Musings

How to Create Scannable Content

Posted by BSG Team on Jul 13, 2016 1:00:00 PM

Creating content that's easy to scanWhen it comes down to it, the majority of your readers aren’t actually reading your posts or webpages. Instead, they are scanning your content, stopping for individual words or sentences. In fact, research from the Nielsen Norman Group found that 79 percent of readers always scanned any new page they came across. Further, only 16 percent read pages word-by-word.

So, if your ultimate goal is to have more people read your writing, then you should be adjusting to your audience. Here are 6 ways to make your content easier to scan and effortless to consume:

1. Highlighting:  Make important or useful information standout. Bold, italicized, colored or hyperlinked text is more noticeable. Just don’t overdo it or it will lose its effect.

2. Subheads:  Clear, concise subheads will immediately tell scanners what they need to know. Resist the temptation to be overly cute or clever as it only slows scanners down.

3. Bullet Points:  Bullets break up text and organize information into meaningful chunks. Bullet lists help scanners quickly find the information that is most important to them.

4. Whitespace:  Big blocks of text can be intimidating for scanners.  Whitespace, much like bullet points, helps organize text and gives your copy a more manageable and scannable appearance.

5. Single-point paragraphs:  Online readers are usually looking for takeaways, especially if they are researching a service or product. Focused single-point paragraphs make takeaways easier to find and help you incorporate more whitespace.

6. Inverted Pyramid presentation:  The Inverted Pyramid puts the most important information at the beginning of a post and then the remaining information follows in order of importance, with the least important information at the bottom. Web writers who start with their conclusion and work backwards usually have an easier time engaging impatient readers who want to get straight to the point.

Each of these on-page elements give people something to hang their attention on as they move through your content. Without them, your writing could appear too overwhelming for many readers to even begin.

Topics: Content Creation, Writing

SEO Tips for Blog Post Publishing

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 9, 2016 4:04:14 PM

SEO_for_Bloggers.pngLast week we talked about the creative and practical side of writing a blog post.  Today, we're talking about the technical side of getting them read.

Remember, publishing a post alone doesn't guarantee that it'll be seen.  You have to optimize it as well.  Try these SEO blog post publishing tips to help get your blog posts found:

1.  Keyword Research

Before you start writing your blog post check Google’s Keyword Tool for keywords to make sure your are writing about subjects people are really interested in. Then Google those keywords to see what the competition has to say on the subject. This will help keep your SEO fine tuned and focused on what readers are looking for.

2.  Fine-Tuning the Headline

Headlines should be simple but attention grabbing. Below is a common formula for crafting headlines for list posts:

[#] + [attention-grabbing phrase] + [keyword] = headline

Here are a few examples below. Notice that the headlines are short and punchy, designed to quickly grab the reader’s attention.

9 Reasons You Need Content Marketing

8 Tips for Creating Quick and Easy Content

4 Simple Ways to Increase Your Social Media Reach

3.  Post Slug

The post slug is the user friendly and URL valid name of a post. Most common usage of this feature is to create a permalink for each blog post.

WordPress and others automatically generate post slugs from a post's title by placing every word in the headline into the slug, but this clutters it up with lots of small words. Instead, change your post slug to your primary keyword and shorten it when possible.

4.  Images

Of course images punch up your blog posts visually but they also add great SEO benefits. To get the most out of your images follow these steps:

  1. Save your images as [keyword phrase] before you upload them to your site.
  2. Add alt text as [keyword phrase].
  3. Add title tag as [keyword phrase].

5.  Interlinking

Before you publish a new post, read through it and try to find two to three organic opportunities to link back to relevant posts on your blog. This keeps both readers and search engines on your site longer.

6.  External Linking

There may not be exact numbers on the SEO benefits of external linking, but it is still something we recommend because linking to other sites is a good way to build relationships with other bloggers.

Bloggers notice and appreciate backlinks and will frequently return the favor. At the very least they tend to mention and thank you on social media. Not bad blogging karma.

7.  Meta Data

There is a lot of debate about how much stock Google puts in meta keywords, but we still feel they're important in any case. Meta descriptions have value since they are extremely important in gaining user click-through from search engine results pages (SERPs).

These short paragraphs are your chance to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page has the information they're looking for.

Your meta description should have the following 3 components:

  1. Optimally, it needs to be between 150-160 characters so Google will display the whole description.
  2. Include your keywords because Google bolds them in search results.
  3. It should be an intelligible sentence preferably from the actual post.

