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Required Reading for Creating Compelling Content

by on December 1, 2011

If you’ve read some of my posts here, you know I follow Hedi Cohen who generates a blog post everyday and every one of them is packed with good thoughts. Recently Hedi listed ten tips for creating strong internet content, see 10 Points to Create Compelling Content.

If you create (or want to) content for internet delivery, this list of 10 tips is Required Reading. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing for a blog, an email newsletter, a web page or even Facebook, these 10 points are worth reading. And maybe taking them to heart.

Give them a quick read, it will only take a few seconds. Let me know if you don’t agree that these make a lot of sense. You can even let me know if you agree with me. I enjoy all comments.

  1. Know your audience. Look beyond the basics of your audience’s demographics, psychographics and past behaviors to understand what they’re seeking from your content. Marketing personas, a composite of reader attributes, enable writers to visualize the person for whom they’re writing. If you’re writing for an established online outlet such as a blog or a website, past content performance can serve as an interest indicator. Alternatively, use comments and social media actions for insights. Lastly, ask readers what they want.
  2. Start with a powerful headline. This is the hook that lures readers in and gets them to read the article! It must be consistent with the information you’re presenting or they’re gone. Additionally, use one or two relevant keywords, preferably at the beginning. While you don’t have to start with the title, revisit your title and revise it once your content is finished to ensure it’s as strong as it can be.
  3. State your case in the first paragraph. The initial paragraph is the workhorse of your piece. It has to follow through on your title’s promise and draw readers further in to keep them engaged enough to find out more. Additionally, it must support your search optimization.
  4. Tell a story. You can’t jump into your piece with setting the stage nor can you stop writing when you hit your word count. Your writing needs a beginning, a middle and an end. The easiest formula is to state the issue you’re examining, give the evidence to support the problem’s answer, and finish by clearly showing how you answered the issue.
  5. Speak your readers’ language. Sound like a real person, not corporate gibberish. It helps to use your audience’s way of talking and vocabulary. This validates that you know what you’re talking about.
  6. Provide useful information. Readers are time-crunched. Unlike your boss, they don’t care how much work you put into the article. All that matters to them is “what’s in it for me?” The content must help, educate, inform or entertain them.
  7. Show your readers. Give readers concrete facts to illustrate your points. Use your nursery school show and tell experience to demonstrate your points with examples. Go a step further and use photographs, illustrations and/or videos to make your point.
  8. Make your writing quick to read. Remember your audience is most likely consuming your content on-the-go, in short spurts of time between other activities, or while they’re doing something else, so they’re not fully focused on your content. So make it easy to scan quickly. Therefore, less is more. Use simple words so readers don’t skip them (or your column). Write short, direct sentences. Where possible, use the active voice and keep paragraphs short with three to five sentences since blocks of text are intimidating.
  9. Guide readers with bolding and lists. Highlight or italicize important phrases. Create lists to help readers quickly consume your content. This makes your information visually inviting.
  10. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your finished piece to check for misspelling and poor grammar. Nothing takes away from your content faster than poor writing, including foul language. Get a copy editor to help and give your writing a fresh set of eyes. This is particularly important for businesses where these errors reflect poorly on your brand.
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One Comment
  1. Bill, I agree with this wisdom. I believe this advise is equally good for presenting to an audience.

    Appreciate the sharing.

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