Reliable, tangible business growth requires more than simply bringing a desirable product to market; it requires a cohesive content strategy, too.
Creating a workable timetable of proposed content allows you to control your online presence, reach, and most critically, engagement with both existing and potential customers. Get content right and you’ll see your efforts translate into sustainable organic growth.
It’s no secret that the most successful businesses develop highly detailed content strategies, but let’s break the process down further to fully understand why this approach yields such valuable results.
Few things can be as off-putting as an old-fashioned hard sell, and with audiences overexposed to them, they have become easy to spot, so what’s the solution? Many experts are now realising that the key is to avoid constant hard selling and complement it with educating – this is where your content strategy comes in.
By giving your audience enough information to make up their own minds, you can generate genuine interest. By remaining in their peripheral vision through regular content posts, alongside informative and transparent advertising, your business will become a go-to choice for potential customers.
Investment and growth go hand in hand but can trap you in a cycle of overspending on your marketing budget, which leads to pressure for increased sales. And to generate those, you guessed it – you need to advertise again. A content strategy will lead to you placing your company, products and values in front of a huge number of people without shelling out for expensive (and potentially ineffectual) advertising campaigns.
In the battle of content strategy vs paid advertising, choosing to use social-media channels, email marketing and blog writing can simultaneously shrink your marketing outlay, and when done well, exponentially increase the number of people who are seeing your business. If you're stuck with where to start, a good copywriting agency can help you develop a coherent and concise marketing strategy for your business.
Information is king in the business world, but having to chase for answers can make a potentially hot lead turn cold very quickly. If a customer feels as though they need to lead the dialogue and dig for answers, you are unlikely to keep them interested in your products.
A good content strategy will include perfectly timed information releases with relevant updates, targeted Q&As and topical discussions that keep your business in the forefront of people’s minds. Moreover, you can address previous frequently asked questions to help new customers in their decision-making process.
It’s important to remember that your approach needs to be consistent both on and off the business website and that a coherent message should be maintained. This is where a brand voice can be utilised, to lend authority to different types of content and ensure that they are recognisably yours.
The more you talk, the more people listen, and if you’re offering informed, intelligent discourse, audiences will happily recognise you and your business as a reliable source of information. By proxy, this will instil a sense of confidence and credibility in the products you offer.
Take a blog, for example. When a news story breaks that is relevant to your industry, you can jump on the opportunity to self-publish your opinion or standpoint and demonstrate how your company will react to the news. Adding links to the original story could get you reposted and shared, too. Do this regularly enough and you’ll soon become known for your industry expertise.
When you realise that 90% of mobile users spend their time on apps, as opposed to the web, the importance of adaptable content comes into clear view. Audiences want up-to-date information delivered in an easy format. It’s why apps, developed as part of a content strategy, are so useful.
Being able to offer your audience access to articles, product updates and even videos will open up the way you communicate and allow you to create a unique voice. Essentially, your app and content strategy can become your niche, which is critical in a competitive industry.
As Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, says: ‘High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.’ Crafting a voice and consistently looking for new and engaging ways to have it reach your preferred audience’s ears allows for the development of more personal relationships.
From here, it’s a case of building confidence in your growing business.
The term ‘style guide’ sounds exotic, conjuring up images of fashion shoots and advice on the season’s key trends. In the world of content marketing and publishing, style guides are anything but glamorous, but they are essential to ensuring consistency across your branding and literature.
Style guides are the starting point from which your content flows. They cover more than just the written word, too. As well as laying down rules for commonly used terms, they provide a blueprint for your brand guidelines, including logos, fonts and colour palette.
I come from a journalism background, and everywhere I’ve worked has had a style guide that the sub-editors and writers religiously stick to. Not following style guides allows inconsistencies to creep in, which not only looks unprofessional, it also weakens the impact and authority of what you’re writing about.
Julie Sheppard, commissioning editor at Decanter wine magazine, says: ‘House style guides help give your publication its voice and identity. Consistent presentation of content makes it easier for readers to engage with copy – although they probably won’t even realise all the subtle points of house style that combine to make their reading experience more cohesive.’
A good style guide covers the following:
1. Tone of voice
It should go without saying that your brand must have a clear tone of voice. But is it professional and no-nonsense? Edgy and cool? Warm and friendly? Whatever it is, your content must echo this in its tone of voice, otherwise the message will become muddled and you’ll turn people away.
Your audience is absolutely key to your content’s tone, too. When assigning work to someone, it’s key they are told who they are writing for. If your article will mainly be read by millennials, you’d write it in a noticeably different way than if it was aimed at people in their 50s and 60s, for example.
Compare these examples:
hello, we’re innocent
…and we’re here to make it easy for people to do themselves some good (whilst making it taste nice too).
