If there’s one thing that the marketing world has reached a consensus on, it’s that sticky content marketing is important. It drives branding efforts, improves search rankings, and generates sales without overt salesmanship.
But with that consensus has come competition. Now that every organization knows the importance of killer content, the skills required to stand out have skyrocketed.
In that heightened arena, getting a reader’s attention has become a major challenge. Holding it long enough for your message to sink in — and stay there — is like trying to disarm a bomb while wearing oven mitts.
Still, the situation isn’t entirely hopeless. While the competition is fierce, there are a few general guidelines you can follow to help boost your content’s odds of connecting.
Content Marketing Tips
Keep it simple
People approach content online much differently than they do when sitting down to read a novel. Most often, an online reader is seeking out specific information, and has limited time (and patience) for fluff.
One way to cut that fluff is to keep your language simple. To help in that effort, there are now a number of online readability tools available that can measure your content’s overall complexity. Different tools use different metrics, but one of the most common is the Flesch-Kincaid score. Interpreting a Flesch-Kincaid score is simple — a score of 100 means that 100% of readers are likely to understand the text. A score of 10, on the other hand, would mean that 90% of people would be left scratching their heads.
A score of 100 might sound like a good thing, but that isn’t necessarily the case with readability. A “See Spot Run” approach to content writing might get you a few clicks and skims. But your message is bound to slide right off your reader’s mind the moment they close the window. Plus, at a certain point, simplicity just becomes insulting.
What score you should aim for depends primarily on your audience, but in general, a score of 60-70 is solid for mainstream online content. If your audience is a little more sophisticated or specialized, more complex language might be appropriate. If you are aiming for a broader, more inclusive appeal, simpler language should prevail.
Keeping things simple, however, doesn’t mean you should short-change your subject matter. A superficial treatment of a subject is like Jell-O — easy to digest, but not exactly satisfying. For content to stick, it has to first provide your reader with real value.
That value can come in a variety of ways, but typically speaking, it will be in the form of information. Does your content answer a question? Does it offer insight or guidance? Does it in some way help the reader?
If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, you’ve already satisfied a major requirement for content that sticks.
Like all good rules, though, this one has its exceptions. Providing value is a necessity for all good content, but what defines “value” is exceptionally hazy. Although information is the most common form of value found in content marketing, value can also come in less explicit forms.
Sometimes, a good story or a hearty laugh are worth more than a million pieces of expert advice. In fact, some of the “stickiest” content around gains traction for emotional reasons, rather than practical ones. It’s imperative that you not to dismiss that kind of content. Offering your audience a glimpse into your heart, rather than your head, can sometimes be not just valuable, but invaluable.
Keep it fresh
This brings us to the matter of freshness. Even when a piece of content is meant to inform, it’s still important to keep things interesting. While an operating manual can be infinitely informative, it’ll probably put you to sleep before you can take in all that it has to offer. In the same way, dull, impersonal copy is likely to lose readers no matter how informative it may be.
The nature of your subject matter will usually dictate your style and tone. But no matter how dry and matter-of-fact the subject, your content should always have at least some distinctive voice. Even if that voice is “robot-meets-golf-commentator” …at least it’s yours.
Remember that one of content’s greatest strengths is its ability to define an organization’s identity. For content to be truly effective, then, that identity must be present and palpable in your text. Your readers should remember not only the information, but where it came from. That means that both your words and your voice matter. Take care to keep them both fresh.
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