Content marketing doesn’t have to be hard, you can master it

Content Marketing is a big buzzword (buzz phrase), and has been for a while. In theory you can write great content for your site and “THEY WILL COME.” Of course if you’ve been at this for a while you realize that when you write stuff you think is awesome, “they” may not come, and even if they do, they don’t come in the droves you expect.

Writing your way to an audience seems easy but rarely is. Often you don’t really know where to start and what is truly effective. That’s where Master Content Marketing by Pamela Wilson comes in.

This book will show you how to write online and do it confidently and consistently. And it will serve as an ongoing companion and reference guide as you write to attract prospects and turn them into customers and advocates.

So if you read this book and put into practice the tips given by Wilson, you’re going to be able to write well and know what your readers want to read.

She even goes just a bit further with her claims of the benefits you’ll get from the book.

You’re about to master the easiest system I know for creating consistently readable, informative, and effective content. I’m going to show you how to write content that makes an impact every single time.

and…

Soon there will be no more staring at the blank page, cursing the cursor that’s blink-blink-blinking back at you. Those days are over.

While this may be true for some, I’m not convinced that everyone will be able to forever avoid the blank screen. Will they have a better process for their writing? Yes they will, but I find Wilson’s claims to be a bit over the top. I guess that’s what we buy though–over-the-top claims of the better life we’ll have once we read a book.

Structure

Wilson breaks Master Content Marketing up into four main sections. First off she’s going to show you how to set yourself up for content marketing success.

Section Two covers the ‘lazy’ approach to writing, which is really just her telling you how to generate ideas and what a great blog post looks like.

Section Three walks you through why more content is not better. You should be writing better content instead of dashing off a bunch of drivel. Wilson will give you a strategy to build great content every time.

Finally we reach the fourth section, the appendices. If you need the fastest summary of the book and its content, then head straight here. The first two appendices are going to summarize what good content looks like. The third one is all ‘inspiration’ from well-known bloggers. Read it if you need some inspiration; otherwise, move on. That’s all I’ll say about the appendices.

Now let’s dive a bit deeper into Sections One to Three of Master Content Marketing.

1. Setting Yourself Up for Content Marketing Success

Content marketing is advertising. You read my content and you find out I’m super smart (and good-looking and humble) so you hire me to help you run your business better. But unlike postcards, flyers, and so much other advertising, content marketing is valuable.

Yes, you read my article and figure out I’m handsome, but you also can learn how to be effective or how to vet your prospects.

Instead of pushing messages out at unsuspecting people, content marketing offers valuable information that people are actively searching for.

People come back to read your site with great content because it helps them live a better life and run a better business. All that junk mail ends up in the garbage.

A second benefit to content marketing is that it makes us ‘real’ to our readers. You read my jokes above about being handsome, and then it won’t surprise you when I make up some obviously outlandish reason I have a cut above my eye (I swear it was the fire-breathing moose).

Our content gives a face to our business and establishes a trustworthy relationship by serving as a helpful guide.

Wilson does call out the one big drawback to content marketing for some people…it takes time.

Content marketing works when you create useful, interesting, and engaging information consistently over time. It’s all about showing up reliably and being helpful every single time.

This is not an overnight get-clients-right-now thing. Content marketing can bring clients in in droves, but that takes a strong base of content that people want to read.

Recognize that it’s a journey, not a destination. The results from content marketing happen when you create compelling information consistently over time. When you set yourself up for success, you’ll look forward to this creative task.

If you’re looking for a quick fix for your lack of clients, don’t look to content marketing. In that case you need to get out and shake hands. Be ready to dive in for the long haul to really see the exponential rewards that can come with content marketing.

This book isn’t just about writing a single blog post. Wilson has plenty of advice for us to keep our site on target as well. No writing about fishing one day, then the next day showing off your fabulous glitter nails your kids did.

She recommends you brainstorm a bunch of categories, then pick 8-10 and stick to them. Even if you’re suddenly interested in something new, stick to the ones you picked at the beginning. Wilson contends that most of the time that new category is just a fad and will muddy your content message instead of helping you.

Secondly she recommends you come up with a single place to store your ideas.

Don’t stash ideas in several places. Experiment with various systems if needed, then pick one and stick to it.

But don’t get locked up looking for the best tool. Pick one–like Evernote or Trello, or simple plain text files–and stick to it. Scattering your ideas all over the place means you’ll lose track of them, and changing all the time means you’ll be always researching new tools, not writing more content.

With that introduction in place Wilson starts to really dig into what it means to have awesome content.

2. The “Lazy” (Efficient) Approach to Content Creation

The second section of the book is where Wilson starts to really dive into her 7 Essential Elements of Successful Content. If you’re looking to get the meat of the book and start creating better content today, then you should likely start here. It’s not that there is no good content in the first section, it’s that what will change how you write is coming now.

