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Why content marketing is a great idea and why the last people to tell you how to do it are content marketing experts

business dogHere are 11 tips of my own for writing effective content.

1 Don’t start with your goal. Clickthroughs, signups or whatever. Instead, begin by thinking about your reader. What would they find interesting, compelling or downright unmissable?

2 Resist the temptation to turn your content into an advertisement for your product or service. The whole point of content marketing is that it creates a relationship based on trust. You are offering valuable information – for nothing – and in return your reader will think better of you.

3 Give in to the temptation to ask for something in return. The content is pure information. But the moment it’s finished, have a call to action. They have committed to reading one piece of your content. Offer them more in return for their email address.

4 Do not outsource your content creation to a pennies-per-word copywriting service. Yes, you will pay £2.50 for an article. And you will get rubbish. It’s called “pay peanuts, get monkeys’. And, contrary to what the rule says, if you have a thousand monkeys hammering away on typewriters for 100 years, what they will come up with is not the complete works of Shakespeare but 237 billion words of gibberish. Much like many blog posts you see.

5 Write in Plain English. People don’t want to work at this stuff. The paradox of free information is that people like it but they don’t place too much value on it. So the moment it gets hard to read they can skip off without any guilt.

6 People like lists. Odd numbers work well. So a title like “37 reasons to avoid using yew for your next bird table project” catches at something in people’s subconscious.

7 Content doesn’t have to be your own. You can curate – to use the word of the moment – a selection of interesting information you’ve spent time gleaning from other sources.

8 Make your content easy to share. Use social sharing widgets on every page and write a call to action encouraging your readers to use them.

9 Although the concept of keyword density has, thankfully, fallen from grace as an SEO (search engine optimisation) tool, it still makes sense to think about how your reader is going to find your content. Be specific when you describe the thing you’re writing about and vary the descriptions to avoid boring/irritating your reader.

10 Use hyperlinks to a) give your content a quasi-academic feel and b) push your reader deeper into your own site. Do NOT link to external sites. You are not Wikipedia.

11 Remember that the most important word in ‘content marketing’ is ‘marketing’. Last time I checked, ‘marketing’ is about meeting customer needs profitably. And guess what the most important word in THAT phrase is? If you’re not making money you are wasting your time. When the bank asks for its money back – or your shareholders, private equity owners or institutional investors – telling them you have 85,000 Twitter followers will be met with the contempt it deserves.

And I’m telling you this because

Content marketing is just the latest bandwagon on which the digital snake oil salesmen are jumping. Ignore them and follow the advice of people who actually made a living selling stuff. Like David Ogilvy, who had this to say about advertising:

“Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”

Categories: Content marketing, Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing, Selling, and Web copywriting.

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