We are in a golden era of content. With the click of a button, you can have a video, an infographic, or an article delivered to you. But with this convenience comes a dilemma. How do you know what will resonate with your target audience? How do you know what will persuade them to act or to make a purchase?
It used to be that if you wanted to target a specific audience you had to limit yourself to publishing content for that specific group. If your goal was to increase website traffic, you had to cater to the interests of the search engine optimizers you were trying to impress. Today, you can publish content that you know will appeal to anyone with an internet connection, but how can you be sure that it will resonate with your target audience?
The answer is: you cannot. Even the most innovative content will fall flat without the proper advertising. That’s what makes this content marketing era so exciting. There’s always room for growth and experimentation, but at the same time, you’re bound to discover somewhere along the line that your content is not working as hard as you think it is.
So how do you fix it? You test. You try new things. You analyze the results. You adjust. You optimize. But you don’t give up. As long as you understand the underlying principle that makes your content work, then you can continue to improve upon it. After all, it’s only natural to feel hesitant when trying something new, especially if you’re not absolutely certain that it will work. But with patience and humility, you will see spectacular results that will cause you to wonder why you weren’t tested or why you didn’t try this sooner.
The Research Phase
The very first step to creating perfect content is proper research. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a copywriter or editor – before attempting any content marketing, it is essential that you gain as much knowledge as possible about your target audience. This entails identifying the demographic, psychographic, and situational aspects that define them. It also means establishing communications with potential customers via various methods (i.e., phone calls, texts, emails, newsletters, etc.).
If you’re already working on a piece for publication, then you can use existing data to inform your findings. In that case, you will want to find out who your target audience is and what they want. You can use tools like Google Analytics to track the behavior of existing users on your site and determine what resonates with them, what drives them to action, and what they want more of. The information that you collect here will guide all your future content marketing activities.
The Development Phase
Once you have your target audience in mind, it’s time to develop content that will make them say “wow – that was pretty awesome.” This is the phase where you brainstorm ideas, write down what you have, and organize it into a cohesive piece. It may be a good idea to write down the main points that you want to make, as well as the supporting details that you’ll use for illustration. Think of this as the “fancy schmancy” phase of your content creation.
You want to create something that is polished, organized, and interesting to read. Something that will keep them coming back for more. In order to do this, you need to establish a strong foundation, so you can add layers upon layers of complexity as you develop the idea. The more you refine your idea, the better it will become. Don’t be afraid to throw out your old ideas and start from scratch. There’s always something new to learn. Something that will make your idea better.
The Testing Phase
Once you have your polished, complex idea, it’s time to test it. You can do this by publishing the content and then measuring the results. The most effective way of doing this is to compare your results to those of a control group (i.e., group of people that did not receive the content). Comparing the two sets of results allows you to discover which parts of your content are most effective and which parts need to be changed. This is the phase where you learn the most – you will discover new things that will help you craft even more effective content in the future. So, be sure to actively involve yourself in the testing process. Question the results. Dive into the numbers. And most importantly, ask for more. More tests. More results. More analysis. More learning.
The Optimizing Phase
Once you have your content polished and tested, it’s time to make it work even harder. This is the phase where you take all that you’ve learned and apply it. You start by making small changes to parts of the text that didn’t quite work in the previous stage. Then, you move onto other parts. Continue experimenting until you find the right combination. You want to find that perfect balance between structure and flexibility. You want to make sure that enough complex ideas were explained so that your target audience fully understands what was being said, but you also want to make the content as adaptable and portable as possible. These two seemingly conflicting goals can be achieved through proper word choice and sentence structure. You want to craft a series of statements that can be easily understood by the least educated person, yet contain enough complexity to engage the most experienced individuals.
As you continue to tweak and optimize, you will start to see results. If everything goes well, then you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the benefits of effective content marketing for quite some time.
To help you along the way, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will assist you in creating perfect content for your next project.
1. Be Specific.
When you’re writing for the internet, you want your content to be as specific as possible. The more you can tell the reader, the better. This means using real numbers (i.e., specific sale figures, website traffic statistics, etc.) rather than broad generalizations. For example, you might write “Our audience is mostly made of consumers aged between 18 and 24.” Instead of writing “Our audience is everyone,” you can say “The majority of our audience is women between the ages of 18 and 24.”
This is not because you’re trying to appeal to only one demographic. It’s because you want to be as specific as possible in case someone decides to look up the data to back up your claim. Once your content is out there, it’s never really gone. You might want to say that you’ll remove it in a few months. But the truth is – your content is out there and available for anyone to see. So it’s best to be as specific as possible. This will make sure that your content will be easier to verify or refute.
2. Keep It Simple.
Writing for the internet entails a certain minimalism. You don’t need to dress your text in fancy frills and flourishes. Keep it straightforward and to the point. The simpler the better. Minimally, you just want to have a good story told in an interesting way. Too much adding and removing of words will only result in a jumbled mess.
For instance, if you’re writing an article for publication, you might want to keep paragraphs short and snappy. You might also want to avoid using big words or long sentences. A simple, straightforward approach will make your writing much easier to understand by the average person. Besides, it shows that you were thinking straight through the process, rather than using obscure words for emphasis. Big words are cool, but they don’t always translate well to text.
3. Use Active Voice.
The active voice is a grammatical construction that actually describes what someone is doing or feeling. For example, if you want to write about cats, you could say “I love cats.” But it would be more effective to say “I am loving cats.” This is because the active voice makes the subject of the sentence the speaker, while the passive voice makes the subject of the sentence the receiver of the action.
For instance, if you are writing an article for publication, you want the reader to be the one performing the action. So, instead of writing “The cat dragged me away,” you could write “I was dragged away by a cat.” The same goes for the following examples: eaten by a shark, hit by a truck, or arrested by the police.