I saw a post from one of my Linkedin connections about this (yeah, Linkedin, I’m hella cool).
This rather astute (salty AF connection, yes, I’m in love) was bemoaning the overuse of the word ‘engaging’. She went on to say that almost no one defines what it means when it comes to marketing.
If you have been following me for a while now (thank you, can’t believe you stayed, love you guys) you probably have a fair idea of how to be engaging. However, I sometimes think I’ve failed to express it in the simplest of terms.
And not because I think you’re stupid but because you’re fucking lazy.
(I’m sure getting my fucks in early with this post! My apologies but you gotta roll with the punches.)
A quick look at content
Do you bristle when you hear that word? Really? Don’t be so bloody sensitive.
Content is anything – literally, anything you have strewn/dumped/thrown across your website pages.
Documents, podcasts, infographics, videos, animation, and yes words are all that thing.
What’s engaging content?
The dictionary defines the word engaging as “charming and attractive”.
When you relate that to content it sounds weird.
To be attractive is to be “pleasing and appealing to the senses”. And then it mentions some bollocks about being sexually alluring… blimey, I’m not sure the word engaging is the right one after all.
It can get complicated because some content can be both unpleasant and engaging (the thing you’re reading right now for example) so it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks.
That’s as clear as whale sperm, right?
Ok, I’m going to settle with the word attractive because in my view this is what your content should be. The things you write and indeed any stuff you produce should be for a certain someone.
So, how do you engage your targeted bunch of weirdos?
Wait for it…
Get to know them.
Look, if you’re marketing mini-breaks to the live-action role play crowd, you would do your very best to know them well. Makes sense, sounds obvious, yeah, it is.
If you’re creating events for these oddballs to reenact the Battle of the Boyne, chances are you’ve gone to town on your research.
If you’re selling IT hardware to SMEs in Japan (and that’s probably like selling snow to the Inuits) you’d work damn hard to understand Japanese business culture.
You’d sidestep any kind of language that might get you in hot water.
Get to know the front and back bottom of your market – that’s it. There’s no special sauce you’ve just got to do the bloody work.
Engaging content always depends on who’s buying.
When a dickwad copywriter, already versed in the rudiments of content writing, complains after buying my book, that there is no value in it, I respond: the book isn’t for you, love, it’s for people who don’t have a bloody clue about writing for their business.
People are terrible and sometimes they fuck up and make bad choices. Sadly, they don’t always apply personal responsibility to the decisions they make.
Where was I? Oh, yeah…
Don’t believe everything marketing types tell you (and I guess that includes me).
If they say something like, always use active voice because it’s more engaging, more human, roll your eyes and move on.
Sometimes passive voice is appropriate and therefore, more engaging (or just appropriate, yeah, whatever).
That tone is often used to relay facts, so think of all the small print on medicine packaging. The purpose of that information is not to get you to buy anything, it doesn’t want you to download an eBook. In truth, it’s unlikely they’d hire me to write the copy.
Being hilarious and conversational isn’t always the right choice and that approach could make your content seem less trustworthy, for example, there may be plenty of amusing barristers out there but legal papers and documents, littered with bad language, sarcasm (and explicit sexual references) would really undermine the pertinent points.
Engaging content isn’t about making people laugh, it isn’t about talking to them like your best mate, and it’s not about using simple language that a child will understand.
But it might, of course, be some or all of those things but the best people to know are the ones you’re selling your gear to.
Listen, some people find Cliff Richard sexy, go figure, In fact, I met one such woman only last weekend. Proof that we don’t all want the same thing.
Let this serve as a reminder – I know I’ve said this before but I’m fresh out of ideas right now.
Not everyone within your market will respond. There is always an exception to the rule. Or about ten but that’s still ok though, coz we don’t care about them.
Wasn’t this fun? Need me for some content and copy? Great! Hit the button.
The phrase has got me thinking of content like a towering structure of biblical proportions.
Huge. Immense. Gargantuan. Erect…
Blimey. Typing that made me a bit sweaty.
It’s called that because it supports other content.
Yeah, doesn’t sound nearly as impressive now, does it? And it’s still kinda vague.
So, what is it?
Lemme describe it this way: it’s a piece of content that organises all the rest.
