The 6 Essential Characteristics of Compelling Content

April 2, 2018 Solange Messier

Some say inbound marketing is the “up and coming” best practice in marketing, but in all reality, it’s already here. If your company isn’t considering its inbound marketing strategy, then it is falling behind. There is a wealth of potential customers out there that you need to be tapped into, and developing your website and blog to draw in that audience is a necessity for higher revenue in the digital age.

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But how do you make your inbound strategy worthy of notice? There are many elements to consider, such as social media, your website, videos, and more. However, at the heart of every focus is one thing: great content. Your company needs to learn how to create compelling content.

But what is compelling content? How do you make it? How do you know what will work in your industry? The good news is compelling content, regardless of industry, shares the same essential characteristics. Your examples should be specific to the niche you work in, but the ideas behind them will remain the same.

To that end, let’s look at six essential characteristics of compelling content that will drive your website to the top of search results and draw in an interested audience.

1. Clear and Coherent

This one may speak for itself, but it bears repeating: If your audience cannot understand your content, then they won’t share it. Whether it’s an article, Tweet, image, video, or other, your content should always be clear and make sense. You may love David Lynch movies, but save convoluted plots and strange twists for your off-hours.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to write at a third-grade level. Quite the contrary! You want to ensure your content speaks to your intended audience. If you’re a medical supply provider targeting doctors directly, go ahead and use medical jargon that’s common in that field! Just make sure that every sentence is straightforward, grammatically correct, and doesn’t require a thesaurus to grasp.

Simplicity is your ally here, especially if you’re working with complex ideas. (For inspiration, look to anything George Orwell wrote; his ideas were big, but his lexicon—sorry, his dictionary—was tight and concise.

2. Human

When was the last time you read a textbook? That long, eh? The same is true for 99 percent of your audience (unless you sell paper to textbook publishing houses). You don’t want your content to come off as cold, distant, or machine-like. You’re trying to talk to a real audience to promote your services, so the rules of marketing and selling still apply. You’re building a relationship of trust and expertise—just through content rather than in person.

Absolutely make sure every piece of content you create comes from a person. Obviously, a person will make all your content—but don’t let it get run through committee so many times the spirit is stripped from the piece. Jokes and personal stories are welcome contributions to a piece; it reminds the reader that there’s a person on the other end. People are more likely to buy from a person than a stoic machine any day.

3. Relevant Knowledge

Your content must be relevant. No one who’s searching “how to fix a leaky pipe” wants to get lost in an article about how pipes are like the internet. It may be true and it may be interesting as a metaphor, but it’s not actually helpful to the problem at hand.

If you’re selling plumbing solutions, stick to tips, tricks, and how-to articles. This is the content someone is looking for when they’re searching. By providing relevant knowledge that’s helpful to a customer’s current situation, you’re positioning yourself as an expert that can be trusted; you know the situation and have good answers.

When it comes time to make a purchase, people will turn to those who had the answers and solved their problems.

4. A Memorable Hook

Picture the start of your content—be it audio, visual, or other—as a fishhook. You know the kind: They have a little edge on the tip that makes it difficult to pull the hook out once it’s in. Imagine that your content has a fishhook, right up front. If someone touches it, even just the smallest bit, it gets into their mind—and won’t get out.

That’s what a memorable hook will do. You want a person to be unable to go on with his or her day if your content is not read, watched, and finished. This is where you get to bring some of your creativity into the process. Find ways to combine two unrelated things within your industry’s context. Mesh that with the relevant knowledge you’re presenting. Make it a story that someone is going to share around the metaphorical water-cooler.

It all starts with the hook, but the more provocative and alluring your content is—without losing relevance and clarity—the more likely it is to go viral. If you can inspire a new thought in your audience at the same time, all the better.

5. Purpose

Whatever kind of content you’re making, keep in mind one important consideration: You need a purpose. You’re trying to sell your product or service to an interested customer. You can make the greatest series of articles the blogosphere has ever seen, but if it has nothing to do with your product or industry, you’re going to face some difficult budget questions at the next board meeting.

The flipside to this is that your audience has a purpose, too. Usually, that means solving a problem (that, hopefully, your product is the solution for). People are looking for solutions, but that doesn’t always mean they want to be sold to at that moment (nor should you try to).

There’s a lot of nuance to creating a piece that’s good for both the customer and your company, but it can be done. Don’t underestimate the goodwill you can provide by creating a helpful piece of content that helps a potential client today, even if there is no purchase involved. There is likely to be one tomorrow, and you want to be the company the consumer thinks of first. Compelling content is about search results today, but goodwill in the long run; make sure not to bury your call to action.

6. Believable and Trustworthy

Speaking of which—make your content believable, and thus, trustworthy. It is a part of your sales practice, after all. You’re establishing your company as an expert, one to be trusted with a potential client’s hard-earned money.

That doesn’t come easy. You can’t just pump out a bunch of empty and meaningless content to score better search results (Google has been weeding out those for years now). Invest the time and effort into quality content and you’ll become the go-to resource for ideas and products in your industry. Don’t try to “go viral”—aim to be an expert.

It’s as simple as that! Okay, these characteristics may not feel simple if you’re new to the content game, which is why you’re lucky to have allies available who know inbound marketing and content marketing. Partner up to get the lay of the land and learn how to make your content soar. But in the meantime, take advantage of that blog feature on your site and start building quality content based on these seven essential characteristics today.

How to Create Killer Marketing Content

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