I’ve been writing and ranking content for more than 10 years. I’ve made it work for myself, for the last business I worked for as an employee and for countless clients since then. Most things I know about content, I know from my own experience.
It’s not rocket science and the ‘rules’ are pretty simple. Yet there are a myriad of misconceptions flying around online.
So it’s time to bust some myths and set the record straight. From what content is, to how much you need and how to measure it’s success.
What is content?
People have all kinds of misunderstandings about content, the purpose of it and why they should be investing in it. In this section I’ll aim to dispel some of those misconceptions and tell you the truth.
1. Content is just for SEO
Content is not just for SEO. It should be written for your human audience and optimised for SEO.
I often get enquiries from potential clients whose SEOs have told them to find a content writer and start creating content for their website. This has led many of these clients to believe that content is purely an SEO exercise, designed to drive more traffic to their website.
This is part of the plan, but it’s not the endgame. Because when you’ve attracted these visitors to your website, what then?
Traffic = Discerning Human Visitors
These are people who’ve come to your website in search of something — and they’re expecting to find it.
Will an article that’s been written purely for SEO give them the answers and information they came for?
Probably not. And when they realise this, they’ll be hitting the back button and visiting one of your competitors instead.
The content you’re putting out there should be optimised for SEO to bring traffic to your site. But it should be written for your human visitors, to give them what they’re looking for. The primary goal is always to satisfy your human audience, because they’re the ones who’ll be spending the money.
2. Content is the same as advertising
Content is not the same as advertising. There are some similarities, but content has a number of advantages over conventional advertising methods.
The average person sees around 10,000 ads every day
This is the latest estimate, according to marketers.
Are you aware of seeing 10,000 ads — or even close to that — every day? Of course not.
When advertising started to become such a relentless assault on our senses, it became overwhelming. So we’ve developed effective filters to block most of it out. This has been aided by ad blockers, delete keys and skip buttons. We can also switch browser tabs or put the kettle on if we’re watching live TV.
Content is more like an antidote to advertising
When content marketing first became a thing, it was touted as a new approach to advertising. But it’s not advertising in the conventional sense and there are several important differences.
Rather than selling, the goal of content marketing is to help and benefit your audience. So rather than blocking it out and ignoring it, they actively go looking for it. Clever, huh?
Where advertising involves strategically putting yourself out there, content marketing brings your audience to you.
And where conventional advertising stops working the moment you stop funding it, content is yours indefinitely. It can stay on your blog, working to help your business for as long as it’s relevant and applicable.
3. My content should be all about my business
Your content shouldn’t be all about you. It should be created to benefit your audience.
The genius of effective content is that it drives traffic by pulling people in. But that only works if they’re looking for the content you’re creating.
To give you an example, they might be searching for ‘How to unblock a toilet’, but they’re unlikely to be searching for ‘We’ve unblocked 500 toilets this year’. See the difference?
When you’re planning your content, you need to be thinking about what benefits your audience and what’s going to bring them in.
4. Content marketing is all about sales
The main goal of content marketing is not sales. It has a number of objectives, including conversions — but even those conversions are not necessarily sales.
I’m not saying sales don’t happen — they do — but getting those sales shouldn’t be your main objective when you’re creating content.
Content actually has a whole range of objectives, such as:
- Demonstrating your knowledge and expertise
- Increasing the authority of your brand
- Building your audience’s trust and loyalty
- Introducing your brand to new people
- Attracting warm leads to your website
- Getting new email sign-ups.
You might, occasionally, create a piece of content that’s intended to drive sales. But this would be an exception rather than the norm.
If you’re creating content, you need a strategy. This will help ensure you’re targeting the right people, in the right way to get the best results.
Your strategy should include products/services, audience, media, channels and platforms, amplification and promotion.
5. A content strategy is a waste of time
A content strategy helps to focus your efforts and make sure you’re getting the most from your marketing investment. Without one, you could be wasting money and not getting the results you should be.
I’ve worked with clients who said they didn’t need a content strategy. Why waste time planning everything out when you could just be getting on with writing?
Needless to say, they didn’t understand the difference a good strategy can make and why it’s so important.
