The Sarky Type – content with more bite

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 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.

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.

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.

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!

Need some help with organising your content? Hit the button.

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. 

Content writing

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’.

Copywriting

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.

Christ.

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.”

Marketing Society

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.

(Hint. Click the button below.)

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I think you should learn to write a business blog that won’t induce sleep.

OK. I’m laying it all on the goddam table: most business blogs are terrible (not according to one bloke on Linkedin, there’s always a contrarian).

They (mostly) suck harder than any experienced sex worker.

And I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Has she lost her fucking mind? All she does is talk about blogging for business!”

Yes, but when you read as many as I do, you begin to notice a pattern: they’re all as dull as Gwyneth Paltrow (that didn’t fly with some men on Linkedin either).

If you’ve been paying attention, you know your content needs to be enticing. So, for the love of a good woman let’s entice, shall we!

If you haven’t been paying attention, take a look at this article: How to write an SEO friendly blog people yearn to read

People just want info, not entertainment

That’s often true when we’re after knowledge online.

We don’t care if the blog in question is beautifully written, nor do we mind if it’s light on LOLs. Surfing the web with informational intent usually means finding quick and simple explanations. 

But it also depends on what the purpose of your blog is. Some are written for entertainment’s sake. I know, utter madness.

As content creators, churning out just facts can really suck the joy out of blogging

A business blog requires commitment, and for me, writing one that adds humour makes me want to do it. Because let me tell you, there are hundreds of boring SEO blogs already in existence. I don’t need an outbound link to back that claim up.

I love SEO but for many, it’s a tedious and dry subject.

And maybe making it entertaining means making learning more effective. Hopefully, everyone’s having a good time and the customer is applying what they’ve learned to their business. 

A business blog isn’t your personal journal

Well, a successful one isn’t. 

And by successful, I mean one that gets the kind of traffic you want. 

Customers won’t get industry-based information on a blog that talks about finding yourself at a yoga retreat in Nepal.

(Unless you’re selling spiritual awakenings at yoga retreats in Nepal.)

The trick is to write a business blog that isn’t business-like at all

Take the business out of business

You need to choose a broad sector topic that you create regular blog content under.

For example, mine is SEO content writing for B2B. That makes it easy for me to maintain focus and write content within that subject.

Like I said, there are plenty of strait-laced SEO blogs already so I offer something different.

I get a kick out of finding unrelated subjects and challenge myself to create a connection between them. I have a thing for disparate things. Only I would find a way to mention dogging on a business blog about content writing – my business, my rules.

Just realised that ‘disparate’ sounds like a New Zealander saying, ‘desperate’. Say it out loud, you’ll know what I mean.

You might be pretty uptight on your business blog

Maybe you’re petrified of offending people.

PSA: You will never be able to avoid offending people.

Aside from swearing and polarising opinions, some get nervy about using contractions (eg. they’re, you’re, it’s, can’t). Be a bloody maverick, go start a sentence with ‘and’, I promise your old English teacher isn’t watching (they’re probably dead).

Don’t do anything you feel isn’t appropriate for you and your content but stop yourself from thinking you shouldn’t just because it’s not the industry standard.

It would do freelancers and SMEs good to check out some rebel, disruptor, and challenger brands and see how they create content. Standing out from the crowd is their thing.

If you’re different from your competitors, shout loudly about it. If you’re not doing anything different, why not? If you offer the same service with a similar approach, all it then becomes is an arms race to the bottom in terms of price.

So, why not try approaching your business blog the way you might a personal blog. The only difference is the core subject matter.

What if some people hate it? 

Firstly, who cares, and secondly, who cares.

It’s attracting who it’s attracting – the people you really want to work with. And for those personality vacuums that just have to tell you how awful your content is, send them thoughts and prayers.

Don’t confuse style with lack of expertise

If you’ve been creating content for your business you’ve already developed a style.

If, like me, you have a distinctive way with words, some might think you lack the knowledge to back it up. Only worry about that if you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

Who cares if it’s all about the style.

For some, style might be the only reason they engage with you online / buy a product / sign up for the newsletter. And some paying clients might be watching you from the sidelines – never getting involved with online conversations.

I don’t bother asking why they buy.

It doesn’t matter to me because I know my products could mean different things to different people. So if one person buys my stuff to learn and another to laugh, either way, they’re paying.

I’m a writer first. I’m never going to enjoy producing blog posts that are solely for the purpose of relaying information.

If your business blog sucks harder than a newborn, book my Blog Review.