Content is the currency of the internet. People go on the internet to find answers to everyday questions like, “What's the weather like in London?” or even, “What are the health benefits of broccoli?”. And it's the duty of every business to provide content that answers the needs of their target audience.
However, there will come a time when all your ideas for relevant posts will be exhausted. Since search engines look into content freshness as a basis for ranking, what can you do to create a steady flow of new articles on your site? The answer lies in content curation.
Simply put, content curation is the finding, selecting and sharing of content related to a certain theme or topic. The practise of curating content has long existed in the publishing world to give readers a digested version of what they should know about. It's human nature to want to learn more about something you stumble across.
Putting that into a business perspective, don't you want people to access this information from your website? That's where the power of content curation lies.
What can curation do for your website?
Whatever the services you offer or products you sell, you can usually find interesting content to write about. But you hit a problem when you've seemingly exhausted everything useful you know about it.
This is where curating content comes to the rescue. It’s the not-so-secret reason behind the success of sites such as Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Mashable. They've all found ways to present a wide variety of information to readers in interesting ways.
Getting information from different sources and posting them on your website makes it:
People have a constant need to be informed, and with the multitude of information published each day, they only need to know about content that is useful for them. This is where you come in. Rather than having them scour the web for information, bring it straight to them.
Constantly putting out curated content makes people come back for more. This helps establish your brand as an authority on topics concerning the niche your business is in.
Publishing curated content on your website also helps drive traffic, which is what any business wants. This is best accomplished by creating a catchy title to accompany the equally entertaining content.
There are lots of content curation tools you can make use of.
Mining Facebook, Twitter or Google+ allows you discover content before it gets indexed by Google. For example, you can embed tweets of interesting things Twitter users are saying about a particular topic into a single post.
Using question and answer sites gives you access to some really interesting content you can use on your site. You can list some interesting questions and answers you found and compile them in one article.
Take cue from a Huffington Post article that used Reddit answers to create content about embarrassing text messages sent to the wrong person. You can scour Reddit threads for relevant questions and feature the answers in a blog post.
With Digg, you can gather a list of articles and publish this in your own article. Better yet, create a list post along the lines of “Five must-read posts about pencils”, for example.
Stay up to date by looking at the news. Simply filtering Google search results to “News” gives you a list of sources that talk about subjects related to your own market.
You can also do something similar to what MSN Now is doing and write a short summary, then link to the original source.
With Flipboard, you can search for articles and creatre curated content for your website. Unlike Flipboard, Zite is a mobile-only application — so far — where you can get a list of articles based on a particular topic. You can create list posts out of the results you receive.
Articles are not the only form of content at your disposal. You can search for relevant pictures and videos and feature them in an article. Instead of just embedding a photo or video in a post, take time to write something short about it.
Sure, curating content is a lot easier than creating content. However, this doesn't mean you should feature curated content all the time. It's also important to publish articles of your own because this demonstrates your expertise in your field. Use content curation to supplement content creation — a good mix of both provides a steady stream of articles for your website.
The golden rules of writing apply whether you are writing a novel or a blog. Your purpose should be to get the reader’s attention and keep it. You want them to go away with a clear understanding of your core message and ideally, be so impressed that they spread the word about what you’ve said.
The recent death of crime writer Elmore Leonard — known as the writer’s writer — has put the spotlight on his significant contribution to the world of fiction and film. His 45 novels — he was writing his 46th when he died — include many titles made familiar on the big screen, such as Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Rum Punch (which was filmed as Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino).
Leonard shared his golden rules in an essay on writing. George Orwell did the same. Stephen King wrote a brilliant book called On Writing. So what can these great fiction writers teach us about writing marketing copy?
Elmore Leonard said “never open a book with weather”. In other words, avoid unnecessary scene-setting. So if you are writing a blog, make a bold statement at the top and then expand on it and back it up. On your website, highlight what you offer before you go into the history of your firm.
It’s good practice to wait before you send or publish something online. Read your writing back a few hours later and delete anything that deviates from your main message.
George Orwell said: “Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” These are wise words.
Leonard, King and Orwell also agree — adverbs are the work of the devil and dialogue should always carry the word “said”. In the world of fiction, that means avoiding phrases such as “he admonished gravely”.
What can this teach us about copywriting? Use simple language to make your points clearly. Short sentences are better than long ones. The simplest words are the most powerful. Verbal trickery is a distraction.
Leonard said: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.” And, for good measure, he added: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip”.
