect your website’s readability. Aside from keeping content short, concise, and to the point, it’s also important to ensure your website’s design is effectively conveying this content. Things such as alignment, color contract, and font all play a part in making your site more user-friendly.
- Font is often the most overlooked aspect of web design but is also one of the most important. Always use legible font sizes and font types that are web-safe.
- Contrast is important when it comes to readability. Light grey text on a white background may look slick to you, but for someone else, it may be completely unreadable. Similarly, if you have a dark background you should probably make the text as light as possible. While contrast is important, color is also important in creating an attractive web design so don’t be afraid to use it!
Alignment also plays an important part in readability. Not only does it look nice but scattered web components look unattractive to the eye, reducing site readability.
It’s important to keep content simple and to the point, while making use out of lists, white space, and subheadings. The implementation of a good design has a huge effect on readability as well. While there is a large variety of things that affect your sites readability, content and design play a large part and oftentimes go hand-in-hand.
Ken Wisnefski – the president and founder of WebiMax –was featured in Sunday’s edition of the Courier Post. In the article, our boss spoke of taking lessons from his past to sculpt the ideology of our company. Because of his experience, he was able to chart a path that ensured WebiMax would not only provide a great work atmosphere at the office, but a great return on the marketing investments of our clients.
Of course, the aforementioned article got me thinking about how important the past of content efforts is for businesses. In fact, I thought of three key points that every company should utilize to increase the value of their content marketing initiatives.
1. Learn from your mistakes – Not every piece of content produced by your blog, uploaded to your product page, or distributed as a press release is going to be a home run. It’s how a person reacts to the duds along the way that will help determine success or failure.
Instead of shrugging your shoulders, ask yourself why a piece of content didn’t work. Did your blog answer the questions of your client base? Was your product page visually appealing to your target audience? Did it provide useful and unique text? Did it funnel towards a conversion page? Was your press release truly newsworthy? By answering these questions, you can avoid making the same mistakes twice.
2. Stop Repeating Yourself – There are always ways to be unique. While many blogs and webpages will focus on particular keywords, you would be amazed by how many different angles you can take with just a little bit of creativity.
Even if you had success with a topic in the past, don’t beat it into the ground. For example, instead of a car dealership posting five blogs covering the different questions to ask a used car dealer, they should vary the text with vehicle profiles, safety tips, common repairs that can be done from home, things to listen for on test drives, and more. When you repeat yourself, you bore your audience. Competition is fierce; uniqueness will help you stand out from the pack.
3. Capitalize on Successes – When monitoring spikes in traffic, our experts will often attribute those spikes to fresh content. When your traffic begins to plateau, it’s important to update your text. Freshness is essential in Internet marketing. Keeping your online presence timely and relevant will not only impress your audience, but assure the search engines that your site offers more value to searchers than your competitors.
Whether your content past is a point of pride or the reason you sought out this blog for advice, the information you can obtain by looking back is invaluable. Just as my boss looked back to move this company forward, so should you with your content marketing strategy.
In many of my previous posts here on WebiMax.com, I’ve discussed the importance of content. Blog posts, press releases, videos, images and other forms of media on the Web can not only drive traffic to your site; but enhance your brand’s overall reputation, visibility and earning potential as well.
Speaking of blogs, I read a great post on Search Engine Journal earlier today (thanks for sharing, Patty!) which offered some useful insights on how to maximize the value of content. Of course, social sharing is essential, but content optimization goes far beyond that. By repurposing text-based content as videos, podcasts or even PowerPoint presentations, you are able to reach a broader audience while simultaneously improving SEO performance.
While I do agree that it is critical to get the most from your content; my own strategy varies slightly from the one Marcela outlined in the aforementioned SEJ article. The fundamentals remain the same; however, my emphasis on original (yet, supplemental) content provides a more comprehensive experience which incentivizes the user/reader/viewer to remain engaged.