We started innocent in 1999 after selling our smoothies at a music festival. We put up a big sign asking people if they thought we should give up our jobs to make smoothies, and put a bin saying ‘Yes’ and a bin saying ‘No’ in front of the stall. Then we got people to vote with their empties. At the end of the weekend, the ‘Yes’ bin was full, so we resigned from our jobs the next day and got cracking.
Since then we’ve started making coconut water, juice and kids’ stuff, in our quest to make natural, delicious, healthy drinks that help people live well and die old.
Very impressive. This intro is friendly, warm and approachable. There’s a lot to like about innocent’s straight-up style that’s a world away from the hard-sell tactics of some brands.
Old Spice, the 1970s-tastic aftershave, was long regarded as a brand stuck in a time warp, with its testosterone-fuelled tone. But Old Spice has reinvented itself, sending up its old image with its Smell Like A Man campaign, starring the likes of Terry Crews and Isaiah Mustafa. The tone is playful and tongue-in-cheek – the perfect antidote to its straight-laced former style.
2. Brand guidelines
Brand guidelines cover a huge number of variables, laying down rules for which fonts to use (and their size); acceptable Pantone colours/shades, the correct way to use logos, and many more. The level of detail with some brands can be immense, just like Jamie Oliver’s version:
Having such rigid guidelines may seem excessive – draconian, almost – but they ensure a level of consistency every time a brand is mentioned and represented. And in such a crowded market, this helps ensure that your brand will stick in the people’s minds.
3. Writing guidelines
The final aspect of a style guide is how you choose to present your writing. This will be governed in some respect by your tone of voice, but it’s entirely up to you. Newspapers, magazines and websites all have their own style guides – and if you want to write for them, you’ll need to learn them.
Here are some examples:
In the examples above, neither option is correct – what’s important is that you choose one option and stick with it.
It should be obvious by now that if your business doesn’t have a style guide, you’re missing out. Style guides require work and planning to set up, but once in place, they’ll make your content and overall brand message much clearer. And if you need help developing a style guide, a good copywriting agency will be able to help you.
Having such rigid guidelines may seem excessive – draconian, almost – but they ensure a level of consistency every time a brand is mentioned and represented. And in such a crowded market, this helps ensure that your brand will stick in people’s minds.
Want to write effective content? It all starts with the brief. Skipping this vital step leads to rewrites, misunderstandings, costly delays and, most importantly – the content suffers. Stuart explains the secrets to creating briefs that maximise the chance of content that will resonate with its audience – and keep your clients coming back for more.
Great news – you’ve got a new client on board. They want 100 pieces of content written in the next three weeks. Better stop what you’re doing and contact all your best freelancers, right? Wrong. You may be itching to commission your writers in a flash, but this is a risky strategy that is likely to lead to rewrites, confusion and no small amount of stress. Instead, you should put all your time and energy into nailing your content brief which will form part of your content strategy.
When I’m faced with a new project, there are a number of elements I consider when creating a content brief for our writers. We’ll go through them one by one:
Who is going to read the content you create? This is the single-most important thing to consider, bar none. You have to know your audience, otherwise you are simply wasting your time. Are they customers, looking to buy something? Do they want to be educated? Entertained? Amused? How old are they? Where are they from? What makes them tick? Your content has to make an emotional connection with your audience, otherwise it will quickly be forgotten. And once you understand who you are writing for, you’re well on the way to creating great content.
The tone of your content is crucial, too. The way you write, the language you use, your style, all has a bearing on the impact of your content. Your tone will depend, to some extent, on your audience, too. Writing for people under 30? Then write as if you’re talking to one of them. If you sound archaic and old-fashioned, you’ll turn your readers off before they’ve finished the first paragraph. Similarly, trying to be too cool for school when dealing with a more mature audience is not recommended. Your audience will put their trust in you if they feel reassured by your tone.
If the content is for an ongoing client, odds-on there’ll be a common structure the writer must follow – for example, if it’s destination travel copywriting pages may have separate paragraphs covering the intro, things to do, the restaurant/bar scene, how to get there, average temperatures, and so on. If you’re writing several pieces of content, remember that potential customers will almost certainly look at multiple resorts, and they will be less than impressed if the structure fluctuates wildly from page to page. Again, put yourself in the mind of the reader – what do they want to see?
I’ll be frank. If people don’t like your intro, forget it. You’ve wasted your time. The romantic notion that people will patiently read through your finely honed content paragraph by paragraph, soaking up all those juicy facts and witty one-liners is naive. If a reader loses interest after just one paragraph, there’s no way in the world they’ll bother reading the rest of your copy. So your intro is your one and only chance to get their attention. It’s really that simple. Research has shown that many website users skim-read web pages. You don’t want that and your client definitely doesn’t want that, so don’t make it easy for your audience to do so.