8.  Call-to-Action

Include prominently placed RSS or Feed Subscription Buttons and offer viewers the ability to subscribe to your posts via email when possible. This gives your blog followers instant notifications about your latest posts without them having to check your site for new content.

9.  Use Social Media

Although social media and social shares may or may not affect a blog post’s SEO, your social profiles definitely influence the way readers interact with your content.

Neil Patel, SEO expert and founder of Quicksprout, has urged marketers not to discount social’s impact on SEO too quickly; he argues that social is the new SEO and that your social presence is very relevant when it comes to search engine optimization.

Patel said, “No longer can we view the algorithm as a sterile and lifeless entity to be gamed, tricked, and cajoled by our clever SEO tricks. We must now realize the enormous impact of the social web.”

So, simply put, promote your blog content on social media sites for even more web exposure.

Topics: SEO and Content Strategy, Blogging, Writing

5 Tips for Writing Compelling Copy

Posted by BSG Team on May 11, 2016 10:30:00 AM

typewriter-1580800-639x427.jpgCopy must be compelling, but does your copy also have to be clear and concise?

Simple answer, yes.

Brevity and clarity ensure that your message is digestible. It is important because you want your words to be quickly read and easily understood, all the while compelling readers to act.

You can easily train yourself to write clear, concise  AND compelling content.  You have to do a little research and even more critical thinking.

Before you start composing your next marketing email or landing page, try some of these tips. It may take some extra time and thought, but we promise the effort will be worth it.  You will come away knowing exactly how to create messaging that compels readers to act.

1) Create a buyer persona.

Don’t use a minnow to hook a shark. The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season. They soak up as much information as possible about the fish and it’s environment, ultimately using their knowledge to attract and hook.

It is the same with marketers. The most successful ones learn as much as they can about their target prospects before casting them their message. This allows them to highlight irresistible benefits throughout their copy.

You should identify your target prospect's problems and specific needs so you can offer them compelling solutions. Start by answering a series of questions about their personal background, their company and the position they hold, and their challenges, goals, and shopping preferences. Yes, that’s right, you need to create a buyer persona. Then you can gather information can then use that knowledge to attract attention and inspire action.

2) Make it emotional.

Purchases aren’t driven by logic. The features of your product or service are not enough on their own to seal the deal. Features appeal to your prospect’s logical brain but the sell hinges on emotion. A good commercial make us want to laugh or cry and stays with us for years.  

Remember Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign? It was so powerful and thought provoking that it went viral before viral was even a thing. The campaign has been active for over a decade and the commercial has had more than 18 million views on YouTube alone creating countless emotional moments.

3) Draw analogies and metaphors.

Value is a potent human driver. As a copywriter, your first responsibility is to figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words.

It can be very hard to do. And if you’re new to copywriting, it could feel almost impossible, like trying to daylight past a rooster. That’s where analogies and metaphors come in. They’re especially effective at putting concepts into perspective.

Here are a few examples of metaphorical taglines:

  • Tropicana: Your Daily Ray of Sunshine
  • Miller High Life: The champagne of bottled beer
  • Werther’s Original Popcorn: It’s What Comfort Tastes Like

These brands combine use taglines to tell a story or create an image. And you can too. As long as your juxtaposition makes sense -- as long as it connects the dots and isn’t trite.

4) Avoid weasel words.

Weasel words are used to make a vague or ambiguous claim, enabling the specific meaning to be denied if the statement is challenged. People who want their statements to maintain plausible deniability use weasel words. Usually we associate them with politicians but copywriters use them a lot too, especially if their product’s promise is weak or loose.

For example:

  • "Leaves dishes virtually spotless." You are supposed to think "spotless," rather than "virtually" spotless.
  • "Listerine fights bad breath." "Fights," not "stops."
  • "Lots of things have changed, but Hershey's goodness hasn't." Notice that it does not say that Hershey's chocolate hasn't changed.

Avoid the weasel words whenever you can. Your copy will be stronger and more compelling for it.

5) Create urgency.

You don’t want your readers to get too comfortable. If your copy leaves readers with the impression that your offer will always be there, patiently waiting for them, they may use it as a reason to procrastinate.

Your copy should create a sense of urgency. Set a deadline, using time-sensitive language or play the scarcity card.

The aim is to make your prospects feel uneasy about waiting. The more uncomfortable they are, the more likely it is they’ll be to act.

Practice these tips and techniques when writing copy and, over time, you’ll move from novice to expert and steadily inspire more people to take action more often.

