The following is a guest post by Angie Nikoleychuk, somebody I had the absolute pleasure to meet at the recent Think Visibility conference in Leeds and a fellow member at the SEO Dojo
Audiences are fickle. That’s a given. The success of your content ultimately relies on which way the wind of approval is blowing at that moment, but you can improve your chances by doing the prep work.
When most people start writing, they start with a topic. Great content, however, starts with the reader in mind. You see, quality content is more than good spelling and grammar. (In many forms of online content, it’s important to avoid proper grammar!) In fact, when you think about it, writing great content is a lot like remodelling your kitchen.
Getting To Know Your Audience
When it’s time to redo your kitchen, you can’t just toss some paint up on the wall, arrange some fake plants, and call it a day. Well, you could, but it’d look like crap. Sort of like when you toss words on a page, arrange a few pictures, and call it a story.
If you want a quality renovation, you do some research to find out the latest styles, colours, and features. Then, you make a list of everything you need, go shopping, fill the holes in the wall, tape off the trim, cover the flooring, add a coat of primer, etc.
In other words, you have to do a lot of work before you actually start. Writing is just like that.
What is the reader doing? What things upset them? What are the highlights in their lives? What do they dream about? Now, you’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with writing great copy!
Well, my friend let me tell you. (I’ve tried to set this up so you can continue to refer back to it and create great content over and over again!)
Defining the Purpose
First, define the object of your copy:
• Who are you speaking to?
• What do they feel is most important?
• What is their biggest pet peeve?
• What related questions are they asking most often?
• What language are they using? (i.e. client-based keyword research)
• What are the hot topics in their circle?
Why this step is important: If you wanted to learn about the history of a country, which would be more pleasant to read: a textbook or an article that’s actually interesting and friendly? If your target audience finds reading your content a chore, you’ve already lost. It also provokes trust, makes it easy to identify with you, and all that other good stuff.
Next, decide what your copy should accomplish:
• What is the one thing your reader should do when visiting the page?
• What is the one thought the reader should have about you, your product, or your services?
• Who are you trying to attract with the piece?
Why this step is important: Good content should always have some sort of purpose. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. This doesn’t mean it always have to sell something, however. If you want to create something that does well in social media, for example, you’ll need to know which one so you can research the site you want to focus on and make a list of what makes content successful on it.
Even though it’s tough, consider your competition:
• Do they offer something similar to you or have similar content already available?
• If so, what do they do right? What’s working? If not, have they covered it some other way?
• What advantages do they have over you?
• Where could they improve?
• What is your target audience saying about your competition?
Why this step is important: No matter whether you’re blogging or creating sales copy, people need a reason to choose you over everyone else. You have to be special and offer something they can’t get anywhere else, even if you’re only emphasizing points your competition doesn’t.
If you look at this piece, you should be able to recognize each of these things. First, I wanted to create something you’ll consider a resource, hopefully one you’ll bookmark and return to. I know that many of you are male, and even if you’re not, many of you have redone a room or two.
I’ve addressed the questions many of you have. For example, you all know how to put sentences together, so the problem for many of you is nailing down the finer points of copy. Also, after checking with the competitors of Holistic Search, I know they have what some might call copywriting guides, but not like this.
Finding the Right Angle and Putting All the Pieces Together
At this point, you should have a list of valuable information, including what your content needs to achieve, the voice and style you’ll need to use, what examples and imagery to use, and which details you need to emphasize. Now, you need to put it all together.
• Write down all the important points you want to make
• Arrange them in some sort of logical order (don’t tell the reader to start slathering on the paint before you’ve told them to prep the surface)
• Flesh out each point into paragraphs
• Create sub headings
• Come up with an effective title
• Make sure the style and voice are consistent and will appeal to the reader
• If you have specific keywords, go back and blend them in until they’re impossible for the everyday reader to detect.
• Compare your work to this guide for creating sticky content. (It has a ton of great tips!)
• (And while I’m sure I don’t have to add this…) Check your spelling and grammar to make sure it’s appropriate.
Now you have everything you need to create amazing web copy, sales copy, blog posts, and more. Or, did I miss something? What other tricks and tips do you use to create quality content?