Content briefs have a number of features that are essential to include:
A great content brief makes life easier for everyone involved – but a bad one is almost worse than no brief at all, in terms of the extra stress and confusion it can cause. It’s tempting to start writing and commissioning straightaway when new work comes in, but if you spend the time to create a solid content brief, you’ll know your work was worth it when all that pristine copy comes flying in, each piece hitting the mark. Content briefs exist to make your life easier – and why wouldn’t you want that?
Let’s cut to the chase – high-quality content is crucial to the success of your SEO strategy. If you fail to create engaging content, you risk spending a lot of time and money on a strategy that fails to deliver the rates of engagement and conversion you’re pushing for. Worse than that, you may even risk alienating your target audience.
It’s pretty crucial stuff, so we’ve decided to lift the lid on why high-quality content is so important, with some examples of who’s doing it right. Read on to discover how to align content with your SEO strategy, before gaining some top tips on how to create quality content that resonates with your target audience.
The SEO landscape has changed dramatically over the years. Practices that were deemed effective in the early 2000s are now avoided like the plague by SEO experts. Flashback to the early days in SEO and keyword stuffing took centre stage, with the focus on producing keyword-centric copy rather than high-quality, user friendly content.
Fast forward to 2018 and best practices have changed significantly, with an understanding of search intent now being crucial. Emphasis is no longer placed on incorporating as many keywords as possible in your content in order to attract searchers, but rather on writing high-quality content that echoes their interests, anticipates their needs and answers their queries.
Major shifts in the SEO landscape can be attributed to the development of search engine technology. The release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 was a significant turning point. The update was designed to help Google better understand semantic search and produce results that are directly relevant to the query’s context, rather than honing in on singular keywords.
The Hummingbird algorithm also focuses on interpreting longer, more conversational search terms, providing results that correspond to user intent. This is particularly relevant to modern day voice search. In a nutshell, this major development resulted in SEO strategies shifting firmly onto the production of content tailored to user intent, or high-quality content seeking to solve searchers’ queries in one easy hit.
We know why good content is crucial to effective SEO, but how do we implement this in practice? We’ve put together 5 key steps to help you out:
First things first, compile a list of keywords relevant to your brand.
What are your searchers actually trying to find? Let’s say you sell shoes. Searchers will want to know who they’re made by, what they’re made of, how much they cost, how comfortable they are, and so on. Answer The Public is a useful tool for finding search terms that shed new light on user intent relative to your brand.
Formulating a page layout will give you a clearer idea of what the titles on your page (headings, subheadings, etc.) should address. Using technology such as heatmaps will also give you a better idea of where CTAs and callouts should be placed, providing a frame of reference when drafting your content.
You’re now ready to start crafting your content. Don’t make it all about your brand – stay focused on the key message you want to convey to your audience and make it about them. Then you can complement your content with keywords, terms and phrases relevant to your brand offering.
Think about your USP here – what does your brand do better than the competition? What specialist knowledge can you impart on your audience? This final step is about infusing your content with a fresh, unique edge that will encourage engagement. Plus the top Google ranking factor is quality, original content.
You’re now equipped with the practical tools needed to ensure your SEO strategy is filled with good content. But the hard work doesn’t stop here. We’ve listed a couple of top tips to make sure your content goes the distance:
• Develop an original brand voice
A great way of helping your brand stand out from the crowd, developing a unique voice will help you connect with your audience on a deeper level and create a following.
Fashion retailer Missguided is a great example of this. Their laid-back, quirky and cool tone fits perfectly with their targeted demographic and is used consistently across their website, newsletters and social media accounts.
Note how the use of words such as ‘babe’ create the feeling that they’re talking to a best friend. This is isn’t incidental, but a clever style choice designed to build a close relationship with their audience:
• Position your CEO as an expert in their field
Highlighting the skills of your company’s CEO not only emphasises your brand’s knowledge and expertise, it also helps create a human edge to the company – a great way to help increase organic engagement.
Beauty brand Birchbox is a great example. The company’s founders, Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, are an active presence in the company’s marketing strategy, as shown in a video on their website celebrating two years in business. They also speak regularly to various media outlets on their skills and passion for their company. This coverage and intimate view into the company sets the brand apart from their rivals in the beauty sphere.
To sum up, if you incorporate high-quality, user-focused content in your SEO strategy you’re well on your way to outshining your competition. Combine this with a fresh, distinctive brand voice and out-of-the-box thinking, and you’ve got it in the bag.
WooContent are experts in producing high-performing content and SEO strategies that deliver results. Get in touch with us today for more information on how we can help your brand excel.
In a world where traditional marketing chatter is often ignored or not believed, many businesses have turned to brand storytelling as an increasingly effective way to express their brand’s voice, gain the trust of potential customers and rise above the noise.