Holy Saint Peter and his keys to heaven, that’s put another shade on it.
Why do you need it?
Well, lover man, it increases the chance of people finding your stuff.
I have the song, Lover Man in my head (the Barbra Streisand version) so be prepared forthe lyrics to seep out in this post.
Before I explain further, let’s start with what currently happens.
Standard website structure.
Imagine a homepage.
That page uses CTA buttons to point to other areas on a website.
One of those other areas is a blog page. Hyperlinks (clickable text) on each post point to similar information within the site.
What do you mean, no?!
The usual approach is to assign a focus keyword to each blog post.
You then have the task of optimising the living shit out of that individual page so that Google might deign to allow users to find it.
Oh, look, a graphic to help explain what I mean:
There’s a slight problem with that.
You’re relying on that one post to do some serious heavy lifting when it comes to being seen on the web.
And yeah, ok, that’s why you pop those hyperlinks throughout the content – to tell Google about all your other suitable stuff.
But hang on.
If you’re writing posts around a subject, using certain keywords, optimising them as stand-alone pieces, you run the risk of competing against your own content.
Shitting arseheads, Doris.
Well, hello pillar content…
How you doin’?
I’ve heard it said that the thrill of pillar content can be like a heavenly dream…
(Shoe-horning more Lover Man lyrics there.)
I mean it’s great but it’s probably not thrilling. However, it will make you rethink how you’re currently blogging.
Hey, don’t panic.
I’m not about to suggest you delete your blog (unless it’s just the pits).
You’re going to have a proper clear-out and sort through your posts and pages. Doing that will highlight the ones you keep and the ones you delete.
Don’t get attached to stuff on your website.
Just don’t. You managed to let Derek go and he was dreamy (yes that was a not-so-veiled Grey’s Anatomy reference).
A cull is a good thing for SEO. If it ain’t serving your purpose (your audience/keywords), it needs to take a walk.
How do you create it?
You start by choosing what broad subject all your content will fall under.
That topic should be one of the keywords your website targets.
So, for me, that’s SEO content writing.
Once that topic is fixed, create a new webpage. This will become your monumental piece of content.
These are the posts and pages that your pillar content will link to.
My dad used to be in a band called The Cluster. They had this tagline: “Add lustre to your cluster with Max Factor knacker-lacquer.”
My cluster content would include stuff like this:
Yeah, you get the picture.
You will continue to add a focus keyword to individual posts.
Still think of them as landing pages in their own right, just keep in mind that you’re building a library without duplicate content. And that library should be working together towards one goal – to increase the chance of being found by people searching for you.
You can use a plugin like RankMath to make sure you’re not targeting the same keywords each time.
So, when I write yet another fabulous post about blogging, I make sure it’s from a different angle. I don’t want to be competing for the same keywords.
Doing this builds a stronger domain authority.
That just means your website will become more relevant to those seeking info based on your industry.
Sorting through your content.
Calm down, this is not as much work as you think it is.
Start by listing all your current blog posts.
I got my nerd on and created a spreadsheet. It was much simpler to assess all the work I had.
I’m pretty lucky, my main subject has always been clear, which made it less of a ball ache to arrange into cluster content.
If your blog is all over the show, with no clear topic, this process will be a fucking nightmare.
At best, It might throw up several broad subjects, at worst, you’ll have a truckload of posts that don’t make any logical sense.
If you do find that you have a couple of wide topics, that’s cool but it will mean you’ll need more than one piece of pillar content.
Now young grasshopper, you’re ready.
Too young to get that reference, huh?
You’ve established your broad topic, sifted through your cluster content, let’s prep some pillar content!
That page you created earlier will be a one-stop-shop for everything you ever published around your broad subject.
Your cluster content categories can become headings, underneath which you provide a brief outline on the subject. That outline should be long enough to include hyperlinks to your relevant blog posts.
This is your ultimate guide to what you bang on about.
Things to keep in mind when creating pillar content.
Add a table of contents.
Allowing people to skip to the sections they want to learn about is muchos important. User experience, bitches, that’s what we always say, remember?
Some of us are too busy to care about the nuanced points of content writing and copywriting.
I’m not at all busy. I hate being busy. Charge more, do less. Fuck. Yes.
