Last updated: May 29, 2020. DRAFT VERSION
Content marketing is an absolutely critical part of any inbound marketing strategy. Of course, there's just one problem: most people approach it in the wrong way. The pundits and blowhards keep saying that it's a matter of diligence and patience - that you just need to create great content.
"If you build it, he will come." ~ Field of Dreams
The truth is, the "build it and they will come" methodology is a path to ruin. It's like playing the lottery as an investment strategy. Sure, it worked out well for a few, but other investments tend to perform better. When you're writing content, it's absolutely critical to understand that you need to create content that your audience wants. What they should want is irrelevant. Thinking about what would be the most valuable to them is likewise irrelevant and a waste of time.
I've looked back at my long history of well-written, heavily researched content and am shocked that I wasted so much time and effort while others have received far more attention for their inferior work.
I'm not ready to give up. I've spent the past year researching how
successful internet marketers approach content marketing so as to better understand why they can succeed while
other writers like me failed so miserably.
I'm now convinced that I've cracked the code and devised a repeatable strategy for writing killer content that readers will be delighted to link, discuss and share. Content marketing is no longer something that I fear, or something that's a risk. It's a repeatable process that works!
So without further ado, here are the secrets of content marketing success.
Use them wisely. Oh, and all of the comics on this page are courtesy of XKCD.
- Consistency is no hobgoblin [TWEET THIS]
Be consistent. No one likes a flip flopper. The crucial thing is for you to have a clear message. Think about a clear, one sentence viewpoint and just keep expanding on that. It's better to have some very dedicated fans than a lot of people who think that your document is merely ok. It's hard to give up some of your potential audience, but trust me - it's almost always worth it.
- Use quotations [TWEET THIS]
I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself. ~Marlene Dietrich
Use many quotes by famous people in your document. People will confuse your authority with theirs. Even if the person you've quoted is talking about an unrelated subject, you will gain an increase in trust and status from the reader.
For best results, you should "spin" or paraphrase the content of a quote and then show the actual quote afterwards. This will make it look as though the quoted person has come around to your idea, rather than the other way around. You're not citing them as as an original source of information but as a source of confirmation.
If you can't find a relevant quote from a celebrity, not a problem. You can just use anyone you happen to know. Most readers won't bother looking up the name anyway. Another option is to quote authors of fiction as they produce substantial bodies of texts representing viewpoints that they, themselves, do not share.
"The value of a good quote is beyond measure." ~ Harry Jarvis
If you're really willing to do some research, you can often find reporters from famous newspapers stating silly viewpoints. All you have to do is look for older articles.
Don't believe me? A 1936 article from The New York Times once said "A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere." It's been proven false and everyone knows it, but hey! A supposedly first-rate paper said it, so you can use it (or at the very least allude to it) without looking like an idiot. Just leave off the date, and you're in business.
- Guess what else I wrote? [TWEET THIS]
Don't forget to add links to all of your other articles! Only an idiot would write a single document that explains a particular concept. While it's good to have a single page that you wrote be seen as a central authority on a topic, it's much better for you and your entire site to be seen as the central authority. Not only will it improve your SEO, but it will provide opportunities to display a lot more ads to your users. Remember, whether you're selling your own products or someone else's, more views will often lead to more sales - and that means more money in your pocket.
The more internal links you add, the more pages your users will see and the more value they'll feel they've received. Think about it this way, which sounds more impressive: "Wow, I found a page on the internet with everything in one place" or "Wow, I found an entire site dedicated to my topic! There's so much there, I had to bookmark it and will come back later to learn more!"?
- Make them buy you dinner first [TWEET THIS]
Don't provide value up front. The first few sections of your document represent the most valuable real estate that your content has to offer, so why would you waste it with the answers to your readers' questions? Readers will simply take your information, quickly solve their problems and then leave (never to return). Repeat the following to yourself: Your goal is not to solve other people's problems. Your goal with content marketing is to get your content to many eyeballs and to establish a reputation for expertise.
