12 Content Writing Secrets Any Writer Can Use!

content marketing

Since most content starts with written words, it doesn’t matter what type of content you produce, you can benefit from knowing the secrets of professional writers.

One of the biggest struggles content marketers have is producing enough content and simultaneously keeping the quality high. That’s something professional writers must work through on a daily basis.

So in this chapter, you’ll learn 12 secrets of professional writers: the tips and tricks that help them consistently produce a steady stream of high-quality content.

Stay in research mode at all times.

In order to keep your queue filled with great content ideas, you need to stay in research mode at all times.

Research shouldn’t be reserved for planning or writing sessions only. The quality of your content will increase substantially if you do it on an ongoing basis, as ideas pop into your head.

As soon as you get an idea,
begin jotting down ways you could develop it.

You can wait until it’s time to produce your content to think about what you want to say. But it’s often easier to begin developing your ideas before it’s time to write. To do that, as soon as you get the idea, begin looking for:

  • Major points you’d like to make about the topic
  • URLs for sites that provide additional information
  • URLs for Web pages that illustrate your points

By stepping into research mode every time you browse the Web, you can often have your entire outline finished before it’s time to sit down and write.

Example #1

Stay in research mode at all times #1

Example #2

Stay in research mode at all times #2

The idea for this post began with a simple idea, “6 types of leads.”

To create a rough outline, the writer entered the types of leads she was considering (in red). Then as she browsed the Web, if she found a good example of one of them, she entered the URL under the subhead.

That way, when it was time to write the post, she could easily find the Web pages again — and most of the research was already done.

As you read/browse the Web,
gather resources to use as reference material.

Stay in research mode at all times #3

Don’t just browse the Web. Research the Web. Whenever you’re online, be on the lookout for material that could help you tell your stories.

If you see a social media post or article that relates to a topic, grab the URL and paste it into the cell where you’ve listed your idea. Add notes so you know why you wanted to use the material, and when you finally sit down to write, you have much of your research already done.

Use Google+ and Evernote to file your research

Sometimes you don’t have an idea yet. But you see a Web page or report that has valuable information you know you can use.

When you see posts that have great research or fresh ideas, or if you simply want to keep it as a sample of what works, be sure to save those Web pages.

There are three ways to do that, and we’ve listed them in order, from simplest to most advanced.

Use Google’s +1 feature

When you +1 a Web page, Google keeps a record of it.

To see the pages you’ve +1’d, go to your Google+ profile, and click on the tab below your cover banner called “+1’s.”

Stay in research mode at all times #4

You’ll see a list of the Web pages you’ve +1’d, with the most recent ones on top.

Stay in research mode at all times #5

This creates a simple log of the pages you want to be able to find again later. But it doesn’t give you a way to add notes or categorize your pages.

If you’d like to save notes with your ideas, you’ll need to use the technique we talk about next.

Create a Google+ circle with no one in it.

Here’s how it works:

Create a new Google+ circle called “Ideas,” but don’t put any people in it.

Then, when you find a Web page you want to remember, you can “share” it with your Ideas circle. Since no one is in that circle, you’ll be the only one who can see it.

It’s a simple way to keep track of Web pages you want to be able to find later. Here’s how to set it up:

First, create your “Ideas” circle:

Stay in research mode at all times #6

  1. Go to your Google+ profile and click on the “Find People” link in the left sidebar.
  2. Across the top of the page are three tabs. Click on “Your circles.”

Stay in research mode at all times #7

3. At the bottom of the screen will be a row of blue circles.

Stay in research mode at all times #8

Click on the first one, which says “Drop here to create a circle.”
A pop-up will appear
.

Stay in research mode at all times #9

  1. Enter the name of the circle: “Ideas”
  2. Write in a description of the circle: “Research and ideas for content”
  3. Click “Create empty circle.

Now, whenever you come across a piece of content that you want to save for future reference,
here’s what you do:

Stay in research mode at all times #10

  1. Hit the +1 button on that Web page (or copy the URL and manually paste it into your Google+ stream)
  2. Write your ideas into the post.
  3. Remove the circles you have showing, then click in the empty space to see a list of your circles. Scroll down to “Ideas” and click on it.
  4. Click “Share.”

When you need to find a Web page that you saved, simply review the posts in your Ideas circle.
Here’s how:

    1. When you are on your Home page, select “More” at the top of the page.
    2. The circles you have created will appear in a drop-down box. Select the “Ideas” circle to populate your stream. You will see all your Ideas in your

Stay in research mode at all times #11

  1. stream.
  2. When you’re done reviewing them and you want to return to your normal stream, select “All” from the options at the top of your Home page. You will see posts from the people you follow, including any recent Ideas you have created.

One caveat: Your posts to the Ideas circle won’t populate anyone’s Google+ stream, but they could show up in a Google search if they contain the keyword being searched for.

Here’s a post we made for the sole purpose of capturing screenshots. It ranked on page 1 of Google!

Stay in research mode at all times #12

Use Evernote.

Stay in research mode at all times #13

Evernote allows you to save Web pages to a cloud-based file system. You create the folders and tags, and you include notes that help you find that information when you need it later.

This is the most advanced technique for saving Web pages for future reference. And the nice thing is, you can customize the experience to your own needs.

  • Create a folder for each writing project.
  • Create a folder for each category you create content for.
  • Create a folder for each client or department you create content for.

ORGANIZE YOUR SAVED WEB PAGES IN WHATEVER WAY THAT WORKS FOR YOU. HERE’S HOW TO SET IT UP:

  1. In the upper left corner, beside “Notebooks,” click the small caret. A link to “New Notebook” will appear. Click it.

Stay in research mode at all times #14

  • In the “Create a New Notebook” pop-up, write your project name or the category of the information you want to save.
  • For instance, if you write blog posts for several categories on your website, create a folder for each. When you find research that applies to one of those categories, save it in the appropriate folder. (We’ll talk more about that in a minute.)

