Why Is Content King?
Well, that’s a reasonable enough question.
Content writing goes back about as far as advertising itself does. It’s evolved, it’s developed as times have changed, but it’s still the bread and butter of the advertising world.
And when it comes to websites, you can have good web presence, you can have your keywords nailed down and have your site optimized within an inch of its life, you can have every search-engine-friendly angle covered, you can have splashy graphics and images, a great product or service, killer Flash animation, but there’s still one make-or-break element:
If you’ve been out on the internet for very long, you’ve undoubtedly run across some horrible Content. Clumsy writing, calls to action that aren’t persuasive on the slightest. And that’s not even mentioning or considering the grossly misspelled and poorly punctuated Content that’s out there (nothing will torpedo your credibility quicker than that among educated users…but more on that later). So let’s break it all down a little more.
Who Is Your Audience?
That’d seem like a good place to start, wouldn’t it? Whether you have a sophisticated ad campaign with a whole marketing department that’s analyzing and examining your audience like they’re lab rats…or just going by your judgment and gut feeling…you have to know who your audience is and who your potential buyers are. How old are they? What’s their income? What are their concerns? What would they like to see themselves accomplishing? What kinds of products are they buying from the competition already? And most importantly…why should they turn to you and your products and services for help?
Obviously if your company deals in a very specialized widget or doodad, or if your services are very specific, this will all be much easier to figure out. But if your products or services are more generalized, you need to think about it a little harder. When you’re researching your target market, consider things like:
- How old is your audience?
- Where do they live? What part of the country? What neighborhoods?
- Are they primarily men or women (or both)?
- What are their political views and social values?
- What ideas do they already have about businesses, products or services like yours?
- What kinds of keywords are they already searching for, and what websites are they frequently visiting (there are plenty of tools available to narrow this down)?
There may be times when you have to fragment this target audience even more, i.e. there are instances where you may need to write two separate lines of Content, one for women and one for men. Do your homework carefully when you’re thinking about your target market.
What Can You Offer?
Once you’ve established who your appeal is going to be aimed at, the next thing to think about is the offer itself. Think about the competition, the things that are already working in your marketplace, and improving on them. Unless you’ve got a product or service that is brand-new and totally unique, this is going to be the best way to approach it. Do your research by going to forums or customer review sites and finding out what users and buyers have to say about your competition’s products or services…the strengths and weaknesses, customers’ likes and dislikes.
Then – think about what you can do to differentiate your products and make them stand out in the field. It could be price, it could be features, it could be packaging, warranty, support, regular improvements, new models. Remember, your product or service needs something in the Content that will make it more desirable than the competition.
Be a little wary, though, of using price as your main selling point. Price by itself can be the business model that’s successful for awhile, until the competition drops its prices too…and then you’re forced to drop yours again until your margins shrink. Price needs to be coupled with value to really be the thing that puts your product over.
Now … Writing the Content Itself
There is, of course, an entire science devoted to writing sales Content, a science that’s too complex and involved to go into here. Marketers have spent generations working on appeals that press buyers’ various psychological and emotional buttons, with some great results and some that are not so great. But we’ll touch on a few principles, at least:
- Don’t oversell it. Effective sales Content isn’t just a mishmash of exclamation points, bold type, superlatives and action/power words. You might see that in some extremely competitive markets like bodybuilding products or financial investing, but in many cases your audience is going to be smart enough and literate enough to see right through that. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself, “Is this something I’d fall for?”
- Hearts and Heads. Strike a balance between emotional appeals and the cool, rational, nuts-and-bolts strong points of what you’re trying to sell. This is where the research on your target audience is very, very important. Understanding your buyers, their wants and needs, their emotional makeup, is going to be of vital importance when figuring out what their emotional triggers will be. If your company is selling oilfield drill bits, most of your buyers aren’t going to be interested in emotional appeals. If your product is, say, auto insurance, safety and reliability are going to figure heavily into your audience’s peace of mind.
- Readability. The best ad Content is the stuff that’s so subtle that it doesn’t even read like ad Content. Go back and read it yourself, then distribute it around to a bunch of other people whose opinions you respect and get their take on it as well. And remember that writing ad Content for the Web takes a somewhat different style and skill set than writing broadcast or print ad Content. People like simple, direct, unpretentious prose for their Web ad Content. Make it conversational; imagine that you’re speaking to someone who’s sitting across a table from you at lunch.
And something we mentioned earlier …
Remember? Double- and triple-check your spelling, punctuation and syntax. You don’t have to go very far to find Internet ad Content that’s shot through with misspelled words, misplaced punctuation and other glaring errors. Even things like “they’re/their/there.” If you’re not certain of your spelling and/or composition skills, enlist the help of someone who does know. Don’t rely on spell check to catch mistakes; make certain of these things before you put it up on your site. Nothing can wreck your credibility quicker, and it will reflect horribly on your company’s reputation.
So what did we learn in all this? It’s a lesson from ad Contentwriting that goes back a couple of hundred years.
Great Content can make a mediocre product or service look great. Of course, that’s not what you want to do, you have a great product or service and that’s what you want customers to take away from their experience. You want their return business and customer loyalty, so you don’t want to market a shoddy product. But the other side of that coin is that a great product or service won’t come across well if your Content stinks. Design, SEO, Flash, images, search engine results are all secondary to putting good, concise, persuasive, well-turned Content that will convince your customers and your audience that your product/service stands out from the pack and will do better for them than your competitors’ will.