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Writing Content that is Functional AND Useful

Reap the Benefits for Your Users and Your Content Marketing Strategy

While many may think that the famous quote, “content is king” is a recent one that emerged from the SEO landscape, it is really not new. In fact, it is close to a quarter of a century old. It’s first known use was by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in an essay in which he talked about how the Internet would be defined in future as a content marketplace. It’s a concept that has never been more relevant.

But, clearly not all content is equal.

Those in the content marketing industry often talk about the importance of writing quality content, or content which is not only interesting to view, but which also performs. So how do you make sure that your content not only appeals to your users, but that it is also a beneficial tool in your content marketing strategy?

Writing Content that Works—for Google and Your Audience

When it comes to content, there are myriad terms bandied about from ‘keyword density’ to ‘alt text’ to the best way to write calls to action or to use content as a way to push users through your marketing funnels. However, content which is written solely with these considerations in mind will never be content that Google truly loves. And that is because it won’t be content that your users find genuinely useful, interesting, and easy to use.
As far as Google is concerned, it is vital that real people enjoy using your content, whether because they find it interesting, entertaining, or informative. That’s why it is essential that you prioritize making your content easy to use.

How is Content “Used”

It may seem strange if you take the term at face value to talk about “using” content rather than reading, watching, or viewing it. But there are few places that exist anywhere on the Internet where content exists solely for content’s sake. Rather than shying away from the concept of content as a tool, it is vital to embrace it to give your content a clear place in any marketing strategy. Content is not only used in your SEO practices and in boosting conversion rates for any emails or newsletters, but it should serve a very definite function. Your content should entertain your user, answer a question they are unsure about, or help your reader make a decision that they are finding difficult.

  • For instance, your content could address some of the most asked questions on Google [1], which include “What is area 51?”, “Where is Sri Lanka?”, and “What is Brexit?”.
  • You might provide them with vital information to make a new product purchase, such as a review piece on the 10 best new cars, or the 10 best laptops.
  • Or, your content may be designed to bring additional users to your website through entertaining pieces such as movie reviews, celebrity fashion or daily news.

However, even if you do have a very clear intention in mind, that doesn’t mean it is always easy to realize it. Here are the key points to think about when creating content which is genuinely useful as well as easy to use.

How to Create Content that is Easy to Use

When content for the web was first developed, the focus was very much on emulating models which had gone before, such as newspapers and magazines.

However, when thinking about easy-to-read content, it is better instead to turn your mind to textbooks. Depending on how much you did or did not enjoy school, that may be an unappealing prospect for you.

And yet, textbooks are a great example of setting out content in a user-friendly way. Textbooks use a variety of tools to present information in a way that is easy to use, including contents, sidebars, diagrams and glossaries.

While textbooks may not always be the most beautiful forms of content to look at, they are designed from the outset with the user in mind. Before you dismiss the idea of taking inspiration from textbooks, here are some of the best tips that you can take from them, and use them in your content creation strategy:

  1. Tell your users right away what to expect from your content. If you know what you will get by reading or viewing a piece of content right from the start, you are much more likely to feel engaged and to read through to the end.
  2. How long will it take to read? Imagine you’re on your daily commute or you have a quick break at work. If you know that it will take three minutes, eight minutes, or 15 minutes to read something, you will be more likely to finish it as you will know you have time.
  3. Pinpoint the most important content. Many people only have time to skim through content. If they take a glance and don’t immediately find what they are looking for, they will leave. Make sure that the most important content is obvious through your formatting.
  4. Don’t make it too high brow. You’re not aiming for War and Peace. Take a look at any tabloid newspaper and you will see that the words used are commonly used in everyday life. Try to do the same in your own content as well as using a good balance of sentence lengths.
  5. Use bullet points or numbers. Take this list as a case in point. It’s much easier to read because it is broken up into points. Use bullet points or numbers in your own content to do the same.
  6. Write short paragraphs. In a newspaper, you generally find that one sentence is one paragraph. In web copy, it’s not necessarily a good idea to keep paragraphs quite so short. Try to keep to a maximum of two or three sentences. Any more than that  and your reader will be intimidated by such a big chunk of unbroken text.
  7. Use images, graphs and diagrams to break up your text. They say a picture paints a thousand words. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, pictures and photographs certainly make it easier to process information. Just make sure that the file sizes aren’t too big, or you will find your page takes a long time to load, which can be frustrating for users.
  8. Make sure links open in a new tab. It can be useful to users to add links, and it can also be beneficial to your SEO strategy. Make sure you don’t lose readers by taking them away from your own content. Instead, ensure links open in a new tab.
  9. Don’t forget your alt text. While it may be easy to see alt text as something which is simply “behind the scenes,” it is actually used for visually impaired visitors to your content who are using screen readers, but it will also appear if your images don’t load. Like the rest of your content, make it useful. Don’t just stuff it full of keywords.

How Creating Useful Content will Help Your SEO Strategy

Creating content that is both user-friendly and genuinely useful is a win-win scenario for you and your readers. Google considers the user experience, or UX, to be the third most important factor when it is ranking and indexing pages [2].

Google will be looking at a number of other factors too, including how long it takes your pages to load, how long users usually spend on your pages, and the responsiveness of your site.

All the content tips already discussed will assist in achieving a better user experience. Clear layout and use of images along with shorter paragraphs will make your user want to explore your content for longer.

Over time, Google has placed more importance on how usable content is when ranking pages. That means, the days of simply stuffing your content full of keywords to make it attractive to Google are definitely over. That’s not to say that keywords don’t still have their place. It’s important to keep in mind that content is ultimately for readers and users, not for bots. That’s why, when you are making drives to improve your content, you must always start with the end user in mind.

Need more insights on content creation and content marketing? Connect with the SEO content experts at MintCopy, a leading content agency based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Use our online form to get in touch. You can also follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest content marketing trends.

 

[1] https://observer.com/2019/12/google-2019-year-in-search-words-people-questions/
[2] https://uxdesign.cc/understanding-the-link-between-ux-design-and-seo-415d94892c0b

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