Stay in research mode at all times #15

  • Or if you create content for several departments in your organization, create a folder for each. Then when you find research that applies to one of those departments, save it in the folder labeled with that department’s name.
  • After you’ve created folders to store your research, set up the Evernote Web Clipper on your desktop.
  • From Google, search for “Evernote Web Clipper” and select the appropriate search result depending on your Web browser.
  • For instance, if you have Firefox, select the first option. If you have Chrome, select the second.

Stay in research mode at all times #16

Evernote will add an icon to your search bar at the top of your browser.

  • Now you’re ready to use Evernote to file your research:
  1. When you are searching the Web and find a page you want to save, click the Clipper icon at the top of your browser.
  2. The Web page darkens and Evernote highlights the part of the page being saved. A pop-up also appears asking you to fill in the notebook you want this
  3. page saved in, the tags you want to assign it, and any comments you may have.
  4. Enter the appropriate information and click “Clip Article.”

That’s it. Your article is saved in Evernote in the file folder you specified

Then when you’re writing and need to find a statistic, here’s how you find it in Evernote:

  1. When you are writing a blog post or writing a video script and you need a statistic or other fact, go to Evernote.com and log in to your account.
  2. In the search bar at the top of the page, type in your keyword and click “Search.”
  3. All the Web pages that you tagged with that keyword will populate the Notes panel below the Search bar. Each page is labeled with the page title and the date you saved it to Evernote.
  4. Click on any of the search results, and it will appear in the reading panel on the right.

Of the three options for saving your research, Evernote takes the most up-front time. That’s because, in order to be able to find information later, you must add tags to the pages you save.

But Evernote is your most efficient way to find your information later.

Write in your own unique voice.

Don’t try to copy someone else. Your content should have an individual style that is unique to your personality or brand.

Once you develop your own voice, you aren’t done. (Writers never stop working on their writing skills. As a content writer, you need to continually hone your skills too.)

Style is your most prized possession as a writer, and it should continue to evolve over the lifetime of your career.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

Ernest Hemingway

If you haven’t found your voice yet, try this exercise:

How to find your voice

No matter what content you produce, it needs to be in your own voice or style. It should never seem like a copycat of someone else. That said, it’s only by copying skilled writers that you’ll find your own unique voice.

Typically, creative professionals go through three stages of development: imitation, mastery, and, finally, innovation.

You start out reading and studying the styles of writers you admire. Then you use what you learn to develop your own style.

Here’s an exercise that can walk you through the process:

  • Find 5 content writers whose style you enjoy reading
  • Select one piece from each that is representative of their work, or that you enjoy reading.
  • Select your favorite of the five writing samples, and read it slowly, word-for-word, out loud if necessary.

Study how that writers do it:

  1. What the first sentence looks like.
  2. Format of introduction.
  3. How the article is structured.
  4. How the topic is developed and ideas presented.
  5. How the article is drawn to a close.
  6. What the call to action was.

Now you try.

Write an article or blog post for your own brand that’s similar to the one you just studied. Try to format your article the same, and imitate the style of your chosen writer.

Do this for each writer.

Repeat this exercise for the remaining four articles. When you’re done, you’ll have five articles of your own, each written in a style similar to one of your favorite writers.

Review these articles.

Select the one that was easiest to write and sounds most “like you.” It should sound or feel a bit like your own (or your brand’s) personality and style.

Write the sixth article in this same style, making one small change to make it sound more like your own natural voice

Let your personality come through, your own way of talking, your individual way of seeing the world. You may keep the structure of your chosen writer. Or you may continue to use some of the writer’s style. But begin to make it your own.

With each article, you write, tweak this adopted style a little more until it begins to sound unique to you.

Your goal is for someone to say, “When I read your posts, I can hear you talking.” That’s voice. And it should be as unique as you are.

Talk about one thing only.

Each piece of content should have one point. Only one.

The first thing you should do when you sit down to write is to figure out what your bottom-line point is.

After you write, the first round of edits is to make sure your writing stays on point.

You need to be ruthless. As William Faulkner said, “kill your darlings.” Any word, sentence, or paragraph that breaks this one rule must be deleted — no matter how much you like it.

Depth and length should match.

There are two things that make writing difficult to read. One is not giving enough detail and giving only spotty coverage of an idea. The other is to try to give too much detail for the space allowed.

Whether you want your content to be long or short, make sure you only go as deep as your length allows.

  • Short articles should only provide a high-level discussion of your topic or in-depth coverage of one aspect of it.
  • Longer content has the space to provide more details.

Any length is acceptable. Seth Godin and ZAGG write as few as 100 words per post, while KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg blog posts range from 800 to 1,500+ words.

Depth and length should match #1

For example, this one on ZAGG is just 36 words.

Yes, this is the entire article.

Depth and length should match #2

Whereas this one on the Daily Egg is 2,100 words. It’s far too long to include here, but you can read it at http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/02/12/how-to-write-a-landing-page/.

The idea is to know what your readers want and provide the depth and length that gets them engaged.

Find a unique angle to cover your topic

Every piece of content has a TOPIC, a POINT, and a SLANT.

Topic

a subject of discussion or conversation

  • Point
  • a major idea
  • Slant
  • a specific point of view

You may cover a trending topic that other content marketers are also writing about — but only if you add to the conversation, not repeat it. Try to make a new

point or find a unique angle for talking about the topic. Otherwise, find something else to talk about.

Spend as much time on your title as you do writing

Spend as much time on your title as you do writing

Even the most valuable, interesting content will be ignored if the title doesn’t connect with readers. Your title should create interest and forecast the information people will find when they click through.

10 types of titles that tend to perform well are:

  1. # of [Something Useful or Interesting]
  2. Top # [List]
  3. How to [Do Something Useful or Interesting]
  4. How [Brand Name or Celebrity] [Does Something the Reader Wants to Do]
  5. Best of [Category or Type]
  6. Why [Something] Is [the Way It Is]
  7. Interview with [Celebrity]: [Interesting Topic or Title]
  8. Newsjacking
  9. Breaking News
  10. Secrets of [Something We’re Dying to Know]

Make the first sentence your best

You have about three seconds to hook your readers and get them reading. After your headline, it’s up to your first sentence to do the job.