Essentially brand storytelling is a way of showing what makes your business unique by portraying some personality. Neil Patel of Quick Sprout says, “Storytelling is a powerful and actionable marketing technique…, it’s the reason why your company came to be.”
There are of course scientific reasons why storytelling is such a successful method of communication. Experts call it neural coupling, where the storyteller and listener become synchronised.
While companies like Apple, Amazon, BMW, and the BBC – all with large marketing budgets – consistently lead the polls of the top storytelling brands, they have their own difficulties in getting the message out. Creative agency Aesop argues that, “Big companies can appear faceless and lacking in emotion. That’s why stories are vital when it comes to connecting with people.”
The Drum, which reports on marketing and digital news, examined some of the statistics generated by the 2017 Annual Brand Storytelling Survey. It’s a poll organised by Aesop of 2,000 consumers, who are asked to rate brands against 10 best-practice storytelling attributes. Facebook was the only remaining social media brand in the top 10. Dyson had moved to number 10, Help the Heroes had settled in second place with Apple again at the top.
To cherry pick some of the tastiest stats; Lidl had relinquished the top supermarket storytelling brand spot to M&S, while Iceland with only 2.3% market share had outperformed Waitrose, Asda and Sainsbury’s. Commenting on the outcome, an Aesop spokesperson said, “In an era of fake news, and at a time when the consumer’s marketing radar is even more sensitive, authenticity is an increasingly valuable commodity. Heritage brands have longstanding storylines that suggest authenticity to such an extent that they are often quoted and referenced years later.”
However, it is not just for the big boys. Every business has a tale to tell, even if they don’t always realise it.
Loch Fyne Oysters – based on the west coast of Scotland – is a business which offers seafood to their many customers around the world. As a company philosophy, their guiding principle is one of respect for the living creature and its habitat. Also important are the company’s brand values of integrity, simplicity, sustainability, provenance and authenticity.
As a starting point, before constructing their brand story, they needed to understand what was important to their customers. This was information garnered through a programme of events and social media interaction. People wanted to know about other real people who worked for the company, about products that were fresh, healthy, and with a proven provenance.
The Loch Fyne Oysters approach was more than just a content strategy; it was multi-channelled, with some stunning visuals and intelligent packaging as additional elements, all carefully woven into a cohesive narrative.
The hospitality sector is another where effective storytelling is gaining traction. Leonardo is a Canadian technology company that provides online technology and travel copywriting services for travel suppliers. They specialise in the provision of brand storytelling, calling it “sensory magic.”
Leonardo’s approach to hotel copywriting is one of telling experiential stories rather than just offering a bland description, often overloaded with adjectives, of a hotel’s features. Recognising that customers are looking for benefits and not features, their stories are built around the sights, touches, scents, tastes and sounds of a location. They create a powerful emotional connection with potential customers.
At the Sunset at the Palms Hotel in Jamaica, for example, they don’t describe the beautiful flowers and plants in the garden, they tell the story of a walk in the garden with the resident gardener and the sensual pleasure gained from it. It’s little wonder that with this approach they describe ‘brand’ as a, “reason to do business with you.”
As companies jostle to explain their approach to brand storytelling, it’s apparent that there is no one size fits all. In addition, there are obvious dangers for the would-be corporate raconteur, some are neatly captured by Tom Albrighton. He said, “Defining the term brand storytelling too ambitiously or applying it too widely makes something basic and elemental sound like a shiny digital novelty or an ineffable mystery. And that may not help those who actually have stories to tell.”
However, among the vast amount of information and advice out there for those dipping their toes in storytelling waters, this pearl from the Huffington Post is worth remembering. “The more you humanize your brand, the better. Don’t hide behind your products. Let your audience see you.”
For a content strategy to fulfil its purpose, it must be closely aligned with your business goals.
A successful strategy incorporates the defining characteristics of your brand identity. Including its vision, goals, target audience and tone of voice – to produce engaging and highly effective content.
Taking the time to define your brand identity will equip you with the knowledge required to craft an effective content strategy. Implementing your strategy consistently ensures sustainability long-term. Providing a solid basis for development.
Here we’ve set out five key factors to consider when aligning your content strategy to your business goals, providing insight into the basics of a high-performing strategy. Whether you have a plan in place and are looking to maximise its value or are starting from scratch, these factors should underpin and inform the content you generate.
Vision is crucial for an effective content strategy. Well-defined ambitions push your business to find its footing, grow, generate ideas and break boundaries. Think about your goals for the business within a set timeframe (such as 3-5 years). Consider the role content and communications play in getting there. Core questions to ask here revolve around the purpose of the content you produce – what and why. Once drafted, ensure the vision is known and understood by everybody behind the scenes.
