Content Marketing is a popular topic these days in the blogosphere.  Content is still a hugely effective tool when it comes to Inbound Marketing.  However, large companies are finally starting to wise up to this and spending big portions of their marketing resources on Content Marketing.

So what does this mean for organizations with marketing budgets that aren’t the size of a small country’s GDP?  Don’t worry, there is still time.  Content marketing is about the long tail.  It is about engagement.  Huge corporations still struggle with this in a major way.

To be successful with content, you need to know what content to create, how to best to create it and how to use it to your advantage.

Let’s go ahead and assume that we all agree that content is important for successful inbound marketing.  Now what?  I am going to give you 5 tips for using content to drive traffic, improve conversion, build a presence, and be successful with your online marketing.

Tip One – IDENTITY

Know yourself and what you do.  Seems simple right?  Sure it is.  But, have you taken the time to write this out?  Do you know your own story?  How does it read?

Before you can start churning out all of this great content for your web site, Blog, or social media outlets, you better know who you are talking to and what you need to say.  To figure this out I suggest you start with a little creative writing.

Take 30 minutes with a blank page and start writing.  Answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your history?
  3. What do you do today?
  4. What makes you different from your competition?
  5. Who cares?

Don’t take too long to write this, just the facts, keep it simple.  We are looking for the essence of who you are as a business or organization.  Leave the technical or detailed stuff for white papers and Blog posts (a little foreshadowing for you).

Put it down, walk away and do something else.  After you’ve had some time apart from your story, come back to it and read it again.  Does it still sound like you?  No?  Make some edits and repeat the last step.

Yes, it does sound like you?  Good.  Now, share it with a few of your best clients, colleagues, associates, members, etc. and get some of the best feedback on your business you’ve ever read.  The feedback you get will help you to determine how these people think about your organization.  Make a note of this; you will want to refer back to it often.

Tip Two – INSPIRATION

I don’t care what anyone says, writing is hard.  Even if you are writing about something you care deeply about.  It still takes time and dedication.  It also takes a lot of inspiration.

Ideas beget ideas.  Even if you disagree with someone else’s idea, it can still get your creative juices flowing.  The process of creation generally starts with some sort of catalyst.  So, where do you get good content ideas?  From other content.

So, start reading blogs, newsletters, trade journals.  Watch YouTube videos from experts in your industry.  Devour.

Here are some ways to get great content delivered to you everyday…

  • Google alerts – Let’s say you are a bike shop, well set up an alert on “biking”
  • Blogs and newsletters – Some of the better blogs out there will have a way to subscribe.  This could be an email newsletter or an RSS feed
  • Subscribe to YouTube channels – there are some great retreads of seminars, presentations, etc out there.
  • Competitors – Seriously, what are they talking about? What aren’t they talking about?  Figure out how you can do it better.

Now that you have these channels open and are receiving lots of inspiration, start jotting down ideas.  Keep a notepad on your desk or wherever you do your best thinking and fill it with scribbles only you can understand.

When you find the time to write something, you can go back to your list for ideas.  Make sure you jot down on this list where those ideas came from, in case you need some reference points.

Tip Three – RECYCLING

Not all content you create for online marketing has to be brand spanking new.  Try looking back through all of your past materials for some things you can re-use.

If you are a technical firm you might have a series of white papers you’ve written in the past.  Can these possibly be repurposed for your web site or Blog?  Or could they inspire a Blog post that references and links back to the white paper, also on your web site?

How about lengthy emails you’ve written answering a client’s question?  This is often a great source of inspiration for Blog posts.  Think about it, a client has asked you about something specific.  You fire back a brilliantly written explanation that the client is thankful to receive.  Well, turn this into a Blog post.

If you are writing content for your web site for the first time or you are looking to enhance or refresh your content, you can certainly look to these same places for ideas.  You can also look back through your past marketing materials.  Which of them were wildly successful?  How can you recreate that success online?

You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.  You might just need to put some air in the tire.

Tip Four – WRITE

If you are going to go to all this trouble, you want to make sure you are actually able to write.  You want to have the tools in place so that you can write and post content yourself.

I know this might sound obvious but so many of our clients come to us talking about content but have no plan for how they will create and manage it from day to day.  With blogs and content management systems today you can create content easily and on YOUR SITE.

That is really the key.  If you are going to write, make sure you are writing for your own site.  Don’t just give all of your good content away by posting it on Facebook or any other site that isn’t yours.

Sure, sharing content and guest blogging are both beneficial but you don’t want to give it all away.  Even with all of this transparency and openness today, ownership is still important.

There are various levels of content management systems for various levels of budgets.  WordPress, for example, is a scalable content management solution that can be templated or completely customized, depending on your budget.

You want to make sure you have all of the tools in place so that you have no excuse not to write when the time is right to write.

Tip Five – PROMOTE

You cannot create content in a vacuum.  This is marketing, you need to share.  If you don’t put your content out there then who is going to read it?  The more you get this content out there (see our post on SEO) the more traffic your site will get.

