I really liked this post from Amy Gynn on Content Marketing mistakes. I see so many of these mistakes, and most of them are easily prevented or corrected. Besides, a good infographic on content marketing deserves to be shared.
Do you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plug in on your blog? If you do, then you’ve noticed a few changes lately. It still offers the same convenient traffic-light grading system for your content, showing you at a glance how well you’ve worked your keywords in for best optimization. The new system adds content feedback to the equation – and that’s where Yoast gets a big fat D- grade.
Because the feedback reads like an especially dour nun took a big red pen to your blog post and is scolding you over your use of…good writing.
(I can say this because I survived 12 years of Catholic school and grew up with nuns in the family. And I loved them dearly and they were the most joyful, happy people I have ever met. The nuns who taught me in grade school? Not so joyful. But who would be surrounded by 30 kids every day?)
Yes, the new Yoast content feedback system leaves a lot to be desired.
It scolds you for using complex sentences.
It scolds you for writing more than two sentences to a paragraph.
In short…it seems to want to dumb down blog posts to the least common denominator.
Now, I’m not knocking on Yoast. God knows that as a content marketing writer, I appreciate the ease and convenience of a plug-in. What disturbs me more is the idea that internet readers cannot absorb thoughtful, engaging, and well-written content.
Polysyllabic words, complex sentences with multiple clauses, and longer blog posts are all part of my content platform. They might be part of yours as well. The prevailing wisdom from the SEO gurus is that such content isn’t read, and increases bounce rates because visitors arrive at your site and are immediately turned off by large text blogs.
I’m not so sure about that. I think it depends on your blog and on your readers. I don’t visit political, religious or social commentary blogs for the Cheerios and Sippy Cup version. I want meat, potatoes, steak knives and beer. I want thoughtful content I can chew on in my head the rest of the day, essays that make me think deeply about subjects that I care about.
If I visit a DIY blog, or a home and garden blog, or a pet blog, I want something different. I want big, pretty pictures. I want personality. I want to see the project. I want clear directions. And yes, simple step by step content makes it easier to read.
Everything in content marketing depends on your audience. What does your audience want, need and desire? Then it is a matter of matching your offering in the best possible way to what your audience wants. This is Marketing 101.
The SEO Bot Gods may seek simple content, but if that’s not what your audience wants, in the end it isn’t worth dumbing down your blog for the search engines. You’ll always succeed if your content speaks to the intended audience.
Tools like Yoast cannot differentiate and distinguish between a DIY blog and a deeply philosophical blog that explores current events. It tries to apply an identical rubric to all content. But content is not one-size-fits-all. Content must be personal in order to be meaningful.
My recommendation: Continue using Yoast, but if the tone of the content feedback bot gives you flashbacks to Sister Mary Invincta’s 5th grade English class and the Red Pen of Creative Death, just ignore it. I do.
Fell for it, didn’t you? If you clicked on the link because of the article’s headline, you fell for something called clickbait.
Clickbait is a pejorative term used to describe misleading headlines. It’s used throughout the internet, so you’ve probably seen it before. You see a headline about a favorite celebrity, or television show, or even an issue you care deeply about. The headline promises something emotional – something that makes you curious, intrigued, upset, angry. You can’t help but click on the link. Once you get to the article, however, the content doesn’t pay off the headline. That “shocking” information is nothing more than the usual drivel spit up and served on a silver platter. The “surprising” fact is nothing more than the facts about the issue. And so on….
Why Clickbait Headlines Work
It’s a truisim in journalism and marketing writing that the headline is the most important aspect of any article, blog post or document. Most writing teachers and marketing writers will tell you to spend the majority of your time working on your headlines because that is what gets people to respond, click, and then read the content. In other words, if your headline doesn’t work well, no one will read the terrific content you’ve created.
Clickbait headlines work on the psychological principle of dissonance. Our minds cannot stand to be uncomfortable, and the curiosity inspired by the headline creates a gap between what we know and what we desire. This gap makes us feel uncomfortable. We are compelled to click the link to read the text even when we ‘know’ in our logical minds that the information is just the usual drivel, or that we’re on deadline for a project and shouldn’t be spending time reading Yahoo! News (King of the Clickbait headlines) (and yes, I fall prey to them all the time) (and no, I won’t be late with your project. I promise!)
