You would think everyone and every company would want to know how to create great written content. You'd be wrong. They don't.
I believe most companies simply want to create written content—blogs, for the most part—and don't care whether or not it's great1. And I submit, as evidence:
- The Internet at large: It's polluted with dreadful blogs.
- The blog graveyard: A shocking percentage of bloggers pull the plug.
- The proliferation of content farms: Low-cost writer brokerages continue to thrive because marketers want more pages, posts, URLs, emails… Essentially, they want more web real estate.
- The atrophy of writing fees: Now that everyone and their cousin-in-law provide content writing services, it's become Walmart.
- The bell curve: As interest, and activity, in content marketing continues climbing, a normal distribution curve suggests only a small percentage will achieve excellence.
Google Trends data indicates interest in content marketing has risen steadily since 2011.I suspect a line charting content quality would look different.
It not great, then why?
I wonder if the masses that produce low or mediocre quality content understand content marketing, and in particular, the purpose of written content. It's hard to deny many companies simply feel it's an obligation of doing business, perhaps like getting listed in the yellow pages once was.
"The competition has a blog, so we should too." That sort of thing.
I may fail to deliver new revelations here, but I'm going to reiterate what you can accomplish with content marketing. Understand, first and foremost, the purpose is to help get and keep customers.
Great written content can:1
Rank high on search. The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), as it's come to be called, is when a potential buyer performs an online search. At that point, your content (and brand) gets discovered or it doesn't. Fittingly, I share what Google served first when I searched "ZMOT."
Earn traffic. The marketer's hope is the result of ranking high is getting a searcher to click-through to the company's website. The value of having your content listed and seen on search pales in comparison to prompting a visit. Understand visits from search have a relatively high intent to buy compared to visits from other channels.
Generate leads. Great content draws the prospect closer to the brand. This may mean the prospect requested a subscription, a downloadable offer, an opportunity to attend an event, a demonstration, trial, consultation, meeting, evaluation, or any number of actions indicating interest.
Sell. A satisfied content consumer may develop trust in the brand and consequently become a customer.
Earn loyalty. Content should target existing customers for a variety of reasons: satisfaction, retention, upsell, referrals and brand advocacy.
The benefits above are more standard than complete. Great written content can accomplish additional objectives, say, secure donations (for a charity); inspire applications (for an HR department); and so on.
Poorly written content will accomplish none of the above. There is no point in wasting resources, however slight, on writing and publishing shallow, uninspired, copycat content.
Let's talk "who" before "how"
It takes a threesome to create great written content.2 You need a:
- Strategist —Great written content comes with context. It's created to help fulfill a business objective.
- Subject matter expert —Content writing for marketing purposes is not news reporting or journalism. The great stuff showcases the insights of experts.
- Talented writer —It's unlikely your strategy and subject matter are unique. You have competition. In the long run, the prize goes to the producers of the best-written content.1
Your threesome may or may not comprise three people. One person may fulfill one, two, or all three roles. Just be sure someone wears these three hats.
14 ingredients found in the tastiest written content
I did a good deal of searching and reading before writing what follows and I'll quote some of the nuggets I found. Unsurprisingly, I found a useful "ingredients" infographic from Damian Farnworth at Copybloggerwith an emphasis on writing style. And a post by Zach Bulygo and Sean Work on the Kissmetrics blog hammered home nine important points.
Still, I didn't find a list of the "ingredients" or "elements" of great content I felt was thorough or complete. I came up with a list of fourteen. I'll expand on each, but first, let's look at the list in the form of a nutritional label. (You're welcome to copy, republish and share it.)
In the nutritional label, I explain, by "purpose," I mean your message should have a clear point. Neil Patel expands on this nicely on the Entrepreneur blog:
"An article is supposed to communicate a point. When your article has a point, it gives readers something memorable to latch onto. They are more compelled to share it, comment on it, and engage with it. An article with a point is an article that accomplishes a mission and is therefore successful."
I'll expand on "purpose" with another idea, an even bigger purpose, if you will. If you missed it, go back and read the final part of the label: Content Marketing Institute's definition of content marketing. It includes the purpose of content marketing: driving profitable customer action.
Perhaps the idea could be simplified to simply "sell." You could make a case some written content aims to entertain instead of sell. Additionally, you could make a case content marketing is more effectively when it avoids "hard sell."
But don't lose sight of the prize. If you're creating content in the interest of marketing, it should elicit action—or you won't be doing it for long.