If you are blogging, do your own “syndication.”  You can easily link your Blog to your Facebook page or tweet your latest Blog posts.  In fact, most social media outlets will have a place where you can add the RSS feed directly from your Blog.  Just make sure it is on your site first so the links you are building come back to your web site.

To promote the other content on your web site, simply promote your site.  Place your web address on everything.  Place it in your email signature, on business cards, in your advertising, your social media profiles, etc.

Email newsletters are also a great way to promote your content.  You can include summaries of your latest blog posts, information about specific product offerings or updates about what is happening in your company.

Promoting your content will make you a better writer.  Promotion and tracking help you see what content works and what content is dead weight.  You will see which Blog posts are getting comments or feedback.  You can tell which pages of your site are popular by checking your web statistics.  You can see what topics in your email newsletters are getting clicked.

The feedback you get will help you to find out more about who you are.  And it will inspire you to create more content and seek more inspiration.  It is a cycle that is perpetuated by the successes and failures it creates.

All of this leads to more qualified traffic, better conversion rates and a more successful inbound marketing strategy.

Do you have a number 6?  Let me know, comment below…

A great content resource is Content Rules by CC Chapman and Anne Handley.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

14 Responses to “5 Tips for Creating More Effective Web Content
  • Jon, great tips! Did you read Content Rules yet? Many similar tips and ideas, but it also goes into greater detail about each of these. If you haven’t yet, I recommend! (I’m not finished yet, but so far I’m getting tons of ideas from it.)

    Amy Garland
    Blue Sky Factory
    http://www.blueskyfactory.com

    • I bought it but have not read it yet. It is on my list for sure. I did make it on your webinar with Anne and CC. Good stuff for sure.

  • Tip 6: to improve conversion, be brief. Short sentences work. Small paragraphs work. Using headers to break up the content works. Jon’s post is a good example of brevity.

    • Great tip Rob. Leave the fluff for fiction!

  • Great advice, Jon.
    That said, I doubt if most business owners have time to do all this. That’s exactly why they need to dedicate a staff member to their marketing efforts and hire an agency to guide them.
    Also, while most business owners certainly know their own product and industry well, I find they’re generally not great writers, and they tend to write from their viewpoint as the owner rather than writing to their customers and potential customers.
    One word of warning, owners will definitely get feedback, and it might be feedback they won’t like. So they have to put their egos aside. Don’t be defensive. Really listen to what customers are saying. They can’t take it personally and can’t respond rashly. Another reason it’s good to have a professional to help them write responses that will generate positive interaction.
    Richy Sharshan
    Sharshan Creative

    • All great feedback Richy. We certainly council our clients on these matters, especially on the ownership and management of web content. I think in this time of informational transparency, businesses need to be aware of the positive AND negative feedback they will hear from clients and in general. I do agree as well that whenever possible it is always smart to bring in some outside help with your web content, even if it is just some editing.

  • Some great stuff in here … I think once you get a better sense of “Identity,” you can take it a step further with “Personality.” Successful Web writing is typically witty, conversational, short and sweet, more personality-driven than straight-up informative. People want engagement, and that means your company’s brand has to have a personality. I also agree that with promotion, cross-promotion is KEY. Tease people to read your blog by sharing it on your Facebook Page, tweet out a pic of your latest Blog post with a shortened URL to the post itself, etc. I’m finding more and more, too, that though I love automatic updates provided by Hootsuite, sometimes tailoring specific content to specific social media really works … even making some content limited to one social media site, so people have to go there to experience it/find it.

  • Great advice, Jon! These are solid, comprehensible great go-to steps in the content generation process. When I speak to trade association and member groups, I’m often asked, “It’s so hard to come up with content ideas (Tip #2) – how do you keep the ideas fresh?” We came up with a simple mix & match chart to help with that process. It’s posted here in case your other readers need some extra help: http://www.slideshare.net/webadvantage/mix-match-content-generation-ideas.

    Hollis (@hollisthomases)
    Web Ad.vantage
    http://www.webadvantage.net

    • Thanks for the comment and great chart!

  • Jon- Great ideas here! Richy’s comment above was interesting, and that’s where I think the idea of Recycling — or, as we call it in Content Rules, “reimagining” can come in. Businesses might already have content in house they can “reimagine” in various formats, for various platforms. They can also look at creating new stuff not as one-offs, but with an eye toward reimagining it in many different ways. As we say, think about creating 10 things out of 1 thing. Not just that one thing.

    • Yes, most definitely. I always advise our clients to look through their previous marketing materials, white papers, presentations and even email conversations. If you are an expert at what you do, and most succesful business owners are, chances are pretty good that you will have some winning content just lying around. Thanks for the comment!

    • Mark

    Nice work Jon. I think more businesses are beginning to realize they are in the media business so a road map like this is helpful.

    I always try and think of my content as a free “attraction strategy” that I give away in order to sell something related.

    • “Attraction Strategy” is a great way to put it. In bound Marketing is another way to say this. Content is important but strategy is very important, you can’t just push good content after bad.

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