According to marketers surveyed in the beginning of 2015, 30% of them viewed content marketing as the most important trend for the year. Cited reasons include increasing traffic to your website, increase the perception of your business as knowledgeable and engaged with customers, and improving search engine ratings.
There was a time when all you had to do was fill a page with keywords, and your website would be at the top of Google's rankings every day. That's not the case anymore; search engines are regularly refining their algorithms so that high quality, engaging content is more likely to be in the crucial top page of results.
So as a small business owner or marketer, the question becomes: how do you write that high quality, engaging content and why do you need it? Here are four simple rules to help you write content your customers will read and share.
Keep it concise
Notice that I didn't say keep it short. Some topics deserve longer articles than others. There's a truism passed around by writing teachers; the student asks "How long should this story be?" and the teacher replies "As long as it takes to tell the story, and not one word more."
Stay on target and consistent. If you're writing about the importance of content marketing (for example) don't delve into a long-winded story about Aunt Mable and her sweet little dog, Tip. Write the article you need to write, and not one word more.
Do: reread every piece of content and make sure that there are no diversions, digressions, or unnecessary cul de sacs in your writing. Have another person read it over if you're not sure.
Keep it relevant
Any good website has a purpose, a mission statement. That mission statement may have to do with helping entrepreneurs get started with a top-notch business, helping knitters find fantastic patterns and connect with other knitters, or showing off the very best in top fashion news. Whatever the website is, all content on that website should relate to the website's mission in some way. It can be a loose relation; knitters might like to hear about crochet once in a while, and entrepreneurs might be interested in developments that affect bigger companies than theirs, for instance.
But even if your topic veers off trend, make sure your content itself doesn't. Relate everything back to your mission statement.
Do: Consider providing actionable points in every article to make sure that you're staying true to your mission. Every article should have some sort of takeaway for your reader. It should challenge them to do something differently, or enhance their knowledge.
Keep it interesting
Some of the greatest content writers I've known during my career are the people who find everything interesting. They're never bored in conversation; they will happily listen to anyone talk about their passion.
The reason that these people make great content writers is that once they're fascinated by something, they can make it fascinating to other people. If you want your readers to care about what you're writing, you have to make your content useful and readable, too. Otherwise, they never will.
Do: Make sure that you're writing about something that you - and your readers - will find interesting. If the subject as dull as dirt, they're not going to read it, whereas if you can make an otherwise dull topic fascinating, you'll be the talk of the industry.
Keep it current
As both a reader and a content writer, it's frustrating to continue to rehash the same ground over and over. On one hand, there's certain content, often called Evergreen Content, which is expected to pull in new readers over and over. These are usually how-to articles or in-depth discussion of particular topics. They are "evergreen" because they are always relevant.
This is great content, and the type of content that websites are based around, but it's important for Evergreen content to be mixed with News content. News content could be a guest post from an expert reflecting on the state of your industry, or talking about a recent survey or development that was released. It could be a call to action for readers about a new product, or an introduction of a new policy.
Do: Know whether a piece of content is Evergreen or News before you start writing it, and stick to your decision. Link to Evergreen pieces when you need to define something in a News piece. Use an editorial calendar to plan both News and Evergreen pieces for your site.