How to write valuable content that people want to refer back to
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Nothing annoys me more than ‘clickbait’ headlines and their associated articles that promise you a solution or some incredibly useful information and then don’t deliver. You know the ones: the content is either completely unrelated to the headline, or so basic as to be of little use. You quickly click off them, never to return.
B2B marketers, and those in service B2C industries, tend to get very worried about giving away too much valuable information in their content marketing for fear the potential client won’t need them after reading it. As a result, they end up publishing such generic and brief information that it’s almost worthless. This is dangerous as you can end up turning a potential customer off because:
If you are not being helpful now, they may get the impression that you won’t be terribly helpful if they engage your services.
They will feel like you’ve wasted their time. And when it comes to business, time is everyone’s most precious commodity.
For fear of becoming one of these articles, I’ll get to the point: Make your articles valuable and ensure they offer what it says on the tin (so to speak). Your readers will feel valued and be more likely to engage with you thereafter.
Here’s how to write a piece of content that will get readers bookmarking your page for future reference:
Offer specific and actionable ‘how to’ advice and suggestions. Vague ideas are unhelpful and lead to disappointment. Lofty ‘best practice’ and ‘in an ideal world’ content shows that you know your stuff, but if the reader can’t accomplish something as a result, it’s pretty worthless. Ask yourself: - Do I need to offer step-by-step advice? - What barriers would they be likely to face if they were to implement this? Acknowledge these barriers and be sympathetic to them in your writing. - Could they do this today?
Readers need to be able to remember one really useful piece of information that they can act on straight away. They want to feel they’ve learnt something immediately and can easily put it in to practice. If you do that, they’ll feel satisfied that your article was worth their time.
Pick the most important thing you need to convey and keep it in the first half of the article. People read intently until they can no longer find what they want or lose interest, so keep the important points early on in the piece.
Use formatting to signpost readers to the most useful information. Bold headings, bullet points and italics are really important if people are skim reading. If something stands out that interests them they will slow down to pay it more attention.
Think about what would you need to know to get started in the area you are writing about. People are searching for how to do things when the idea is new to them. Lead them as far as they could go without engaging your services – they will then be more inclined to lean on you when they need to go to the next step.
Find balance in your tone. Just because they may not be an expert in the area, don’t be tempted to talk down to them or oversimplify. Imagine you are explaining something to the CEO – informative, but not too technical.
Think about how much your audience would reasonably know about your topic and build from there. Cover the basics very quickly to provide context and move straight on to the valuable information. The last thing you want is to leave them thinking “Duh! Tell me something I don’t know already!”
If you are intentionally writing a piece to introduce the basics of a topic, make that clear in the headline to avoid reader disappointment e.g. ‘X for Beginners’ or ‘The Beginners Guide to X’.
There’s nothing wrong with intriguing or clever headlines, but don’t mislead your reader. They must be able to understand them immediately and easily find the answer when they read the article. Clickbait is incredibly annoying and will damage your reputation. If you are using an analogy for a headline, carry it through and make sure you explain, or at least reference, it in the first two paragraphs so the reader knows they are in the right article.
Give the article to someone in your target market (or someone completely unrelated) to read it and ask for feedback. Specifically – give them the title first, and then hand them the piece and ask if it delivers what they expected.
If you feel it's time to refresh your content to make sure it's truly valuable to current and prospective customers, I can help. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a friendly chat.