Never mislead. Your headline and first sentence should take the reader smoothly to your main point. But do say something that makes people pay attention.

  • In business, it’s important to learn from your mistakes.

Babar Suleman

As a reader, I think, “Mistakes? What mistakes? Maybe I’m making one…”
That little bit of doubt creates curiosity.

  • So you noticed, eh?

Russ Henneberry

The tone is casual and fun. I think, “Noticed what?” And I’m into the article.

  • Want better results on your landing pages?

Kathryn Aragon

You’ll hear that you should never ask a yes/no question. Readers might say no and move on. But in this case, everyone wants better sales results, so it’s a safe question.

Craft an irresistible lead (introduction)

The lead (or as journalists call it, the “lede”) is what writers call the introduction to your content.

For very short articles, it could be the first paragraph or two. For books, it could be the first chapter. But for most content, it’s the first 100-600 words: the intro and your point.

Your lead must be compelling without being overly long. It must be a tease about what’s to come without giving away the gold.

Types of leads that perform well in content:

  • Fascinating story
  • Little-known fact
  • Contrarian viewpoint
  • Promise of information available nowhere else
  • Breaking news

Kill the hype. Keep it believable

Your readers don’t want to waste time on content that isn’t accurate and trustworthy. So the rules are no hype and no stretching the truth.

No hype.

Hype tends to make people feel like they’re being manipulated — and no one likes that.

So tone it down. Write content to help people and add value to their lives. Use content to inform and entertain. Use sales copy to sell.

No stretching the truth.

People will only see you as a resource if they can trust you. That’s why it’s so important to research your topics.

If you present a surprising fact or figure, you need to back it up. Provide your source. If you quote someone or reference a book or report, link to it.

Make it easy for people to believe you — or they’ll stop reading and move on.

The Close is as important as the lead

Good content tells who, what, where, when, and why. Great content also tells “so what.”

Don’t let your content lose steam just because you ran out of ideas.

At the close of every piece of content, summarize your main point, then tell your readers how they’ll benefit from the information you provided.

If at all possible, go full circle by tying it back to the main point you made in the lead.

Plain writing is best

Short paragraphs, short sentences, and easy words are the most readable. So don’t try to win any writing awards.

Digital content is not what you learned to write in English class.

Shorter and simpler is your mantra for better readability.

Paragraph

6 lines max

Sentences

25-word max

Syllables

1-2 syllable

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Great writing never happens in the first draft.

The first draft is usually a good effort at figuring out how to put your ideas into words. As a result, they’re almost always badly written. For all writers.

Great writing happens in the editing stage. So when you write:

  1. Just get your ideas down.
  2. Write fast so you can keep up with your ideas.
  3. Then put your best effort into your editing.

And don’t just settle for one round of edits. For high-quality writing, you’ll need to go through several rounds of review.

Translating “written” content into “new media”

We live in an exciting age. There was once a day when nearly all content was written: physical books, magazine articles, glossy brochures, and the like. Some marketers included recordings or videos in their arsenal of content, but for the most part, “content” implied “written.”

We realize the last few chapters seem to follow that same assumption. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, all media starts with an idea that is expressed in words. So even if the narrative is delivered in a podcast or video, the material must be well organized and logical. They still must rely on the basic architectural structures used by writers.

So how do you transform your words into new media instead of a written piece of content? Here’s the process:

  1. Define your topic and big idea.
  2. Select the structure you’ll use to present your ideas.

(You’ll learn 12 structures in Chapter 6.)

Translating 'written' content into 'new media' #1

Research, outline, and flesh out your presentation.

Translating 'written' content into 'new media' #2

  1. Decide on the best media for delivering your information.
  2. Set up the technology for creating your content
  3. Create your content
  4. Edit, refine, improve

See how similar it is to the Creative Process for writing?

The point is not to worry about whether you should write or make a video. The point is to start creating content — in whatever format works for you.

So get creative. Tell your stories. Talk about your products and services. Engage your readers.

That’s ultimately what content marketing is about.

8 Step Plan to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

marketing strategy

The best content marketing strategy will balance what your audience wants to know with what you want them to know (your marketing message).

1. Establish your goals.

While just about every brand can benefit from content marketing, your reason for putting time and effort into content can’t be, “Just because.”

I think there’s a lot of brands out there today and even small businesses that are thinking, I need to get into content because that’s what everyone else is doing. But really you need to figure out why content is important to you and to the success of your brand.

— Alex Kubo, VP of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing, Burrow

You should establish content marketing goals, align them to broader marketing and business goals, and determine the metrics you’ll use to measure success. If you do this at the very beginning, you can map all your subsequent efforts to those goals and make the best use of your time.

2. Know your audience.

You won’t effectively be able to generate content that resonates unless you have a clear understanding of who you’re trying to reach. Creating buyer personas is a popular method of distilling information about your target audience, like:

  • Demographic information like gender, income, marital status, etc.
  • Hobbies they participate in or communities they are a member of
  • Where (or from who) they get their information about products and services
  • What goals they are trying to achieve when they purchase your product
  • How they make decisions about what products they will purchase

It’s okay to not have all of this information right away; just flesh out an image of your ideal buyer as much as you can, and make sure you’re creating the content they need. To learn more about your audience, you can conduct surveys or “listen” to conversations on the social media channels they frequent.

It’s also a great idea to have one-on-one conversations with customers and prospects — this will give you unrivaled insight into their motivations, and probably result in more than a few new content ideas.

3. Map the buyer’s journey.

Because serving the right content at the right time is so important, you also need to know how your customers move through the path to purchase. This will differ between B2B and B2C, and also by vertical.

Large, pricey purchases will likely have a longer buyer’s journey and include more research and product comparisons. These buyers will need more extensive information from you and have more questions that you need to answer. Small, inexpensive items may be purchased (or forgotten) in the blink of an eye, so bite-sized content may be more effective.

Once you have a clear understanding of how your customer makes purchasing decisions, you can map your content to their pain points and answer their questions before they have to ask.

