The time has come. You need to write a blog post or a new page on the website. You know you should do this more often, but you are not a writer, you are a small business owner or a marketer, or the IT professional that was put in charge of website performance. You hate this. You don’t want to do this. You think, this isn’t what I signed up for.
I Have Good News
Here are two very important pieces of good news.
- Your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell anyone how much you hate doing this.
- I’m here to help. I have created a process that will help you manage this process from start to finish and it will be much easier.
Before You Write Your Content
When I was a kid I played music. Lots and lots of music and many different instruments. I learned that the most important thing about playing music wasn’t the performance, or the natural skill that you possess. The most important thing was how you prepare. Preparing the right way made everything else easier. It’s the same with content. A few minutes of prep will make things much easier in the end.
Preparing to Write Content
Know What You Need to Write About
This isn’t the most glamorous part of the task but it is a huge help and certainly worth your time in the long run. Start by making a list of the products and services your business wants people to know about (Pro Tip: Use Excel to make this list. The sorting and filtering features will come in handy later).
Know What Your Audience Wants to Know
After you create your list of products and services it is good to know what questions people have about them. For example, I want to write content about Search Engine Optimization, SEO. What do people want to know about SEO? I could survey my customers to gather insight or I could use a few free tools to help me figure it out.
Free Tools for Content Discovery
- Answer the Public – With this tool you can put in a keyword and get a list of the most searched questions that relate to your keyword. It looks like this (and can also be exported into an Excel spreadsheet for ease of use).
- KeywordTool.io – You know when searching Google you see suggested searches while typing? When this happens Google is taking their best guess to find what you are looking for. KeywordTool.io puts your keyword into Google and grabs every possible suggested search that they can find. This gives you a list of all the topics that Google thinks people are looking for when they search for your keyword (full disclosure sometimes these are way off and the list needs to be pruned a bit). The results can be copied and dumped into… you guessed it, an Excel Spreadsheet.
- Bonus Research – Now at this point you have a list of keywords that you can write about. If you want to prioritize those keywords to build impact you can jump in and do some keyword research. In the interest of time we will save the keyword prioritization and research topic for another post.
Writing Your Content
You are now sufficiently prepared to write your content. My guess (based on my experience) is that you have anywhere from 500 to 5,000 possible topics in your spreadsheet to write about. So now what? If you’ve done keyword research pick the one with the best opportunity (and if you haven’t done research just pick one, trust me, at this point you are miles and miles ahead of your competition).
Are Your Content Readers Researching or Buying?
Before you start writing your content it is important to look at your topic and consider whether or not your content should be written for someone who is researching your product or buying your product.
- SEO Company
- SEO Company Reviews
Those two keywords are very similar but show very different intent.
For the phrase SEO Company that is someone who is looking for a company that does SEO. Presumably to hire. If I were to write a page of content for that topic I would focus on writing designed to sell. I want the person on that page to find out how to reach me, what services I provide, even potential results. Now, my website is a sales person.
For the phrase SEO Company Reviews this is someone researching SEO Companies. In this case I want to show them some reviews of my service and also give them some information on things to ask when hiring an SEO company. On this page I am more helpful than sales person.
Begin Writing Content!
- What our customers look for and want to know
- People search topics with different purposes
- We are now ready to start writing
Why We Have Done All That Work?
Now that you are writing and you have all this information you can make some great content. So what is great content?
At the very least… Great content is all about 3 main things.
- Understanding intent
- Understanding your audience
- Anticipating questions
We talked about this above. Remember you are writing content that needs to match what your audience is looking for. Are you writing content to inform or close a sale?
Understanding Your Audience
Is your audience the kind that wants or needs you to write in a professional manner? Or do they expect a more conversational tone? Do they like videos, images and other things to help them understand your message?
The best content on the web does an excellent job at anticipating the questions from the audience. Let’s take a moment to go back to SEO for an example. If I asked you to write meta descriptions for all of your pages you might need a little refresher on what that means and what you should do. When you go to Google and type in almost any question relating to meta descriptions you’ll see this page from Moz, a reputable educational resource.
This page is a great example because it doesn’t just answer the question, “what is a meta description?” This page explains how they are used and the best practices you should use when writing them.
The content creators at Moz knew that once they answered one of your questions you probably would have another. Once you got an answer to that question you would probably have another question and on and on and on. By anticipating those questions and providing answers you reduce the risk that your visitor will leave for another site to find what they are looking for.
Content Pro Tips
Before we wrap this up I have some pro tips to help you get the most out of your content.
- Avoid Thin Content – Thin content is either content that is less than 250 words or content that is very similar to everything else on the web (think about websites and product descriptions, generally not much variation in description from site to site).
- Share Your Content – You could write a post and wait for the traffic to come but sharing your content will bring it to your audience. Share your content socially, use email or do both. Just don’t forget those UTMs on your URLs.
- Help Google Understand Your Content – If your content is a video or a podcast Google can’t understand what is going on. Be sure to at least summarize the content and at best transcribe videos and podcasts.
- Make Your Content Easy To Read – Use headings, bullets, lists, to break up your content and help readers understand where they can find what they are looking for. Karlie has put together this great post on Organizing Content – check it out.
Content – It’s Easy Right?
So that’s it. The key to getting content out is as easy as following these steps.
- Research the Topic
- Understand Intent
- Understand the Audience
- Anticipate Questions