You want to spend the first portion of your document explaining the pain that your readers are experiencing. Sure they already know what you're telling them, but you want to intensify their emotions and really build up a need in their minds to solve their problems.
As an added bonus, the more time they spend reading, the more invested they will be in your document. Rather than admit that you have provided minimal value, they will go out of their way to convince themselves (and more importantly others) that the time invested was well spent. Sunk costs on their side can work to your distinct advantage!
Advanced authors should consider removing useful content from their documents entirely and bury this information in embedded videos instead. This will further the reader's thinking that the information must be valuable (as it requires multiple mediums of communication), and videos require a greater time investment from viewers than does text. People can read words very quickly, but publishers can control exactly how long it takes a viewer to watch the entirety of a video.
- Tailor your content for your users! [TWEET THIS]
People used to buy custom-tailored suits because a good tailor could provide a better fit than something off the rack.
Pretty soon other companies followed suit (pun intended). Burger King even used the slogan "Have it your way."
There's just one problem: customizing content for the needs of your readers is hard. I produced one such document, and it turned into an enormous time sink. That's why I came up with a simpler approach.
Did you know that every person who ever visits this page will experience something truly unique? It's because each section of this document is arranged in a random order on each visit. There are more than 6 E+52 different possible versions of this document (for the non-mathematicians out there, that's the number six followed by 52 zeroes). It's a big number. If you don't believe me, hit the reload button... I dare you!
Why would I do this? What benefit does this serve the reader? Who cares about serving the reader? This is content marketing! It is designed to serve me.
Every time a person comes back to this page, it will look different, and my visitor will be compelled to re-read large portions of my text, just to figure out what he's already read. He'll spend more time on my page, he'll invest more of his attention on my words, and my views will thus occupy a greater portion of his thoughts.
As an added bonus, he'll think more highly of my work because he'll assume that I've either been continually updating my document or that the content is so "deep" that he can come back and find new nuggets of truth even in the early parts that he supposedly already read.
- Watch the clock to win the game [TWEET THIS]
Timeliness is next to godliness. It's absolutely critical that you make your information timely. That is not to say that you should use examples and knowledge from contemporary sources. In fact, that will actually make your writing less timely. As months pass, it will become obvious from your references to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction or the movie RoboCop that your document is old, and possibly irrelevant in these most modern times. Therefore, it's much more important to make your work look like it's timeless - that it could have been written today.
Many scammers simply remove the date from their bylines. This is an absolute mistake. It's the epitome of laziness and far too obvious to even the most dimwitted reader. A better approach is to have an automatically updated line at the top of the page with a date a few days prior to the present. The changing of the date can be automated with modern software, so there really isn't any excuse not to.
Many less devious writers might be tempted to overstep and state that his content was updated each day - but that would be a mistake. It's just too obvious. It's a lie that many a slick salesman would tell. But who would lie about a byline dated three days ago?
There's a scene in the 1987 film "The Untouchables" that instantly comes to mind. Police Officer Malone (Sean Connery) stops undercover Treasury Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) on a bridge:
Malone: Why are you carrying the gun?
Ness: I'm a treasury officer.
[Malone walks away]
Ness: Hey, wait a minute! What the hell kind of policemen you got in this god damn city? You just turned your back on an armed man.
Malone: You're a treasury officer.
Ness: How do you know that? I just told you that.
Malone: Who would claim to be that who was not? Hmm?
While an auto-updated date adds zero value to your readers, it adds immense value to you. It makes you look like an authoritative person who continues to update his work and strives to keep it more relevant than does the competition. And since you are merely adding a single line that says "Updated: On: " without any description as to what, specifically, was updated, no one is going to go through the trouble to prove you wrong.
Know in your heart that since your page is actually being updated on every view (the "updated on" date is changing), you are not technically lying to your readers. You're trustworthy! And you're only taking this action so that readers don't find themselves forced to seek out materials from less scrupulous individuals on the internet.