4. Identify what differentiates you from your competitors.

One of the most important foundations for your content strategy is a clear understanding of what makes you different from your competitors. Competitive analysis can help you clarify what your competitors are doing and saying. Compare your messages and proof points to theirs. Find the areas that make you unique and give you an advantage and make content focused on that message.

5. Build your brand narrative.

Consumers identify with stories. One of the keys to a lasting brand and loyal fan base is a story that customers can connect with. Storytelling works because it connects facts with emotion, and it’s that emotion that will lead to loyalty down the line.

Big brands are now under attack from smaller brands/start-ups who have a story…it’s a way of making your brand feel real and approachable, and so large brands need to connect with consumers too in order to make themselves approachable too. Therefore by going direct to consumers, brands are able to create and nurture relationships with customers rather than be this untouchable and unemotional behemoth.

— Luigi Moccoa, Founder of Calashock

Line Skis knows the power of a brand narrative in connecting with its audience. The example below is from their About page, and in just two paragraphs and one image, they speak volumes about who they are and what they’re about. The line doesn’t need to sell to everyone — they have a target market, and they’re not afraid to speak directly to them.

marketing strategy

5. Inventory and audit existing content.

If you’re working on a content marketing plan but already have a good deal of content, before you go any further, do a content audit to make sure you know what you already have. Then, review it for quality and relevance. (This should be done regularly, whether you’re developing a new strategy or not.) You can use Google Analytics or other analytics platforms to identify your most successful content.

6. Define your content mix.

My favorite marketing maxim is, “Just because you can — doesn’t mean you should.” But the reverse is also true: Just because you should, doesn’t mean you can. Identify the content types that resonate best with your audience and the ones you and your team can do well. Where there is overlap, those are the content types you should invest in.

My recommendation would be to invest more time and effort into the main set of categories, build-out buyers guides, and other content that supports those key categories, and you are likely to see better traffic increases than if you were to build thin content across a wider range of categories and pages.

— Corey Dubeau, VP Marketing, Northern Commerce

7. Plan your editorial calendar.

You may have heard of the concept of “Big Rocks” in the productivity world. You can use that concept as you start to plan your content calendar. By starting with the “Big Rocks,” or the most substantive content you have planned, you can build in everything else around it.

Your Big Rocks should be clearly aligned to your audience and goals, meeting their highest needs. You can then turn those substantive pieces of content into derivative pieces. For example — if you have a buying guide, maybe there’s a piece of information in it you can turn into an infographic or engaging social post. Maybe it can spin off into a couple of blog posts.

This not only contributes to a cohesive content marketing message — but it also maximizes the value of your team’s time and energy.

Make sure you don’t forget about timely events, holidays, and specials that are important to your brand.

8. Maintain your content.

Before getting too far along with your content plan, make sure you have processes and workflows in place to help you maintain it. You’ll want to schedule regular content inventories and audits, make sure you have a plan in place to update and repurpose content where possible, and measure performance.

“Once you create a piece of content, it’s not just a forever asset, it’s something that you need to continue and iterate on, just like any other part of your marketing strategy.”

— Alex Kubo, VP of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing, Burrow

Contact Mach 1 Design for any and all questions regarding your content marketing. Our content marketing agency is here to assist you!

Five Steps to Succeed in Your Business

succeed in your business

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of looking at the wrong things in the wrong sequence while attempting to figure out how to build their business. Making mistakes is painful, expensive, and completely unnecessary. Since the stages of establishing a successful business are straightforward, too many people complicate things and end up nowhere.

For instance, exhaustive business strategies, 3-5 year revenue estimates, and so on are neither required nor guaranteed for each company’s success. In most circumstances, it is totally impractical to expect what you write on paper to manifest in the real world exactly as you say it will. The market is moving far too quickly. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly what your business will look like in a year, let alone 3-5 years, let alone ten years.

Business success is not something that just happens, it’s part of a plan. It’s also not just about the numbers either; we’re aiming for success in terms of time management, client relationships, work-life balance, and much more. With these things in mind, these are the five little steps to help you see what you can do to make your business a success.

The 5 Steps To Succeed in Your Business

Tip#1: Message to Market

Your marketing message is what captures your prospect’s attention, tells them how you can solve their problem, why they should trust you, and why they should choose to do business with you over all other options. Your marketing message should “talk” to your potential customer.

When you first start, your only priority should be to get your product to market. Building systems, hiring, Facebook ads, and so on are all priorities. All you should be doing is developing your minimal viable product (MVP) and attempting to sell it to someone. Consider your MVP to be the most basic version of your product that someone would be willing to pay for. It solves the problem, but perhaps not as well as you would like or with all of the bells and whistles.

How do you know whether you have finished this stage?

Someone has paid you.

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of becoming trapped in this phase and striving to make the product better and better before moving on to step 2. So don’t do it and instead go on to the next level. There will be plenty of time in the future for continued product improvement.

Tip #2: Marketing and Sales Engine

Marketing is the activity, collection of institutions, and processes for producing, conveying, delivering, and exchanging products of value to consumers, clients, partners, and society as a whole, whereas a sales engine is a cohesive sales and marketing strategy that provides consistent sales outcomes.

Now that you’ve received payment for your product, it’s time to create a marketing and sales engine. You are also changing your identity from creator to marketer during this time. To begin, ensure that you are measuring the most essential metrics of your marketing funnel because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Here are the three most important KPIs to monitor for your funnel:

Clicks/Calls

This is the “head of your funnel,” where people will click on your ads/posts, visit your business, or contact your phone number.

Leads

A lead is someone who expresses interest in your product or service by providing you with their contact information (name, phone, and email).

Customers

This is the result of converting a lead into a sale. A customer is a person or business who buys goods or services from another company. Customers are crucial because they provide revenue; businesses cannot function without them.

