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Tips for Creating Content that Works

Date Posted: Friday, 08 March 2013 14:41
Posted By: Kerry Butters

By now, most of us have heard the adage ‘content is king’ or heard the term ‘content marketing’ being bandied about. However, it can be confusing at times to agree on a clear definition of what content marketing actually is.

To put it plainly, content marketing is the creation of compelling, useful content that engages an audience and prompts them to take action. This could be social sharing or clicking through to a website.

Having a website without quality content is akin to having a fishing boat in a swimming pool, yes it might look good and like it’s there for a reason, but without any fish, it’s effectively defunct.

Luckily, creating good content is not the chore it once was. Not only do we know have powerful and easy-to-use CMS solutions, but they include numerous tools that makes creating content that little bit easier.

For example, a CMS can deal with the on-page SEO, it can tailor your content so that it suits different platforms and can be created for numerous sites easily and quickly.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are not other aspects to creating content which are equally as important, if not more so, than a CMS. This is because as humans, not one of us is infallible and we tend to make the odd mistake.

Compelling content that works

The secret to creating compelling content is dependent on a number of factors, the first of which should be whether or not the content creates an emotional response in the reader.

This can be done:

  • Through making the audience laugh (most effective)
  • By making them angry (not quite as effective but still ‘up there’)
  • Making them feel sad or connect with the story in a personal manner

Of course, content is not merely the written word, it describes videos, infographics, images and so on. Different forms of content have different skills that need to be applied to each but every single one of them should provoke some form of reaction and most importantly, engage the audience.

Marketing principles at work

Tone, style and content of any written work is more important than you think. For example, to address a corporate audience is to address a group of people that have different values than those of say, young mums, who will come from a cross section of people with various backgrounds, dislikes and likes and so on.

Whilst the young mums will have a range of interests, the corporate reader is reading for work, not fun and so can be addressed using technical terminology which will up the readability factor for the piece.

Readability is measurable though and if you can’t get a CMS with an integrated readability tool, then don’t despair, there are other options available.

Grammarly have a downloadable tool for Word which checks for readability using the Flesch-Kincaid rating system, which is based on US grades for English used in schools and colleges.

The tool allows you to see how well every piece of writing scores on readability taking into account:

  • Length of words, sentences and paragraphs – if these are too long then readability will be lessened.
  • Amount of lines in a paragraph
  • Number of syllables in each word
The formula looks like this:

Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level
 

 (Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch%E2%80%93Kincaid_readability_test#cite_note-8)

This can be broken down into scores as below.

90.0–100.0

easily understood by an average 11-year-old student

60.0–70.0

easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students

0.0–30.0

best understood by university graduates

 

Whilst it’s easy to think that many people will be able to take in and understand a lower grade that applies to graduates, it’s never a good idea to make sweeping generalisations, so it’s important that you tailor the content to the audience.

For example, this article has a readability of easy on every scale and whilst it may not actually be easily understood by a 15-year-old, it will by its audience, which is those who understand what content is, are interested in CMS and managing a complex or several websites.

Microsoft Office programs also allow the readability tool to be enabled in options.

How do I know who my audience is?

Common sense obviously plays a part here but any marketing department or business owner should already have a clear idea of their target audience. Technical documents which have a lot of jargon are always going to have a lower readability score than those without.

However, even when writing for a business audience, ease of reading still needs to be given thought and it’s as well to keep it simple and not get too involved with flowery descriptions and long words.

This is because, for the most part, people scan text when they are reading online, as opposed to reading offline. This means that not only should written work be easy to read, it should have impeccable spelling and grammar and be easy to pass the eye over.

This means keeping sentences and paragraphs short, with clear white space in between each paragraph. It’s also a good idea to use ‘snippets’ where you can and if your CMS does this for you, all the better.

By snippets, I mean quotes or bits of text that really push a point home and can be taken in at a glance, preferably within a graphic of some description (nothing fancy). This is a technique also used in whitepapers, which have a tendency to be a lot longer than your average blog or article.

These techniques allow information to be absorbed quickly and easily, meaning that your content keeps the reader engaged as online readers soon become bored. Using text and language that is easily digestible is also vital to holding the reader’s attention, not because the reader is stupid and doesn’t understand long words, but because they become bored when the natural flow is interrupted.

This means that long, convoluted words and sentences are likely to make the reader stop and look harder, thus losing their grip on the ‘story’.

The same general principle applies to video and imagery (especially infographics) too; the reader needs his attention caught quickly and held, preferably until after he’s shared the content or made a purchase.

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