With your company vision defined and understood, the next core area to focus on is objectives. Setting tangible goals for your content helps guide idea creation and enables you to measure and analyse the performance of your strategy. Measurable objectives for website traffic, conversions or social media engagement clarify areas that require development and improvement via metrics, which underpin the performance of your content.
Echoing this, stats released by MediaMath state that 69% of data efforts are being focused on the targeting of offers, messages, and content.
Knowing who you are producing content for and understanding their preferences is central to a successful strategy. Identifying your audience demographics such as their age, gender and profession mean you can accurately tailor and align your content. Think about it this way: your audience dictates the success of your content, it is only logical to consider them at each point in the content creation process.
Surveys are a great way of carrying out audience research. Setting one up can be really simple, with a whole host of online tools now available to help you create and deliver your survey via several channels, such as email, social media or your website. Results are easily measured and analysed too, making it a relatively painless way of generating user data to guide your content strategy.
It is important to remember that tone of voice used in content conveys the personality of your company. Take into consideration your brand values, vision and audience when shaping your signature tone and style.
Once you have found the right tone for you, whether light-hearted, professional, funny or serious, it is essential that it is applied consistently across your content. Style guidelines are great here. A well-formed guide should include key terms, spelling, punctuation and capitalisation rules and brief content creators on the desired audience response.
For your content strategy to fully align with your goals, you need to be in full control of it. Organisation is the buzz word here: files should be strictly stored and categorised, making them easy for your marketing teams to access, share and update as company objectives develop over time.
Look into online content strategy tools designed to help you manage your strategy in a sustainable way if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, research carried out by the Content Marketing Institute found that 61% of the most effective B2B content marketers meet with their content team daily or weekly. Simply put, take time to organise your strategy and you’ll feel the benefits over time.
A well-structured content strategy is a core element of a successful business. Aligning it to your business is crucial in order to produce content that engages your audience and achieves results. Invest time defining these five key areas of your business and you will reap the rewards of increased traffic, engagement, conversions and profit margins.
As a copywriting agency, WooContent can help you develop an effective content strategy which is closely aligned with your business goals.
To find out more get in touch with us today.
Personas are a way for companies to pinpoint who their customer base is and how they behave. Both the buyer persona (often also called the marketing persona) and the UX persona (or design persona) are important tools for content strategy.
Buyer personas focus on defining who your customers are, across certain segments, to inform marketing decisions. UX personas are created to examine how your customers behave when interacting with your website, to inform design and content decisions.
However, the 2017 Content Management and Strategy Survey, revealed that many marketers are still failing to put customer insights to proper use. Only 53% used customer personas to guide production. Fewer still are using customer behaviour to inform content creation, with just 33% employing customer journey mapping techniques.
We pit the buyer persona against the UX persona to see how they’re established and used, and explain how the two can work together to build a better customer picture.
Knowing who you’re writing for helps to steer your content creation in the right direction for maximum engagement. By researching the types of content your customers and potential customers consume, and topics of interest, you can begin to establish a semi-fictional customer profile, or buyer persona.
This allows you to pitch the tone, format and subject matter of your content just right. As well as enabling you to produce engaging and useful content, buyer personas also provide insight into potential obstacles that turn your customers off.
The information you need to create a buyer persona will come from market research surveys and focus groups where you interview people about their attitudes towards your brand or product. Both mediums should encourage open-ended discussion so you can determine the goals and frustrations of your customers and intended customers, as well as details like media consumption habits, so you know how best to reach them.
According to Hubspot: “A buyer persona will detail the characteristics, wants, needs and challenges of each unique segment of your audience.” You can use a template such as the one below from Xtensio, which allows you to give a fictional name and image to the profile, as well as other brands the customer likes.
It’s standard practice to start out with around three to four personas of well-researched, detailed characters. Depending on how complex your customer base is and how many segments it covers, it may be useful to categorise personas into primary, secondary and tertiary.
Be sure to factor in:
• Family set up. Are they single? Do they have children? Are they a homeowner?
• What are the persona’s personal motivations?
• How much do they know about your product and services and the field you operate in?
• Where and how do they consume content? Why?
Buyer personas allow you to create profiles for your customers that can be shared across your marketing team. They give an at-a-glance summary of who your customers are, and are the starting point for style guides and content strategies that focus on the persona’s key areas of interest and news feeds. They also help to achieve new customer buy-in through the targeting of similar job sectors and demographics.
For example, if you know your buyer primarily engages through social media and you find out from focus groups that they don’t understand a certain element of your business, you could offer a how-to guide through twitter. Similarly, if you’re targeting a time-poor persona, you can create quick to read and easy-to-digest content, with the offer of something longer form that can be downloaded and consumed later.
A UX (or user experience) persona is more concerned with user behaviour than interests and is a way of mapping the customer journey. The aim is to make your website as optimised as possible for your particular set of customers, so they convert.
