Content is information. Its sole purpose: To relay a message -- good, or bad. Examples include:
- Blog articles,
- infographics and SlideShares,
- videos and images,
- memes and GIFs,
- transcribed interviews...
- etc. etc. etc.
It's not hard to create content, per se (millions of people have done so on Facebook since you started reading this article). And as a result, the web has a superabundance of fluff.
Creating good content -- valuable, interesting, compelling content -- however, now that's hard. But if you can pull it off, the Internet can be a tremendous place to market.
Enter: Content Marketing, one of the best ways to promote your business. Period. But don't take my word for it...
"Content marketing is the only marketing that's left!"
Seth Godin, editor of the world's most popular marketing blog, said that back in 2008.
Seven years later, the question isn't whether content is important (it is), but rather how to ensure that what you create is worth the time it takes to consume it.
Well, here's a start... Ask yourself the following 6 questions each time you think you're ready to hit "Publish." Doing so will:
1. Help you objectively analyze your content and
2. help you view it from your audience's perspective.
1. Is this Appropriate?
Just as you have an objective when creating content, your readers have a goal in mind when consuming it.
Appropriate content will help your target audience achieve their goals. Ideally, it will generate the "Aha!" moment, providing readers with the exact information they need to solve a problem.
Creating appropriate content starts with understanding your readers:
- Who are they?
- What are their problems?
- What are they hoping to accomplish?
After you nail down the aim of your target audience, it's time to think about your own business goals...
How can your content help boost sales? How can it improve customer service? Also -- and this is critical -- can you consistently create valuable content without going broke?
Content is a two-way street, as it's only appropriate when it's of benefit to both the audience and the producer.
2. Is this Useful?
Useful content has a purpose.
The more specific the purpose, the more useful the content. For example:
- "Selling a service" is less useful than "Selling this service"
- "Selling this service" is less useful than "Showing the benefits of this service"
- "Showing the benefits of this service" is less useful than "Describing how this service can help doctors schedule patients more efficiently"
You get the idea. Specificity is key.
Purposeless content will only annoy your readers. Avoid this by clearly identifying what your piece is meant to explain.
3. Is this Audience-centric?
More likely than not, your company's blog is not "assigned reading."
Unless people truly enjoy your content, they're not going to consume it or share it -- the Internet is too vast to devote time to stuff you don't like.
And what's one of the fastest ways to turn people off from your content? Here's a hint: It's not what you say, it's how you say it...
If you alienate your readers with content that:
- Uses excessive jargon,
- refers to common ideas with proprietary terminology, or
- references (and doesn't explain) uber-specific concepts...
People won't connect with what you've created, regardless of how brilliant the message is.
Sculpt messages that your target audience can easily understand and relate to. Anything less than that is self-serving -- and, to quote Seth Godin again:
"Nobody wants to connect with a selfish person."
4. Is this Clear?
Clarity is one of the greatest virtues a content creator can possess. Unclear writing is just too frustrating and too much of a time commitment, especially for online readers.
If you want to start creating clearer content in minutes, read this.
5. Is this Consistent?
Ever wonder what style guides like The Chicago Manual of Style and TheAP Stylebook are for?
They exist to enforce language consistency, which provides 3 distinct benefits to readers:
- Less distractions
- Less cognitive effort
- Greater comprehension
As a content creator, you always want to drive your message home. The best way to do so is by minimizing distractions and maximizing comprehension. Keeping your grammar, punctuation, voice and tone consistent throughout all your content pieces is one of the most effective ways to ensure your message is coming through loud and clear.
6. Is this Necessary?
When it comes to online publishing, just because you can...
- Add another page,
- post another blog, or
- upload another picture
...doesn't mean you should.
"Publishing everything conceivable" rather than "publishing everything needed" can diminish your content's quality and make it difficult to find specific information. Worse yet, it'll likely irritate your target audience. You don't want to do that. You worked too damn hard to attract your readers and earn their trust.
Here are several examples of unnecessary content (because people tend not to consume it):
- Legal copy
- Press releases
- Off-topic posts
- Mission/vision statements
- Product/service feature lists
Once you've rid your site of superfluous content, start making each piece that did make the cut bolder, clearer and more persuasive.