To get success with content a website owner can argue whether long or short form content is the best, and even debate evergreen content versus news-jacking and brand journalism.
Realistically, the most successful websites have a little of both, along with well constructed landing pages.
However, many webmasters struggle with creating long form content.
- What should it be about?
- How can it be created?
- How best can it be leveraged in the marketing funnel to turn the curious into conversions?
- How do I keep it evergreen yet relevant?
These are good questions, and while the answers vary depending on what the focus of a particular website may be, and what the webmaster considers a conversion, there are some basic guiding principles that apply across the board.
Choose Your Story
Content marketing and brand journalism is really about your brand telling a story. Like it or not your brand is a publisher, and your content is how your future customers and clients find you online, and how you keep your current customers coming back for more.
Your brand message is your story and sharing it tells web visitors who you are and what is important to you.
Home pages with products and buy now buttons tell readers you don’t care about getting to know them, you only care about selling them something.
Long form content that is essentially just a long advertisement tells them the same thing.
So how do you choose your story?
How has your product or service benefitted you, your industry, and other customers, and how will it continue to do so?
This is the opportunity to explain your journey.
What was the need your business saw in the first place, and the niche you tried to fill or improve?
Is that still your focus, or has it evolved with your industry as you have learned from your customers?
Content creation itself is a great example. From titles designed to get users to click on them regardless if they stayed to read the content or it was relevant (clickbait) to keyword stuffed drivel written to drive a website to the top in Google keyword searches, creating web content for SEO was a dirty business.
At the same time, some websites concentrated on solid well-researched content that drew organic traffic and kept it despite Google updates like Penguin and Panda.
The business has evolved with those changes, and a strategy that worked five years ago (and that a company may have sold at a premium) will not work the same way today.
Things We Have Learned
Share these valuable evolutions with your web visitors, and do so for free.
Most often, a web visitor is looking for a product or service to solve a problem, current or anticipated.
Offering them free information about the problem your product or service solves tells them you understand the issue or issues, you have solved them for others before, and you will continue working on solving them in a better, more efficient manner.
This is not the time to talk about what is important to you, but to talk about what is important to your web visitors and your current customers.
How do you figure out what to talk about?
- Social Listening : “Listen to what is being said about your brand on social media,” says Jeanine Guidry of George Washington University in a webinar about Using Social Media to Accomplish your Communications Goals. “Find out what’s being said about the topic that you focus on. What are the discussions that are alive on Twitter?”
- Social Questioning: Take polls. Pay attention to other polls and ask open ended questions using hashtags in your niche. Even start a Twitter chat, and invite others to comment and discuss a topic relevant to your brand.
This can inform you and your content team about topics that are trending and important to your audience.
- Social Interaction: Look at what your followers are posting on social media. See something that interests you? Send the poster a message, offer a comment, or even just like or share their post or Tweet.
If they respond to your comment, start a conversation. This can be a great way to come up with new topic ideas.
Of course, social media is not the only source of content ideas that are evergreen and relevant to your audience. Once you have decided on a topic, search Google for keywords related to it, and ask yourself some questions:
What kind of content is ranking high in these searches?
Analyzing Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) will let you know what kind of content you are competing against in a certain niche.
Is there a “content gap”?
When you search for something, is there a certain angle no one else has written about? Not only is this a good opportunity to show your customer you are in touch with their needs, but an opportunity to dominate an area on Google no one else is filling.
Where is the most popular content hosted?
Is it on your competitors website? Or are the top search results on Wikipedia, Quora, Reddit, or a similar source?
If they are, you may be easily able to outrank those websites with a well-written and informative piece.
Now that you have determined what to write about, or chosen your story, you are ready for the next step.
Write Content or Have it Written for You
Some professionals are the best at what they do, but cannot write a coherent sentence to save their lives. If you are someone who struggles with the written word for the sake of your brand, hire some help.
Content filled with errors will only hurt your image with web visitors.
Content can be created by your employees or an internal department, freelance writers or content creators, or by an agency. Either way,
Collaboration makes your project better
The more eyes, especially fresh eyes on a project, the more likely it is to be successful.
Often someone outside your organization will see things that you do not.
If you do everything yourself or internally, it tends to become all about you, and often focus on the customer or end user of your product or service is lost.
This type of thinking caused major disruption in the music and publishing industries.
Record labels marketed to record stores and radio stations rather than listeners, and the Big Five book publishers marketed to book stores rather than readers.
Musicians and authors found more direct ways to reach their audience through small labels and presses, or even independently producing albums and books.
This error can be prevented by collaboration and the injection of fresh ideas.
You can, and should still be the main spokesperson for your brand.
However, there are things you can and should do to make your content its best.
- Hire a professional to edit your writing: if not ghost write your ideas for you depending on your skill level.
You may even want to hire someone or a firm with an SEO background, so they can do some of the research for you about what topics will perform best and be most relevant.
- Hire a professional to create attractive graphics to enhance your text: This can vary from shareable photos to educational infographics, one of the most frequently shared types of content on the web.
- Hire a professional to produce video content that can be shared across a number of platforms. Many brands are exploring Facebook live video, embedding video on their websites, utilizing YouTube channels, and even Amazon’s new video service.
These can all be used to summarize article concepts and embedded in the articles themselves or include a link to the article in the description.
This does not have to be expensive. You can get good written content on your website by accepting guest posts, although there are some rules you should follow.
Whether you create your own content yourself internally or hire someone to create it for you, it is important your website be filled with relevant long form, evergreen content that is both topical to your brand and relevant to your audience.
This content should be informative and detailed. Once this core content has been created, you can create other shorter form content to surround it, but in order to do so you need central pieces.
Once you have decided on your story and created content to support it, you are ready for the final step.
Edit and Optimize your Content
Edit your content for clarity, grammar, and typos.
Please. The internet is filled with garbage posts filled with these errors, and it reflects poorly on your brand. If you accept guest posts to obtain content, your guidelines page can even turn away potential authors.
All of your web pages should be well edited and of the highest quality, not just your blog posts.
Optimize your content for Google and other Search Engines.
There is a reason this is the last step. Your content is written for your readers, not for Google. Google is just often the method they use to find it.
SEO is constantly changing, but keyword stuffing and other such practices are no longer viable. If you are not familiar with SEO, either take some time to educate yourself, utilize an employee who already has that knowledge, or hire someone. Don’t just wing this one.
- You need good titles.
- Headers need to emphasize the keyword and subject
- Your content needs to be shareable and linkable.
The more organic traffic you can drive to your site over time, the better, and optimized long form content is an important part of accomplishing that goal.
Don’t forget mobile
Users utilize a number of devices to read and access content on the web, and whether that is a phone, tablet, or laptop your content should look good and perform well on those devices.
Users also change devices even in the middle of reading a piece of content, whether to do additional research or for ease of reading.
“Perhaps the most significant challenge in cross-device marketing lies in accurately identifying customers across different devices,” says a University of Alabama Birmingham article on The Importance of Mobile. “Since consumers switch from screen to screen to accomplish various tasks, content needs to be designed for user experience across all devices.”
All of your web pages, but especially your content should be optimized for viewing on mobile as well as other platforms. It should be easy for them to view your content, including graphics and video no matter what device they access it on.
Creating well written, evergreen long form content is essential to the success of your website. Carefully choosing your story, creating excellent content, and having it edited and optimized will make sure content is not just there for the sake of checking off a box.
Instead, content will serve to attract organic traffic and drive the curious toward conversion.