Content is everywhere. Every webpage, every blog, social media post, every last corner of the internet is filled with content. A lot of it is well-written, informative, and interest-grabbing; but mountains of it is poorly-written, useless, and—worst of all—boring. That’s a major problem for a company that is trying to build an audience. After all, there are many inexpensive ways to attract new readers to a site; but there’s only one truly reliable method for keeping them coming day after day, and that is creating quality content. Here are a few tips for ensuring that the content you post remains quality, whether it’s on your homepage, blog, or social media.
In The Matrix Reloaded, Agent Smith tells Neo that “without purpose, we would not exist.” Unfortunately, the same is not true of all content on the internet.
Let’s start be defining what we mean by purpose. “To bring readers and prospective customers to our website” is not a purpose. Not really. That’s like saying, “my purpose is to make friends,” and expecting people to like you for it. If you want to make friends, you have to do more than simply exist—you need to be engaging, polite, and pleasant. So when I say that your writing must have purpose, I’m saying that your writing must be aimed at a specific goal that will be of use to your audience.
If you’re writing homepage content for a property website, then your purpose might be “to clearly convey the benefits and appeal of living in this community.” If you’re posting on social media, your purpose might be “to inform residents of our community about the upcoming party this Friday night.” Identify what your writing is for, and then clean out anything that doesn’t advance toward that purpose. Don’t worry if you’re not left with much—a short but useful post is always preferable to a long, fluff-filled post.
After the why of your content has been determined, how you say it is of next importance. How do you want your readers to perceive you? What relationship do you want to create with them? While the purpose of the piece will engage the readers’ intellect, the tone of the piece will engage their emotions and drive their reaction.
In my own work, I’ve identified four primary tones that seem to crop up on my clients’ websites. Some clients want to sound elite, prestigious, and refined; others want to convey professionalism and practical efficiency. Many want to be seen as friendly, relaxed, and down-to-earth, and most of the rest want to show how fun, energetic, and exciting they are. Whenever I sit down to write content, I talk to the client to figure out which of these categories they fit in to. Once I know that, the tone of the content flows easily and naturally.
Break it Down
Once I know the why and the how of the content, the final step is to fill in the what. For me, this step is usually accomplished by a short outline. What does my audience need to know to achieve the purpose I’m working toward?
For a social media post about an upcoming party, for instance, my audience will need to know where and when the party is happening, who is invited, and what they need to bring. It would probably be helpful to them if I mention any parking restrictions at the location or any games and activities they’ll need to be prepared for. Once the outline is ready, it’s an easy matter of filling in the details. Now, I’m sure the concept of outlining is very basic for many of you, but here’s the real point: you don’t need to write any more than those bare necessities. Too many writers try to expand their content without need, packing in useless fluff sentences that don’t work toward the purpose of the piece and often throw off the flow and the tone. People seem to think that writing has to be hard, but it doesn’t. If you keep it simple, your writing and your content will both be stronger and more engaging.
What are some useful tips you’ve discovered to help create good content? Let us know in the comments below.