When I was preparing for my panel earlier this month at South by Southwest, I thought a lot about what I wanted the audience to take away.
Of course, there’s always the First Rule of Copyblogger, which I preach to anyone who will listen. But telling people “don’t publish content that sucks” tends to need a little more explanation if it’s going to be helpful.
So what could I give content marketing newbies that would give them the right foundation? And how could I help content marketing veterans who weren’t finding the success they wanted? Was there a “formula” they could use that would start them on the right foot?
What makes some content marketing succeed, while other writers work and work and never seem to get anywhere?
Like any formula, this one can be stated simply. Actually executing it is going to be more complicated. But if you use this framework, you’ll avoid the pitfalls that bring down most content marketing.
The formula: Effective Content = Education + Personality
1. Effective content educates
We have a mantra at Copyblogger Media: Don’t sell, teach.
Content that sells (whether you’re in the premium content business or you’re using content to sell another product or service) is content that makes itself useful.
Effective content teaches your audience something they want to know more about.
It might be fitness tips, parenting skills, or career advice. But it answers pressing questions and makes your readers’ lives better in some key way.
2. Effective content has personality
I was talking with tablet computing blogger Shane Ketterman about this the other day.
What made his blog climb to more than 10,000 unique viewers a day, faced with a sea of hundreds of jump-on-the-trend competing blogs?
We came up with a number of answers (I’ll have an MP3 of that conversation for you soon, as a matter of fact), but one of the most important is that Shane doesn’t just report iPad and tablet news — he creates a site that has personality, that’s reader-friendly, and that’s written to both educate and entertain.
There are plenty of junk blogs out there that scrape and remix real content to earn a couple of Adsense pennies. Bringing a consistent voice and personality to your content is a lot more work — but it’s also a lot more rewarding, both personally and professionally.
3. Effective content has a great headline
We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it until we turn the lights off for good.
If you’re going to put the work in to create strong content that educates in a reader-friendly way, please don’t bury it with a lousy headline.
Great headlines make it easy for readers to share your content. They attract more links, more social media sharing, more readers, and more customers.
Put the time in to learn to write better headlines. It really does pay off.
4. Effective content keeps SEO in mind
One great benefit to creating content that’s both educational and reader-friendly is you get a big jump on SEO (search engine optimization). The content you’re creating is exactly the content that Google wants to serve.
Just remember, effective content works for human readers first and search engines second. If balancing those two still seems mysterious to you, take a look at our special report on SEO Copywriting.
5. Effective content puts the reader first
All of the “rules” of great content marketing come from one rule: put your audience first.
It’s not about how much money you need to make with this launch, where you want to rank on Google, or what your cat had for breakfast this morning.
It’s about them — the readers, prospects, and customers — not you.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have goals for your business and your content. But when you create content that both benefits your readers and makes them feel good, you’ll find that your marketing goals become a lot more achievable.
About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Share your own secret formulas with Sonia on twitter.