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How to Guarantee Compelling Content that Gets Results

Anyone involved with SEO knows that chasing the latest search engine algorithms to improve results can be frustrating. Google changes its algorithm 500-600 times a year - sometimes making minor tweaks and other times doing major overhauls. While using keywords to optimize your content is still solid strategy, many experts feel the best way to rank high in search results is to produce engaging, compelling content written for people, not search engines. Ok, that sounds good. But the term gets thrown around a lot. What exactly IS "engaging, compelling content" and how do you create it?

Here are three suggestions.

1. Talk about your readers, not about you

Loquacious former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar who never met a microphone he didn't like once famously said, "Enough about me. Let's talk about me." Unfortunately, that's the attitude of many marketers and content creators who think website visitors are surfing through your site trying to find out about the great things your business is doing. Hint: they aren't necessarily impressed by your latest award, hire, or fancy new building. They really want to know how you're going to help them.

For example, take this blog post from Hayes Management Consulting. Instead of telling you what an effective job they do when consulting with health care organizations or how many engagements they've had, they provide a concise, "nuts and bolts" roadmap on four specific things to focus on when preparing for a new IT system implementation.

When you sit down to bang out some copy, picture your reader asking "what's in it for me?"

2. Answer a question your readers may have

Most people scramble through over-scheduled lives and aren't spending much time simply browsing around aimlessly. When they plug a term into a search engine, they're looking for information on specific questions. You can stand out by providing the answer. Most of my blog posts come from questions clients have asked me. For example, in multiple discussions, people wanted to know the difference between an eBook and a white paper. It's a great question and I answered it with this blog post.

I'm sure you remember back in school when the teacher would say,"The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked" or  "You probably aren't the only one who wants to ask this question." It's the same thing with prospects and customers. If one of them asks you a question, chances are ten others are looking for the same answer. That's a perfect opportunity to create a blog post, eBook, or white paper.

3. Help your readers do their jobs

Everyone is reaching out for help in some area of their working life. Providing that assistance gives you a leg up on landing more business and keeping the customers you have. For instance, you might want to help people looking to produce content that gets read and drives more traffic to their site by showing them how to create compelling content. See what I did there? Or you may want to offer some tips on a process that can increase their productivity or enhance the quality of their work.

For example, I deal with many people responsible for producing content for their organizations. While creating content is the only thing I do, their plates are usually overflowing with many other responsibilities. That's why they call me when they need help with their writing needs. But as everyone knows, delegating tasks can sometimes create more work if not done properly. To help solve that problem for my clients, I wrote this blog post on nine specific steps to take to get the content you want out of a copywriter. This provides them with a checklist for an efficient process that will help lighten their workload, not add to it.

So what's the best way to create engaging, compelling content? It comes down to the basics: create content that's interesting and helpful and people will pay attention.

How are you tackling the challenge of creating compelling content?

 

Outbound Marketing: Not Dead Yet

Quick, what's more important, snow boots or suntan lotion? Doesn't make much sense, does it? The answer is, it depends. When shoveling out your driveway in a howling snowstorm, you need those boots to keep your feet warm and dry. But when you're lying on the beach, you better lather up with some SPF 50 so you don't burn to a crisp.

Marketers are presented with a similar choice when they're asked which is more effective: inbound or outbound marketing.

For a quick refresher, inbound marketing is "attractive," conversation based, and tends to involve general topics surrounding an industry. Think a blog post about a hot topic in technology that someone will want to read because it's of interest to them. It's more about promoting thought leadership than touting a product or service. This blog post is inbound content. Of course I want you to hire me to write your copy, but the specific point of this post is to help you understand how both inbound and outbound content are important.

Outbound marking is "intrusive," one sided, focused on the message the marketer wants to get out, and involves specific information on the company product or service. Think television commercials or radio ads. It is branded copy meant to encourage customers to purchase a specific product or service.

Inbound is getting all the love these days while outbound tends to get treated like last week's fish dinner, but both have a place in a comprehensive marketing plan.

Bring out your dead

You may actually read that outbound marketing is now dead. Whenever I see that, I'm reminded of the scene in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Eric Idle is collecting dead bodies during the plague and one of them keeps protesting: "But I'm not dead!"

Don't get me wrong. The bulk of the work that I do for my clients is inbound marketing content: white papers, eBooks, ghost articles, and blog posts. In fact, I've been Inbound Certified by Hubspot. But I still do a fair amount of traditional outbound marketing as well: brochures, data sheets, case studies, websites, and email campaigns.

Inbound has grown tremendously in the past few years because businesses have learned that it's cheaper and faster to get prospects to come to them rather than going out and hunting them down. The quality of leads tends to be better since the people who are attracted are voluntarily seeking you out and are already somewhat interested in your product or service.

Ah, but there's more to the sales process than just the top of the funnel. As prospects get deeper into the buying journey, they need to be nurtured and converted. Accepted practice is that it takes 7 to 10 touches to convert a lead into a sale. Many of those early touches should be inbound marketing content. As prospects proceed down the funnel, they usually want and need more information to make their decision. That's where a good outbound marketing program comes into play. A well crafted data sheet or brochure along with a compelling case study can be crucial in closing the deal.

Outbound still works

A survey by DiscoverOrg revealed that 60% of IT executives reported an outbound call or email led to a vendor being evaluated. Almost three quarters said they attended an event or took an appointment after receiving a cold call or email. Outbound still works.

The bottom line? You don't have to choose. You need both inbound and outbound content in your marketing program. They just need to be used in the right place and at the right time.

What about you? How are you balancing the two?

White Paper or eBook: What's the Difference?