In order to simplify my approach to content marketing, I’ve streamlined it into two phases – Creation and Promotion:
Begin with mapping out one BIG content blueprint. What story or topic is relevant to your brand, interesting to your audience and easily expanded upon? This framework will tell a complete story, but in a somewhat “segmented” fashion.
Start with the basics – a blog post. Although every blog should tell a complete story, it’s important to always leave an opportunity for your audience to interact and remain flexible enough to create unique supplemental content to continue the conversation of the blog across other mediums.
Follow the blog post with a video, podcast or an infographic. While the subject matter should be related, these should also work as standalone content. This will ensure that your audience remains engaged regardless of which “piece” of the content they discover first. Naturally, all of this content can be utilized cohesively, but originality is a must!
After you’ve created several pieces of unique content around a central topic, it’s time to get them online and promote!
Social media is a powerful promotional tool, but there are other options which marketers and business owners have been utilizing recently. Sponsored content placement, PR and digital video advertising are proving to be effective ways to market content across multiple platforms and reach a more diverse audience, as well.
By developing a tiered approach to content creation and marketing, you’re not only able to increase the long-term viability of the content itself, but generate greater brand awareness and an improved user experience for your consumers or clients.
Share your content marketing success stories in the comments below and be sure to follow us on Twitter for more content tips: @WebiMax
Think of the world of content marketing like an aisle in a grocery store. Google is in charge of stocking the shelves, and they place the best products right where the shopper can see them. In the world of supermarkets, companies pay for that prime space. In the world of organic SEO, Google chooses the products that offer their “shoppers” the best value.
So, the question is, how do you offer the most value in a competitive environment? You present your products in a unique and engaging way. By being unique, your website can enjoy the equivalent of a showcase display at the front of the aisle.
Our marketing experts need the answer to two simple questions to get the ball rolling on an exciting and unique content marketing strategy:
1. Who is your target consumer base?
2. What do you offer your customers?
After these questions are answered, your onsite content needs to be reviewed to ensure you are at least providing the essential message your visitors are looking for. Your pages should be set up to offer the maximum convenience to your guest. Keywords and links will naturally find their way into the copy when written with this strategy in mind.
When users are unable to scan your website and determine if you have the information they are looking for within seconds, they are gone. And, if it is clear what you offer, your content better keep their attention with a great hook.
Hook ‘em with Humor
While there are several ways to hook your audience, one of the most overlooked avenues is humor. The Internet is about connectivity–people love to share something interesting or humorous with their friends and family. When your content has your customers saying, “You have to read this!” Google will recognize the value you offer searchers.
Of course, before you ever add humor to your webpages or daily blogs, you need to realize that humor is the seasoning to the informational steak. It’s okay to be funny when your core message is clear. When the two merge, your website can start turning readers into buyers.
Sometimes standing out from the crowd takes courage. Many businesses shy away from humor at the risk of being offensive. This is certainly understandable, but not all humor has to be so blue. For instance, think of Google. They once debuted Gmail Motion on April Fool’s Day. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for Google to bring the funny. Think of all the different Google Doodles on their homepage that always provide sharable, buzz-worthy content. As long as humor is geared toward your user base and is sprinkled in with plenty of high-quality and informative copy, it can be a great way to separate your company from your competitors.
Utilizing humor through infographics or instructrographics is another great way to provide fun, sharable content for your social media campaigns. When you create something funny, promote it through your Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets. It will humanize your business and help potential customers build up some trust in your brand.
If humor isn’t an outlet your business can work with, don’t worry. When you inform, instruct, or relate to your audience in creative and valuable ways, it produces a relationship with your customers, and that’s the hook you need. Then, when SEO techniques bring in more traffic, your content can help reel in the sales.
People say you should learn from your mistakes. Not me. I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes. It can save you a lot of headaches and sometimes a little embarrassment.
As Content Development Manager, I oversee a team of (awesome) SEO copywriters who help build and optimize content marketing strategies for our clients. But rather than tell you how incredible we are (seriously, we’re great), I’d like to use this Manager Monday to take a look at a few #epicfails by some of the biggest brands in the world–it’s much funnier and, honestly, more interesting.
