So everyone’s still talking about content marketing. This buzzword has the digital marketing world all a-quiver and while it has its advocates (and its adversaries), you can’t knock the idea of creating genuinely relevant, useful and engaging content to enhance a user’s experience or encourage certain behaviour on your site. With Google’s ever-evolving knowledge graph, integrating this practice into your overall marketing strategy will become more and more important for 2014 and beyond.
That’s right, instead of just pitching or selling to the consumer, businesses need to be helpful. Producing this content is becoming an art form - a way of delivering useful information to users that will, hopefully, one day find the information provided so useful, they return to the source website, and eventually grace them with their business!
As with all marketing strategies, there are Do’s and Don’ts… But the lines get a little blurry when it comes to writing content for your website, content that needs to work for users as well as for search engines. You’ll need to take both into consideration, and let them work together. What’s the point in getting your website found if your visitors are presented with a big block of text they don’t stick around to read?
A clear and concise writing style is important.
Short sentences, structured writing and aesthetically pleasing pieces are key. Here are some other tactics to consider (in handy, easy to read chunks… see what I did there?)
George Miller’s magic number 7 at work here. Your average user stores 5-9 pieces of information in their short term memory. Chunking or grouping relevant information allows us to store more information within a given chunk and does so for around 20 to 30 seconds before it’s committed to long term memory or discarded altogether. Serving up a large block of text is going to lead to information overload and could intimidate the reader.
1. They’re easier to scan
2. They’re more succinct
3. They’re quicker to read
4. They’re way more inviting
- To summarise a topic. Your users will understand that these bullets won’t take them long to read and they’ll get a general feel for what an article or piece is about when they have read them.
- To highlight important points. If a piece of text is formatted differently from the rest, users will understand that it’s important and focus their attention on it.
- To introduce colour to a potentially monochrome page. Line after line of grey text can look pretty boring after all.
- To add interest with suggestive visuals. As an example, using ticks as bullet points implies a checklist of things to do. Things that a user should consider doing themselves!
Use Titles or Subheadings
Using a descriptive subheading is a great way to forward-load your content and summarise what is going to be said. A teaser, if you like. No need to be dull, though as a creative title can be a great way to get a reader’s attention, and regular subheadings create visual interest.
Less is More
Consider giving your site a spring clean. If you’ve got an element (such as an ad, or an irrelevant Call To Action) in a user’s eye-line, and it doesn’t need to be there, you’re distracting them. If you start cramming too much on a web page it can look cluttered, dated and unprofessional.
Choose your font wisely
The unwritten (totally written) rule is to use sans-serif online and serif in print. And use a decent-sized font to avoid “squinty-reader-syndrome”. Keeping the font scalable means that users can choose whether or not they want to super-size AND CAPS LOCK IS FOR SHOUTING, NOT FOR HIGHLIGHTING… try bold?
Align your text wisely
The irregular spacing in justified text means our eyes can’t “learn” when the next word is going to appear. Similarly, centre and right-aligned text doesn’t have an obvious line beginning for our eyes to revert to when we’ve finished the previous line. You can make things easier for your users with left-aligned text, offering the consistency needed to learn and read more quickly.
Contextual links should be descriptive
In the same way that bold or coloured text draws the eye, an underlined or contrasting phrase usually indicates a link. According to a Wichita State usability study, these embedded links are preferred by the user and tick the boxes for those readers who are scanning a page. They don’t have to scroll back and forth over the last couple of paragraphs to find out what this link is supporting.
Don’t forget mobile users!
When trying to engage your users who visit via mobile, understand that space is minimal. A wise man once said that efficient use of space on mobile is crucial. I urge you to consider breaking up your content into bite-sized helpings. You can remove any non-essential content, and stick to a single wrapped column to avoid any horizontal scrolling. Wikipedia, the pub-quizzer’s best friend, is a great example:
What are you waiting for?
The savvy online consumer hasn’t got time to plough through your reams and reams of text to find what they’re looking for. Help them out by trying a list or a set of bullets to highlight the important stuff. Experiment with creative and descriptive subheadings to chunk useful information. And test (always test, don’t just change) your content’s layout by clearing out the distractions.