In the age of click-and-scroll, it’s easy to assume the hallmarks of persuasive communication have fundamentally changed. Regardless of the medium, brand marketing still comes down to identifying and satisfying your audience’s need. So how do you create the right content for the right audience—and still satisfy your SEO needs?
While there’s no magic formula for attracting readers or making your site ascend the rungs of search rankings, there are some steps you can take to make sure you consistently produce quality content that moves the needle in the right direction.
1. Make it useful.
Your content shouldn’t just exist for the sake of it. If you want people to come to your site and engage with your content, you have to make it worth their time.
While you do want your content to be optimized for search engines so that your site begins to build authority that will cause it to rank higher in search results, you must never lose sight of your reader. Every post should offer some practical value for the reader, whether that is how to solve a particular problem or a better understanding of a topic close to the core of your brand.
This is where developing buyer personas becomes critical, so that you can understand who your audience is and what issues are important to them.
2. Make it easy to consume.
Your content should be packaged in a friendly, clean, and intuitive user experience, or you can expect your potential customer to click away within seconds, without so much as scanning your headlines. There is no excuse for clunky and cumbersome formatting, and readers have no patience to waste on hard-to-navigate websites.
Beyond the look and feel of your blog, each post should itself be easy to read. Break long paragraphs up into small pieces that keep the reader’s eyes moving down the page, organize information into thematic subheadings, and incorporate unique, compelling images whenever possible.
3. Make it engaging.
If people just wanted facts, they would go to About.com or Wikipedia. You need to offer them something more—voice, personality, and a point of view. Ideally, readers should not only gain useful information from your content, but enjoyment.
Your content is your brand. Too many businesses play it safe with their content marketing in fear of alienating potential customers, but the result is content that is too bland and unremarkable to appeal to anyone at all.
If your content is an authentic reflection of your service and brand personality, anyone who is turned away would not likely be a potential customer.
4. Make it rewarding.
The most shareable content is content that rewards a reader for consuming and sharing it. Copyblogger calls this kind of content “cookie content” because it’s easily digestible and improves the reader’s life in some small way, be it offering a simple solution to a problem, a bit of inspiration, or just bringing a smile to their face.
Highly shareable cookie content is often so satisfying because it contains information that is immediately helpful or entertaining. That’s why “how-to” and list posts are so popular on social media—they provide straightforward action items that you can implement right away.
Not all content has to be “cookie content”. There can, and should be room in your content marketing plan for content with a longer-term focus. You should aim for every post to have at least one sweet morsel in it that is immediately gratifying, even if it’s as simple as a motivating call to action or moment of amusement.
5. Make it longer, but keep it focused.
This may come as a surprise, but the ideal blog length is between 1,000 and 1,500 words. People tend to assume that shorter is better, but in fact longer content ranks better in search engines, receives more backlinks from other high-ranking sources, and is by far the most commonly shared on social media.
Search engines prefer longer content because the more content you have, the more can be indexed by web crawlers and the greater your keyword density becomes.
However, longer isn’t always better. Quality still trumps quantity, every time. If your article hits 2,000 words but meanders all over the place and rambles so much that you confuse or lose reader interest altogether, it does neither you nor your reader any good.
Your goal should be to achieve depth, authority, and clarity in every post. If that only takes 500 words, don’t dilute its impact by stretching it into 1,000.
6. Optimize it for search.
No, we’re not talking about keyword stuffing. Search engines are smarter than that, and so are you. Search engines reward pages that support core keywords with relevant, well-structured, original content to give them context.
Your core keywords should be further supplemented by strategic links. Including internal links back to your own content invites people to venture further into your site, while anchoring key words and phrases with external links to other credible sites indicates that your article has been well researched and your claims are supported by other experts.
7. Show and tell.
If the success of Pinterest and Instagram have taught us anything, it’s that people love to communicate with images. Facebook also has gone to great lengths to make it easier to post longer videos and graphically dense posts among likeminded groups.
Consider linking videos or embedding infographics into your blog postings. Breaking up your text with a little informative eye-candy can go a long way toward keeping readers engaged and even encourage sharing—so long as you keep it relevant and useful.
Content marketing is about establishing authority and expertise that is recognized and promoted by search engines. If you know what you’re talking about and communicate your knowledge in clear, informative, and original content, that will begin to happen organically.
Wondering if your content is compelling enough?
Our free digital marketing assessment will put your content through its paces to find your biggest areas of opportunity.
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated to include additional information.