Setting up a UX persona enables you to create content that edges people towards checkout or other defined business actions such as email sign-up or setting up a subscription.
Creating UX personas requires information on customers’ journeys across search engines and your website. UX personas are often story based to describe why people do what they do.
Some important data can be obtained via Google Analytics, such as what time of day customers visit and where from, as well as where visitors leave your website, that could be a potential sticking point in the buyer’s journey. You can also see how customers interact with your site and content through the use of heatmaps.
For more detailed information you’ll need to contact customers, in the same way as setting up buyer personas. Through questionnaires and one-on-one conversations with customers you can establish the factors below, as well as what they hope to achieve when on your website, what stage they are at in the buying process and anything they feel could be improved.
Be sure to factor in:
• Age and occupation
• Professional goals
• Education or technical level
• Leisure activities
• Favourite websites
• Requirements from a website
• Device usage
• A ‘day in the life’ section to show actions carried out regularly by that person
It’s only natural that website designers think mainly about how they would use your website or product. However, UX personas allow you to gain a better understanding of your user’s expectations and how they behave on your website.
This allows you to optimise your site and its content for maximum conversion by matching the information you provide with user’s requirements at different stages in the customer journey. You’ll be able to pitch concepts to them with more relevancy, whether it’s selling products and services or launching new features.
In the words of Econsultancy, “Relating content to a solid understanding of the customer journey through customer journey mapping can establish a firm foundation for success.”
There’s no need to choose one persona over the other. You can supercharge your strategy by using your buyer personas in combination with UX persona insights to tailor content offerings based on what visitors are interested in and how they behave.
By now it should be clear that cleverly executed content strategies use both buyer personas and UX personas in alignment to build trust, engage and edge customers towards your goal. Buyer personas are undoubtedly one of the building blocks of brand loyalty but factoring in UX personas online can help you meet and surpass customer expectations, creating more conversions.
To find out more about how to use personas in your content strategy get in touch today.
The success of a website rises and falls on the quality of its content and user experience (UX). Some place greater importance on content strategy, others on UX design, but it’s becoming apparent that both are vital.
Companies large and small have been implementing content strategies for years, with content strategists dating back to 1998. As for UX, it’s existed in one form or another for far longer (consider the design of and service provided by a restaurant), but its new role in the digital world has brought it into direct alignment with content in a way previously unseen.
The result is that designers of websites and other digital platforms must now take content into account in their design plans, while content strategists and copywriters must consider how their content will best fit into that design.
Broadly, a content strategy is concerned with the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. The process of developing an effective content strategy begins with an assessment and auditing of a website’s existing content to gain a better idea of how that content can be improved.
The next stage involves strategy and planning, which takes into account the findings of the assessment and audit as well as business needs. The final stage of the content strategy process focuses on guidelines and governance, allowing for the development of policies, standards and guidelines that will apply to the management of the content throughout its lifecycle.
Some question the need for a content strategy at all, but without quality content any website, no matter how beautifully designed it might be, will struggle with SEO copywriting. A good content strategy will anticipate possible issues with a website’s content and therefore prevent the problem from arising in the first place.
Whereas content involves the subject matter of a website, the focus of UX is a website’s design. There’s no one agreed definition of UX, but, generally, its aim is to design something that offers a useful, easy and engaging service for the user. Whether a customer has a good or bad experience when visiting a website will largely be determined by how well it’s been designed.
This will have a direct impact on the product or service being offered because creating a positive relationship with the user is essential to the process. The website/digital platform should be constructed with the customer in mind – with their needs and wants built into its design. If you can’t get this right, then you’ll have a hard time communicating the value of your product or service to anyone.
Like it or not, content needs to be part of this UX design process. It can’t simply be shoehorned into a website’s design as an afterthought, which is what often happens.
The job of the UX designer has been described as building a container for content, with the job of the content developer to fill that container (the website). Done well, this ensures the user gets a rewarding experience because a harmonious balance has been struck between the content and UX design.
UX designers aim to create a smooth user experience for the visitor, but without good content, they’ve fallen at the first hurdle. The same is true of a poorly designed website with compelling content – no one is going to stick around long enough to read it if the website itself is hard to navigate or unpleasant to look at.
Ultimately, UX design and content strategies have the same aim – to produce a positive customer experience. This is why cooperation and consultation between the two is so important.
A well-crafted, well-written website creates the experience a customer needs to be prompted into taking action. Content is the experience, and Google understands this – if your website is producing a great user experience, they can monetise that, and that is likely to result in a higher ranking for your website.
Collaboration is key – content developers and copywriters must be involved in the UX design process, with the copywriter becoming a kind of UX writer, integrating content and UX into their own creative process.
There’s more to website content than meets the eye, so step yours up a gear by taking a look at how we can help.
When looking for inspiration to help streamline your content strategy in 2018, there are some key names in the trade to turn to.
