The Sarky Type – content with more bite

Since reading my stuff you know all there is to know about content writing.

Shit, I bet you could write a book about it.

But I wonder if you really know, like REALLY bloody know how it helps your business.

Not some theoretical company but YOUR little concern.

Me, blathering on about the joys of content (in my charming and hilarious way) isn’t enough.

It doesn’t help you ‘get it’ and like Oliver Twist, you want more.

I’ve reluctantly come to accept that not only are you greedy but incredibly selfish.

All you care about is this: what’s in it for me?

See, selfish.

What you already know about content writing…

It drives organic traffic to your website… yawn.

Forget about organic traffic.

Yeah, you read that right.

And even though I’ve said those words (and will continue to do so for a bit longer) please try to ignore that I used them.

Do you need more organic traffic? Do you even want it?

If your business is unlikely to be found on a web search, SEO writers selling you content on that basis is a waste of time.

For those organisations, organic traffic isn’t a benefit. 

I guess that means content writing is useless to businesses not interested in web searches?

Don’t be ruddy silly.

It just means optimising the text for Google isn’t a factor.

Here’s something else you know: expertise, authority, and trust.

Should you forget about that too?

Err… no, certainly not.

Unlike traffic, every business needs to be able to demonstrate how good they are.

Content tells the people in your world that you perform your job with skill and integrity. 

That’s a huge turn-on for SEO precisely because it’s a big deal for your clients.

(Remember when I nag you that writing for people and search engines is the same damn thing? Yeah, well it is.)

But that’s still not enough for you to take your writing seriously.

Compartmentalising the advantages of content undermines how powerful it is.

You only need one reason to make you invest in content writing.

So (for now) put aside the other benefits (of which there are many, and a trip through my blog will reveal all).

The one main reason to get fresh with content is so blindingly obvious that I often forget to mention it.

And it is this: content isn’t king, it’s EVERYTHING.

Woah! 

Jot that down in your notebook of new wanketing phrases – that’s a blinder.

Maybe you prefer the term, content isn’t king, it’s the kingdom.

(I can’t take credit for that one, some other marketing bastard coined that beauty.)

Content is your business.

Try to imagine building brand awareness / selling your services / nurturing existing clients / generating new leads, without words.

Take a moment to think about what that would look like.

Let me help you out, it would look like this…

See my point?

Most business peeps won’t hire a writer.

They bumble through and do it all themselves.

Why is that, you’re wondering?

Content isn’t a priority because they can write.

So the reason isn’t (always) lack of funds. It’s often because they don’t see the point of hiring someone to do a job they think they can do themselves. 

And would you spend significant cash on something you didn’t think you needed?

After all, content writing is just writing, isn’t it? Words on a page that explain some stuff. 

Anyone can do it.

So that anyone is Liz (who currently does admin and accounts).

I’ve no beef with Liz, btw. She’s doing wonders with her GCSE English, it’s not her fault that her boss (Derek) has the marketing savvy of a crab stick.

Derek says stuff like this:

“I just need words for the website, Liz.”

She complies and goes on the type guff about being the market leader, something… something… excellent customer service.

Businesses choose to save money where they think they can afford to save money.

Meanwhile, Liz drops a blog about an award they paid for and gets on with the rest of her day (that to-do list isn’t going to do itself).

Not all content is created equal.

And until freelancers and SMEs realise they are neglecting their most valuable marketing tool, they won’t invest in it.

Even when they do hire someone, they can’t help but say shit like this:

“All I need is one article a month – why the hell is it so expensive?”

Let me count the ways…

Put simply, content takes planning and expertise (just like your job).

Everything you write for your business should be scrutinised and it should support your offering.

When you have a cracking thing to sell (but no proper content to do the job of selling it) what do you think will happen?

Not much is the answer.

The Three Ws.

WHO is your content for? WHY are you creating it? And WHAT do you want it to do?

Every word on your website should be strategic. 

You should understand the purpose of all the content on each page.

In my last blog, I said that your prospects are at different stages of the buying process.

When you use your content to cater for each stage, you speak directly to those who are doing one of three things:

  1. Getting to know you
  2. Considering you
  3. About to buy from you

You always need quality content. 