- A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S. [TWEET THIS]
Mnemonic acronyms are amazing. If you can make mnemonics for a concept, do it! I can't tell you how proud managers are when they say that business requirements must follow the mnemonic "S.M.A.R.T.," but how sad they get when you point out that they don't know what any of the letters actually stand for.
When creating a mnemonic, it's important not to worry about providing any important meaning. A clever acronym is much more important.
Your job is to think of an acronym that you can rank for with SEO. You want to be the number one source for this phrase in your field. Actually, the more idiotic the acronym, the better. After all, you don't want other folks competing for your term.For instance, if you were writing a book about gardening rules, you might use the following:
- L - Light. Ensure that the plants are exposed to light so that they can grow.
- O - Oxygen. Plants need air just like you and I, so keep them in a place with plenty of it.
- V - Ventilation - Make sure that there is a constant flow of air throughout the area to prevent mold and pests.
- E - Enough time. Plants don't grow all at once. They could take weeks or longer to get noticeably larger.
This acronym isn't exactly perfect. The O and the V say pretty much the same thing, but that's fine. We could just say it was done intentionally to stress their importance.
Note that the concepts of watering your plants or planting seeds aren't even mentioned in the acronym. Who cares? If anything, that will provide us an opportunity to write another article later on (providing even more value to our readers)!
- Don't be stuck up [TWEET THIS]
Many people like to stay on point and not deviate from their central message. You know what I call these people: stupid.
I recommend including constant deviations, useless trivia and (of course) lots of comics. The use of side-threads will make you look intelligent and educated, but more importantly comics will break up the flow of your materials and allow you to rely on the humorous observations that some other guy wasted his life to create while you get credit from the audience.
Each time a reader sees one of the comics, he becomes relaxed and happy; he doesn't have to read your dense, boring material anymore. His patience will be restored, and he'll give you license to spew more of your inane material his way.
By the way, take a look at this one:
Wait, what was I talking about again?
- Make it longer [TWEET THIS]
This is one of the most important rules and should be blatantly obvious. If you want to create something that readers will respect and share (something that can be considered authoritative), you'll need to create a substantial work. Put some meat in there. It does not matter if you don't have much to say. In fact, you can usually just add filler statements allaying the readers' fears (even if no such fears exist) in order to increase your word count. Sure Einstein made the equation E=mc2 famous, but chances are you're not a genius and you're facing a lot more competition than he did. Don't worry if you have to stretch ideas or add unnecessary detail.
The first draft of this document, for instance, clocked in at over 11,000 words. Is that something that people would be proud to link? Of course! The average American hardly reads and is barely literate. He'd go out of his way to provide evidence that he read something long. While this document might not qualify as a full book, it has plenty of words, and few guides on the internet are longer. Great length demonstrates that effort went into the writing of a document. The author invested a great deal of time, so readers should feel willing to praise it.
- Originality is just one possibility [TWEET THIS]
A lot of people think they have to be original in their writings. They think that no one wants to read the same rehashed garbage over and over again.
Clear your mind of such foolish notions! I strongly advise against pushing yourself to be original for two reasons:
First, coming up with original ideas is really, hard. I mean, you have to think a lot - and this takes time away from your writing.
Second, if your writing is too original, it may confuse or offend the sensibilities of your readers.
By all means, feel free to say that what you're writing is original. In fact, such statements should be encouraged. Sometimes adding extreme or foul language will even make your writing appear uninhibited and original without forcing you to incur the actual costs and risks involved in creating content that is actually original at all.
- Take the easy route [TWEET THIS]
Some readers may not agree with what you have to say. Chances are, you'll be trying to convince them of something that isn't completely 100% accurate. That usually means that you're trying to convince them of something that they may not believe right off the bat.
Changing their views can be difficult but is not impossible. To convince your readers that they must change their beliefs, you have two options:
- The conventional wisdom is to explain why their current viewpoints are wrong and why they must change. If you're an academic looking to write on a niche topic for a total viewership of 3 other academics, this can be a great choice. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of work. Not only do you have to convince your audience that you're right, but first you must convince your audience that they were wrong. No one likes to admit that he is wrong. Let me repeat that. No one likes to admit that he is wrong. Why force your readers to be unhappy? Why go through all that extra work. Surely there is a better way.