Most people running a business (busy or not) don’t know (and don’t care) about the endless debate between content writing vs copywriting.
It bores the living shit outta me too, tbh.
Just like Bobby Brown, it’s your prerogative to avoid that particular writer’s discussion, but having a basic understanding of this thorny issue will make your website content much better.
Website content writing is SEO optimised text that attracts organic traffic.
Its entire purpose is to get you found by the right kind of people. Blogging is a huge part of content SEO and it’s considered (by me, at least) as the long game to attraction.
If you blog, think about the process.
I’m guessing you research the topic. You figure out the keywords you want that post to be found for and I dare say, you SEO the bejeesus out of every aspect of that post. Once it’s done, you promote the life out of it.
All that is part and parcel of brand awareness.
I nearly typed ‘bland awareness’ which for many is so apt.
All this content is building a reputation.
And a reputation sets you up as an authority, which in turn, cultivates trust (lest we forget the E-A-T principle of SEO).
This is a drip-feed of information about what you do and what you sell to potential customers. We do that, not only on the basis that they will find us but also, remember us.
Content marketing works in a similar way to TV ads.
You’re constantly reminding prospects who you are so when they need that thing you sell, they’ll know who to turn to.
All this happens over a long-ass period of time.
Producing online content is relentless. It’s hard graft. But a website without a content strategy is a lame duck, and without it, your organic traffic efforts are fer nuffin’.
So, you’ve got some clients mooching around on your homepage, great, but now you’ve got to do something with them.
We need to give those visitors a reason to stay and we absolutely want them to take some kind of action – an action that we have orchestrated.
Direct response copywriting is how we convince customers to do that thing.
If you want to sell a product or get a blog sign up, you write using that technique. And it’s a technique that has hard and fast rules.
(I struggle with rules. I’m not great with authority either.)
Unlike content writing, copywriting has a short term goal.
And that goal is to elicit a decision from the reader. A decision that requires some urgency, in the same way, that infomercials want you to act now to get that half-price Dormeo mattress.
Content writing and copywriting are similar
Both techniques require you to know your target customer like your own mother.
If you don’t know your own mother, sorry.
Content writing and copywriting is only effective if you establish a problem that you can solve.
Both also ask that you speak directly to your client. In the same way that you might have a one-to-one conversation.
Why do you need both?
Selling a product and attracting organic traffic are two different things.
The writing style you use is determined by the pages of your website, the purpose of which can vary.
A landing page, for example, has one purpose, a short term goal that requires urgent action. You’ll predominantly use copywriting on those kinds of pages.
A blog post is all about long term brand awareness so you’re much more likely to adopt content writing techniques to engage your audience.
Can you combine content writing and copywriting?
The marketing technique of mixing shit up has already been invented and it has a snazzy name… wait for it…
“Brand Response is the marketing communications industry’s Genius of the And. It sounds too good to be true. It asks us to live with two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time. It can be defined simply as a strategic and executional campaign approach where brand-building drives response and this response, in turn, builds the brand in a virtuous circle of effectiveness.”
In summary, you’re getting both short term and long term goals in a single hit.
You’re doing the thing of creating a buzz around your business – building on the desire to want to be remembered for a long while to come, whilst asking of those reading your content to do something immediately after the fact.
You can do exactly that with your blog.
The dark art of merging both content writing and copywriting to murderous effect.
I’m clearly thinking about my own blog.
If you apply the rules of direct response, all the while keeping your brand awareness sensibilities, you’ve got the basis for a cracking business blog that not only informs but converts.
Interestingly enough, direct response copywriting is often long-form, and according to Crazy Egg, it outperforms short-form by 30%.
Oh, and the grandmaster of advertising, David Ogilvy said something along the lines, “The more you tell, the more you sell.”
What a wordsmith. Sadly, he was nowhere near as pretty on camera as his nephew.
So, what do you do now?
Well, I suggest you mull all this over.
Take time to fully appreciate how brilliant using both techniques (and even merging the two) could be for your website. If you’re still on the fence about employing someone to write for your business, then you’ve either missed all my other posts or you don’t understand the value.
If however, you’re starting to see the proverbial light, you know where to find me.