Without further ado, here’s my big brand blooper reel for content marketing fails.
New York Times
Most of us have done it before. We’ve sent an email or maybe a text message that we probably shouldn’t have sent. However, it’s usually not to the New York Times’ 8 million current subscribers.
In December 2011, a simple email campaign turned into a marketing nightmare for one of the nation’s most popular newspapers. The paper meant to send an email to people who recently cancelled their subscription asking them if they’d be interested in signing back up at a discount. When the current subscribers received the email instead of the intended 300 ex-subscribers, most responded with concern that this was spam and some with anger that they didn’t get the discount.
Advice: Always make sure you check your recipients before clicking “Send” on any message.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins’s final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, I sincerely hope you avoided downtown D.C. last spring.
Amazon came under fire last April when a Kindle billboard in Washington displayed the first page of the final book which revealed key plot points of the previous two books.
Advice: Don’t be a blabber mouth!
I’m a big fan of user-generated content. It makes my life as a writer so much easier. I mean people are literally doing the work for me and it’s good for SEO–#winning (is that still going on?).
But what happens when your users don’t have anything engaging to say? Well, you’d be in a situation similar to Pepsi whose home page consists of nearly all tweets that get little social engagement. They have nearly 9.5 million “likes” on Facebook yet the posts on their home page typically garner less than 10 (a lot of them have none).
Advice: If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything…no, no wait–say something, but you might have to rely on more than your users to do so. Produce some of your own content and be more selective with the user-generated content you publish on your site.
I’ve seen this done on a few fashion websites before and really liked the idea. They use “in-image advertising” to market multiple products. So if you don’t like the jeans you see on the model in the picture but you absolutely love the necklace they’re wearing, there will be a link that directs you to that product’s page.
Unfortunately, this backfired big time for Express. They decided to help users find products on their site that were similar to clothing items in photos pulled from Yahoo News. This resulted in Express unintentionally offering users the chance to buy a scarf resembling one worn by an Afghan militant (the picture was taken from a story discussing a bloody attack in Afghanistan).
Advice: Stick to celebrity news, and just filter out stories that involve Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown… okay, maybe just stick to your own photos.
GE recently launched a site called ecomagination. In theory, it’s awesome. It aims to be a thought-leadership blog for green technology and green living. They currently have almost 96,000 likes on Facebook, but the majority of their content struggles to get more than handful of likes. Why you ask?
Well, that’s because the majority of their content is self-promotional. It looks more like a news section of a site than a thought-leadership blog. This distances them from their audience and hurts their brand. People want to hear about the issues, not that your company is greener than an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.
Advice: Be confident about your brand, not cocky. Either that or re-name your site egomagination.
Social media is a powerful device. In fact, it’s so powerful that users can take the reins on your social media marketing campaign and turn it into a (in my opinion rather hilarious) prank.
Back in July of 2012, a group of pranksters hijacked a Facebook promotion designed to send Pitbull to the most-liked Walmart. They used the hashtag #ExilePitbull for a campaign that eventually sent the Miami-based rapper to Kodiak, Alaska. At least he was a good sport about it saying, “What you gotta understand is that I will go anywhere in the world for my fans.”
Advice: I’m sorry, but this is just funny.
We all make mistakes, even some of the biggest, most well-liked brands out there. Sure most are unintentional, but in a world where your mistakes can be scrutinized under the microscope of the Internet (kind of what I’m doing for example), it’s important, now more than ever, to know your audience and think each strategy through to the end.
Oh, and by the way, as much as I talked up my team earlier in the post, we’ve learned from our mistakes as well. In fact, if you see any in the post, give me a shout. Happy marketing!
Not everyone is a creative genius—or at least, I’m not. Creating unique and compelling content over and over can be stressful, not to mention almost unsustainable. The more specific a niche, the harder it can be to create something you can truly be proud of. As the Department Head of Inbound Marketing, I am in charge of all guest posts for our clients. Below are a number of tools and websites I like to use when my creativity hits the proverbial wall.