- The simpler approach is to tell the readers that times have changed (or preferably will change). Though many will take personal offense if you state that their opinions and outlook are wrong, even the most vain, prideful person will be willing to admit that (though his viewpoints were and are correct), an ever-changing world may require a different pattern of thought (within reason). While you're unlikely to convert an atheist into a priest overnight, you can probably convince someone that his investment strategies might need to be reconsidered, given a new bill being considered by Congress.
If you are using the "times have changed" approach, you don't have to couch it in fancy language.
Here's a great example:
Sure, we thought that lead was poisonous in 2012, but that was YEARS ago! A lot has changed since then and we've learned more than we ever thought possible about the inner workings of the human body.
Just try it. You'll be amazed!
- Focus on the most important part [TWEET THIS]
What's the one part of a book that no one skims over? The title, of course. It's in big print. It's there by itself, isolated from the rest of the work. People may skim over portions of your content, but they'll never skim over your headline.
Ask anyone who read "The Odyssey" about the name of the main character's dog and you'll get a bunch of blank stares. Ask them what the title of the book was and you'll get an answer from all but the most dimwitted individuals.
So what should we do? Come up with an exciting title that links the topic with something or someone in the news. Is there a famous murderer, athlete or historical figure? Take his name, ask what he would do with respect to your topic, and BAM! Instant title. Steve Jobs is always a good choice, because he was cool, famous and rich. Bill Gates is usually a bad choice - he is richer than Steve was and just as famous, but he wasn't cool. No one cares what he'd think or do.
Controversial selections that seem at particular odds with the subject at hand can be good at grabbing readers' attention. Imagine the interest a title like "Cook Pasta like Batman" could generate. [TWEET THIS]
Don't worry if there's no obvious connection between your title and your document. You're just having a little fun, and if your content is long enough, by the time any readers finish, they'll have stopped caring about the significance of the title anyway. Remember, the title's only purpose is to get readers to start reading.
Another great idea is to add an arbitrary number of "tips" or "reasons" to your title. Something like "100 reasons why sitting in a chair is like running a marathon." When readers see a number of tips in the title, they naively think that they will just be able to read one or two and then move on with their lives, if the first handful don't look interesting. How wrong they are!
The worse the tips are, the more readers will be likely to continue to read more - just to ensure that the entire experience wasn't a waste and that the author didn't reveal his most important nugget of knowledge later in the article.
I personally enjoy using action words like "explode" and "destroy" in titles. They usually don't add any actual meaning to the title, but they provide a sense of urgency, action and importance that is often lacking.
It is possible to go a bit overboard on the title by implementing too many "hacks," but many people seek content out of boredom. Why not brighten up their day with some energy? Remember, you're doing them a favor.
- Use what you learned in school [TWEET THIS]
Remember the lessons you learned in school. No, not what the teachers taught, but what you learned. Think back to the paper you wrote in tenth grade history class about Valley Forge. You probably don't remember much.
Think about how you made that paper look more impressive. You didn't do much research but you did do something.
You made your paper look bigger than it was. There's no shame in that. Lions grow manes to look bigger - and they're the kings of the jungle! Lots of other animals like lizards and birds puff themselves up to look bigger too. In the case of the last two, it's all hot air, but do you know what? It works.
In school you used wide margins. Do the same with your online documents (and website). A thousand words might look respectable with normal margins, but with huge margins, the text will look enormous - and more impressive. Similarly, a "good" font that is space inefficient can add the appearance of hard work to your writing.
- The best defense is a good offence [TWEET THIS]
No matter what you write, there are some people who will call you a shyster or a shill. They'll say you're not an expert, or disagree with your views. They might even say that you aren't making any points at all - that you're just filling space with meaningless drivel. Whether these critics are right or wrong is immaterial. You need to limit the damage that these folks can inflict upon your credibility.
When discussing their arguments, make sure to put quotation marks around their job titles and words in their arguments to demonstrate that they are of dubious nature.
