Today, there are more than 1.9 billion websites online, and that number is growing with each passing second. That’s a tremendous amount of web content, and, with so much already available, it can be tough to stand out.
But content does need to stand out despite the odds — it needs to attract audience attention, drive conversions, and generate revenue. Content development is much more than just producing content and uploading it to a site. It takes careful planning, thoughtful research, original ideas, and strategic distribution. Every piece of content has its role to play in the broader web content strategy, and it should work as hard as possible to deliver a return on investment (ROI).
To turn these goals into a reality, and produce the best possible web content, follow these eight guidelines:
If you’ve ever felt frustration over Hollywood remakes, or novels following the same plot formula book after book, you’re not alone. It can feel like every story has already been told, and it’s no different with web content. No matter the industry or niche market, there’s probably a competitor already producing and promoting content on the subject matter. The trick — and the challenging part — for marketers today is to create unique content in a massively overcrowded content web.
This is why every brand must define its unique value proposition (UVP). A value proposition is a brand’s statement about how it differs from competitors and its unique benefits for customers. Take one of the world’s most famous brands, Apple. Apple products are far more than just practical technology; they’re a lifestyle preference, based on functionality, design, and experience. It’s this powerful UVP that led to the “Mac vs. PC” debate. People don’t just buy Apple products; they buy into the brand.
Define the Target Audience and Personas
Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum; the best, most effective content engages and resonates with readers. To do so, it needs to speak to their specific needs and interests. That’s why content developers have to know exactly who they’re writing for. As they say in the world of comedy, read the room. Knowing the target audience and the different personas of the intended readers are important steps in the web content development process.
Most brands appeal to multiple customer types or buyer personas. For example, the healthy grocery chain Whole Foods targets young, single, health-conscious, college graduates. It also appeals to people in their late-30s with young children who want to create a healthy lifestyle for their families. These two target audiences will inevitably prefer reading different content. Young singles may enjoy articles about how to live healthy on a budget, while parents may want healthy cooking tips and recipes for fussy kids.
When marketers better understand the people they want to reach, they’re well on their way to creating hard-working content.
Do Original Research
Given the overabundance of web content, one of the most effective ways to add value is to do original research with surveys, interviews, or analysis of owned data. Original research is fresh, novel, and a rich source of content ideas. For this reason, it does a great job of driving website traffic and social shares. It also creates opportunities for other websites to link to the research in their content. While developing original research often entails a more substantial investment, it provides data and insight that can live longer online and provide valuable resources to customers — and to outside companies that might repurpose it — making the overall reach massive.
Invest in High-Quality Writing
If it’s written poorly, it’ll perform poorly. It may seem like a basic concept, but hard-working content is well-written, readable, and digestible. Every published content piece should reflect the identity and professionalism of the brand. For companies producing large amounts of content regularly, it’s also essential to prevent web content fatigue among the target audience.
Instead of relying on just one writer, mix it up by adding outsourced writers to the team. Engage co-workers in developing internal content. Reach out to industry influencers and bloggers about blog swapping and guest posts. And never forget to edit and proofread. Each piece of content should be polished and meet consistent brand requirements.
Liven It Up With Visuals and Gamification
Visual content is king, so make sure content grabs the readers’ attention. According to a survey of over 500 online marketers, 88% said they used visuals in over 50% of their published articles. Why? Because 91% of people prefer interactive and visual content over text-based content. There are many reasons for this, but the top reason is that visual content is consumed faster than textual content, which means it works harder with less effort on the part of the audience.
Brands looking to boost their web content need to incorporate a range of visual graphics, including infographics, videos, images, illustrations, and interactive content like quizzes, polls, and games to grab readers’ attention. There are plenty of free online tools — such as Survey Monkey and Canva — that marketers can use to develop engaging and compelling visual content.
Create Content for All Parts of the Marketing Flywheel
A piece of content placed in the wrong part of the marketing flywheel won’t be as useful because different audiences need different types of web content at various points in the sales cycle. Even a brilliant piece of content won’t get the best results if it doesn’t reach the right customer at the right time.
For example, the “attract” part of the flywheel is you’re building awareness of the brand. It’s the ideal time to present blog posts, articles, and introductory-style videos to grab customers’ attention and hook their interest. Content that answers questions and offers advice without any expectation (like an immediate sale or collecting contact information) is perfect for the “attract” phase.
Promote Content Where It’ll Have the Most Significant Effect
A crucial part of understanding an audience is knowing where they spend time online. For content to work hard, it needs to be distributed in the right place — a steak distributor wouldn’t try to partner with a vegan restaurant. No matter how high-quality those steaks are, they wouldn’t sell in that environment. Likewise, the best content for one market won’t work well for an unrelated market.
For direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, social media networks like Facebook and Instagram can be great places to promote content. Brands whose target audience are big mobile users can choose to promote content on mobile ad networks. Industries in which influencers are prominent, such as cosmetics and beauty, can partner with influencers to promote content.
It’s essential to promote the right content on the right channel. For example, videos perform well on social platforms (93% of marketers say they gained a new customer due to video on social), while infographics will do well on the company blog.
Measure and Test
This rule applies to every aspect of digital marketing, and it most certainly goes for content development. Without tracking, measuring, and testing content performance, there’s no way of knowing whether a content piece is effective or how to maximize its ROI.
There’s a range of content marketing metrics to consider, and the ones to focus on will depend on the purpose of the piece. For example, you can measure eBook and whitepaper downloads by leads generated and lead quality. Or, you can measure blog posts for website traffic and time on site, which indicates engagement and awareness. Search engine rankings help to get the brand more visibility and more traffic to its content.
For tips and tricks on how to write engaging content, read more here.
Jaime is Head of Content Strategy at AdRoll, a division of NextRoll, Inc. She has 12 years' experience in content, social, and partner marketing, spanning from scrappy startups to the global enterprise. Jaime loves crafting content that actually gets used by customers and goes to bed dreaming about how content can change the world. An avid tennis player and Champagne Martini enthusiast, Jaime spends most of her spare time being the #1 dog mom to her chiweenie.