A content strategy helps you set out a proper framework and clear direction for your content. This will establish criteria, such as:
- Which markets you need to target
- The content you need for different audiences with different awareness levels
- The key messages you want to get across
- The media you want to use and how you plan to promote it
- The results you’re looking for.
The strategy is designed to run alongside your other marketing efforts to create a cohesive overall plan.
If you think a content strategy would be a waste of time, it may be because you haven’t figured out what your goals are or what you want to achieve.
6. My industry is too boring for content
No industry is too boring to create content for. If it’s relevant for your audience and written so it’s interesting to read, there will always be someone who wants to read it.
What do you find interesting to read about? Football? Fashion? Travel? All of these things are subjective — and so is your content. It will be helpful to those who are interested in it.
It also depends on the quality of the content. For example, it can be written in an interesting and engaging way. It can include images and visuals to add interest and help to explain the more complex ideas.
A good content writer will add enthusiasm for the subject and make it something people want to read.
7. Written content is all you need
Written content only represents one part of the content you could be creating.
Not everyone wants to sit down and read an article. Some people find reading difficult, some don’t have the patience and some prefer other ways of consuming information.
So if you’re only creating text-based content, you’re potentially excluding a large portion of your audience.
For example, some people would rather:
- Watch a video
- Listen to a podcast
- Read an ebook
- See the information graphically
- View a SlideShare.
Now this might sound a little overwhelming. But you can base the content you create for these other channels on the material from the original written article. Repurposing that content in this way makes it accessible to a much wider audience.
8. Posting more content gets better results
It’s not the quantity of content you produce that counts, but the quality of that content and the consistency with which you post it.
I recently saw a content writing opportunity where the client wanted to hire one writer to publish four 600-word articles on his website every day.
Yes, you read that correctly ?
Creating lots of content is one way to build up your blog. But, realistically, how good is it going to be if you’re publishing that much, that often?
And how long will it be until you run out of good ideas?
A strategy like this is unlikely to work well for you.
I’ve ranked many articles in my time and I know what it takes to do that. You need to know what your audience is looking for. You need good ideas and high-quality research. And you need content that’s clear, well-written and delivers what it promises.
All of these things are more important than just posting lots and lots of content.
Instead, you should aim to be posting consistently high-value SEO content with consistent regularity. One good article, once a month is better than four mediocre articles a day. Weekly posts are a better option when you’re trying to get a website to rank.
9. Posting longer content gets better results
Posting high-value content that delivers what it promises is more important than the length.
How long should a blog post be? It’s a question I get asked more than any other and my answer is always the same: as long as it needs to be. Not 3,500 words minimum, as I keep seeing some experts recommend.
So why are the experts recommending 3,500+ words?
There’s an assumption that long content is better. That because it contains more words, it must also contain more value. In some cases this may be true, but writing to meet word counts is generally a bad idea.
The problem is, if you’ve said everything you need to say and you find you’re short of words, you’ll either go off topic or start waffling to make up the numbers.
It’s much better to write something of quality that’s a proportionate length for the subject than to hold out for something longer. And your human readers will thank you for keeping your articles shorter and more focused too. Nobody wants to have to scroll through a 3,500-word article to find a once sentence answer to a question. Nobody.
My approach is to write until I’ve covered everything sufficiently, then stop.
The process of creating content
In this section, we’ll look at how your content gets written and who should be writing it. This matters, because content that’s written on the cheap will, without doubt, be missing the elements it needs to make it successful.
10. Anyone can write my content
Not just anyone can write effective content. It’s not enough to hire a competent writer, you need to make sure the person you hire can research competently, interpret information and optimise for Google.
Anyone can write, right? I mean, most of us learned it in school, so how hard can it be?
The thing is, there’s actually a big difference between someone who can string a sentence together and someone who can write effective content that satisfies an audience and satisfies Google.
Because for your content to work properly it needs to:
- Show you understand your audience and what they want to see
- Include relevant research to back up what you’re saying
- Communicate with your audience in a clear and meaningful way
- Stand a chance of ranking on Google so your audience can find it.
These are skills that often take years to master. And they’re probably not skills your work experience person or marketing junior will have.
So, can anyone write your content? Yes. Can anyone write your content in the way it needs to be written? No.