Say instead they are decadent people interested only in the pursuit of dubious pleasures. The dubious part is very important. It doesn't mean anything, but it scares people every time. ~ Ambassador Londo Mollari, Babylon 5
- Be a role model [TWEET THIS]
Do you know why James Bond is so popular? It turns out men want to be skilled, dangerous and desirable. Do you know why no one wants to be Sherlock Holmes' faithful companion Watson? He's a bumbling fool that does almost nothing of interest in a bunch of books that boring people read.
When you're writing content, you should always try to be more like James Bond. I've seen many pieces of content that start out by explaining how the author is currently relaxing in an exotic locale, drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying his ability to look out on some combination of mountains, oceans, cityscapes and sunrises. Not everyone can enjoy such peaceful relaxation, but the author has made a pile of cash by implementing the lessons embodied in his document. The message should be made clear, the information displayed on his readers' screens has the power to unlock greatness, but the responsibility for unlocking its secrets is up to his readers.
As I was sipping my warm coffee in a hotel in Paris, I looked upon the Eiffel tower with a quiet appreciation. As a successful consultant I understood the rich intricacies, the interconnections. I wondered just how I could share the steps that took me from lowly bellhop to a trusted partner in the boardrooms of the world's most glamorous companies. I had to work to distill all of my secrets into this document...
It's often a terrible idea to explain the details of your actual successes - why should you? You have nothing to prove. More importantly, the more you leave it up to the reader's imagination, the more he will use his own imagination to fill in the gaps. Besides, who is he more likely to believe and agree with - you or his imagination?
- Plant corn mazes, not corn rows [TWEET THIS]
Farmers usually plant corn in rows. Their goal is efficiency, so they try to maximize the value of their efforts. Don't copy farmers! Most farms are going broke, so whenever you learn that farmers are implementing some kind of plan, make a rule to do the opposite.
You do not want to optimize your document to make it easy for visitors to find what they need quickly.
You need to metaphorically plant a corn maze. Make the reading of your document an experience - one full of wandering, unexpected dead ends and backtracking. Remember, you're maximizing for "time on page" and most readers will treat time spent not as a sunk cost but as motivation to read more of your work.
You do not win if your reader finds what he needs and leaves. Think how upset people would be if they bought a ticket to a corn maze and then found their way out in thirty seconds flat. Your visitors would have great reason to be upset. Don't upset your visitors. Make your document into a maze!
That means trimming tables of contents (or eliminating them entirely), avoiding the urge to organize your knowledge by any theme and (by all means) never, ever creating an index.
Author's note: If someone could help me figure out how to disable the "find" function in modern browsers, I'd be happy to add the instructions to this document (though probably in another section).
- Provide real
value'value' [TWEET THIS]
What's the difference between value and 'value'? Many people have no idea. Value is something that people say they want, but 'value' is just a five letter word. Which one of the two is easier to produce? Hopefully you know it's the second one.
Providing actual value is hard. Typing the word 'value' is easy. Not only that, but the more readers see the word 'value,' the more they'll subconsciously assume that there is valuable knowledge in your document. That's the way the human brain works - you can prime it with an idea, and then off it goes assuming that idea is relevant and true.
Don't believe me? Let's try an experiment. Read the following section to yourself:
- There is a polar bear crying because it can't find the Doritos.
- There is a polar bear crying because it can't find the Doritos.
- There is a polar bear crying because it can't find the Doritos.
- There is a polar bear crying because it can't find the Doritos.
- There is a polar bear crying because it can't find the Doritos. [TWEET THIS]
When you think of a polar bear now, you'll probably be thinking that it's crying because it can't find the Doritos. Now, I'm pretty sure that image was never in your head prior to reading this document, but now it's stuck there, and for a while whenever you think about a polar bear, you'll remember that it's crying because it can't find the Doritos. Even though I'm unfamiliar with any historical record of any polar bear crying because it couldn't find the Doritos, there might be some references to a polar bear crying because it could find the Doritos.
