How To Create Engaging Content For Your SME Business
This guide will explain how you can write content that is both engaging to your target audience and develop your company’s tone of voice as a brand influencer.
If you’re an SME you have more than likely experimented with content for your web site, however the standard of content amongst these smaller companies varies massively because very few SME’s will have a professional content writer within their team.
Before you begin the process of championing a great content idea you have to ask yourself an honest question. What do you look for in a business’s blog? Too many companies just write blog posts as another chance to sell to a visitor; these attempts at conversion are so transparent it’s painful. When we are looking to buy a product we want honest thoughts from genuine customers as opposed to self-promotional content that hundreds of other SME’s are putting out there.
I know what you’re thinking, why would I have something on my site that isn’t tailored to selling my products? Well, put simply your website isn’t about what you want, everything you do should be focused towards the end user, this keeps the experience personal and relevant to them.
Content on your site should largely be about adding value to your user, for example if you’re a small business that sells cars you shouldn’t be creating content that says ‘Look at all these cars we have to sell you’ instead it should say ‘these are the benefits of our latest cars’. So what do potential customers want? Value! This is a key point and one we will be expanding on in more detail in this article.
Before you begin making milestones in your industry with your amazing content you need to generate some outstanding ideas. Notice we have said ideas, not even necessarily good ones at first, the biggest mistake at this stage is getting behind one idea from the start and never actually stopping to check if your content is something your target audience will consider as useful.
Your first step is looking at your competitors and what content they are producing. A fantastic tool to use is BuzzSumo, even though the free version has a limited number of daily searches it’s a fantastic way to find out what content is popular in your industry. Take a look at the engagement for content titled with your SME’s keywords; if the top posts have a high number of Facebook shares ask yourself what separates them from the less successful pieces. In addition you can use this competitor analysis to find the most popular formats for content, choosing the correct form for your content is essential to getting a good reception. Do your target audience like to read, list post, infographics or do they prefer to watch a video? There will be no value in creating content that doesn’t attract the right people.
Planning ahead of time will save you time in the long run, generating ideas is a lot easier if you don’t have to stop to consider all the extra perimeters you need to hit. A great site is Days Of The Year, use this site to build a list of national holidays and events that may be related to your industry (even if it’s only loosely) in addition you may want to run through the significant sporting events of the year in order to best synchronise your content. If you find yourself really struggling to put relevance to ideas take a step back and create your own PR Framework, this is what professional agencies use to dilute aspects of PR into sections with criteria to meet. Here’s more information on creating a PR Framework.
As an SME you have a unique advantage in that any employees you have are a lot closer to the business and know how it works. Select a few people to join you in a brainstorming content meeting, there’s no right number of people but around 3-5 is a good balance. Anyone who’s ever been in a business meeting knows that there are often people who take the lead and drive all of the meeting forward with constant input. While this is great in some situations in a content meeting it’s exactly what you don’t want, having strong personalities taking charge stifles the ideas of other people who may be quieter but still have genuinely good ideas. If the person who leads your meetings is the most talkative get someone else to take charge to ensure everyone has a voice, their role will be to interject when someone talks for too long or goes off topic.
There are a number of brain storming techniques that are best for content creation, a particularly good one is 6-3-5 Brainwriting. Using this method gives people a chance to be creative and develop each other’s ideas without being stopped by other people, experiment and find the best way to get your team to work together. Use your Days of the Year and PR framework as a start for your ideas; relate your suggestions to those documents to ensure your ideas are relevant. Following this technique precisely means six people writing three ideas in five minutes, with no talking or communication. At the end of the five minutes the group passes their ideas to the persona on the left, they can write three new ideas or develop ones already on the page. This goes around the table once and by the end you should have plenty of ideas to play with.
Idea Selection & Development
Once you’ve got your preliminary ideas you need to select the best ideas, you can continue working in a group setting or do this alone if you prefer. Select your top ideas and check to ensure your content idea hasn’t been already been created recently, if it was don’t panic just hold on to that idea for now. Ideas that have been done can always be taken further than rival pieces of content or become a small part of a bigger idea. If you have any way to test these ideas on a section of your target audience then that is one method that is highly benefical.
As mentioned before the key to creating good content is value to the consumer, your next step is to assess the value of your ideas. Check your content ideas against the following points:
- Social – Showing the reader a new idea/concept that they feel they want to share
- Trigger – Contains a memorable element that prompts people to think of you
- Emotion – Make use of emotional needs and feelings of the reader
- Public – Instantly recognisable
- Practical – Teaches the reader a new skill
- Story – Gives an account/example to emphasise a piece
Your winning content idea should meet three of these targets; this is a simple and methodical way to ensure you’re creating content that has value. Once you’ve got your idea you can begin to develop it, firstly you need to decide what format your content will take. This sounds a simple thing to do but once you take a look at this Content Quadrant you’ll change your mind, there are so many different options depending on how your target audience consumes their content. You’ll want to reference your previous content research before deciding on what you create from your idea.
A campaign style content plan is also very effective in the correct circumstances, in order to create this you can use you need to develop a central piece of content. You then need to add to that piece with additional smaller pieces of content, for example if you’ve blogged about a new research or trend you can support this by also creating a quiz to engage your readers and get their opinions, this can in turn be used to create a roundup piece from the responses.
