Writing Interesting SEO Content – How Martin Macdonald Does It
When it comes to your content marketing nothing beats having great and interesting content. Without it content marketing will fail and your business will suffer because of it.
In today’s very competitive online market such a failure means a lot, especially since people don’t see much of a difference between competing offers. This means that in order to make yourself stand out your content has to stand out as well.
I’ve been reading blogs for years now but there’s one blog that’s always nailing it. It’s Martin Macdonald’s blog.
I decided to use his blog as an example instead if prominent sites to show that it’s doable and you don’t need a big content machinery to start with.
There will be other websites that I will mention as an example but most of them are personal blogs NOt run by big content marketing companies.
You can check his profile here: http://webmarketingschool.com/about-martin-macdonald/
His post is always interesting for his audience like me and would like to dissect how he writes content and make it interesting and not boring. How he turns some technical topics into something fun and brilliant posts.
(By the way, I just learned he’s into something big for SEOs in coming weeks. Update: Here’s his new Web Marketing School website. So better follow him here: @searchmartin
Importance of Content
Even though you hear experts say that good, interesting content is what makes the web go ‘round you will still see sites that are going against that belief. Either they don’t have a good strategy or they just don’t get it. The thing is there are very good reasons why having good, interesting content is very important.
- Search Engines will love you – Nowadays, search engines such as Google love good content. They have started to give it more weight when it comes to search engine results. The formula is simple:
Good, interesting content = Search Engine love = Higher search engine rankings = More visitors = More potential customers
That means that the more you put out content that search engines love the better your rankings will be. This is because the search engines will come back to your page more and more because of your content. I’m not saying that this is the only thing Google wants, I got a bulk of list here for SEO audit and Content audit checklist to make sure everything is taken care of for the client.
- Engage your readers – With good interesting content you will engage your readers more. You will be able to spark their interest and give them what they want – a solution to their problems or concerns. At the same time you will give them the impression that you are an authority on the subject thereby increasing your credibility with them in the process.
You will see in image above how you can engage visitors with a different spin in your headline.
- Get their trust – The more you write good, interesting and quality content the more your readers will trust you. Offering valuable information shows them you know what you’re talking about. It also shows them they can use your information and apply it for themselves.
The image below shows how Martin creates intructional guide with a cause to save the planet. He is engaging spammers to be more responsible in their online marketing activities.
- Get the Social Media Buzz – People will share what they want. Facebook is a good example of this. You will find people sharing recipes, videos and online articles that attract their interest.
Your interesting quality content will be shared through social media so that it becomes viral. At the same time you will get a lot of back-links in the process thereby helping your site get higher rankings in the search engine results page.
Elements that make content good, interesting and compelling
Anyone can write content. As long as you have the time, knowledge of grammar and punctuation you can write on just about anything. There are resources out there that you can use for reference.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that all content is good, interesting and compelling. They’re not; a quick look on the internet will pull up sites with bad, horrible and boring content. These sites make you wonder what the owners and developers were thinking when they put all of these together. Apparently not a whole lot else you wouldn’t get such a mishmash of content out there.
With the mishmash of good and bad content out there what differentiates the good over the bad?
1. Strong headlines – Good content have this. Bad content don’t.
That’s because a strong headline is able to attract a reader’s interest so they click on it. If the headline isn’t strong it won’t attract attention.
“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”
Tip 1: Use Muscle words. Click here for more details
Tip 2: There are also some trigger words that hits emotion.
This is the so-called 80/20 rule of Copyblogger, an online company that teaches content marketing. This means that in order to get more people to actually read more than just the title, the title itself has to be so interesting and so compelling that they will go ahead and read the rest of the content.
This is how you get their interest:
- Teaser questions – ask questions that will make your readers read the content in order to get the answer.
Example 1: Is the NSA snooping in your email? – A headline with this question will trigger privacy concerns. This will make the reader want to find out more if and how the NSA is doing this.
Example 2: What’s the best computer for your budget? – Targeted for people who are out to buy a computer. The headline suggests that the content will tell the reader how good a computer they can get depending on their budget.
Using trigger words such as ‘which,’ ‘who,’ ‘how’ and ‘should’ among others is sure to arouse curiosity since it is human nature to want to get answers to questions.
- Lists – As long as there’s a list there will be readers who will click on it. It’s easy to read and understand. Anything with the words “the top (insert number here)” will elicit clicks since people are curious as to what your top list is as compared to theirs.
Example 1: 5 Investment trends that can affect your future – Numbers will give the reader what to expect when they continue on.
Example 2: The top online content of 2013 – Because everyone has their own top lists. People will be curious as to whether this list will be the same as their personal one.
Here are few examples and useful that you can check for content creation and content marketing applying the above principles.
- 60+ Content Marketing Resources – Categorized
- 57+ Content Curation Tools Resource – Awesome for Marketers, Bloggers, Educators and Students
- Instructional – How-to steps gives the reader the impression that you will give them instructions on how to take care of their problem. It means an organized content that is easy to read while being informative at the same time.
Example 1: Fixing your basement without losing your mind– A how to guide to making it livable – Tells readers how they can make their basements livable with instructions.