Her 7 Essential Elements of Successful Content are as follows.

1. The Compelling Headline

Your headline is where the relationship with your reader begins.

Headlines are the first thing people see. They see the headline go by on Twitter or Facebook and that single sentence alone gets them to decide if they’re going to read the content or not.

Don’t be afraid to write a headline that “sells” your content. That’s the #1 job of any headline. If your headline fails, so will the rest of your content.

While she does recommend you create a headline ‘scratch’ file (headlines you love that you’ve collected), she does provide a bunch of headlines that ‘work’ as examples. However, she does leave out one big tool I use to help my headlines be more awesome.

The headline analyzer from CoSchedule. If you’re looking to improve your headlines, start using it.

Keep her headlines that work around, but make sure to use the tool above and write at least 10 options for a headline before you center on the one you’re going to use.

2. The First Sentence

The job of your first sentence is to help the reader make the transition from your headline into your introduction – and to keep them reading.

Wilson feels she’s breaking new ground by devoting an entire chapter to the first sentence, since she hasn’t seen many people write about it and thinks it’s really important. She thinks it’s so important that she provides you first-sentence formulas as well, much like the headline formulas.

My biggest beef with this section is that personally, I would roll my eyes and click away from almost every sentence she provides as examples. Maybe I’m weird (okay, I know I’m an odd duck), but I wouldn’t want to read anything with the first sentence formulas suggested.

They may work, but you’re not going to see them on my site. At least not on purpose.

3. The Intro Section

The job of your introduction is to motivate them to continue reading and dig into the heart of your post.

You’ve hooked readers with the first sentence, now it’s time to bring them in with your introduction. According to Wilson (and this is a number I’ve seen lots) your introduction should not comprise more than 20% of the total word count of your piece.

Any more than that and you’re just rambling. I love these rules of thumb because having them around as reminders at least has me read my introductions again and tighten them up when I’m rambling.

Again, Wilson provides lots of examples here but they mostly seem like stuff I wouldn’t read at all–because of the inflated click-bait claims made by the introduction. They may work, they likely do work, but I’d never read the content.

4. The subheads

Unfortunately this is where Wilson started to wear on me. She claims that subheads are one of the most important things–the same claim made in every chapter so far in Section Two. Not everything can be the most important thing.

She makes many of the same suggestions for subheads as we saw in the heading chapter, again yielding much I would never want to read. She also strongly talks about skimmers and how most people simply skim your content, so use the headlines and they can get something out of it.

The way we write and format our pages can help readers to consume the information we’re sharing. That’s where subheads come in. The job of your subheads is to give skimmers and readers alike a set of highly visible “signposts” they can follow to make their way through your content.

and…

Rather than fight the idea that people skim when reading on a screen, embrace it. Make it easier for skimmers to understand the gist of your content so they can make a decision about whether to spend the time reading it from top to bottom.

In my mind this comes down to a question of your readership. Do your skimmers actually make a purchase from you? Do they share your content and increase your worthwhile readership, or do they skim and move on to the next piece of fluffy content that zips by on their social media?

Now that’s not to say I dislike headlines. In fact we have a very similar process when it comes to adding headlines as an outline.

Thinking through the order and content of your subheads forces you to create a general outline for your article — a backbone for your information

With subheads out of the way, Master Content Marketing moves on to the bulk of your content, the actual article.

5. The Main Copy

Your goal at this stage is to simply get the words down, as quickly as possible.
That means you’ll focus on writing your first draft fast. You won’t worry about editing. You won’t go back to polish what you’ve written.

The biggest thing that hinders most writers is that they sit and stare and want to craft the ‘perfect’ sentence every time. When you’re writing the main part of any project, that is not the goal. Start by writing a poor first draft, and then edit.

I have a client and her wonderful husband booked a weekend writing getaway for her. She went off to organize her new book and ended up making a change to her website. Then she let herself get pulled into the easy work of answering the emails generated from the change to her site.

She did the opposite of getting words down on the page. She unintentionally (or intentionally) created an environment where she could do the easy work and not the hard work of simply putting words down.

Apart from not procrastinating you need to remember to tell stories in your writing. Think about all the books that are considered ‘classics’. There are few business books or self-help books among those classics. They’re almost all stories, because we’re drawn to stories.

One of the reasons commercials and advertising use stories so often is that when a story begins, people tend to let their guard down and tune in.

Finally, there are some great rules of thumb you can apply to your own writing. Like this tidbit about the word ‘and’…

…if your sentence has an “and” in the middle of it, you can probably chop it into two separate sentences.

Once you’ve read this chapter you’ll have a number of great rules you can run your writing through to help ensure you write well.

