If Alan Shumway doesn’t read your blog, he’s as good as fired.
We’re about two months into Q3 and Alan already blazed through 90% of his annual budget. It’s only his second year as IT director for a small staffing company, and the bosses are breathing down his neck to make things right. Q4 looks even worse.
Now imagine your business provides a solution that will not only allow Alan to make his budget this year, but also project future costs with laser-like precision. It’s an ideal fit. The problem is reaching him.
There are thousands of other blogs trying to do the exact same thing – get the attention of IT decision makers like Alan – not to mention all the other internet noise. According to Mashable, over 2 million blog posts are written every day.
If you could hand deliver your content to Alan and every other IT director with budget issues, you would, but you can’t.
The solution? Use organic search as part of your content strategy to surface your solutions at the exact moment IT Directors like Alan are looking for them.
Assuming you went the SEO route, your research might tell you to target the keyword phrase “small business IT budget.” Exhilarating stuff, huh? Well, maybe not to you or me, but Alan is on the edge of his seat.
Thing is, “boring” topics have a way of finding you when dealing with organic search. 16% of the daily queries on Google have never been seen before. You’d be surprised by how many ways there are to say “small business IT budget.” So now you’re tasked with writing a series of search-optimized blog posts, tweets and social shares focused on “IT budgeting.”
Take a moment to finish your yawn…
How can you be expected to engage an entire audience when you can’t even keep yourself engaged in the topic? Adding to the humdrum is the need to optimize for keywords at the same time.
The key to winning in search and with customers is to tell stories that are easy to find. And to do that – especially with topics that aren’t as exciting as you’d like – SEO copywriters need to get creative.
Here are five tips for staying creative when boring topics and SEO demands collide.
Creative tip #1: Write to a “real” person, with real problems
Alan Shumway is completely made up. He’s a customer persona. His problems, however, are very real for people in his position. Alan is your typical overwhelmed small business IT director.
Supposing Alan is real, which copy do you think would resonate with him?
IT directors everywhere often struggle to both control and accurately project costs, especially with all the other demands of the job.
Your CFO doesn’t care that you patched a critical data security flaw just in time, or that the extra money you spent on hardware is the result of someone else’s decision. You’re over budget, and even though you’re also expected to treat every little issue with A1 priority, it’s on you to get costs in check ASAP.
When you can imagine your reader as a single, living, breathing person, it’s easier to walk in her shoes, to experience problems from her point of view.
Developing customer personas based on thorough research can do wonders for engagement. If you can convey to your target audience that you “get it,” and you truly understand the issues they face on a daily basis, you won’t need to continuously reinvent the wheel creatively to get your audience to read your content.
Creative tip #2: Write freely, and optimize later
Let’s say a friend asks you to paint a tropical sunset. You take a few minutes to stare at the blank canvas while the image forms in your mind. But just as you are about to start, your friend applies five brush strokes, and explains they’re “necessary” for the piece. Your task just got harder. Your creativity has been restrained.
That’s essentially what you’re doing when you write with SEO demands in mind. Sure, SEO is important, but if your post isn’t engaging, optimization won’t mean a thing. And with social signals becoming more important in ranking algorithms, creating “sharable” content is more important than it’s ever been.
Simply writing about the topic should tell the search engines what the post is about and give you a decent keyword density. Then, after you finish, you can always go back and add keywords where they naturally fit within the copy.
It’s easy to make your content more SEO friendly after your first draft, it’s almost impossible to make it more creative.
Creative tip #3: Plan ahead using an editorial calendar
Sure, the blogosphere is loaded with competition. But according to Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute, less than 5% of organizations have a written content strategy. So by simply creating a strategy and planning your content, you’re already light years ahead of most competitors.
When you establish a strategy and plan ahead, you can decide which topics you want to address and let them marinate for a while. You give yourself more time to research, ideate and get feedback – all good things for developing creative concepts on the topics you need to cover.
Creative tip #4: Think like a sales copywriter
Copywriter John Carlton once wrote the following headline:
Amazing Secret Discovered by One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards to Your Drives, Eliminate Hooks and Slices… And Can Slash Up to 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!
For golfers, it’s nearly impossible to read a hook like that and stop reading, which is probably why the ad ran successfully for 12 years. There are hundreds of golf tutorials that promise to shave strokes off your game. John found a way to make his explode off the page and scream, “READ ME!”
As a business blogger, rarely do you sell anything in your posts, but you absolutely need to sell the reader on your content. And like sales copy, you only get one chance to make the sale.
Think of your headline as an advertisement for your article. Your first sentence is an advertisement for your second sentence. Your first paragraph, you guessed it, an advertisement for the next. All the way down to your call to action.
When researching topics, keep your eyes open for a hook you can use to pull readers into your content. If Mr. Carlton would have just taken his bulleted notes and started writing, he never would have found his hook. He learned about the one-legged golfer during his research phase while interviewing the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur viewed it as a small side note. John knew he found the hook he needed to pull the audience into is content.
Creative tip #5: Get creative with your keyword variations
It’s been written on this blog before that “challenges with marketing low popularity products isn’t an issue with the products being boring. It’s a problem with the marketers’ understanding of customers and the problems they solve.”
Your typical elevator pitch includes the problem a product solves, who it solves it for and how it solves it.
For example, “We take the budgeting burden off IT Directors by providing them with a comprehensive planning tool for routine investments while offsetting large, unexpected expenditures with a balance sheet-friendly financing plan.”
But when you dig deeper, you can find a ridiculous amount of ways potential customers can logically lead themselves to your solution.
One way to accomplish this is to segment your buyers by common characteristics like pain points or the goals they hope to achieve with your product. Mapping where potential customers are in the buyer sales cycle can help you determine the search keywords and social topics you can target to deliver contextual content.
Your current customers can also tell you information analytics can’t. For example, you might learn through a survey that more than one customer purchased your IT budgeting solution because they experienced a data center failure, and quickly realized how expensive the solution would be while researching online.
Coincidentally, it turns out Alan Shumway is also over budget largely due to a recent data center failure. Thankfully, he found your blog post “How to Switch Over Your Data Center without Destroying Your IT Budget” just in time.
Which tactics do you use to satisfy your audience and the search engines simultaneously? How do you turn boring topics into engaging content? What would you change about your current content production strategy to allow for more creativity?
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