Funny how that works - you know, polar bears, crying, Doritos. Right?
- Seeds aren't for the birds [TWEET THIS]
It's one thing to write a document and another to make people believe that it's good.
You should never, ever write a text and then think it's done until there are a great many comments praising your work. This will cause anyone who questions your work to rethink criticizing you (especially in public), lest one of your supporters find out and call him on it.
But how do you get comments on a document before it's even published? You add them yourself. Many companies do the same thing. Why put yourself at a disadvantage?
Seed your pages with comments at the bottom praising you. Of course, if it's all praise, it might look phony, so you'll want at least one of them to contain a question about some minor, clearly unimportant detail in your material.
You can block any actual users from commenting with a fake error or some such. In that way, future visitors will never be confused by the differences between the comments you seeded and those from actual readers. Remember, the point of content marketing is to leave your readers less confused, so why permit them to be confused?
You may find it helpful for some of the fake comments to reference your other writings and say how valuable they are too. Just don't overdo it.
- Be vague [TWEET THIS]
Some topics are hard to explain - either because they are complex, or because you don't understand them yourself.
Look at that! Rather than being embarrassed about your inability to answer an important question, you've turned a negative into a positive. Readers who are interested will literally pay you money for the singular reason that you couldn't answer an important question.
- It's not about who's right and who's wrong [TWEET THIS]
Don't worry about being right. Worry about looking decisive. No one wants to trust a person who hems and haws and looks for gradations in meaning. Readers are coming to you for help, so you owe it to yourself to give them straightforward, easily digestible advice.
Let's say that I told you that "People should not have any of the poison arsenic in their bodies." Sounds great, right? I mean why would anyone want a poison in his body?
Clear, definitive guidance. I love it.
I mean, sure, small amounts are helpful to improve medical PET scans and there is some evidence that it is needed by humans in trace amounts, but that just complicates matters. Even bringing up these exceptions makes me sound wishy-washy and unsure of my message.
Take a path and stick with it. The main point is that your message needs to be clear. If there is some deviation from the truth, so what? It's basically right, right? Well, at least it sounds like it's right - and that's much more important than being right anyway.
- Present yourself as an expert [TWEET THIS]
You might be able to be seen as an expert by putting out material that demonstrates your expertise. But why bother? That takes too much time. It's simpler to use peer pressure to convince others into thinking you're an expert in your topic.
We've all seen how "as seen on TV" was a powerful message years ago, but times have changed. Being on TV isn't enough. People want specifics. Fortunately, earning the right to display the logos of companies like The Wall Street Journal is much simpler than you might think.
Here's an easy way to obtain license to say "As seen on..." followed by a list of websites ranging from the Washington Post to Fox News to The Huffington Post.
- Make a list of respected websites.
- Find a random article on each site. I suggest picking one that no one cares about and that was published a long time ago.
- Post a comment on the article saying "I agree" and then sign it with your name, author of the the five-star [your document].
Guess what! You can now say with complete honesty that your product was mentioned on a bunch of famous sites and received a five-star rating. Put the relevant logos on your homepage. You deserve it!
Is anyone going to research your claim and ask for a link to the proof? Probably not. Besides, is someone who fact-checks what you say really your ideal reader or customer? Of course not! Ignore him and move on to more profitable uses of your time.
But what if you're too lazy to post comments on websites? Is there something else that you can do?
Think about your topic and then make ambiguously vague statements that refer to books, articles and studies that mention your topic in passing.
For example, I'm an expert on pricing. Here's what I can say:
"Adam is an expert in pricing, as discussed in The Holy Bible."
Of course (to the best of my knowledge), I was not specifically named in the bible, but pricing was. Here's just one example:
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. -- Job 28:18
Of course, my advice is always to pick contemporary books so as to increase the effectiveness of the illusion. Given my age, some doubts would be raised about my appearance in the holy book.
- Invent new terminology [TWEET THIS]
Coming up with new ideas is very time consuming and hard. Even if you come up with some brilliant ideas, it's hard to say that you'll be able to articulate them properly. So why bother?
