A lot of advice you’ll find out there in the online marketing space will be heavily dependent on the continuous generation of “Content”. Within this very blog I’ve highlighted a boat load of areas where content forms the centre of the tactic. In last week’s article about “Link Building” for example, Content was once again referred to as the fuel for the fire. Articles are the most accessible form of content for your website, so today I’m going to give you the step-by-step guide by which you can create your very own value-packed articles...
Now, it’s fair to to say, Content Marketing, which is the broader term for the use of content in online marketing, has been seriously criticised within this very blog. Here at Manufacturing Network we don’t believe content marketing is a sustainable phenomenon. This is especially the case for SME businesses in niche and high value markets like the UK Manufacturing industry.
Before I go and get back on my soap box about this one, I’ll direct you towards my article explaining the Content Marketing Problem. It’s stacked with value and insight, and most of all it’s written from the perspective of the UK Manufacturing industry.
So, all of that being said, content does play a central role to your website. Fundamentally, your whole website is “Content”, but today we’re talking about writing articles. So let’s get on with it shall we?
Not yet. One more thing. YOU DON’T need to be the expert on the article topic you’re writing about. What the heck?! That’s right. This article is written for you, the person responsible for pulling together the article, but you CAN seek help from those in the know (including Google) for the article content. This is such a stumbling block for so many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Be the driving force, but lean on those around you!
Step 1: Solve A Problem (By Answering A Question)
Very simply, people go to search engines like Google to solve problems. They even type their searches in the form of questions and queries.
So when you think about this first step it’s quite obvious, but not necessarily understood!
If searchers are asking questions, your article should seek to answer that question. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t need to be all about how your business could solve their problem. The article just needs to draw them into your website where readers can then choose to look around, opt in for a newsletter or even sign up to receive future articles.
You want to solve a problem relating to your services or capabilities, there’s no doubt about that. So think about what problems your customers and potential customers have.
Do they struggle to remember or understand what minimum bend radii they can use on their sheet metal designs? Then write an article providing them guidance on bend radii for different materials!
Or do they struggle to understand the acronyms used in conjunction with your capabilities? Write an article explaining the acronyms!
Maybe they struggle to remember tolerances, materials or other design rules for your manufacturing processes? Write them a guide!
If you need to find common questions or problems, just have a chat with a few of your team. Common queries and misconceptions can be provided by the bucket load from your sales team. Then there’s the technical stuff which your engineering team will get asked during the course of delivering an order, so go and ask them for their input too! Basically anyone who’s customer facing will have answered questions. Get digging!
Creating content that doesn’t solve a problem is just like making stock that will never sell. It’s a waste of time and actually has no value. In fact worse than that, it’s a drain on your precious resources. If you’re thinking about writing an article, think first about a question your customers have, then think about how you could answer it.
Step 2: Seek Out The Answer
Now you know I said YOU don’t need to be the expert. This is what I was getting at. You might not have the answers, but there are a bunch of people in your business who will, so get out there and get the answers.
It may be worth setting up a 15-20 minute meeting over some coffee to discuss the ‘Question’ you’ve chosen to answer. You’ll typically get a lot more engagement with different perspectives. It may also lead to the uncovering of a few other potential article ideas.
From experience, at this stage you get bombarded with more information than you can actually process. But don’t miss a piece of it!
Step 3: Come Up With An Article Structure
I’m talking about headings, sections, however you want to break it up. There’s a lot of best practice advice out there, and common sense would agree that your article needs to be signposted for the reader. Look at this article. I’ve broken it into a step-by-step guide so it’s easy for you to revisit and use as a guide as you pull your article together.
The structure of your article will lay out exactly how you’re answering the question. Make sure you’re still answering the question you set-out to answer. Step 2 could have provided so much information that you lose your way a little. Just coming up with the heading structure will help keep you on track.
Let’s not panic about optimising your titles just yet. At this point it’s just about making sure you’ve got a structure.
Step 4: Draft Out Each Section With Your Research
This is simply a case of putting a lot of the information you gathered into the article structure you’ve just created. The key output from this activity is that you start to see where the gaps in your answers are. If the answer is looking a little light (or not as complete as you’d like) you need to go digging again.