Read and listen to what these content marketing, writing and SEO gurus have to say on their industry-leading websites, personal blogs and podcasts, or pick up their latest books.
Their advice comes from years of devising content strategies and launching some of the biggest companies in the sector.
An entrepreneur at heart, Neil Patel is the founder of web traffic and conversion companies Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics, who confesses to having fallen into content marketing. We think he’s playing it down though, as he’s now a marketing consultant for Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom, helping them to grow their revenue.
To follow Neil’s work you can catch him on various mediums, including writing on his company websites, as well as his own blog Quick Sprout (another of his web traffic start-up tools). Neil also contributes to Huffington Post and Entrepreneur, who cited him as creating one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world.
Owner of Remarkable Communication since 1999, Sonia Simone worked in content marketing long before content marketing was even a concept. And in 2010 Sonia was a founding partner of the highly successful Copyblogger Media, which was set-up to teach bloggers how to produce top-notch content. Copyblogger later evolved to become digital marketing technology and client services firm, Rainmaker Digital, with the Copyblogger website still going strong.
As Copyblogger’s chief content officer Sonia pens regular blog pieces for the website, she also hosts a dedicated content marketing podcast at CopyBloggerFM. You can also read Sonia’s personal blog and look up her opinionated ‘Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer’ podcast on her website.
Chances are if you work in content marketing you’re either a member of the Content Marketing Institute, have attended one of its events, taken part in its training or used its industry resources. Well, Joe Pulizzi founded the CMI and has gone on to be awarded the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council for success at promoting the use of content as a marketing channel.
He has his own blog section on the CMI website, delivers regular podcasts and has authored no fewer than five books. Pick up Epic Content Marketing, which was named one of ‘Five Must-Read Business Books of 2013’ by Fortune Magazine, or his latest, Killing Marketing, about how to turn marketing cost into profit.
Known as the ‘Wizard of Moz’, the co-founder of SEO software giant Moz hosts the blog’s popular Whiteboard Friday. Rand provides articles featuring video tutorials on new topics, such as ‘What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO?’
Check out his other venture, inbound.org, in order to get curated marketing topics of your choice in a feed and/or delivered to your inbox how frequently you want. If that isn’t enough reading for you, Rand has authored two books – Inbound Marketing and SEO: Insights from the Moz Blog and Lost and Founder: The Mostly Awful, Sometimes Awesome Truth About Building a Tech Startup.
Chief content officer of MarketingProfs, co-founder of interactive marketing news website ClickZ.com author, writer, speaker, podcaster, and LinkedIn influencer – Ann Handley has a lot under her belt. Having consulted on and written about content marketing for 20 years, it’s no wonder she’s ranked as one of the top 20 bloggers in the world.
Take a look at her writing on MarketingProfs, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post and Mashable. And be sure to pick up one of her books – The Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content or Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.
Now that 2018 is officially in full swing, it’s time to delve into the minds of some of content strategy’s finest thinkers and get inspired.
See if you can get through the next four sentences without a touch of discomfort:
“We strive to adhere to the latest industry standards for each piece of expert content it produces for its clients. We’re always chuffed to chat about concocting content that will go the whole nine yards. From multilingual to complex industry copy, we are ideally equipped to meet your requirements. Because if content is king, you could say we’re its white horse – delivering the goods at the right time, and always in style.”
What you’ve just witnessed is different tones of voice overlapping in the same space.
Without a consistent tone of voice, not only is this copy cringe-worthy, it’s almost completely ineffective. In this article, we’ll cover how you can define and craft a tone of voice for your brand to avoid the same fate.
Tone of voice is, quite simply, how you say something. In real-life, we give peoples’ tones of voice descriptions like ‘condescending’, ‘sarcastic’, or ‘serious’ and our perception of their tone sets the stall for our relationship with them.
This principle transfers to the business world, but instead of saying words aloud, you’re writing them down. All of your written communication – from your website and emails to your packaging and social media messages – should reflect it.
No brand is toneless, though some may mesh several tones and confuse everyone (as we saw above). Because your tone can define how your business is viewed by consumers, it’s critical to develop a consistent one.
It’s cliche, but people hate change.
Any ripple in our expectations causes discomfort, even if it’s subconscious. This affects how customers engage with your brand.
You’d want all of your stationery, email signatures, advertisements, company kit and website pages to show the correct logo and company name. You also want your copy to appear as if it’s come from one source.
Giving your brand this uniform ‘voice’ conveys trustworthiness, honesty and stability – traits that we, as humans, adore.
Just as you may define a certain friend as ‘funny’, a colleague as ‘enthusiastic’, or your boss as ‘frank’, your customers will see your brand’s tone of voice as an expression of you.