Wouldn't it be better if you could just take ideas that other people had, and then become the person famous for saying them? Don't worry, we're not talking about plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you take someone else's content without giving credit. We're talking about taking someone else's ideas and renaming them. It's very different. Here are the steps:
- Take some information. It may be common knowledge, or it may be somewhat specialized.
- Give it a cool name.
- Write about it.
Now when someone hears your term, they're going to check google. Who do you think will rank first for the search? Not the people with the best information on the concept but the author who "owns" the new name. That means YOU!
Here's an example:
The Energy Augmentation Technique - A new, proven method to increase your metabolic energy and increase your lifespan. Think about energy. Our entire society depends upon it. Your car needs it, your home needs it. You need it. By augmenting personal reserves through the alimentary canal, humans can increase stored energy within minutes.
Congratulations! I've just renamed "eating" and now own the concept. There are millions of folks who can write about food, but only I can rank for "The Energy Augmentation Technique." If you can trademark the name, all the better.
- Just a tree in the forest [TWEET THIS]
A piece of content marketing can be fantastic, but you know the saying "If a tree falls in the forest, will it make a sound?" The answer, of course, is no. You need to seed public opinion and make yourself look like a thought leader.
Fortunately, I've performed a lot of research and have discovered the secret formula. Create a "mastermind" group of people. Most masterminds select members on the basis of business savvy or some other ridiculously foolish trait. Your mastermind should be selected such that each member shares the same ideal type of client.
One of the most lucrative is that of the "wantrepreneur" - an individual who thinks he can make money online.
This is a fantastic group to target because wantrepreneurs are willing to spend lots of money for your content, products and services as any amount you charge will be seen as an investment and not a cost. Plus, as wantrepreneurs (rather than business owners), their lack of experience will make them simpler to deceive.
Each of the mastermind members should then create blog posts and resource pages in which he describes other members' work as magnificent and central to his success. While no member has to have achieved actual success (remember, you don't have to back up your assertions as long as they're not concrete in nature), visitors will see each as a success by virtue of the fact that he has a website, content and is calling himself successful.
With all of the owners' sites interlinked and full of praise, each site will gain SEO. More importantly, visitors who arrive at any of the sites will come to see the linked content as being full of value.
Congratulations! You've just become a respected authority on your topic!
- Use graphs to make it look like you're saying something [TWEET THIS]
Graphs are better than mere numbers because they have the ability to tell a story. Of course, graphs don't always convey information worth knowing. Nevertheless, the important thing is that they have the potential to be useful, so their appearance will likely cause your readers to think that your work has value.
Here's a great example of a graph that looks important, but conveys no useful information whatsoever:
- Consistency is irrelevant [TWEET THIS]
Don't worry about being consistent in your message.
You're not selling a planned five course meal, you're selling a buffet.
It's OK to have orange juice and pickles. It's OK to have ice cream and buffalo wings. The critical thing is to ensure that there is enough there so that your readers will be happy.
Chances are that few people will read your entire document anyway, so if you're writing a manual on pets, feel free to have one section labeled "why dogs are the best pets" and another labeled "cats are superior to dogs." When there's something for everyone, you'll ensure that there's a reason for everyone to link to your content.
- Don't fear numbers [TWEET THIS]
Words are great, but they are just one set of tools in your toolbox. Numbers should be used too - as long as you're careful. Don't make the mistake of using math. Formulas are boring and really too complicated for the average reader. They are likely to scare him. Just use plain, simple numbers wherever you can.
Here are some basic rules:
Never feel as though you need to defend your numbers or explain where they came from. The more information you provide, the more likely readers will be able to find fault or have reason to disbelieve you.
Besides, an astonishing 98% of readers have stated that they trust all numbers given, even if no source is supplied.
- Don't fret too much about relevancy. Just like an overwhelming 80% of Mexicans' favorite bird is the emu, most Americans like to see numbers in their content.