Do you have tips for crafting compelling copy? Share them below.

Topics: Blogging, Writing

Creating Subheads That Hook Readers

Posted by Michele Lawton on May 4, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Hook readers with subheadsOk, I’ll admit it. I used to be a reader. But with as much time as I spend on my laptop and my phone I have become a skimmer.  Which is not really surprising when you think about it. Between links that entice me to click away and read something else, to ads, notifications, and invitations to check out another part of a website, I have to force myself to stay the course all the way down the page.  

In truth rarely do I make it past the headline and when I do I quickly skim the article to find its value to me. As someone who creates a lot of content I know how important it is to hook and rehook my readers with great headlines and compelling subheadlines. AKA subheads.

Subheads turn skimmers into readers

Well-crafted subheads help you to hold your readers attention. When you break up large chunks of text with subheads you can engage skimmers and then they actually read your amazing content.

Don’t bury the lead

Readers make a split-second decision if they want to stay on your site. So don’t hide your best information at the bottom. Give readers information right off the bat so they immediately feel satisfied and interested.

Subheads should “sell”

If you write them carefully, your subheads will “sell” the section they are headlining. They serve as “ads” for each section and convince the reader to consume it.

Your subheads should convince the reader that your content will deliver exactly what the reader needs. It should express a clear and concise benefit.

Can your subhead stand-alone?

After you’ve written your subheads, go back through and look at them again. Ask yourself:

Could your subheads work as a headline or become their own standalone content?

If you can’t answer, “yes” to this question, edit your subheads until you can.

Remember, when it comes to subheadings, it is all about making things easier on the reader. So help the reader by clearly and simply offering them the information that they want.

 

Topics: Writing

Creating the Ultimate Content Calendar

Posted by BSG Team on Jan 20, 2016 3:00:27 PM

Editorial_Content_Calendar.pngNo matter how good we are at our jobs we all want a better, faster way to get things done. Luckily in this rapidly changing world innovations are constantly emerging to help us do what we want in less time, with less wasted effort, and with greater success. Reinvention is the commodity we trade in these days to keep pushing our digital world forward.

The editorial calendar is the perfect example of this reinvention having transformed itself over the years, from a simple spreadsheet for tracking what we publish to an essential component for managing the entire life cycle of a content marketing campaign.

The following editorial calendar tips, tools, templates, and takeaways will help your business whether you need to build a new system from scratch or just want a few tricks to make your calendars more efficient.

1.  The Basics

The first step is to gather key content marketing strategy information. Answer the following questions to determine what you need to track in your calendar, as well as help you stay focused on your marketing goals.

  • Who are you creating content for? Knowing your buyer personas helps you to keep your target audience in focus as you create your calendar.
  • Why you are creating content? Think about your goals for the content you create. Your content marketing mission and goals will impact what you publish, where you publish, and how often.
  • What resources do you have at your disposal? Do you have a dedicated in-house team of writers and videographers or do you outsource most of your content creation? The workflow you track in your calendar will likely depend on who is writing and where their expertise lies.
  • How can you stand out? Are you filling a need with the content you create? What gaps exist in your current content creation efforts – or the efforts of your competitors? Aiming to play a lead role in meeting your audiences’ needs will help you fill your editorial calendar with enriching content that helps you meet your business goals.

2.  Setting Up Your Calendar

There are lots of dedicated tools on the market that offer a wide range of calendaring capabilities.

When first starting out it’s fine to use a simple Excel spreadsheet or a shareable Google Sheet to track your content’s progress through your editorial process. As you grow you may need to expand content collaboration solutions with integrated tools that can help marketing teams manage editorial processes.

We recommend that your editorial calendar include the following:

  • The date the piece of content will be published
  • The topic or headline of the content piece
  • The author of the content
  • The owner of the content – i.e., who is in charge of making sure the content makes it from ideation to publication and promotion
  • The current status of the content (updated as it moves through your publishing cycle)

Depending on your company’s specific goals you may also want to track these elements to help you stay organized and on track over the long term:

