This is not an article about writing.
This is an article about creation—creating content that actually matters.
If you’re writing to increase conversion rates, then, yes, SEO matters. Proper grammar matters. Page layout matters. Verbal flourish might matter.
But those are all details—aspects of content writing that come only after you’ve answered the more fundamental questions. Whether you’re developing an initial content strategy or you’ve been writing to increase conversion rates for years, it’s time to touch on some fundamentals.
Before whipping up that next post, ask yourself these seven questions, and start creating content that actually means something to your audience.
1. Who are your target audiences? Before creating anything that has the end goal of conducting sales or making money, it’s essential that you know who your target audience is. You can’t sell if you don’t know the buyer. The nice thing about content writing, however, is that you can affordably tailor it to multiple target audiences. Content, in the grand scheme of things, is cheap. The cost of a great blog post is nowhere near the cost of a billboard, newspaper advertisement, or even a long-running PPC advertising campaign. Determine your target audience (these questions can help), and then segment your leads.
2. What is your target audience interested in—aside from your product? Your target audience has interests that go beyond what you sell. That’s a no-brainer, right? However, many marketing agencies and small-business bloggers write to increase conversion rates as if readers care only about their product. For high-competition keywords, it’s especially important that you build out your content to grab the other interests your customers may have. Being self-focused all the time is a major turnoff.
3. How can you meet those interests? Once you’ve created a list or audience profile of your customers’ interests, it’s time to find a way to meet those interests. Obviously, blog/content writing is not the only avenue available to you. Content marketing affords a host of reasonably priced options; even mobile apps are within reach for many small businesses and agencies.
4. Why will they listen to you? Don’t assume that just because you’re able to meet your audience’s interests that they will pay attention to you. The first of Sonia Simone’s “10 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing” is to build trust and rapport with your audience. Use your content, as Simone advises, to bring down walls and give your audience a glimpse of what it would be like to work with you. When you’re authentic, your target audience will listen. Then, they’ll consciously decide to listen to you in the future.
5. Where do you want the content to go? So, you know your audience, you’re meeting their interests, and you’ve earned their trust. But where do you want things to go from here? Besides the obvious (sales), your content must be easy to share. If you want your content to actually matter, it has to get past the first layer of audience and before the eyes of a greater readership.
6. What does your content ask the audience to do? Your content should have a call to action. Not every call to action should be, “Buy my product!” Far from it. You might simply request that the reader engage in the comments section, or it might be that they take your advice and make changes in their life/business. The call to action is up to you; just make sure that you don’t publish a piece of content without one.
7. What incentive will induce that action? If you’re going to ask someone to do something, you had better provide some incentive. The strength and/or presence of the incentive can vary depending on how demanding the call to action is. A simple question at the end of a blog post doesn’t necessarily require that you dangle a carrot, whereas a “share this with three friends on Facebook” call to action should probably have some kind of incentive attached (e.g. giveaway prize, blog recognition, etc.).
Not sure what all this will actually look like on your blog? Check out seven approaches to blog/content writing for your next steps. What do you believe is an essential question to ask for creating content that matters?
Ben Richardson is a freelance writer, poet and blogger in Nashville, Tenn. A version of this article first appeared on Content Equals Money.