This process isn’t linear, so don’t worry about going back and forth as you pull your article together. In fact, if you’re not going back and forth you’re probably overlooking something.
At this point I’d also suggest you start pulling in some paragraph and sentence structures. You don’t have to be a grammar genius to do this, and you’ll get a few of your team to proof-read before publishing anyway. So no great shakes.
For now don’t worry about the intro and finishing paragraph. These should be formed once you’ve got the article written, so hold your horses.
Step 5: Write The Article (Simple…)
Now you’ve got a structure with some draft content in it, it’s time to go through the article from top-to-bottom and tie together all of the information which forms the answer to the question you originally uncovered.
Again, don’t worry about the intro and outro paragraphs, these should be tackled last.
On your first pass of writing the article don’t worry too much about the specific language or sentence structures etc. you just want to get the flow down on the page.
Step 6: Check The Article With The Experts
Once you’re at this draft stage it’s time to run it past the people in your team who provided some input. You’re checking if what you’ve written is still true to their intention. It’s quite common to misinterpret, so don’t get too hung up on this.
If you’re worried about them judging you, just explain that it’s a draft and you didn’t want to take it any further without their expert eye. Stroking their ego is likely to result in some worthwhile feedback!
Step 7: Make Your Edits & Start Word-Smithing
Now’s the time to engage the office grammar guru (if that’s not you!). You should aim to make your sentence structures understandable, sharp and to the point. Don’t bury readers in posh language and stupendous synonyms (oh the irony).
This process can be really quick, it all depends on how 'draft' your first draft was. Either way, this is the time to endure the process. We’re almost there. You’re polished new article is in touching distance. Now you simply need to 'book-end' your masterpiece.
Step 8: Write Your Intro & Outro Paragraphs
It sounds straightforward to say your intro paragraph needs to be 'catchy'. But what the hell does that mean?!
Here are a few guidelines for your intro paragraph:
That’s the intro sorted. Draft it, polish it, review it and edit it until it screams “READ ME”. Job done.
The outro. What exactly is the purpose of the outro?! I wrote an article a little while ago about driving behaviour and the direction of users on your website. This is a perfect example of DRIVING behaviour.
If someone has got to the end of your article, they’re pretty interested in what you’ve had to say. Give them something to do NEXT. Not just anything, but something that’s relevant to the article they’ve been reading.
My favourite for this one is to drive them to hand over their email address in return for some further information. The information could be a PDF download of the article they’ve just read, a further resource on the topic or simply asking them to sign up to your blog email list. Offering a download in exchange for their contact details is what we'd call a 'Lead Magnet'. If you want to know more about lead magnets and how to create them, check out this article explaining what lead magnets are and how to create them.
If appropriate you could simply drive them to get in contact with you for further information, a quotation or simply just to talk about some of their problems and how you MAY be able to help them.
Other than just driving the reader towards an email signup list, it may or may not make sense to summarise some of the key points you’ve covered in your article. Don’t go into full length detail, just a few bullet points will do. Only do this if this makes sense. In some cases, especially in technical articles this can be a really difficult task so it’s best to simply sum up with a ‘next steps’ style outro.
Step 9: Publish Your Labour Of Love
Now this step assumes you have some level of capability and understanding of content management systems such as Wordpress. Explaining how to publish your article is a little outside the scope of this article but here are a few key points to remember when you’re publishing your article within the content management system of your website.
Things to remember when uploading to your CMS:
Congratulations, you made it!
Creating content such as articles and publishing them on your website is a central part of driving increased visibility of your website to the major search engines.
Google is a search engine that searchers turn to for ‘answers to questions’ therefore it makes sense to write articles and create content that answer THOSE very questions.
I’ve shown you a step-by-step method for writing your article, but in truth there are a tonne of methods you could use. The key is to take action and get started, and don’t forget to use the experts surrounding you to drive the value into the content you’re creating.
Once you start, and build some momentum the process get significantly easier. Don’t get trapped in a continual loop of polishing, press publish and get on with your next masterpiece!
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