[Tweet “This shocking discovery will AMAZE you! Why clickbait headlines work. #marketingwriting #writing”]
These headlines are actually crafty little critters. They’re used because they work. John Caples, one of the most famous advertising writers of the 20th century, offered 35 headline formulas that are still used today by marketing writers and other copywriters to create the best headlines they can for blog posts, articles, website copy and marketing documents. Clickbait stands in its own category, but it’s worth looking at Caples’ headline writing formulas and comparing them to common clickbait techniques. There’s some overlap, although Caples is probably spinning in his grave at the comparison.
What Marketers Can Learn from Clickbait Headlines
There are several lessons we can learn from the purveyors of clickbait headlines. First, we know that they work. They do draw in the clicks. They don’t provide lasting values, and they don’t engender loyalty, two important qualities that any serious business should consider as part of their overall content marketing strategy. But they do follow the AIDA formula – attention, interest, desire, action.
And that’s what we as marketers and marketing writers must remember at all times: AIDA. Without getting attention and generating interest, no one’s going to click on your article. Inspiring desire and motivating customers to take action with an engaging headline complete the split-second decision that occurs in readers’ brains as they scan their newsfeeds. Clickbait headlines get the job done in seconds.
Will I use clickbait headlines? Aside from this blog post, where the headline was actually part of the story, the answer is no. I hate feeling cheated when I click on one of those zippy headlines and they promise me “shocking” photos or news and all I get is an article. Sure, I clicked, and sure, you got the page view. But in the end, you didn’t get ME – you didn’t earn my loyalty. I won’t bookmark your site, and I won’t follow it on social media. Perhaps more importantly, I won’t go there again, because now that you’ve played a trick on me, I’m wise to your trick.
And I hate tricks.
If you want to gain clicks in an ethical way, the secret remains in writing great headlines. That takes enormous skill and practice, something which a good marketing writer has. I’ve been a marketing writer for 20+ years. That’s the kind of writer you need working on your projects, not someone who can catch a reader-fish on the end of a headline-hook.
To write terrific headlines:
- Make it factual and true
- Go for emotion – pique curiosity
- Ask a question
- Make a crazy promise (that you can actually keep)
- Includes facts like numbers, names, specifics
- Keep it not too short, not too long
- Infuse it with keywords too!
It takes time and practice to actually write such headlines. If you’d like help with your marketing writing work, please contact me.
In the meantime…I hope this blog post shocked, inspired, surprised, amazed, and absolutely delighted you.
Marketing writer Jeanne Grunert knows a thing or two about headline writing, marketing copy, and freelance writing. She’s been a full time freelance writer since 2007 when she quit her position as a marketing director for a big global company to return to her roots as a freelance writer. With a background in both marketing and writing, Jeanne brings a unique perspective to all of her writing projects. For more information, please visit her company website, Seven Oaks Consulting | Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert.
Have you seen the PSA (public service announcement) “Gerbils on a Train?” It’s a great example of getting your point across by telling a story. While not specifically content marketing, it is a terrific video that’s part of an overall content marketing strategy from the Ad Council and the Children’s Oral Health project.
Here’s the video. Turn the music up. The music and the tiny engineer cap on the gerbil makes me smile every time.
Content Marketing Example:
Gerbils on a Train PSA (Linked from YouTube/AdCouncil)
Why This is a Great Content Marketing Example
Content marketing should move consumers from awareness to interest, engagement, and education before their final purchasing decision. While kids aren’t buying anything in this campaign, and neither are their parents, the 2x2M campaign (the sponsors of this piece) are trying to get you to “buy” an idea. Buy in can be treated the same way as buying a product or service when it comes to marketing, and this video makes the case for how it can be done effectively.
[Tweet “Content marketing moves consumers from interest through engagement and education.”]
The premise of the campaign is that in the span of two minutes, or about the time it takes to watch a silly video, children can brush their teeth, keep their teeth healthy, and prevent future tooth decay and tooth pain. This video is part of a series of PSAs and other advertisements featuring silly videos, video games, and other things children do for two minutes to make its point: two minutes flies by when kids do what they want. Two minutes isn’t a lot of time to spend while brushing your teeth!
Another bonus of the campaign is that parents can download the videos and play them on a tablet while kids brush their teeth. Children who can’t tell time yet can be taught to brush for as long as the video is playing, thus helping them learn the “two-minute rule” for proper oral health.
