The Importance of Content
It’s likely that you’ve read a trillion posts about the importance of your content by now, and really, the coffee was the only reason you’re here but hey, that’s okay too. No, not for the analytics bump but because your content strategy really is key to the success of your website and covering some of these basics can enhance your website copy, blog development, and so on. So, no matter why you started reading, I’m glad you’re here.
Let’s start out by thinking of it this way, your content is pretty much where your personas and search engines meet to have coffee, catch up on the latest “what’s new” on the web, and decide if your site has value to them. This all happens in a moment or less and well, sometimes they may see your site as highly linkable and re-visitable (and rankable), while other times there may be technical issues or confused meaning that scare them off.
We can make better use of their time, and yours, by looking at how to enhance the content you offer to keep them sipping that joe and visiting your site.
Where to start? Well, let’s talk about what your personas are looking for.
Your personas are going to be the key to all of this! If you’ve not gotten the chance to develop them yet, take a step back and get to know your personas. We’re going to need to understand who you’re talking to first and foremost.
Okay - so assuming you’ve gotten to know your Tom, Rick or Henrietta's, we need to stop for a bit and take a look at what they need and want online. This could be as simple as asking yourself if your site is set up to meet their needs. If not, that coiuld be a part of a larger discussion, but assuming it is, it’s your content that needs to better target them, and well, that’s what we are here to discuss after all.
Ask yourself questions
To help determine what your personas are looking for, I typically start with a series of questions:
- What are their goals?
- Where are their pain points?
- Why do they need your product or service?
- What related information is going to build your organizations credibility?
- Do they care about the personality/identity of who is writing the information or the data itself?
- What visual queues or information do they expect to show your point more clearly?
- What are their average age and education level? Does this impact their vocabulary?
- Are there industry-specific terms (not jargon) that your personas use?
- Are you targeting a region or country that may include language restrictions?
Questions like the ones above help you determine not only why they’d want to read your content but what terminologies and vocabulary you will want to use when writing for these personas. Answer their questions to speak to them with the language they’ll understand.
And here we have one of the first touchpoints where our personas and search engine overlap: by using your personas vernacular you increase the chances of your content being found by your target audience. Google and other search engines don’t get to keep being our go-to resource if they don’t pay attention to what users searching for. Google states that one of the ways they determine what results show starts with analyzing users are searching for:
“Understanding the meaning of your search is crucial to returning good answers. So to find pages with relevant information, our first step is to analyze what the words in your search query mean. We build language models to try to decipher what strings of words we should look up in the index.” -Google
So now you know who you’re writing for, what they want to hear about, and what words they may be using to look for the information. Milestone down!
A Content Writing Process for Both Personas and Search Engines
Sometimes this can be overwhelming so let’s break this down to the basics:
1. Set a Goal
The goal of your content will direct how you move forward. For example, a blog post’s goal should never be to sell, it’s about building trust and setting your organization up as the expert. A successful conversion may be to play a video, read another article and then, maybe the stretch goal of filling out a contact form. A product page, on the other hand, should be to inform and possibly drive direct sales-related conversions.
2. Create an Outline
- Create a working title that will also act as your H1 tag. You can modify this later - in fact, you probably should!
- Create H2 tags for key points you'd like to make - for example, my working title of “Writing Effective Content for Both Personas and Search Engines” was written down long before this list was!
- Drop in any data, quotes, research or the link for each data point; you’re likely to summarize or format these later but give yourself a few quick references so that when you start to write it’s right there.
- Define your CTA so you know that you’re aiming your content towards that goal!
You may have noticed that at this point I’ve not yet mentioned SEO in regards to the writing your post itself. When you’re done here, check out How To Write The Best Blog Post For Great SEO In 2018 to see all the ways to enhance the optimization of a blog post; and really these methods are great for on-page content too! In fact, they are vital! But for now, let’s keep focused on our creative process.
3. Get Writing
At this stage, it doesn’t have to be good. Honestly, the first 1.5 drafts of this particular post were pretty sub-par. Not because I cannot write but for whatever reason, I was having a hard time articulating my words. It didn’t matter - I just wrote something. Often it’s just easier to edit a post you’re not happy with than start from scratch again. Here are a few pointers:
- Write Intro - indicate Why the user wants to read the post and what you will cover
- Write information under each of those headers using the information you dropped in as your guide.
- Reference outside resources
- Reference data or numbers
- Break some information out to easily scannable bullets
- Write your closing
- Remind them why they wanted to read it
- Remember to add in that CTA
- Add in-content links to other blog posts or materials for cross promotion.
Now you need to make it sound good! Keep in mind the goal you identified at the start of this process: does your writing meet those needs? Did you review the technical SEO notes in our other blog post? Are you using the keywords effectively? Overall, are you talking to your personas using language that speaks to, not at, them? If you’re not sure, here are a few tricks that may help.
- Read it aloud to hear for any inaccuracies, sometimes you hear more accurately than you read. Maybe even use a screen reader to hear it aloud.
- Run automated spelling and grammar checks beyond the minimum; tools like Grammerly or Hemingway App help improve the quality of your writing.
- Get another set of eyes on it; feedback is can show you things you may no longer notice.
5. Post and Promote
Your personas and search engines are never going to take notice of your content if you don’t get it out there! Well-planned posting and promotion are full of touchpoints! There are a few ways to do this well.
First, make sure your title is your H1 tag. This isn’t only going to tell search engines that it’s important but on your search engine results page (SERP), they are the link your users will click on.
Write great meta descriptions This isn’t about keywords for search engines like it was in the ‘90s, people see these too! Know those paragraphs that are included under the links - those are your meta descriptions. Utilize them as effective calls to action!
Time to get noticed! Talk about your updates on social media and let your audience know you have valuable information to share. In a study performed by Hootsuite, they state,
“There is a positive correlation between social engagements and change in rank. Overall there were more improvements in rank associated with social engagements than observed ranking losses.”
Make your posts brief, interesting and leaving the reader wanting more. Let them help you improve yoru rankings. And though you should never spam your readers, go ahead and remind them that you posted from time to time; an “in case you missed it’ can help catch users that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
You won’t always need to start from scratch. Did you have a great post or a well-performing page on your site for a few months now, maybe it means that your personas are ready to read more? Take a look at that content and determine if there are ways you can reuse it in such a way that would provide increased value to your users.
- Would it make a good video?
- Are there enough data points to develop an infographic?
- Is there a bigger story here for a case study or white paper?
Reusing your content has the opportunity to save production time while still giving your users (and therefore search engines) what they're looking for.
It’s really about people...
Without your audience, search engine optimization wouldn’t matter and they know it! Keep writing for your personas. Build an editorial calendar that your team can commit to and just keep focused on producing consistent and quality content that meets your audience’s needs. If you do that as you follow the more technical guidelines, the rest should follow.
Hopefully, this post has helped you identify a writing process that will work for you. If you still need help, let us know. We’re here to be a partner in your success.