  • The channels where your content will be published: This can include only your owned channels (such as your blog, Facebook Page, website, YouTube page, email newsletters, etc.), or you can expand your tracking to include paid and earned channels, as well.
  • Content formats: Is it a blog post? A video? A podcast? An infographic? An original image? Consider repurposing great content into other formats to ensure you get the most mileage out of it.
  • Visuals: Don’t overlook the appeal that visuals can add to your content, both in terms of social sharing potential and overall brand recognition. Tracking the visual elements you include in your content efforts will establish a signature look and cohesive brand identity.
  • Topic categories: This helps make your calendars more searchable when you are looking to see which target topics you already created a lot of content about – or which you haven’t covered often enough.
  • Keywords and other meta-data: Track meta-descriptions and SEO titles (if they differ from your headlines), this will keep your SEO efforts aligned with your content creation.
  • URLs: This allows you link to older pieces of content in the new content you create.
  • Calls to action: Every piece of content you create should align with your company’s marketing goals.
3.  Keeping Your Calendar Filled and Focused

One of the most challenging parts of building your editorial calendar is making sure you have enough relevant ideas to fill the schedule.

You should use your editorial calendar to keep a running list of topic ideas. It makes it an easy reference tool when you need some inspiration or direction.

We recommend that you track:

  • The topic idea
  • The owner of the idea
  • The target keywords/categories to which the content would map
  • Who might be available/qualified to write the piece
  • A time frame for when you will publish it.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to using editorial calendars to organize your content marketing and to keep your marketing efforts moving in the right direction.

Topics: Content Creation, Content Strategy, Blogging, Writing

6 Journalism School Lessons That Will Help You Create Better Content

Posted by Liza Rodriguez on Jul 9, 2015 9:58:00 AM

6a00d8341bf67c53ef0168e7bd2560970c-800wiI’ve recently come across several articles that discuss the reasons why one should think like a journalist when creating content. They stress finding credible sources, focusing on accuracy and being objective, all good ways to make your content stronger and help build trust with  readers.

I’m completely onboard with the advice, especially since I have a journalism background.  But I’d like to take it one step further and suggest that it isn’t enough to think like a journalist.  You should write like one too.

Here are six writing tips I learned in Journalism School that will help you create better and more readable content:

Include a Nut Graph. Every good story has a nut graph. Think of it like a thesis in a research paper.  It tells readers exactly what the story is about  -- it’s the story in a nutshell.  It also serves several other important purposes such as transitioning from the lead and explaining its connection to the rest of the story.

Use a News Peg. A news peg refers to the timeliness of a story. It’s a topical hook that allows you to capitalize on the themes, ideas and events that have already captured your audience’s interest. 

Here’s an example:  The Washington Post reported today that Latinos now outnumber Whites in the state of California. This is a great peg for an article that offers advice on how to market to Latino Millennials.

Kill Your Darlings. William Faulkner said “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”  Stephen King piggybacked on the idea with “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

So, what does it mean? It means that sometimes you have to cut the parts of your piece that you love most.  Each choice you make as a writer should further or support your main point. If your darlings (those clever little turns of phrase, funny anecdotes, etc.) aren’t serving those purposes, give them the axe.

Kings-promo-7Write with Bricks and Balloons. All good stories include both hard facts (bricks) and entertaining details (balloons).  The bricks keep your piece grounded  -- they are the data, stats and findings that support and prove what you are saying.  The balloons are those extra details that give color to a story.  In short, balloons are the elements that make for great storytelling.  Check out the balloons in this story written and reported by John R. Roby from the Press & Sun Bulletin  in Binghamton, NY:

“Two next-door-neighbor-dads, having just returned from watching their kids march in the local parade, agreed to spend the afternoon sharing a pot of homemade Maryland crab soup (red, of course) and iced-cold National Bohemian beer.”

Numbers are Numbing. Using data and stats from reputable sources help with the credibility of any piece, but that doesn’t mean your copy should read like an Excel worksheet. Make numbers easily digestible for readers when possible.  For example, a recent story in the Daily Mail describes the world’s largest yacht as 656-ft long or the length of two football fields.  It’s much easier for readers to understand just how big the yacht is when they are given a comparison that makes sense to them.

PADCABANNOGLACGP_jPick up a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.  On my first day of Journalism School, I was handed a packet of materials. Among them:  an actual facebook and a copy of The Elements of Style.

You can decide for yourself whether the book is deserving of its reputation, but despite your final decision, there is no denying that Strunk and White offer some good advice, especially if you want to write like a journalist. Some of their most useful tips:

  • Avoid fancy words. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.
  • Write in a way that comes naturally. Write in a way that comes easily and naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand.
  • Be clear. Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style… But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue.

By employing some of these tips, you will craft content that resonates and is remembered. And isn't that the whole point?

Topics: Content Marketing, Content Creation, Blogging, Writing

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