Content Marketing

10 Tips for Writing for Mobile – Post Mobileggedon

Now that we are a few months past ‘Mobileggedon’ – how did your sites fare with the algorithm update? Back in February, Google’s Webmaster Central blog made this announcement:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. (Full blog post here)

Luckily, none of my sites were impacted greatly in the search results.  When I first heard of the news, I was a bit concerned about this ‘deadline’ / ‘ultimatum’.  When I thought more on it – it just makes plain sense!  If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site set up, you are causing your customers so much hassle (and lots of unnecessary scrolling, zooming & wishing for tinier fingers).  On that note though, having a mobile-friendly site is not enough to ensure a pleasant site visit.  One of the important factors you have to consider is that content consumption is different on a mobile device.  If you haven’t already explore Thinking with Google’s research on Micro Moments, head over now for some great insight. In short, mobile search is more purposeful – the ‘Is-it-worth-it moments’ to ‘show-me-how moments’ to ‘ready-for-a-change moments’ are all ‘inspired moments’ that are mostly on-the-go.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If your business receives a lot of mobile search, you have to make sure the content on your site is mobile-friendly and conducive to the ‘moment’ your audience is conducting their search. A restaurant for example, might want to make their menu easily accessible on their website. Not only that, knowing site visitors might be visiting on their mobile devices, they might want to not make their menu a downloadable PDF file (just saying!) Here are a few more pointers on writing for mobile:

  1. Write a Compelling Headline – think of what your customers will be searching for and write headlines that satisfies their needs. This will draw them in to either make contact or dig deeper. Keep your headlines short – 55 characters or less as guideline.
  2. Use Sub Headlines – readers consumer content in chunks so guide them through the page with informative sub headlines. Even better if they make sense on their own!
  3. Deliver Content in Bite-Size Bits – each section under a sub headline should be concise as well!
  4. Make Your Content Skimmable – remember that smaller screens will make even the smallest paragraphs seem long winded.  After writing your content, edit and refine to make sure your content is as concise as it can be.  Use bullet lists, bolded or italicized text to bring focus to important points.
  5. Keep Your Most Important Information at the Top – according to Content Marketing Institute, users give 68% of their attention to the center and top half of a mobile page, and a full 86% to the upper two-third. Below that point, they tend to lose focus and concentration.
  6. Use Images Wisely – people love to look at pictures. When given a choice between images or text, most reader’s eyes will gravitate towards the images. Images also take up a lot of space (something you don’t have a lot of on mobile). So – before you add images alongside your text, think about whether it will be a distraction or enhancement to your content.
  7. Be as Concise as Possible –  Edit, edit and then edit some more! Writing for mobile is not just about using fewer words, it is about writing better. That means getting rid of unnecessary filler words and phrases.
  8. Leave Spaces Between Links – if you are adding links to your writing, be sure to leave enough room in between so that your users can accurately select the link they want. (Not all of us have tiny, delicate fingers…)
  9. Remember Your Keywords – SEO is still important, even if you are writing for mobile. Remember to include your keywords for SEO purposes.
  10. Don’t Rely on Design – with all the different phones we have out there, what is ‘above’ the fold on an iPhone 6 might not be in the same spot on a Samsung Galaxy. The point is, don’t rely on design to position your content where you want. It will be impossible to satisfy all the screen sizes out there!

If you haven’t thought about your mobile content – now is a great time to get started!

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7 Tips for Writing Headlines That Work

I think we can all agree that writing headlines is, by far, the most difficult part of publishing. After all, there is a lot of pressure to come up with headlines that are attention grabbing, yet short and to the point.

After all, as the great David Ogilvy, ‘Father of Advertising’ once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.  When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”  I’ve been using this as a guideline for my print ad layouts – and making sure that the headline alone is able to communicate the gist of what the rest of the copy is about.

On the average, five times as many

I do a lot of writing in my current role – not just for websites and blogs but also for print.  While online content consumption is usually very different from traditional mediums, the one challenge they do have in common is the short attention span of their readers.  I once heard someone talk about a ‘trifecta’ formula to writing perfect headlines – how every headline has to contain three points of value that the audience would find useful.  But the more I think about it, the more I wonder – do we really have time to convey 3 facts in 1 headline?