Stephen King put it another way. He said: “Kill your darlings”.
It’s tempting, when you are writing a blog or white paper, to include all your knowledge and expertise. There’s so much you want to say. One way to avoid unnecessary rambling, is to think of your blog or white paper as a story and cut out anything that detracts from the plot.
Leonard said: “Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose." He also said: “Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.”
Orwell said: “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
The message is clear — avoid clichés and jargon. Cliches cause readers to disengage. They skim over these familiar but ultimately meaningless phrases and before you know it, you’ve lost them.
Jargon is another no-no. Sure, every industry has its acronyms and technical terms. But make life easier on your readers. No matter how clued up they are, write in plain English. And don’t forget, your in-house terminology may not be at all familiar to your customers.
Leonard said: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”
You’re not writing an epic novel — so I would avoid exclamation marks altogether. They are a clumsy way to flag up a joke or any strong statement. It’s a bit like saying “ta da” after you’ve spoken. F Scott Fitzgerald said it was like laughing at your own joke. According to the BBC, there's a word for it — bangorrhea.
Above all, exclamation marks distract the reader. The same goes for the practice of adding quote marks to "unusual words" — much better to change the words and drop the quote marks. Similarly, avoid capitals as much as you can. Giving Some Phrases Initial Capitals is another major distraction for readers.
Happily for anyone that writes marketing and sales copy online, there are lots of additional ways to make your messages stand out — ways that novelists may not use.
Headings, sub-headings and bullet points attract readers and allow them to find their way around your writing. Summaries, handy hints, useful links, images and infographics support your messages. And social media, SEO and email give your writing rocket fuel to reach the widest possible audience.
Content marketing has become so powerful today that you can’t afford to miss a trick.
When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450 he precipitated the democratisation of information. Neither the reformation nor renaissance, in Europe, could have happened if the printing press had not been invented.
Since print, of course, we have had radio, cinema and television. While no one would underestimate the importance of these forms of media, they simply accelerated what had been initiated by print. In other words, they helped to make information even more accessible and widespread.
The web has also made the access to information even easier and more widespread than anything previously. Just with information access alone, it has empowered people in a way that has never happened before. However, if this is all the web had achieved, we could say it had simply completed the journey started with the invention of the printing press.
The big revolution, however, is that the web has given everyone their own channel. In other words they have a voice. No longer do people need the patronage of a major record label or publishing house to get their music heard or book read. No longer do people have to rely on a few radio talk shows, or letter columns in newspapers, to be able to express their views on the current issues of the day to a wider audience than just their friends. No longer do people only have the choice of moaning to a few colleagues when a company lets them down. Now they can post their views on sites such as Trip Advisor or express their frustrations to a wider audience on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
While every individual has a channel, so does every company. Even if a business today only has a website and a blog, these are channels that are only as good as the content that sits on them. That is, of course, without a business utilising platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn and YouTube amongst many others.
This means that every business has now become a publishing company, whether they like it or not. Today, every company is responsible for providing content for the media channels that they own. Whether they commission material from partners, suppliers and industry experts or create their own, every business requires good content.
It is obvious that a business should put content on their own real estate — whether it is their website, blog, YouTube channel or Facebook page, an organisation should use their content to ensure these media are used to engage and attract customers and prospects alike.
However, the piece of the jigsaw that is sometimes missed by a business, is where else they put their content. Today every company and organisation has the same challenge. They often own a plethora of different channels that need filling with good content but they do not have the wherewithal to create enough. Therefore, most people are willing to take good content created by others. This is on condition that it will provide value to their audience, and it is not blatantly self-promotional.
Every business should ask themselves one question. Where do my customers learn? On what forums, social media platforms, associations and websites do my customers go, in order to keep informed about subjects of interest?
If your audience are engineers, is there a LinkedIn forum that many of them use? If you target solicitors, do they refer to the Law Society website? If you target small local businesses, do they use their local chamber of commerce or business networking association for information? Wherever your customers hang out is where you want to try and have content placed.
For example, if you wanted to target airline pilots you could post adverts in the newspaper and hope one of them saw your advert and called. Alternatively, you could sit in the bar at one of the major airport hotels and strike up some interesting conversations with the patrons. I would suggest the second approach would probably be more effective.
It is no different online. Create and commission content and, of course, put it on your own channels. However, for many companies the success of content is to get it distributed in the right places. That is, the platforms that your prospects and customers use. So don’t forget to ask yourself one important question, where do my customers learn?, and then make sure you are there.