This is a question I get asked often. Clients who know they want a content piece longer than a blog post are familiar with both white papers and eBooks, but have trouble understanding the difference between the two. Here's an analogy that might help. Think of an eBook as a friendly conversation with a family member or friend at an informal gathering. Consider a white paper, on the other hand, as a seminar given by a noted expert in the field. That doesn't mean an eBook isn't informative or a white paper has to be stern and stuffy.

Let's say the topic is the stock market. If you're chatting with a cousin who's a financial guru, chances are you're going to get some solid insight. And if you're seminar leader is good, she's likely going to work hard to make her presentation entertaining and enjoyable.

The topic can be the same and you'll likely gain knowledge from both an eBook or a white paper, but there are significant differences between the two.

Timing

You probably didn't plan on hearing about the stock market until you started talking to your cousin. But he caught your interest immediately so you quickly became engaged. Something similar happens with an eBook. You may have gotten a link in an email, the subject sounded interesting, so you checked it out. EBooks act as an effective introduction piece and tend to be used early in the customer journey. You're trying to spark a prospect's interest by discussing the general topic area involving your product or service.

The seminar is different. You probably sought it out, signed up for it for a specific day because you wanted to learn more about the topic from an expert. Like a seminar, you usually seek out the white paper and normally "pay" for it with your email address. It's this proactive nature that makes white papers more appropriate for buyers when they are further along in the customer journey - normally in the decision phase.

Tone

Like the party discussion, an eBook is more of a one on one conversation. Your cousin will most likely be talking directly about what "you" should be considering when it comes to the stock market, and how recent fluctuations or events in Washington will affect "you" and "your" investments. EBooks are similar in that they are written directly to "you." It's you and the author, face to face discussing the topic.

At a seminar, however, leaders may speak in more third person terms. They'll try to engage everyone in the room, but they're more likely to discuss how the latest drop in the Dow Jones affects "investors." Or they'll point out strategies "people" should be following. White papers take on this formal tone and are normally written in the third person.

Appearance

Your cousin won't likely be wearing a suit and tie at the party. He'll be comfortably attired in a sweater or golf shirt. EBooks present that informal look as well. They're usually filled with colorful illustrations and graphics meant to attract attention. As I said, you didn't necessarily expect to be reading this piece so something needs to grab and hold your attention.

Seminar leaders will likely be wearing semi-formal attire like a suit. They understand people are coming to them for in-depth knowledge, so they want to begin earning your respect with the way they dress. White papers also take on a formal look. They are primarily text with some charts but very few illustration or graphics. This may not sound exciting, but remember, buyers are already in the decision stage. They don't need whistles and bells - they want hard information and data so they can make a choice that could have a major impact on their company.

EBooks and white papers both have a place in your inbound marketing plan. Just understand the difference so you can employ them appropriately.

 

 

 

Ring in the New Year with a Content Review

The hectic run-up to the holiday season is usually a time of finishing up projects before the end of year lull. Once through the festivities, activity ramps up again and the new year can sometimes present a blank slate - perhaps even a clean desk - and offers a perfect opportunity to start a few new projects. One of the more productive things you might consider is taking a look at your content. Start by reviewing what you have and then determine what you might need in the coming months. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Take advantage of untapped resources

Coming up with content ideas can sometimes be a struggle, especially with a bulging to-do list of other priorities. The solution may not be as difficult as you think. domain owner . You're likely surrounded by several fertile sources that you may not have considered - your resident subject matter experts.

Most companies, especially those in the technology space, have SME's who are carrying around valuable knowledge about your industry, business, and customers. Unfortunately they probably lack the time to get that information down on paper where you can share it with current and prospective clients. Why not arrange to tap that extensive knowledge and put together an eBook or white paper on a topic relevant to your business?

Not only will this provide you with an outstanding content piece for lead generation or thought leadership, but it'll also allow the SME to share his or her valuable insight - something they may be eager to do.

2. Document a customer success story

The end of the year is always a good time to look back to last year to find situations where your product or service helped one of your clients. Crafting several compelling case studies fills two needs: It provides your customer with some always welcome publicity and it also gives you an effective proof of concept piece.

One of the biggest influencers with potential clients is evidence that your product or service does what you say it will. Demonstrating it with a real world example from an existing customer is one of the most powerful sales tools.

3. Refresh your blog

Spend a minute going through your list of blog posts. If the most recent one is three or four months old, you're sending a message that either you have nothing new to say or you've abandoned the blog section entirely. This could be the right time to reach out to customers and prospects with a series of posts to refresh that area of your site.

You don't need to commit to a daily blog blitz, but presenting one post a week for the next few months will show that you're making an effort to communicate with your audience.

4. Update your web site

While you're on the site, take a look at other copy that may need updating. Is your bio page still relevant? Does it include new hires and has it been edited to delete those no longer with the company? How long has it been since you posted a new entry in your press release section? Does the main message on your home page still accurately reflect the company's direction?

I'm not suggesting you invest heavily in an all-new design. Sometimes revisiting and updating some of your key content elements is all you need to breath some life into your site.

5. Get published

One of the best - and most cost effective - ways to get publicity for your company is to publish an article in an industry magazine or newsletter. Those publications are always looking for content so they'll likely welcome your reaching out to offer your expertise. This is an excellent way to share your thoughts on a hot industry topic and get some props for your organization at the same time.

After the article is published, you then have a solid marketing piece you can share with prospects and customers to reinforce your thought leadership profile.

Lots of resolutions are made at this time of year and many of them wither and die before too long. Reviewing and upgrading your content program doesn't have to be one of them. By taking a few simple steps now, you can establish a year long program that can yield significant benefits.

What are your content plans for 2015?