So that’s content that understands who it is talking to and where they are in the customer journey.

I was working with a client on a one-off project.

(Occasionally people want to hire me.)

My client knew writing long-form was of value but they didn’t really understand who/why/what.

They mentioned content that would create brand awareness. That’s a great starting point but that’s not the full story.

Those prospects who read the getting-to-know-you blurb, aren’t going to buy from you for some time. So we also need to think about content that converts the people who are already aware.

I’m a nosy bugger so probed further and asked how they usually get work. Turns out it’s mostly by referral.

(So in this instance, traffic isn’t a priority… yet.)

I went on to ask if those clients were the kind of market they wanted.

Guess what, they answered, no.

Interesting.

Their current customers were cheapskates.

Money was the only thing that mattered so they didn’t care that my client was brilliant at what they did.

(So unflattering.)

The strategy of securing work via word of mouth only meant they were getting more of the same penny-pinching arsewipes.

They weren’t using their content to attract those with cash. And just as important, repel those who demanded services at a ‘reasonable price’.

I noodled around with some strategy ideas and I told them what I would do. 

(And if you want to find out what I said, you’ll have to pay for it.)

Sometimes you know you want a thing.

But you’re not really sure why you do.

I wanted a pea-green catsuit…

Looks great on the model, amirite?

As you can imagine, it came as a complete surprise that when I tried it on, I looked like I was going to do some special effects against a green screen.

Gutted.

You’ve probably heard someone say content is the nuts but that’s as far as your comprehension takes you.

If you were to understand how a blog article could be the reason someone hires you, on let’s say, a £6k retainer, the ‘why’ becomes pretty obvious.

My content is the ONLY reason people hire me.

My content is also (one of the many) reasons people don’t hire me. And that’s the way it should be.

Do you still think Liz should be doing it?

(If the answer to that is no, absolutely not, you really do need to take a look at my services.)

“Just write engaging content, do that.”

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.

She’s right.

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.

(If you disagree, here’s a post for all the generalists out there.)

So, how do you engage your targeted bunch of weirdos?

Wait for it…

Ready…

Get to know them.

Yay!

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.

Bastards.

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).

Lemme elaborate…

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.

Understandy?

Conclusion.

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.

However…

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 other-worldly content? Find out more here.

Pillar content sounds monumental, doesn’t it?

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 for the 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.

Sound familiar?

What do you mean, no?!

Blogging.

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:

Pillar content

There’s a slight problem with that.

You’re relying on that one blog 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.

Cluster 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:

  • Blogging
  • Website building
  • Keywords
  • Copywriting

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.

Keyword cannibalisation.

You want to avoid targeting the exact same, or similar keywords for individual pages. If you don’t, you’ll end up competing with your own content. That confuses the hell out of Google which might rank all your content lower.

You can use a plugin like RankMath to make sure you’re not targeting the same keywords each time.

Doing this builds a stronger domain authority.

That just means your website will become more relevant to those seeking info based on your industry.

Huzzah!

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?

Give it a crackin’ title.

Don’t make it lame. Mine is called The funniest bestest guide to SEO content writing, EVER. Yeah, it’s a bit extra. 

Word count.

Any figure from 3000 to 5000 is good but it really depends on how much cluster content you have. You’ll add to it as you regularly blog.

And thou wilt regularly blog.

Make it worth the effort of reading.

Here’s the truth: people may not read every word but write it as if they will.

Ignore what some twats say about long-form. People do read it. But they usually have to set aside some time – but only if it’s of value to them.

Make it evergreen.

keep it updated. Revise the content. If it no longer applies, chuck it out.

Headings.

Just like a blog post, add headings. Break this huge piece of content into bite-sized morsels – it will give people the ability to skim (and some bastards will skim).

Mix your media, not your metaphors.

Sorry, I just made myself LOL.

Lay down some infographics, graphs, video – whatever makes damn sense. Put on a bloody show!

Add a CTA.

(I am so done with CTAs.)

But we gotta have ’em and you need one at the end of all this beautiful content you spent so much time writing, otherwise what’s the actual point?

Reward the people that get to the end, make them buy something.

As usual, I have a blog sign up form. If they can get through all that long-form, the silly sods might want to sign up for more.

Ok, off you go. Create!

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