Nowadays, my formula consists of one topic in a catchy phrase, supported by a slightly longer sub-headline.  This formula has served me well for print headlines and even email banners.  Blogs and other pieces that rely on a single headline are harder and take more time to come up with.  I must admit – headlines are definitely not my forte!  Here are a few additional guidelines I have been using to help with the process:

  1. 50/50 Rule – I have read of a 50/50 rule which claims you should spend at least half of your time (and effort) developing and refining your headline
  2. Start with the Value – be clear on the benefits you want to convey and build a headline around what you want your audience to remember
  3. Use Sub Headlines – people tend to consume information in chunks so use sub headlines to bring my detail and structure (especially true for longer pieces)
  4. Be Specific – and avoid vague terms and blanket statements. This allows you to get right to the point without filler and other unnecessary words
  5. Be Compelling – this goes without saying! If you are in marketing, creating compelling content is at the foundation of what you do. It shows how well you know your audience and how much you can relate to them (or vice versa)
  6. Provide Urgency – when you have a compelling headline, you can urge your audience to take action. Communicate if the content is time sensitive (like a sale that is ending soon or an upcoming event)
  7. Edit, Edit and Then, Edit Some More – I often write headlines first before developing the content and use it as a guideline to what the content should talk about. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to go back and make sure the headline is still relevant, effective etc.

Hopefully with a bit more patience and practice, this process will become a much easier one in the future! Do you have any tips for writing strong and compelling headlines?  Share your best practices with me in the comments!

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Business Blogging Tips to Help You Gain Leads

Let’s face it.  Business blogging is a lot of work.  Whether it’s the responsibility of one individual or shared amongst the team, business blogging no doubt requires an investment of time and effort.  Not only do you have to keep to a schedule, you also have to make sure the topics that you talk about are relevant to your audience and that you do it all in a voice that is authentic to your organization.

Having said that, business blogging is an absolutely essential part of your online marketing strategy.  In fact, it can even be considered a marketing channel all its own that can help you grow your business.

Blogging can help drive traffic to your website, which in turn increases conversion opportunities once they get to your site.  It also allows you to highlight your capabilities, your unique products or services, and your brand personality.  It is a way for you to build a relationship with potential customers even before you ever get to talk to them or meet with them.

Blogging can help drive traffic to your

 

Many businesses fail at blogging because they start out either with unrealistic goals in mind or just don’t understand how to properly utilize the platform to their benefit.  Here are some key points to help you get started:

Consistency is Key

Every blog entry you post is a new page your website has.   The more you blog – the more chances you have of showing up in the search results for search terms that your customers … or prospects care about.

Use Social Media to Distribute Your Content

Once you publish a blog entry, be sure to maximize its reach by sharing the post across your social media channels.  Every time you share, it’ll make it easier for your followers or fans to share the content if they find it useful or interesting. This means reaching more customers in a cost effective way!

Keep a Running List of Topics On Hand

For myself, interesting topics are the hardest to come by when I am on a tight schedule.  Keeping a backlog of ideas on hand for these occasions make writing less painful.  You never know when possible topics can pop up – during a brainstorm session with your team, conversations with your customers, or even during a sales pitch meeting with a prospect and you will want to collect these to use at your convenience.

Spread Your Knowledge

Useful information that is educational or interesting can help your business get introduced to new audiences.  When the information is useful and valuable, your prospects will see your organization as more of a resource than a company making a sales pitch.

Pick Blog Topics Based on Your Most Popular Products / Services / Offers

Topics relating to these products, services or offers are the ones that your audience is most interested in so it only makes sense to talk about them more!  Plus, if you are looking at things from an ROI perspective, these blogs will likely convert better than other topics.

Dare to Try Different Formats

When you have more time, you can write longer blog posts complete with graphics and illustrations.  When you’re in a time crunch, it is ok too to have shorter posts.  They can be a list, take aways, Q&A with an expert, an infographic or even a photo update from an event.  The point is to pick a format that will present your information in the most engaging and interesting way that works within your time allotment and other requirements.

 

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Ideal Length of Your Social Updates

Working within so many different networks, platforms etc, sometimes it is hard to figure out just how long my online content should be. (Especially since in this field, things can change so quickly and without notice!)

Recently, I found this beautifully designed infographic from Buffer and the designers over at SumAll that show the optimal lengths for tweets, blog posts, LinkedIn posts, domains, hashtags etc.  I couldn’t help but save it – then I realized, it would be more useful for me to post it so that I can easily come back to it in the future.

Thanks Buffer and SumAll for such a fun and useful infographic!

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5 Ways to Make Your Content Marketing More Interesting

content marketing tips

I admit, some days it is a struggle to develop interesting content for the websites I manage. There is a lot of ‘wordsmithing’ to make boring tedious information seem interesting and engaging for visitors.  After all, did you know that the average attention span of web users is now only 8 seconds? 8…seconds?