11. AI will solve all my content problems
AI can’t write content independently yet. If you’re using AI, you’ll still need a content writer
AI is short for Artificial Intelligence — in other words, computers. There are currently AI ‘content writers’ popping up everywhere and rattling off ‘content’ for ridiculously low rates.
But if you’re thinking those AI ‘writers’ are the answer to all your content writing prayers, you might want to think again.
First, AI doesn’t have any ideas of its own and it can’t do anything without human instruction. So you’ll need a human content strategist to tell it what to write.
Second, most AI produces content from just a word or a title. The rest is down to its interpretation of what you want, which is usually wrong. So it could take numerous attempts.
Third, the content they produce is often badly written and reads like a machine wrote it. So you’ll need a human editor to fix that.
Fourth, their content isn’t researched well. It doesn’t know how to use credible or original sources, so it takes from any old article it can find. And I mean old. In the experiment I did, some of the sources were more than five years’ old and most were undated. So you’ll need a human fact-checker to fix it.
Fifth, AI doesn’t know how to optimise for Google, so your article won’t stand a chance of ranking unless you hire an SEO expert to fix it.
Shall I go on?
In truth, there are so many reasons why AI won’t solve all your problems. And if you think this is a shortcut to getting cheaper content, you can think again on that too.
Rewriting incoherent AI ramblings, sourced from god knows where, will take longer than writing it from scratch. Any content writer who agrees to fix it for you should be charging double their normal rate, not working at a discount!
Publishing and tracking content
In this section we’ll look at what happens when the content is written — because, contrary to myths, that’s not the end of the story.
12. Content takes too long to take effect
Content can be a slow burner, but there are ways to speed it up and get an instant response.
Some business owners don’t have time for content. They think it takes too long to kick in and they prefer advertising because it shows instant results.
This may be the case if you hit publish then don’t do anything else. But if you amplify and promote your content, it can reach your audience quickly and take effect sooner.
If you have an established website, your content can start ranking quickly too. Pieces of my own content have reached Google’s number one spot in a mere matter of days.
13. Publishing the content is the final stage
Writing and publishing the content is actually only half the job. When the content is published, you need to promote it and amplify it.
So you’ve just hit publish on your new piece of content. But this isn’t the time to sit back and put your feet up. If you wait for people to come and find it organically, you could be waiting a while.
And why wait when you have ready-made audiences of people to share it with?
That’s right, you can share the link with your social media following. You can do this multiple times, at different times of day to give yourself the best chance of reaching the most people. Remember to check into your account after posting and respond to any comments or enquiries.
You can share the link with your email subscribers too. And include a share button in the email, so they can share it with other members of their network, if they choose.
Promoting and amplifying your content starts bringing people in from the get-go, so your content starts working straight away.
14. You can measure the success of content by sales
Content won’t have a direct impact on your sales figures. That’s because it’s gently nurturing leads behind the scenes.
Conventional advertising only has one job — to sell. You can evaluate the success of an advertising campaign by recording how many sales it made after it went out.
The effects of content are more difficult to measure and it can be virtually impossible to attribute a sale to a particular piece of content.
For example, a piece of content might encourage someone to sign up to your email list. Then days, weeks or months down the line, that person might buy something. Or they might recommend you to someone else who needs what you’re offering.
But just because your content isn’t translating directly into sales doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Behind the scenes, it’s:
- Boosting awareness of your brand and introduce you to new customers
- Showing your expertise and build trust in your brand
- Encouraging visitors to sign up to your mailing list, so you can target them with email marketing
- Pointing visitors in the direction of more information.
Want to start a business blog?
Or improve the blog you already have?
I’m Jenny Lucas, a UK freelance copywriter with a wealth of content writing experience.
I work with SMEs to create content that helps attract visitors, build an audience and convert them into customers. It’s a process that has worked for me and many of my clients — and it could work for you too.
Sign up for one of my content writing packages and you’ll get a fully thought out content plan. Followed by series of credibly researched, SEO optimised and expertly written articles for your blog. You’ll also receive a free copy of my ‘Turn it up to 11’ content amplification guide, to make sure your content reaches the people who want it.