Example 2: Get the same body as Hollywood Stars in 5-easy steps – Mixed with a list. The reader expects 5 steps to having a Hollywood type body.
Example 3: How to Scale Content Marketing – here’s a top notch article on scaling your content marketing campaign and looking at it in different angle with actionabe steps from Jason Acidre.
Other Quick Examples That You May Observe
- From our guinea pig site: Buying a website? Audit a Flippa Listing in Minutes
- Himanshu’s SEOTakeaways is full of actionable steps kind of content. See how he uses trigger words, action verbs and numbers list style in his titles. See the image below:
You may want to follow him in twitter @seohimanshu.
- Chandoo’s blog is more about being an MS Excel ninja so you may want to check this out too.
- How can one forget SEOGadget? They have heaps of technical SEO content as well. Scraping Schema.org for content intelligence is another great idea from them.
But it’s not just having a teaser or a list or an instruction that makes for a good heading. It’s also based on how you put the words together to keep the reader interested.
Bad example 1: Grandchildren to cook and serve their grandparents – Some of us will understand that this to mean that the children will cook for and serve the food for their grandparents. However, because of the play on words we are left with the impression that the children will cook AND serve their grandparents as food.
Bad example 2: Study finds that sex and pregnancy are linked – Talk about the obvious. While the study may be meaningful the first reaction of the reader would be ‘DUH!” and then move on.
Other tips on making killer headlines and titles
- Short and sweet – Long headlines and titles are boring. They can also lose a lot of the meaning of the content itself. Don’t waste a single word to grab the reader’s attention.
- Cliffhanger – The headlines or title shouldn’t say the whole story. If they did then no one will be interested to read the rest of the story. Simply give them enough to entice them but not enough so they need to read more in order to find out.
- Descriptive – Use words that precisely describe the content after the title. Don’t be ambiguous as it will push readers away.
2. Engaging material– Good content engages your audience so they will hang on to your every word.
Because it is engaging the reader will want to read more of it. Bad content simply says something and lets it go at that. It doesn’t do anything for the reader other than perhaps display the information.
There are a couple of ways content can be engaging. They are able to bring in the readers and make them want to read more.
- Thought provoking – Provocative material will always bring in readers. That said, good interesting content do so by making readers think about things in a rational manner. This is opposed to simply making a generalization that merely inflames rather than engages.
Here’s one example from John Doherty’s post:
It challenges the idea of many that blogging is the only content strategy where he gives his case that it’s beyond it. Notice at how many people share it in twitter and in Google Plus.
The counterpart to this is content that is offensive. It’s content that crosses the line such that it becomes rude to the reader.
- Asking questions – This is a way of making the readers think in order to find the answer. These questions make the reader come out with their own views on the matter. At the same time it makes them rethink or re-evaluate their own beliefs as they are exposed to another point of view.
Here’s an example from Techtage asking questions in the title.
- A good introduction – First impressions make all the difference. When it comes to content the introduction makes all the difference – after the title that is. The first few sentences help people decide whether the rest is worth reading or not. If it’s good and interesting then it will engage the reader to continue on.
- A good story – That’s because people love stories. It helps people visualize what they are reading so they get a better understanding of the material. It also makes it easier to lean as the story makes points clear and palatable.
Then there are the ways on how content can be so un-engaging that you wonder why it was ever written in the first place.
- Untrustworthy – If the content is from someone that nobody has ever heard of before where’s the trust. A lot of content is written by people who think they are credible. This is especially true of those doing sales pitches. Before you do that you need to build rapport and trust between you and the reader so they find you credible.
- Pointless – Content that does nothing except to ramble on is worthless. It should be helpful and serve a purpose. If it doesn’t then it’s pointless.
3. Use of visuals
Text conveys the thoughts. However, text by itself is boring. People love to see images or videos instead of having to read through a long line of words.
Also, people are different when it comes to learning and understanding things. Some people are fine with just the written words but others prefer images or videos instead.
- Images – To put it in another way – pictures. These can emphasize a point to make it easier to understand. They can also enhance the material by giving the reader something to associate with what he or she is reading about.
That said, too many images can be an SEO nightmare. You have to have text too so the search engine bots can have something to scan and index. Chilango restaurants uses too many images for effective SEO utilization especially in their menu page.
- Infographics – like images but with more information. These are summarizations of certain topics in graphic form. It gives the reader a general idea of the topic in an easy to understand format that’s also easy on the eyes.
- Videos – People like videos because they prefer to watch things happen rather than read about it. It is also better in eliciting reactions and emotions from the readers. It can be a good thought provoking tool.
- Flash – It’s not dead yet. Flash animation can add much needed visuals. It can also give information that helps the reader understand the material even better.
Too much use of flash and videos can make any content impossible to understand. This is especially true if there’s nothing of value in those videos and flash. Too much flash animation and a huge intro video shows how such content can be bad for any site like Enritech.
That said, the visuals used are only effective if they enhance or add to the value of the information being conveyed. If they are there solely for the purpose of having visuals then they are useless in making things better.