These are a few tools that help me come up with content ideas easily and help in determining long tail keywords at the same time.
Google Suggest – Simple to use and very straightforward, Google Suggest are the suggestions that you receive when typing a keyword in the Google search bar. This should be your first pit stop if you are stumped about what to write. Just type in a keyword, and let Google do the rest for you.
Ubersuggest – According to their website, Ubersuggest is like “Google suggest on steroids.” This tool works similar to Google Suggest but has a convenient exporting function so you can throw it into TagCrowd for any recurring themes.
Soovle – Similar to Google Suggest and Ubersuggest but with a valuable, added perk. Not only does it incorporate Google results but also Bing, Youtube, Answers.com, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Yahoo all at once. It also allows you to toggle and search between each of these websites with ease.
Questions and Answer Websites
There is no better place to find topics that people are interested in than a Q&A website. By combing through these websites, you can find a question that multiple people have and provide an answer. Additionally, if you are looking to brand yourself as an expert, try and answer the questions on the website. Get your name out there!
For ease of use, I have been using a Google Doc made by John Doherty that can be found here that imports a Quora RSS feed. The document lets me keep an eye on several categories of my choosing at once.
What Are The People Saying?
Reddit – A social news site where user interaction is very heavy. Reddit is divided into subreddits or categories. To find your niche’s subreddit, either search on Reddit or use MetaReddit if you are having trouble finding what you need.
Addictomatic.com – When one search outlet isn’t enough, searching on another website can provide additional insight. Addictomatic is a very visually stimulating conglomeration of Twitter Search, Bing News, Google Blog Search, YouTube, WordPress, Flickr, and other websites.
Content Strategy Generator Tool – A Google Doc made by the wonderful people over at SEOGadget. Not as visually appealing as Addictomatic, but in my opinion, at least, the #1 go-to tool of the list. It scrapes more websites than Addictomatic and is extremely easy to use. Just go to File, Make a Copy, and you are good to go. This tool is contingent on you being signed into your Google Account before you can make a copy along with the Quora RSS importer previously mentioned.
SocialMention – A social media search tool that provides you with a look into how your niche or keyword is being discussed in the social media world. The tool provides you with results from blogs, Twitter, Identica, Flickr, metacafe, Yahoo! News and more.
Topix.com – A news community website that is perfect for determining what is going on in your targeted business area, making it ideal for your local SEO campaign. A plus is that this tool will tell you the news outlets that cover your area, so you can begin building some rapport for some PR love.
Bottlenose – Our very own Patty Ryan introduced me to this tool during her presentation at one of our meetups. Bottlenose is an integration of social media news, blog posts, and images. Tip: Try the Sonar function.
Spezify – This tool is designed for those that love Pinterest. It’s more or less a visual search.
The Not So Obvious
Twitter Chats – Twitter chats are the present day chat rooms. They are usually scheduled and involve people tweeting about a specific topic. The important takeaway is that there are usually questions involved. Jump into the conversation and if a question or topic sparks some creativity in you, write a blog post about it!
Google+ Hangouts – I use it in the same manner as Twitter chats. They are also a great way to get your brand/name recognized by other leaders in the industry.
Customer Service – If your customer service team repeatedly has the same questions asked over and over, it’s a safe bet that there is a need to provide content with the answer. Create a Frequently Asked Questions section on your website or provide a detailed How To. This is sometimes overlooked, but can provide exceptional value in determining the mindset of your consumer.
Competitor’s Blog – A look at your competitor’s content can spark a creative idea. If all else fails, take what they did and make it better! Provide statistics, a case study, or additional resources.
While this may not be an exhaustive list of all the creative idea sparkers out there, these are the most valuable tools and resources I have come across. If there are any other tools that you use and have found to be worthwhile, I would love to hear from you in the comments.