The next stage is to create your headline, doing this in the right way can seem slightly counter intuitive. Clickbait is a term used to describe a deliberately enticing headline that is solely created to encourage readers to click through. This is a slightly derogatory wording for what is actually satisfying what readers want to draw from headlines. Many people believe taking this approach actually contributes negatively to the articles reception, however as Wired recently said in a recent article:
‘The difference with clickbait is you’re often aware of this manipulation, and yet helpless to resist it.’
The purpose of a headline is to provoke curiosity in the reader. Increased Internet use has meant media consumption has doubled in the past few years, this means your article will be in a great amount of competition and despite the fact we can see clickbait a mile away, it is effective. Include the following types of language in your headline:
- Common Words – Simple words that are easy to understand
- Uncommon Words – Words related to your content and it’s topic
- Emotional – Highly emotive phrases (shocking, unbelievable ect.)
- Power – Forces the impact of the article (Fast, easy, more)
Experiment with the length of your headline and use the top online news aggregators (Buzzfeed, Huffington Post ect.) to find the best format for your content. It’s estimated that 80% of potential readers of your article will only read the headline, this means it presents a huge opportunity to engage more readers. Don’t forget to check the format of the headline on your site as well, to ensure it doesn’t line break at a poor place or run off the screen altogether. Once you’ve decided on a headline use this tool to rate it and improve the wording (aim for a score of 75+).
Creating your content
Writing content for your small business can seem a little daunting, especially if it’s not your usual field of expertise. If you think you will struggle to write in an engaging way you could always consider out sourcing the actual writing of the piece to a freelance worker, or a member of your team who is better at content creation. However there is a cost involved in outsourcing work to freelancers.
Before you decide who you want to write your content you need to compile your resources, if you need any. Use Google’s search by time feature to ensure you only get the most recent information in addition, only use genuine authority sites that have information that is backed up with legitimate research.
As well as resources you also need to do keyword research for your article, if you’ve never done this a great guide can be found here. The purpose of this is to ensure you’re obtaining the correct key terms that your target audience is searching for. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to do this easily. If you feel a little lost you can use other posts as inspiration, run through a couple of sites to ensure you’ve covered all bases. If you’re site is already struggling to rank for keywords you may want to use more long tail variations in your Meta Title and Description, these have lower search volumes but usually less results on the page. It’s also worth noting that long tail keywords are associated with conversion as the extra words in the search shows intent to buy. You can also use searches to look for the correct LSI’s to use in your data, these are variations on the key phrases that search engines consider relevant to the user.
If you’re writing a longer piece you need to plan you content into sections. Decide on a word count for each section (these don’t have to set in stone) this makes creating your content more methodical. Just like anything else you do for your business you need to use your time in the best way possible, set yourself a limit for writing your content before you begin. The actual length of your article is again not something that anyone else can answer for you, by looking at the top posts for your field you can easily tell what length is appropriate for your industry. As well as length, consider your actual tone, would your target audience prefer a casual, friendly tone or a more formal informative style?
Once you have your resource links, keyword research and have decided on the length and tone of the piece you can begin to construct the article. A lot of people will try to begin a process like this and end up spending an hour deciding on how to introduce the article, you need to avoid this because of what we mentioned earlier about optimising the time you spend on a piece of content. At this stage you know everything about your content in terms of its message and how it should read, this means you don’t need to write in a linear way. Try starting your article with the main body of information, where the points are predefined. This approach will get the ball rolling and hopefully get you in a writing flow.
Once the body of article is completed the next step is working on sourcing images. When doing this, best practise is to use your own if you can, taking high quality images can be a link opportunity in itself as people will use the image in their own content and credit your link. If you don’t have the equipment to do this you can use relevant images sourced from the internet, however be courteous to using other people’s images and ensure you include a source link to the original image creator. If you don’t want to link to other sites consider using stock photos, these tend to be of extremely high quality anyway and can add a nice visual to the content.
Finally you’ll need to create the Meta Data for your piece, if you’ve not had any experience in this, there’s a great guide here. Include your selected keywords, but avoid repeatedly matching the term in the Title and Description this will not help you content to rank. Instead use LSIs to diversify the body of your Meta Data but if you’re really struggling search for your keyword term, then look at the Meta Data of the top ranking sites to get a feel for what Google is looking for.
Congratulations, you have written your first piece of truly valuable content! That was easy right? Once you’ve got a routine behind this you can use our guide to create a full content plan for your SME, which is a great way to stay ahead of the competition. Using this method you can plan a lot further ahead and spend less time thinking of content and more time creating it.
Seeing as this guide is called ‘Creating engaging content for your SME business’ we didn’t want to spend much time deviating from the main focus point of the article however once you’ve made your content you need to get people to read it! Use your social networks (both business and personal) and offer your piece to sites that share content to engage with as many people as possible. Extend to as many resources as you can find, look for industry blogs, magazines and influencers that may find your content useful. Remember the point about not linking to your products in blogs? Well this is another advantage of avoiding it, in that people are considerably more likely to share your content if it offers the potential readers something.
One more thing to remember is that even if your content doesn’t do well initially it’s not the end of the world! There are many techniques you can use to get something out of an underperforming piece of content, one of our favourites is cutting and chopping the main points of a larger article in order to create smaller more digestible pieces. This piece is a great place to start if you need to begin repurposing content that could have done better.
We hope this guide has been helpful for you and we have made creating content as an SME a lot less daunting for you. Although there is a lot to think about the key point from our guide is that by ensuring content is relevant to your target audience and has value to them you can succeed in building your business with content.