Inbound marketing begins and ends with content. But it can’t be any kind of content in order to be effective. In order for it to be all it can be, there are three specific traits it needs to have.
Dictionary.com defines “remarkable” as “worthy of notice or attention.” In other words, remarkable content is something that people want to, er, remark about. There are a few different ways you can create content that has that effect on readers.
- They learn something from it.
One of the most effective and common forms of remarkable content is informational. It’s intended to let readers know something important that they didn’t already know. But important to whom? To them, of course! By way of example, nobody would care about a blog post in which I bragged about how just landed a new client who wants to better understand how to create remarkable content. Too many companies publish “press release content” that they think is important but hardly anyone else does. Make sure it’s important to the audience.
- They are inspired by it.
Sometimes content can be important because it motivates us to take action on something we already knew. Maybe it’s a case study about how a company improved its conversion rates by 50% through landing page optimization. You’ve been reading about it for months and now this story finally inspires you to implement some A/B testing on your own site.
- They need it.
This is a wide category that covers a number of possibilities. In some cases, the information in the content is timely. For example, the first article written about the Stuxnet virus is going to be considered much more remarkable than the fifth. Another possibility is that the content is exclusive. Often, this is the case with original data from research, polling or your own customer database.
- They’re entertained by it.
Sometimes (most of the time, actually), we could just use a good laugh. I’m a big fan of corporate blogs letting their hair down once in a while and showing their humanity. Humor is a great way to do that and is consistently among the most shared content on the web.
If your informative, inspirational, exclusive and entertaining content is unreadable, what good is it? If an article appears in the forrest and nobody is there to read it, does it really exist? Here’s my definition of readable:
Short words, in short sentences, in short paragraphs with lots of white space, clear/compelling headlines and bullets.
Let’s talk about the first part of that definition; all the short stuff. I think there’s a common misperception (especially in the B2B world) that content writing must be erudite and formal. However, when you’re competing for attention from readers facing an infinite number of online distractions, the more quickly your content can be consumed, the better. There are some tools you can use to actually measure how complicated your writing is. One of the most common is the Flesch Reading Ease score. The higher the score, the easier something is to read. According to Wikipedia, “Reader’s Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine scores about 52, an average 6th grade student’s (an 11-year-old) written assignment has a readability test of 60–70 (and a reading grade level of 6–7), and the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s.” This article – by the way – scores a 63.
Now, what about the white space, headings and bullets? The problem with that approach is that Internet users don’t read; they browse. Visitors will check your content first to see how long it is. Next, they will scan it to perform an instant cost/benefit analysis. “Will spending the next five minutes of my life be worth the payoff I’ll get from reading this?” White space reduces stress levels when someone is trying to scan your content and perform their risk/benefit analysis. It also makes the headings and other indicators pop out a little more. The headings are crucial. They are mini-titles that allow readers to scan quickly in order to build a quick and dirty outline of your content.
The easier you can make it for readers to scan and consume, the better your chances that it will be read.
Yes, I know “shareable” isn’t a real word. But I think it should be. Our entire goal with inbound marketing is to spread our ideas and attract qualified visitors. Therefore, why not make it as simple as possible for readers to share your content if they are so inclined? While the situation is improving quickly, I’m still shocked at the number of web pages and blogs I encounter that don’t have Tweet, share or like buttons!
Hopefully this article is readable enough that you’ve finished it and found it remarkable enough to share with your friends and colleagues.