08 Mar Back to Basics – What Do People Really Look for in Online Content?
It all started with forum posts, hideously designed 90s web pages with blocks of poorly formatted text, but as the Internet evolved, so did the content delivery platforms and the content itself. It wasn’t long before businesses jumped on the bandwagon, and around 88% of B2B marketers say that they use content marketing.
However, it’s not just serious business execs from large corporations that want to focus on creative content writing – everyone from hard working carpenters to soccer mom solopreneurs and photographers needs to put out content. It’s the only way to really grab people’s attention and build trust.
OK, so you’re saying that I can just churn out articles and get more visitors?
Now, since there’s such a big demand for online content, you’d think that it’s all about finding the cheapest way to produce tons of content, fill it with some keywords, share it on social media and BAM! – you’ve got yourself a content marketing strategy.
Well, I’m sorry to say that things are not that easy. In fact, tons of low quality content, keyword stuffing and posts on content farm blogs where the links leading back to your site stick out like a sore thumb will actually have a negative effect on your ranking in searches.
This is not to say that you can’t have some more promotional content here and there, but it has to offer something meaningful to the readers.
So, I need to improve my creative content writing skills, but what does that actually involve?
There’s a bunch of criteria we can look at to determine what makes an article great, memorable and engaging, but it all boils down to a few simple basics. You may later expand on these ground rules, but the following 7 things should be your guiding light when creating online content.
Useful or Interesting Information found in Online Content
One of the basic rules of creative writing is to “write what you know”, and writing about your own niche shouldn’t be much of a problem. However, you should never offer general information and sound bites that anyone with no clue about your industry can learn after 30 seconds of searching and 5 minutes of reading.
- Useful information is all about:
- In-depth analysis of key industry/niche concepts
- Guides that show step-by-step solutions
- Dispelling common misconceptions
- Creative ideas on using different products and services
- Actionable tips on improving one’s self or their business
In other words, the readers should feel that they’ve learned something that they can apply in their own lives after reading your content.
Not all content needs to be laugh-out-loud entertaining, e.g. case studies and articles covering serious scientific research should have a more serious tone, but in most cases, you can make an article easier to read by spicing it up with a unique writing style.
Finding the right tone and vocabulary will depend on many things including your:
- Target demographic
- Unique brand voice
- Topic and social context
Generally speaking, you can make things a whole lot entertaining by using creative examples, personal experiences, funny comparisons, hyperbole, a bit of sarcasm, etc. Find the style that fits your brand identity and your audience’s preferences and stick with it.
Opinions and Elucidation
Although most of the basic topics in any niche will have already been covered by the time you decide to start writing about them, you can still offer a unique spin on a worn old topic. It’s not just about sparking controversy, but about voicing your own opinion and showing people that there’s more than one way to go about things.
Some well-know points are often covered only superficially, even though you’ll find them in dozens of articles. In such cases, you can make a whole article on a subtopic that others only mention in passing, and provide plenty of in-depth information to help people get a better understanding of how things work and why certain elements are very important.
For example, while everyone writing about growing a small business might mention that it’s important to find the right employees and the right connections, you can create a 2000 word article on how to network, earn social capital and build strong partnerships with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
While there are still people who look for information in thick books with walls of text crammed into every page, most of us who do an online search want something that’s easy to digest. Formatting plays a major role in how your content is received and whether it will be shared.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Keep your paragraphs short (two or three sentences)
- Break the content down into plenty of subheadings
- Add bullet points
- Insert charts and infographics
- Avoid the passive voice
- Keep things concise
Needless to say, your grammar should be spotless.
Creating great visual content is high on the list of marketing priorities of most businesses, and for a good reason – visuals grab people’s attention and they are more likely to remember content with images than just plain text.
An eye-catching feature image can get you more likes and shares on social media, but having the right images, charts, tables and infographics in the text is just as important. It will help you get the information across more effectively and help keep the readers interested.
This is a bit of a vague concept that includes all of the previously mentioned points, but there is one more thing you need to cover to really motivate people to share your articles – the curiosity gap. Now, what you definitely shouldn’t do is go and spit out 10 clickbait titles and call it a day.
Your content has to deliver on the promise made in your title and you shouldn’t be too bombastic, but there are things you can do to get people interested in what you have to say. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:
- Use power words to frame the title in a more interesting way
- Draw the readers in with a snappy introduction
- Spend some time on finding the perfect feature image
- Offer prominent social sharing buttons on your blog
Getting all these little things right will often take a huge amount of time, which may seem disproportionate to what you’ll be getting out of it, but trust us, going the extra mile here will do wonders for you in the long run.
You can’t keep pumping out 2000 word articles on a daily basis and retain any semblance of quality, nor would your readers be able to keep up even if, by some miracle, you could offer dozens of great long articles every month.
This is why you need to vary things up a bit – follow up large information-dense articles with a couple of smaller tips-and-tricks posts, throw in a roundup or list article here and there, put out a short Q&A video or podcast once a month, etc.
Switch up the types of content you use, its length and the topics you cover, and you’ll keep things fresh and interesting.
To give people what they want, you need to know what they want in the first place. Seems fairly straightforward, right? The importance of creative content writing for your blog or link building campaign can’t be stressed enough, so go over the tips we’ve covered here one more time and you’ll be able to dramatically improve your content.