6. The Summary

The summary is simply a transition between the most important information you’ve communicated (your main copy), and the call to action at the end.

The end of any good writing should summarize the points made. In a blog post, as the quote says, your summary ties the reader to the call to action at the bottom.

7. The Call to Action

Should most of your content have a call to action? Yes it should, according to Wilson.

The call to action is the part of your content where you’re going to ask the reader to do something. The action might be to sign up for your free course; buy a product; call for an appointment; register to vote; take a short quiz; download a white paper; or make a small purchase.

We quite often feel like we’re selling when we put a call to action in a piece of content, but the truth is, most people don’t actually know everything you do and need a prompt to use your services.

Case in point: In a recent email exchange with a friend I said I was doing coaching. I’ve been doing business coaching for over a year. I can see from my email analytics that they open most of my emails. I can see from some of my site tracking that they read my posts.

I’m sure I’ve said I do coaching a number of times and yet this person that interacts with my content regularly wasn’t aware that I can help you get more clients and vet your prospects and write better proposals.

Clearly I’m not telling you what I do enough. So I CAN HELP YOU RUN A BETTER BUSINESS.

Some rules of thumb for writing a great call to action:

  • It doesn’t have to be to make a purchase–it can be getting them to share the content, make a comment, read something else interesting
  • Focus on the benefits to the user, like I said above about helping you get better clients
  • Almost every post you write should have a call to action in it

With that Wilson wraps up the section on her 7 Essential Elements of Successful Content and we’re ready to move on and learn how to be the next viral hit writer.

3. Taking Your Content to the Next Level

In this chapter, I’m going to make the case for creating less content, but better content.

Have you heard of Hardcore History? It’s a podcast, and a long one. It only comes out like once a quarter and each episode is 2-5 hours. Dan Carlin is strongly focusing on quality not quantity.

While you should likely write more than once a quarter, you should be taking a queue from Dan and other amazing creators. Focus on Quality not Quantity.

Quality content will continue to bring in traffic long after 20 quick articles have been wallowing deep inside the dustbin of your site.

In this section Wilson contends that great content will always rise to the top.

Great content — well-planned, masterfully written, easy-to-read content — always rises to the top.

I take exception with this though. Great content that is marketed well is what will rise to the top. You could write the best article on any topic and if you don’t tell people about it, no one will see it.

Even when you do tell people about your content, you’re likely to be surprised what sticks and what doesn’t. I have a old post about Nozbe vs Todoist that is consistently in the top of my daily page views. In my opinion this is one of the least useful articles to help you run a better business.

If I simply followed my analytics I’d write more comparisons of software tools and while I may get more traffic I’d be much less useful to you, dear reader, as you tried to run an amazing business.

I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t strive to write awesome content. Just don’t bank on her assertion that if you write amazing content, they will come.

Finally, Wilson offers you a scheduling template to create content. She breaks each piece up into days.

Day 1: Build your article backbone (titles headlines, points)

Here you get that outline done for your article.

Day 2: Fill in the details (write it)

Done is more important than perfect at this stage. Remember: no one is going to see this except you.

Hammer out that bad first draft.

Day 3: Polish and Prepare to Publish (edit and put in CMS)

Start with a quick read-through to see how your content looks today.

Edit your first draft into something that people will read.

Day 4: Publish, Promote, and Propagate (market it)

Your content marketing job doesn’t end on the day your article goes live. In many ways, it’s just the beginning of your efforts to make sure your information gets in front of as many people as possible.

Finally, set up a system to tell people about it.

I like this clear system given to readers. It’s not the one I use, but any system/routine is going to get you further ahead than simply writing as you feel inspired.

My system is to write one article, edit one article, and outline one article 4-5 days a week. That means I get 4-5 pieces of content done most days of the week.

If you want to start writing more, then choose a system and use it. Doesn’t matter which one. Either one will help you get more good writing done.

Wilson wraps up the third section of Master Content Marketing with a solid reminder that the content marketing game is a long term one.

The content you create is like a brick building — your first content forms the foundation. The longer you add content, the larger and more impressive you make your web presence.

Recommendation

As always the final question of any look at a book (ha, I’m a poet!) is “Was the book worth reading?” and “Should you read it too?”. In this case I’m going to say it depends. While there are lots of great tidbits to pull out, I’m not keen on some of the suggestions, as I’ve already said.

What we don’t need is more clicky content that gets us to click and kill time. We do need more content that has depth and helps us live a better life. If you can keep that in mind as you write, then grab this book and take its suggestions to heart as you build your content empire.

If you’re just going to go in for all the clicky headline and subheadline and introduction crap, please don’t read this because I won’t read you.

Get Master Content Marketing on Amazon

photo credit: songzhen cc