Innocent Drinks, for example, has long been making waves for their casual, conversational tone… just check out this product description:
Likewise, Dollar Shave Club infuses a healthy dose of humour into an otherwise bland product (men’s razors) to differentiate themselves from competitors.
For customers, not only does this build trust, it gives them something to identify with. It proves you’re not just the products you sell, you’re a company with values that line up with theirs.
Think of it in reverse order: if they buy into your personality, they’re more likely to buy into your ideas and eventually your products.
Pull back the layers of your business and defining a tone of voice takes three relatively simple steps.
Much like creating a mission statement, your tone of voice spawns directly from your company values.
First, you need to identify what those are. A good starting point is to pretend your business is a person you’re taking to a dinner party. Ask yourself what they would be like. Then, ask your team what they would be like.
From here, your values will start to take shape. While it sounds bizarre, human traits communicated as company values are what will set you apart – try to define three key ones.
Be careful not to pick general terms like ‘intelligent’ for your IT company, as intelligence is standard across every IT company. Focus on the traits that make you different.
More importantly, don’t fake it ’til you make it. If your company is not humorous, forcing it to sound so will be… well, forced. Consumers can see through try-too-hard copy and, in the age of social media, won’t think twice about calling you out on it.
Your brand does not have to be relaxed like Innocent or funny like Dollar Shave Club to be heard and appreciated. Trying to copy what works for another brand leaves your own identity hollow, and makes producing every piece of content harder for you.
Instead, talk – with and listen to – your colleagues and even your customers about the company. The words you use and how you converse is already shaping your tone of voice, you just need to be able to put that in writing.
After you’ve defined your three key values, you need to make some rules about how they will be communicated in writing.
Use a spectrum to get an idea of where you want to sit. From humorous to serious, formal to casual, or inspirational to straightforward, this will clue your copywriters and content creators in on where their pieces should rest.
Keep in mind who you will be writing for. If it’s other businesses, you may want a professional-yet-approachable tone, whereas if you’re customer-facing you may desire a fun-and-exciting voice.
Then, decide on your actual vocabulary.
Complexity: Consider if terms like ‘altruistic’ and ‘amicable’ or simpler vocabulary would suit your audience’s reading level.
Humour: If you’re treading the fine line of a humorous style, make sure it comes across as such to people outside the company.
No-go terms: What will your brand absolutely not say? For instance, travel companies might avoid cliches like ‘crystal clear waters’ or ‘something for everyone’.
Colloquialisms and technical jargon: Defining something as cheap-as-chips might work for some, while it may be too casual for others. The same goes for confusing industry terminology (in general, unnecessary terms are better left out).
Nitty gritty grammar: More formal writing may stray away from starting sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’. Meanwhile, relaxed styles may want to avoid stuffy terms like ‘whom’ and ‘amongst.’ Conjunctions are another consideration: does your brand prefer ‘they’re’ or ‘they are’, ‘it’s’ or ‘it is’?
Punctuation: In a list, will you separate the second and third options with the Oxford comma? Are exclamation points strictly off limits? Does the full stop go inside or outside quotation marks? What type of dash will you –use long em dashes, medium en dashes, or two hyphens together?
Swearing: If you plan to allow swearing as part of your brand’s voice like Dollar Shave Club did in the product description example at the start of this article, it needs to match your values. If you’d define your brand as ‘rebellious’, then it probably works for you. If you swing more toward ‘cheerful’, it’s better to stay away.
When the small details have been hammered out, it’s time to look big picture. Storytelling allows you to present information to your customers that resonates with them on an emotional level. Stories also lead readers from one point to the next, so they won’t get lost in waves of ideas.
While not appropriate in every situation, you’ll be surprised at how frequently a story can replace mundane text.
History of your company is a good place to start. Instead of writing a bland background, give it some life by telling a compelling story about the founder’s journey.
Or, find ways to tell everyday stories. For example, GoPro highlights the videos and stories of its everyday users.
Or create a sub-culture around doing things differently. The American, outdoor gear brand, REI, combated the commercialism of Black Friday by showing the stories and photos of customers who chose to #OptOutside instead of spending the day shopping.
The biggest hurdle to implementing a tone of voice is getting everyone involved.
Your organisation and writers need to first believe in your core values – yet another reason they must be a genuine representation of your company. Having these values in place gives you guidance for which content creators to hire, and helps you bring your current ones up to speed.
Go through examples of what hits the mark, and be thorough with editing and feedback at the beginning. Give each writer copies of the guidelines, make sure they understand what’s expected and check in with them to see how it’s going.
Your tone of voice should resound from every aspect of your business. It pulls together your team and creates stronger emotional bonds with your audience.
If you’re true to your values, tone of voice will follow, and copy will become easier to write. You’ll find that everything you create can be traced back to who you are as a company, and you’ll be attracting customers based on more than just the products you sell.