You can observe what percentage of people pass through each stage by tracking the figures for each stage above. This will help you to quickly forecast how many sales you may expect from your marketing efforts. For instance, your funnel could look like this:

  • 100 clicks/calls
  • 10 leads (10% conversion rate)
  • 2 customers (20% conversion rate)

Assuming conversion rates remain constant, if you want four clients this month, you’ll need to generate twice as many clicks/calls.

Other metrics to keep an eye on at this point are:

Cost to Acquire a Customer (CAC)

This measures how much it costs to attract a single client through marketing efforts.

Profit Margin

This is the amount of profit you make on each sale. Take the revenue (what they paid you) and subtract the expenses (what you paid to supply the product/service) to get your profit. To calculate your genuine profit, include the CPA in your expenses.

Lifetime Customer Value (LCV)

This is the total amount of money that your business can expect to gain from working with a customer.

How do you know if you’ve completed this phase?

You’re overwhelmed.

The most common error here is that people skip the next phase and instead hire. When you do this, every problem in your company is magnified and compounded by the number of individuals you hire. Instead, concentrate on the next phase.

Tip #3: Create Systems

Systems are step-by-step instructions for completing processes in your firm. These are also known as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Many business owners despise this aspect, but it is vital to the success of the company. You’ll want to write these SOPs in a clear and precise manner such that anyone with the bare minimum of technical understanding can complete them.

After you’ve completed all of your SOPs, you can create a job description for the person you want to recruit to perform each SOP. These are the positions you will need to fill.

How do you know if you’ve finished this stage?

You have finished your SOPs and job descriptions.

You’re probably feeling overwhelmed and lonely at this time. Fortunately, it is now time for you to move on to the following stage.

Tip #4: Build a Team

With your job descriptions in hand, you can start looking for the best candidates to fill them. This is the point when your identification transforms to management. People should be hired based on their ability to match your job description as well as their fit with company culture and values. Invest the time required to fully teach them on their role and your SOPs. It will pay off handsomely, especially when you suddenly find yourself with less to do. 

How do you know if you’ve finished this stage?

You still have time.

All of the jobs you’ve been doing for so long are suddenly removed from your plate by your new hires. Because your team members are concentrated, the work often gets done faster and better.

Tip #5: Scale

Many businesses are uneasy about having additional time, and many feel bad about it. However, time is a gift. Don’t give in to your temptation to return to dull tasks. That is the purpose of your team. You now have the chance to do what you do best: think.

You should have a terrific product, a profitable marketing and sales engine, detailed systems, and an exceptional team by this point. Use this extra time to start strategizing how to take your company to the next level and actually scale.

Here are examples of some questions you may ask:

  • What are the most profitable marketing channels for you?
  • Can I put more money into this to obtain a better return?
  • Are there any more channels that I haven’t tried yet?
  • Are there any additional revenue streams I could add to my business?
  • Where can I improve my business?
  • Could my standard operating procedures be streamlined?
  • Is there anyone on the team who isn’t needed?
  • Is it possible to outsource work at a cheaper cost and still obtain the same result?
  • Is it possible for me to save money on certain products or services?

It’s critical at this point of your business to guard your time and give yourself time to ponder. This will be an ongoing battle, but one that you will undoubtedly win. Always test your concepts and customer segmentation using the business model camass.

Need Help?

If you would like help growing or scaling your business, please contact Mach 1 Design. We are a small, local firm with a global reach, and we have helped businesses of all sizes grow and scale. We can help you take your business to the next level. If you’d like to work with a firm that knows how to do just that, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you. Email us at Harold[email protected] or call us at (469) 536-8478

Crafting a Compelling Ecommerce Content Marketing Strategy in 2022

content marketing strategy

In 1885, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as president of the United States. The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City…

And content marketing was born.

John Deere released the first issue of its magazine, “The Furrow,” to position themselves as an authority in the agricultural space by providing information and advice to farmers. (A furrow, as I found out after looking it up, is a trench made by a plow for irrigation and planting seeds.)

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Source: Contently, where you can read more about the history of The Furrow, and in which the magazine is referred to as “the agrarian version of Rolling Stone.”

Despite the changes in technology, advances in understanding human psychology, and growing consumer expectations, the cornerstone of content marketing remains the same: to provide valuable content without — or with only a touch of — a sales pitch in order to build authority, community, and trust.

Content marketing caught on fast and has stuck with us over the last 135 years because it works.

In fact, even The Furrow is still around! What has changed is that marketers have refined their processes, learned to become more strategic and focused, and improved ways to measure the value of their efforts.

Content marketing isn’t easy. But with stalwart commitment and a lot of elbow grease, it is more than possible. So let’s fast-forward 135 years to look at the state of content marketing in 2020 and how you can build a strategy engine that works for your business.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing focuses on the creation and distribution of content to attract and retain customers. It’s one form of inbound marketing, which Hubspot defines as a strategy to “attract prospects and customers to your website.”

In other words, it brings users to you, instead of you going to them through direct marketing, social advertising, search engine marketing, and display advertising.

70% of your audience prefers to learn about products through content they seek out — not ads that are served to them.

Brands today are investing in content marketing more than ever before. 59% of respondents to a mid-2018 survey reported that they expected to increase their content marketing budgets between 2019-2020.

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Source: Statista

The goal of any content marketing effort should be to answer your audience’s questions where they’re looking for them — via a search engine, social media network, or other — in a way that’s tailored for each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Do that well, and it will build your brand, drive customers to your website, and generate more leads. It can also build customer trust in and affinity for your brand — which improves customer retention rates — and brings long-term benefits for search engine optimization (SEO).

In today’s industry, meaningful content is a must. Your potential consumer wants and needs to feel in control of their shopping experience. Be genuine, because consumers know when you’re too commercial and pushing to sell. So it is very important to create a bond with customers, educate and share your beautiful story through landing pages, videos, tutorials, infographics and blogs. If you explain to your consumer you have what they need and they believe in it, you will have a lifelong loyal customer.

— Elyse Smith, Project Manager, DigitlHaus Agency

Common Content Types in Content Marketing startegies

There’s more to content marketing than just blog articles and social media posts — much more. Here are 9 types of content you can consider if you’re doing content marketing in e-commerce. You don’t have to do it all; choose a few types that are right for your business, that align with your marketing goals, and that your marketing team can do well.