There are five factors that I think make this campaign a total winner, a great content marketing example and content marketing best practice:
- Appeal: The content (video in this example) appeals to both the target market (parents, who need to understand proper oral hygiene for their children) and the “buyer” (the child, who must “buy into” the idea or he won’t do it.) It’s a win on both levels.
- Creative Direction: It uses a simple, catchy piece of content that has everything going for it for both target audiences. Adorable gerbils riding around on toy trains? Check! Catchy music? Check! Hey, my husband and I found the video online and played it one night just for a laugh. Don’t judge. It’s a great example, however, or why it’s a good piece of content. We don’t have children and aren’t their target market yet even we loved it. How wonderful is that?
- Multi-Purpose Content: It functions as both a content marketing video and a useful give away. You can watch the video for the sheer lovableness of it or as a parent, download it as a timer for your kids to brush their teeth. It works on both levels.
- Integration: It’s part of an integrated awareness campaign that includes multiple content channels to reach the “decision makers” (kids) and “influencers” (parents).
- Engagement: It engages without talking down to the target audience or without preaching to the influencers. When creating content around a serious topic like oral health, the tendency can be to go overboard with seriousness. Yet people tune out serious messages or worse, make fun of them. Remember the egg in the frying pan and the “this is your brain on drugs” campaign? Serious topic, serious message, important message, but it became fodder (pun intended) for late night talk show hosts and Saturday Night Live skits. It takes a delicate balancing act to strike a humorous, gentle note while engaging your audience in a serious topic, and this video hits the bull’s-eye.
So that’s my take on the content marketing example, Gerbils on a Train. The video above is linked from YouTube, and you can follow the Ad Council link to learn more about the talent behind the campaign.
Want to have your company’s content marketing featured as a case study on Bite by Byte? Contact me. And be sure to learn more about my content marketing and freelance writing services. Great content can help you engage customer interest, convert browsers into buyers, and build your brand online. Let’s talk about your content marketing!
I was speaking with a friend the other day about my fiction writing goals. Some of you know that in addition to being a content marketer and freelance writer, I’m also a novelist, penning tales of mystery and imagination with a strongly Christian flair. That means tales of the supernatural where good guys win, bad guys lose, and playing with magic is dangerous.
It also means that commercial publishers probably aren’t interested in many of my stories. They have expectations for their genre which my work doesn’t fulfill. That’s okay with me. Self publishing means I can bring my work directly to the public and let them decide if they like it or not. (Generally, they do).
My friend was helping me winnow down my goals for my forthcoming novel, I Believe You. She asked me, “What do you want to get out of it?”
“I’d rather have 100 raving fans than thousands on my email list who will never buy and aren’t interested in my work,” I answered honestly.
It struck me then how much we marketers play the numbers game when it comes to our marketing campaigns. Take social media, for example. As a freelance writer, I’m often asked by potential clients what my Klout rank is, or how many Twitter followers I have, or how many Facebook followers and so on. Potential joint venture partners often set thresholds for their list marketing campaigns, stating outright that unless you have 10,000 email list subscribers, they aren’t interested in partnering with you and so on.
That’s a shame, because frankly, 10,000 email list subscribers are absolutely useless if they don’t care about your stuff.
[Tweet “I’d rather have 100 fans on my email list than thousands who don’t know who I am.”]
Many consultants and coaches have gigantic lists because they’ve done all the right things to build their lists. They’ve offered enticing free gifts, set up autoresponders, taken out ads, participated in calls…you get the picture. But their lists are worthless because the email addresses they’ve collected are filled with people who have no intention of purchasing from them – ever.
I had a brilliant marketing professor at NYU who used to ask at the start of her advanced graduate course on direct marketing, “What is a good response rate?” Someone would always be fooled into shouting out a number: 1%, 10%, 5% and so forth.
None of those are good response rates if you have a list filled with junk names. You can have 100,000 subscribers to your list but if only 1% are truly connected with you, then you have a response of 1,000 people. I can have 1,000 deeply interested followers and get 100% response when I publish a new Kindle novel because these are people who are absolute fans. Would you invite me to be your J.V. partner with just 1,000 followers on my list, even if I know that they are perfect for your offer?
Don’t let numbers fool you. Big lists are just that – big lists. It’s not quantity that counts, but quality. Go for quality by putting forth your best effort, truly connected with people you care about, and letting your work speak for itself. It’s counter intuitive to all the hype out there from every guru of this or that, but it’s what I’ve found to be best for people who truly care about their work and want to make a sincere and direct impact.