The internet is buzzing with companies talking about the value of content marketing. Many are confused about what the phrase means. Even those who clearly understand what content marketing can do will get stuck when it comes to actually creating the content itself. Below you’ll find some elementary basics for writing content to engage the internet-enabled reader.
1. Busy People Scan Instead of Read:
They do not want to take the time to actually read your content. However, they are ravenous about acquiring new information. What that boils down to is – your content must be “scan-able”. The reader will check out the headline and subheads to determine if it will contribute to their desire to learn.
2. Conversational Language Draws the Reader:
When you talk to your reader with the same language used when talking to a friend, people notice your voice. People always prefer to work with someone willing to be “human” rather than aloof, factual and authoritative in their language.
3. Paragraphs Must be Short:
The rule-of-thumb is paragraphs must be shorter than 5 sentences. In fact, to add punch to your message, try a three-word paragraph. The reader will catch that pithy remark when scanning rapidly.
4. Maintain Swipe Files:
Plagiarism has been and always be shameful. However, swiping ideas and techniques from others has been the way all of the great writers have become famous. You are probably a voracious content consumer yourself. Always keep your eye out for info your readers would enjoy – or ways other people use engaging language.
5. Use Bulleted and Numbered Lists often:
It gets back to the frazzled attention span of everyone from the CEO of a large corporation to the college student selecting a smart phone. Lists give some assurance the content has been well researched. People are comfortable “checking off” the list when they read something informational.
6. Vary Fonts Carefully:
Most of the content needs to be a standard font in a familiar font style. Web readers are accustomed to sans serif fonts like Arial and Verdana, while magazines and newspapers tend to use the older font styles like Times New Roman or Courier. Whatever font you use, stick with it for all of your content. When you want to emphasize a word or phrase, use an italic for mild emphasis and bold for things you want to stand out.
7. Minimize Useless Transitional Words:
Normally, when a writer uses the word ‘then’ and ‘that’ and other lazy words, it is an indication the content can be improved. Until you have the habit of catching yourself making this error, plan on making this edit with everything you write.
8. Be Specific in Terms:
In #2 of this list, we said to be conversational. However, there is a risk in conversational language that needs adjustment. You want to sound free and easy within a conversation – however, never forget the reader is scanning. Never leave the reader wondering what you meant to say. Words such as ‘that’, ‘it’, ‘those’, ‘they’ and other similar terms are vague because you skip the context of the sentence.
9. Don’t Overuse Any Word:
When you are editing your writing, look for the use of one word multiple times within a paragraph. Truthfully, your content reads better if you find multiple terms for anything you are writing. For example, I will go back after finishing this document to see if I can remove some of the references to ‘content’ because I know I have used it too many times.
10. Adjectives Have Power: Use Them Sparingly:
When a writer uses a word like awesome, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking, splendid and all of the iterations of such words they make a great point. However, overuse is nauseating. Treat such words like wonderful perfume – sparingly. Select them carefully.