Blog posts.

Blogs can be used to answer popular consumer questions, tell stories about your brand and customers, and provide updates on product features and launches. They are also one of the best ways to build SEO value, so at least part of the strategy is often built around keyword research.

Your blog opens up your website to be found for thousands of keywords with considerably more search volume than your product pages alone — this is where you get people aware of your brand, collect backlinks (for SEO), capture email address (for email coupons and retargeting on ads), and so much more. It hurts my heart to see how many brands miss this critical piece to building their eCommerce empire.

— William Harris, Founder & CEO, Elumynt

Social media.

Organic social media marketing content is a great way to engage with customers, build brand awareness, and secure and nurture leads. You can also use social networks as a method of distribution for other types of content, like blog posts, videos, and infographics. Useful, high-quality content is likely to be shared among networks, expanding your reach even further.

Trust in advertising and brands has declined so consumers are increasingly relying on recommendations from their friends and family to determine where to shop. Combined with ever-increasing CPCs on social platforms, and organic social sharing strategy is critical to cutting through the noise with trusted messaging from real, happy customers.

— Steve Deckert, Co-Founder, Smile.io

Buying guides.

One of the challenges of e-commerce versus an in-store experience is that customers aren’t able to ask real-time questions. Use buying guides to educate consumers on your product categories and help visitors make informed decisions without being too salesy.

Infographics.

Infographics communicate information in a visual way, either as a standalone piece of content or to promote blog articles, buying guides, and more. The advantage of infographics is that they are easily consumable and shareable.

Videos.

Videos are one of the most popular forms of consumable content today and can be used at several stages of the funnel. At the top and middle of the funnel, aim to inform and entertain. At the middle of the funnel, give consumers a better view of your product in action.

“Video is a medium that enables you to tell that story on a completely different level than a blog or photography.”

— Alex Kubo, VP of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing, Burrow

Videos are also great for your SEO strategy. YouTube is the second-most popular search engine in the world, just behind Google.

Podcasts.

Podcasts are relatively inexpensive to produce and can be a great addition to your marketing mix if your target audience aligns and if you have something of unique value to offer. They can help you establish brand authority and expand your reach.

Quizzes and tools.

Quizzes and tools can be used across B2B and B2C to help buyers make informed decisions (“Which riflescope is right for me?”) or even just to entertain.

BigCommerce merchant Bushnell wants to make sure visitors to their site have the resources to find what they need. Buyer’s guides and quizzes can help buyers new to the category learn what they’re looking for and help more experienced buyers more quickly zero in on exactly what they want.

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Category descriptions.

Category descriptions refer to the content included on your product category pages. These pages are a great place to build SEO value, particularly for long-tail keywords. These long-tail keywords may have less search volume but they tend to have a higher purchase intent.

Use semantic, human-readable language that isn’t overly specific to your brand. If you sell apparel, call your categories by what people would look for in a store — ‘T-Shirts, Jackets, and Pants’ work so much better than ‘Stylish Tops, Winter Warmer Uppers, and Leg Accessories.’

— Brandon Jones, Business Unit Director, Salted Stone

Think of category pages as middle-of-the-funnel content — your user wants to buy a product like yours, they just need to get to know your brand story and view your available offerings.

Product descriptions.

Product descriptions are the copy on product-specific pages that convince your visitors to purchase. These descriptions need to provide all the information a user would get from shopping in-store — benefits and features, product specifications like size and weight, and descriptions of possible use cases.

BigCommerce merchant TrainingMask knows their customers want scientific proof that the product does what it says it does — so they provide it on their product pages. They have information about not just benefits, but the features that get you there.

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What Are the Benefits of Content Marketing?

As competition for consumer attention increases, it’s getting more difficult to acquire and retain through traditional marketing methods like direct marketing and advertising. Content marketing provides consumers with extra value by educating or entertaining them. By providing information that is genuinely interesting to them, you’re more likely to draw them in and bring them back time and time again. Content marketing is widely used and highly successful across B2C businesses. According to a 2020 report from Content Marketing Institute, three out of four marketers report their organization’s content marketing is at least moderately successful.

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Videos, blogs, and social postings that show your products in action create opportunities for your customers to relate and identify a need in their own lives. It shows the type of person who uses your products and the context in which those products are valuable. Plus, it adds a certain amount of legitimacy to your brand, especially when your content has engagement from customers through blog comments, social media followers, and the like.

— Ryan Garrow, Director of Partnerships & Client Solutions, Logical Position

Building SEO value.

Consistently publishing high quality content is one of the best ways to build brand and domain authority — with both your customers and with search engines. Just remember that this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistency, quality, and volume.

More posts mean more pages for Google to index, leading to more potentially ranking keywords. If you rank for more keywords, you’ll attract more inbound traffic.

Invest in SEO as quickly as possible. With a new domain you may not see that organic traffic build for quite some time, but the faster you start the faster you can bring down that PPC budget.

— Joe Chilson, Head Writer and Project Manager, 1Digital

Engaging prospects and customers without selling.

One of the keys to providing a smooth buyer’s journey is to begin by providing value and sparking engagement without a hard sell. Think of it as a service you’re providing that has the added benefit of keeping your brand top-of-mind.

So many people are engaging with online influencers who are acting like brands. Brands need to begin acting like online influencers and building communities. The best way to do this is through content.

— Steve Deckert, Co-Founder, Smile.io

If you’re providing content that is valuable to consumers, they’ll keep returning to your site even if they don’t plan to make a purchase — and that is the foundation of a long-term relationship.

Your potential customers have already given you some indication that they want what you have, so by offering videos of your product in use, sizing charts, or an infographic on features, you are putting yourself ahead of your competition and giving your potential customer that much more of a reason to convert and make a purchase.

— Tessa Wuertz, Director of Marketing, efelle creative

Establishing brand authority.