These days, I rarely ‘dump’ copy on a webpage as is.  I break up the text with banner images that span the width of the page or Call to Action boxes within the text or at the bottom of the page.  While bulleted lists are a common way to lay out information in an organized way, on the web I find them boring and outdated.  I often apply the ‘zig zag’ approach where I alternate between text and images instead to illustrate the points.

Here are a few creative (and interesting) ways to make your content more interesting:

Infographics

I love Infographics for conveying complex information or stats-heavy information.  An infographic is a visual graphic presentation of information or data.  The infographics that you see now are so visually compelling, it makes learning look fun and easy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Think about the questions that you have received from your customers in the past. If one customer had that question, chances other customers present and future will encounter the same issue.  Keep track of the customer inquiries you have and save the responses you send to your customers as valuable content for your website.

How to Guides

When it is appropriate, How to Guides can be very helpful to your customers.  If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, How to Guides can also help demonstrate that expertise.  Remembering that people only share what they find entertaining or valuable, offering this content freely to your customers can help increase engagement and shareability of your site.

Product Demonstration Videos  

Instead of writing out product descriptions or step by step tutorials, sometimes it is more effective to let your customers see the product in action.  With Vine or Instagram video, these demonstration videos can even be as short as 8 or 15 seconds!

Expert Interviews

Expert interviews can make great blog entries.  It gives your audience the chance to hear from a voice other than yours and it can increase your expertise level by associating with other experts in the field.

Hope these ideas help when you are experiencing marketer’s block!

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Writing for the Web in an Age of Short Attention Spans

Write Effectively for the Web

As marketers, we all know the mantra “Content is King”.   Everywhere we look, we are told that original content is the key to marketing success in 2014.  9 out of 10 organizations  already market with content and believe that content creation is the single most effective SEO tactic.

So with all the time we spend on creating original content, we have to make sure what we are putting out on the web is valuable, interesting and most importantly, engaging and share-worthy.  Part of keeping the readers’ attention is to write and structure your piece in a way that can be read and understood quickly.  To that end, we can apply the techniques of Macrowriting to our writing for the web.

Macrowriting is a writing style that focuses on the “big picture” and the message as a whole.  This style of writing is ideal for when you want to get your point across quickly and effectively – which is precisely what you want to do when you write for the web.  Here are a few techniques for Macrowriting:

High Skim Value

Structure your piece so that readers can easily skim through or refer to certain sections easily. Make sure of headings and subheadings to group ideas together or to emphasize certain words or phrases.

Clear and Logical Progression of Ideas 

As your readers are scanning through the copy, use the headings and different sections of the piece to help them move from one idea to the next.  Provide linkage between sections so they can understand the ties between them and understand reasoning.   Use white space and paragraphs to break up your content visually.  Divide text into shorter blocks of 150 – 200 words if possible.  Keep paragraphs short with 5 sentences or less.

Basic Grammar & Writing Style

Write is writing – no matter the medium.  Good writing still requires organized thoughts, grammatically sound and well structured sentences.  Avoid run on sentences and edit for brevity.  On the web, writing is expected to be less formal and more personable so speak in a voice that will appeal to your audience.

Make it Easy to Share

If you want your readers to share your content – well, make it easy for them to share! Install the “sharing” feature on your blogs or the Pinterest plug-ins if your content is predominantly image-driven.  Keep in mind that your readers may choose to share your content across social media, so include an image with your content if it is possible to encourage click throughs and social shares.

At the end of the day, content creation is not an easy task and requires a frequent investment of time and effort.  If you are creating content for your website, keep your audience in mind and write in a way that will appeal to them!

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Elements of a Good Story

Storytelling in Marketing

I am taking a Communications course right now as part of my certificate in Project Management.  One of the effective communication methods that we examined was storytelling!  We learned that storytelling can be a great way to get a point across, convey facts and promote feel good, buy in and stickiness.

Well, I didn’t need my textbook to teach me that – I already know that from marketing!

It did, however, make me think more on how I can write a more compelling story.  Anyone can tell a story – but how do you make sure you keep your audience listening until your story ends? For that, I guess we will have to go back to the basics of storytelling.  Here are the elements that every story requires:

  1. An event: something must happen to launch the story
  2. A protagonist: a main character that your audience can relate to and get behind
  3. Obstacles and Conflict: what are the challenges that your protagonist faces? What are the problems that your products or services solve?
  4. A Decision: how does your protagonist react to solve their problem?
  5. A Result: what is the result of their decision? What is the ending that you want to leave your audience with?  What action do you want to inspire your audience to take?

Add in vibrant and rich details to keep your audience entranced.  Keep in mind that most consumers today are savvy and knowledgeable so make sure your story is based on fact rather than fiction.

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