Gives your reader something to do. A good way to engage them. It could be as simple as clicking a link to open a video or resource.
- Video – The simplest way to add interactivity. Clicking on a video makes them interact with the content. An informative video goes a long way in satisfying the reader.
Here are some interactive video samples that you can use to promote your “boring client niche” if you may:
Saved by the Bell Interactive Game
Choose Your Own Adventure with the International Man of Dance
- Podcasts – Can be an expert expanding on a point. It can also be a testimonial that enhances the material. The good thing is it can be offered onsite or shared for broader reach.
- Surveys and comments – Ask for reader’s thoughts. Surveys can help give an idea as to what the readers are thinking about based on the questions asked. Comments also give an idea as to their reactions to a post and the ideas within it.
Same as with using visuals, just letting the reader read is in and of itself pretty boring. Interest only goes so far. Interacting with the reader makes them feel like they are part of the whole content experience.
Bad and boring content simply don’t interact with the readers. It’s like a recital in monotone – no emotion, no participation. Shows are always more fun when the reader gets to interact. The same is true when it comes to reading information.
5. Short and to the point
A lot of text does look impressive. However, if they simply ramble on and on they can get boring. People don’t want to read a lot of text if they can help it.
All that extra verbiage is simply fluff. It means it doesn’t really add anything of value. It doesn’t enhance a point or clarify it. In many ways it even makes things more confusing than it really is. That’s what makes it bad and boring.
Instead of length the content should focus on more important things.
- Formatting – Making it easier for people to read the material is more important than length. It can be long but if it’s easy to get through then it will still be interesting to the reader. Short content can still be boring if it’s not formatted well. If you have long posts, format it for skimmers.
- Clarity – It can take 200 words or 5,000 words; what is important is the point gets carried across. This is an exception to the rule – if it needs to be longer then make it longer. Compressing things for the sake of formatting and making things short may defeat the purpose of carrying the message across to the reader.
6. Focused on the audience
Helps in developing a market segment. Good content will focus on one segment and work on it for some time. By doing so you create everything with the sole purpose of meeting their desires, needs and wants.
Boring and bad content doesn’t do all this. It’s all over the place and tries to tackle all segments all the time. The result is information that’s diffused and not in depth enough to give the reader anything of value.
7. Focus on what the audience can get out of it
Good content doesn’t sell. While it is a marketing tool it’s not a salesperson. Rather, it is a consultant that freely gives helpful tips and advice to a specific audience.
- Give answers – Readers often read content in order to find solutions to their problems. If your content can offer that then you will get people to read what you’ve written. These topics can evolve depending on what people are looking for at a certain time.
- Anticipate – People will always have questions. They just don’t know how to express it or even that they have it. Good content give people answers to their current questions. At the same time it also gives answers to questions that haven’t been asked. These are often questions that haven’t been asked but are related to the first question.
8. Offers a new perspective
With the internet being as widespread as it is now information gets spread around pretty fast. It also means that you’re going to get a lot of the same type of information out there.
Make it Unique. Getting a topic for your blog is easy and information for it easier still. That said, simply churning out the same thing as everyone else gets old pretty fast. After all, how many different versions of “ways to clean a computer keyboard” are there?
Remix, Don’t Rehash. Bad content writing will simply rehash a lot of what’s out there. Good content will use the information and give it a different spin. This means coming at it from a different angle.
For example, instead of talking about cleaning the keyboard using the same methods why not focus instead of using alternatives. You can focus on how not to have to clean your keyboard and such instead. This way you give the reader a different take on the whole cleaning thing which is something they wouldn’t expect.
9. Innovation and experimentation
Staying safe is often a good rule to follow when it comes to online marketing. After all, the tried and true always work. When it comes to content the tried and true is what people expect and for the most part is what they get.
That said, playing it safe 100% can be pretty bland. Bland equals boring and boring is bad because it means no one will read it anymore. That’s because it is monotonous.
Good and interesting content breaks the monotony by putting in radical thoughts that can attract a wider segment of your audience that what you’re currently targeting.
It comes down to what they have
Whether content is good and interesting or bad and boring is purely subjective. After all, each of us has their own preference as to what we find boring and what we find interesting. For example, dog lovers may find dog related articles especially interesting while everything else will seem boring by comparison. Cat lovers will have the same thought but with cat related articles.
However, a better comparison would be dog related articles dog lovers find interesting and what they find boring. The same goes with what you like to read about online. If you look at the content you find good and interesting chances are they contain a lot of the elements discussed above.
“Good and interesting content beats bad and boring ones through customer service. “
When you offer content to your readers you’re offering them customer service. The 9 elements mentioned are what make up this service. This means that if you can offer them then your customers (i.e. your readers) will become happy and will become loyal to you.
BUT, as was mentioned what is considered good and bad is purely subjective. In fact it may not have anything to do with these 9 elements at all.
What do you think? What do you think makes content good and interesting? What makes them bad and boring? Are there more elements to consider other than these 9? Let us know below by adding your comments.
“Interesting people, writes interesting content. “
Do you agree?
Writing Interesting SEO Content – How Martin Macdonald Does It by Mark