To build trust among your prospects and customers, you want to establish your brand as an authority in your vertical. If you’re selling outdoor products, for instance, your target audience will trust you more if they know you can answer their questions about those products or related activities.

There are a lot of things that content marketing can accomplish, but at its core content marketing enables you to build trust with your consumers/customers. You’re the expert. Convey that to your customers and the ROI will come back in droves.

— AJ Silber, Founder, The Guerrilla Agency

What is a Content Marketing Strategy (And Why Do You Need One)?

A content marketing strategy should be a high-level roadmap detailing your target audience, goals, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your content, and how those goals align to the needs of the broader business. It should also provide a broad outline of the content creation process — how your organization plans to ideate, produce, manage, and measure your content analytics.

Tons of e-commerce brands are making a killing with Facebook ads and Influencer marketing. The problem is once you stop the ads, the sales will stop too. This is why a long-term content strategy is so important. Not only can you get long-term traffic, but you can tell a better story through branded content. Powerful content can amplify your advertising effectiveness and also position you for long-term organic traffic.

— Darren DeMatas, Founder, Ecommerce CEO

It’s important to take the time to document your content strategy. Having a documented strategy can make your organization’s efforts more successful, and it’s also a sign of a more sophisticated content organization. In the Content Marketing Institute’s B2C survey, only 33% of all respondents reported having a documented content strategy. But, of the respondents belonging to a mature content organization (you can read the full report for more information on how the institute defines “mature”), more than half had documented their strategy.

3 Website Design Mistakes You are Probably Making

website mistakes

You have a website. Awesome!

It’s up and running, your products are displaying properly, sales are coming in, and all is well…right?

While those are all good signs, what if there was something hurting your sales –like your website design, for example? According to a study conducted by Stanford, 75% of users admit to judging a company’s credibility based on their website design. Even more staggeringly, users take only 50 milliseconds to form an opinion of your website overall! In other words, you’d better hope your website is making a great impression. 

Based on our experience reviewing and designing eCommerce sites, we’ve noticed some common design mistakes among small and medium-sized businesses that can be corrected to put your business on the right track to success. 

Mistake #1: Weak Branding and Messaging

Branding communicates your purpose and gives your audience a glimpse into your mission and personality. Colors, fonts and tone of voice are just some components that work together to create a brand. Refrain from constructing a brand that reflects your own personal aesthetic by putting yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and asking, “What is appealing to them?”. If your brand isn’t clear and succinct throughout your website, chances are shoppers will become confused or doubt your trustworthiness

The Solution

Make sure your logo is present and prominent in the header of your website 

website mistake #1

This example shows a well-balanced header— a logo with ample breathing room, clear navigation, and pink branding elements to attract the eye.

While you want to ensure your logo is clear and legible, you also don’t want an obnoxiously large logo screaming in your face. As long as it has ample breathing room and any surrounding information doesn’t compete with it (more on that later), then you’ll be in good shape. If you have a brand guide, now’s the time to use it. Refer to your brand guide to ensure your supplemental branding assets are in alignment. 

If you don’t have a brand guide, have no fear! After your logo (the face of your brand) is established and in place, use it as a guide to building the color palette and typography. 

Create a statement that communicates who you are and what you sell

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This website immediately greets shoppers with a value proposition that clearly spells out what they sell and why it’s a superior product.

It takes 2.6 seconds for a user’s eyes to land on the area of a website that most influences their first impression. Extreme clarity and an attractive design will need to work hand in hand for your shoppers to understand and feel confident in your brand. In one to two sentences, 

focus on customer intent and deliver a convincing message about your brand.

Mistake #2: Unclear Hierarchy

As much as you may want to visually shout “Check out this awesome product!” or “Hey, have you seen this yet?!” to your shoppers when they land on your website, I’m going to advise against it. Strategically placed merchandising slots are one thing, but if competing products and offers are screaming for attention throughout the page, you’ll leave the shopper confused, disoriented and ready to say “Adios.” With proper hierarchy, you won’t have to do any yelling. The user’s eye will naturally identify where and when to look.

The Solution

Assess your fonts and font styles

website design mistake #2

Huron.com uses thoughtful typography to create distinctions between sections that draw the user’s attention accordingly.

Are your headlines and titles clearly distinguishable from your body copy and other text? Size plays a large role in establishing a visual hierarchy. Ultimately it depends on the fonts that you’re using, but as a general rule of thumb, aim for a headline size between 30-40 points and body text size between 18-21 points. Making a font bolder or thinner is another effective way of organizing text content on your site. Those visual cues tell the user the correct order of digesting information and navigating your site.  

Distinct Call-To-Action

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This meal kit service uses a high contrast button to grab the user’s attention and adds a complementary color bar at the top to attract users to sign up for their first meal box. 

You passed the snap judgment test and a user is browsing your site… now what? Guide shoppers to where they need to go! Strategic CTAs instruct your shoppers to make fitting purchase decisions. Identify your motivation, whether it’s getting users to click into a particular category or to sign up for your email newsletter, and use size, weight, and color to draw the user’s attention. 

70% of small business websites lack appropriate CTAs. Don’t leave your visitors hanging. Guide them down the appropriate path with concise directions— and include your contact information! A report by Huff Industrial Marketing found that 44% of visitors will leave a site without a clear phone number

Reevaluate your main navigation

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Pand.co uses typographic cues like weight and font size to ensure that their navigation is more prominent than the other header information.

Your site navigation should be the “north star” of your site, an anchor point to orient your shoppers and help them get where they need to go. Does it stand out clearly against the rest of the header content? Is it styled differently than surrounding content to give it a higher value? As tempting as it may be to shove every shoppable link in your navigation, consider consolidating for an overall better user experience. Presenting a shopper with too many options can cause “choice overload”, resulting in an overwhelmed shopper who will find it much easier to leave and shop on a competitor’s site than to continue digging into yours.

