Cool content marketing snippets for 2014

It’s all going off in digital marketing land. Nothing new there, then… change is an everyday occurrence for digital marketers. Here are a few choice cuts from the sharp end of our always-fascinating industry.

Content marketing-related news and views

6 cool places for content inspiration

Every decent guide to creating great content talks about setting up a content diary or content plan. It’s amazing what you dream up once you set your mind to keeping a list. But where do you get inspiration?

  1. answer the questions people most often ask about your business, products and services
  2. answer obscure questions for added interest
  3. keep an eye on the local, national and international news so you can react to relevant stories
  4. devise series’ of posts based on articles in your industry trade press
  5. use popular events to build content on: national holidays, celebrations, anniversaries
  6. look at what your competitors are talking about… then do a better job of it

Finding fresh, exciting stuff to write about

Google has just bought Nest, the US-based smart thermostat company. Nest thermostats ‘learn’ your behaviour, adjusting home heating accordingly for excellent energy-saving results.  It’s convenient and useful, but there’s a darker side. Nest’s founders say they have no plans to share customer data… yet. But because Google’s entire business model involves sucking up vast amounts of data and re-packaging it for advertisers, it’d be odd if the data collection aspect wasn’t of interest to the search giant.
At the same time, Google has also announced its interest in smart contact lenses that’ll use miniature electronics to monitor glucose levels in diabetics’ eyes. Apparently they’ll include, “chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter and an antenna thinner than a human hair.”
Why am I talking about it? While it’s useful to include key terms in blog posts to let search engines know how and where to classify and rate your posts, it’s a bad idea to take things too far. Keeping your eyes and ears open for interesting news, even when it’s only loosely relevant like the information above, helps you avoid key term madness. It also makes your blog a particularly interesting read for humans, which is what search engines and people want.
Give news your own personal slant and you’ll make it even more interesting. Don’t be scared to draw comparisons, express opinions or write with personality and verve. It’s your job to stand out from the crowd.

Content marketing – Making a better job of your About Us page

If you’ve been on t’internet since the beginning you’ll have noticed the changing face of the About Us page. Not so long ago it was a vital part of the website mix, awarded a prime position in the menu. Online shopping was the latest, newest thing and an About page went a long way towards generating trust in an unfamiliar way of buying. Now About pages are often relegated to a secondary menu, sometimes left out of the website content equation altogether.
How old is your About Us page? If you’ve let it lie for years, it’s time for a re-think. It’s no use just repeating what you say on the home page, something many site owners used to do. It’s all about adding value. The perfect contemporary About page looks like this:

  • Think who, what, when, where and why – if your page covers all of them, you’ve hit the right mark
  • Stash your ego. People don’t care what you do. They want to know how the things you do benefit them. Use benefit-led language instead of leading with the features
  • Provide facts. Avoid terms like cutting edge, outstanding, passionate. Nobody cares. Instead, give visitors hard facts that actually prove how good you are
  • Never pretend you’re bigger than you are. What’s the point? If you’re found out you’ll only look silly. If you are a small businessor a start-up, be proud of being small
  • If you’re talking about your staff, use photos of real people. People in stock shots tend to look like they’ve walked out of a home shopping catalogue, too artificial and perfect
  • Mention awards you’ve won, but keep it short and sweet. A bullet list will do
  • Make it a work in progress, regularly adding new information and getting rid of old stuff. Your About page should give readers a snapshot of where your business is right now, not last month
  • Don’t be scared to inject some personality into your page. It’ll help you stand out from the boring crowd
  • Include a call to action – let visitors know what to do if they have any questions

How to harness the power of storytelling

Scientists call the bits of the brain that are activated by less-than-thrilling factual information Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, both of which are used for transforming bare words into meaning. But as Spanish researchers have discovered, when we’re told a story instead of dry facts things change dramatically. As well as activating the brain’s language processing areas, stories light up the same areas of the brain that’d activate if we were experiencing the events ourselves, in real life.
It looks like stories put your entire brain to work. Which means writing content in a story format is a great way to get readers on board. Make it compelling enough and they’ll experience the information more deeply, with more texture, vibrancy, empathy and impact.
In a digital marketing context you need to be succinct and clear, capturing attention and spurring the imagination elegantly and logically using plain language, with style and verve. Which means that creating a simple story makes more marketing sense than weaving a complicated saga.
What does a story look like? In its simplest form, like this:

  • introduction
  • beginning
  • middle
  • end
  • conclusion

Is guest post blogging dead?

Google has been warning us about guest blog abuse for years. Now guest blogging is dead, and it’s official. As Google’s Matt Cutts says, “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done.”
From an SEO perspective Google might no longer include guest blog links when figuring out your organic search positions. And you might get a nasty slap if you keep using guest posts for link acquisition. Guest posts’ days are over as far as link building is concerned. But that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Far from it. They still deliver a different voice to readers, give alternative viewpoints and contribute towards the variety that makes the best blogs so interesting.
As Cutts said, following criticism he was going too far:

“I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.”

Want to know more? Here’s a link to Matt Cutts’ blog.

Chasing the hummingbird

Millions of us use our phones to search the web, and we use voice-recognition technology to do it. We speak our searches and Google finds the best match with the help of its Hummingbird algorithm update, which makes the search giant better than ever at recognising naturally-spoken requests, decoding audience intent and figuring out context.
It makes perfect sense. If you want to capture the attention of mobile searchers you need to answer the questions they actually ask. Which means plain English is more important than ever. As a direct marketer I was taught to write the way people speak. It has always been best marketing practice. Now it’s best SEO practice, too.

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