Mistake #3: Not Responsive

A mobile-friendly website isn’t a “nice to have” or “maybe one day” sorta deal. It’s absolutely necessary. Experts predict that by 2021, mobile commerce will account for over half of eCommerce sales. In other words, if your online store doesn’t create an intuitive, easy-to-use mobile experience then you can say goodbye to potential sales. Google agrees, stating that shoppers who had a bad experience with your store are 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future. Pinching to zoom and horizontal scrolling aren’t just small inconveniences; they’re surefire reasons for shoppers to leave your site. 

The Solution

Invest in a Responsive Design

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This example illustrates the seamless shopping experience from desktop to mobile.

A knowledgeable designer will know how to properly format a design with mobile-friendly practices, but the magic really happens in the code. The code tells the design how to stack according to a user’s device, creating a pleasant user experience from desktop to tablet to mobile. Investing in a new design with fresh responsive code will ensure that your site is in tip-top shape and optimized for Google

Conclusion

A bad website design can hurt your company’s credibility, but a quality website with intentional messaging, focused branding, and a thoughtful and mobile-friendly layout tells users your company cares about its digital presence. This leads to a positive impression that can result in returning customers and more sales.

If you want help in designing or redesigning your website, contact Mach 1 Design.   

improve Your On-Page SEO

improve on-page SEO

B2B marketers have tried everything under the sun to improve on-page SEO. Using all the keywords. Writing 5,000-word posts. And then going off-page to promote the post to everyone. But you’re still missing one key ingredient in your on-page SEO optimization: mini-infographics.

With them, your content engages. Without them… not so much.

What does the engagement for all those long posts of yours, as measured by bounce rates, look like? Here they are by industry:

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If your bounce rates are shockingly high, you’re not alone.

There is so much content available online. Why should people in the busy B2B sector read your post and not someone else’s?

Marketers need to get creative. Don’t rely on just text to do your work for you. Start creating visuals—specifically, mini-infographics.

How Do Mini-Infographics Improve On-Page SEO?

There is one reason why B2B marketers are struggling to retain audiences with their content. Online users don’t want to read that much text. They don’t have the time.

Users want only two things from your content: (1) to skim through it and (2) to find the answer they were looking for.

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That’s what we learned by conducting a focus group among our B2B customers a few years ago. We showed them two articles that we scrolled through very quickly.

The feedback we received included two major points:

  1. Text that is divided into headers makes it easier to skim.
  2. The readers were drawn to articles that included visuals every 100 words or so.

In other words, to reduce bounce rates, you need to change your text-to-visual ratio.

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That’s because attention spans have been decreasing over the years. If content doesn’t grab a user’s interest within seconds, that person will leave your page.

What’s one of the on-page SEO factors that helps you rank—and reduces bounce rates? Relevant visual content.

You need to shorten the text you write. And to get your message across to your audience, instead of the text you would have used, use more mini-infographics.

How to Design Graphics That Help Your Page Rank on Google

Don’t have a graphic designer on staff? That’s fine, you can always use an online infographic maker. Online platforms offer templates for you to customize.

But don’t let more options confuse your goal. This on-page optimization exercise is about creating mini-infographics, like this map:

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You want to summarize your information and give visitors a reason to move on to the next section of your text. And then the next, and the next, and so on—till they reach the end of the page.

The intent is to encourage more micro-conversions—small steps that lead users to major conversions, such as signing up for a newsletter and completing a sale.

Even if you have a longer visual, break it up into smaller graphics. For example, a longer presentation can easily be divided into smaller sections, like this:

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Source: Venngage

Insert those mini-infographics every 100-200 words to break the monotony of text and move readers down the page.

To create mini-infographics, follow a few design tips when using templates:

  • Keep plenty of white space between elements.
  • Don’t go overboard with color use; 2-3 colors are enough.
  • Use color contrasts and relationships to build out a color scheme, explained in this video:
  • Use a maximum of 2-3 fonts—and use readable fonts for the body.
  • Keep elements aligned so the visual looks professional.
  • Group elements according to hierarchy or similarities.
  • Icons are your friends; they tell a story in an instant.
  • Use branding elements, such as your logo, colors, and fonts.

Use those tips to design mini-infographics that make your pages more attractive to audiences. That’s how you can lower bounce rates and get your website to rank on Google.

What Kinds of Mini-Infographics Influence On-Page SEO Factors?

If you’ve seen infographics, they tend to be longer and larger visuals because they attempt to be comprehensive. But to improve on-page SEO optimization, you need shorter and smaller graphics.

Mini-infographics summarize key points. They work alongside text hierarchy—titles, headers, and subheadings—as follows:

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What does a content summary look like in action? Here’s an example of a mini-infographic that’s packed with information:

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Note how the graphic is still short enough to give users a reason to stay on your page. Plus, it encourages them to click on your call-to-action button.

That graphic could easily have been a long page that users would have to scroll forever to get through. Instead, the mini-infographic gives them the information they need at a glance.

Charts, like the following example, tend to draw the eye of the user. The chart uses bold colors and fonts to get to the point. It’s easy to skim, and it gives the reader a break from just text.

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One more important point when you’re adding visuals like mini-infographics to your posts: Don’t forget about optimizing the images—particularly by adding alt-text, which can also help your website rank on a keyword.

Conduct On-Page SEO Analysis to Incorporate Mini-Infographics

I’ve shared why you should create mini-infographics for your new posts. But what about the existing content on your site? It’s time to do some on-page SEO analysis.

Use Google Analytics to study your bounce rates. What are the keywords for those pages? What’s the bounce rate and rank for pages with those keywords?

Not all pages will need a revamp. But if your bounce rates are higher than other pages on the same topic, those pages will need mini-infographics.

After updating a page with a high bounce rate, we found a huge drop in bounces:

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Now it’s your turn to experiment on your site. Update your text to be more skimmable. Use shorter sentences and more headings. Write a line summing up your points.

Then add visuals like mini-infographics and charts every few hundred words.

What I’ve suggested in this article may be a new method for you. But if you practice creating more graphics, you will get better at it.

And the result will be higher-ranking pages with lower bounce rates. That’s a win-win in any book.

If you would like to add Micro-Infographics to your thought leader content, let us know at [email protected] or call us at (469) 536-8478.