- Never feel as though you need to defend your numbers or explain where they came from. The more information you provide, the more likely readers will be able to find fault or have reason to disbelieve you.
- Use specific examples [TWEET THIS]
It's often a great idea to use concrete, specific examples in your writing. The more granular your examples, the more useful and impressive your writing will appear.
This sounds like obvious advice, but there's a wrong way and a right way to do it.
The wrong way involves boring, tedious and difficult work like research and analysis. Don't fall into this trap!
The right way to be specific is to be overly specific, when specificity isn't technically required.
Pretend that I run a nutritional blog. I'm trying to emphasize the need to consume different fruits in order to maintain a healthy body.
Here's the wrong way to give specific examples:
Fruit is important for the human diet and can benefit the body by improving liver function, preventing diseases like scurvy and even provide energy for exercise.
Terrible, right? I mean, think about all the research that you had to do in order to write that teeny paragraph.
Now let's take a look at the correct way to be specific:
In order to maintain a healthy, body, it's radically important to eat a lot of fruit. Fruits are essential to good health, so consider eating some of the following: grapes (red, green and purple), limes, lemons, avocados, figs, plums, pears, apples (granny smiths are particularly tasty, but so are golden delicious), bananas, tomatoes, coconuts, blue berries, huckleberries, kumquats, pineapples, tangerines, raspberries, oranges and watermelons.
That example is a thing of beauty, right? I mean, it's less useful than the first example, but it's much more impressive because it's specific. Sure, we lack details about why fruit is useful, but we've crafted a more specific paragraph. Instead of saying "fruit," we are providing a random list of fruits. We're being specific about some types of fruits and acting as if our content is both useful and actionable. Besides, by the time the reader finishes reading the entire paragraph, he'll have forgotten what its purpose was. He'll just mentally note that you had a list of fruit, and every item in that list was indeed fruit. Guess what! You've just built up some credibility, because your story checked out.
Yes, this version is just a regurgitation of information that's already in every reader's head. So what? Remember, you're trying to use the right way to build yourself up as an authority. Your goal is not to teach your readers anything new. The more specific your examples, the more it looks like you know what you're talking about.
- Don't get a PhD [TWEET THIS]
You don't have to be an expert to be the authority on a subject. Actually, it's probably better if you know almost nothing about your topic at all. Experts are boring and have forgotten how to speak to people who aren't so knowledgeable. You're seeing everything through new eyes, so you can teach better.
You know exactly what beginners are looking for. Sure those beginners might be asking the wrong questions - even dangerous questions, but you understand how they think. An expert dentist would never think to write an article entitled "How to fill your own cavities" because he is prejudiced against that idea as being too dangerous. You (as a beginner) owe no allegiances to constrained thinking and wouldn't hesitate to use that title. After all, you're just providing information. The responsibility to use that information correctly is (as always) up to the reader.
- Don't be afraid to repeat your message [TWEET THIS]
In fact, drill your message over and over again. Many people make an intelligent point and then move on to the next one. This is very irresponsible! You'll want to do everything in your power to ensure that you repeat your ideas over and over again. In real estate, you'll often hear agents say "location, location, location."
They do this for good reason: the location of a building is often its greatest selling point. Well with content marketing, the phrase should be "repetition, repetition, repetition." Got that? You should be repeating yourself. Don't worry about beating a dead horse. Keep repeating your points. Over and over if you have to. The key idea is to make your points multiple times. But why? Here are a few reasons:
- You can use repetition to get your word counts up. As we pointed out elsewhere in this document, writing is judged on its length. It's good to say "I wrote a short article on a given topic," but it's more impressive to say "I wrote a big book on a given topic." Length equals authority.
- You can use repetition to drill concepts into your readers' minds. Note that this is not to say that you have to drill "new" or "original" concepts into their heads. You could simply drill concepts that they already know. Your job is not to educate, but to market (that's why they call it content marketing instead of content education). Every time you drill a concept and repeat it, you will help build a neural feedback loop in your readers' brains that associates you with your topic.
- Repetition allows your readers to skim your document but still be exposed to important points. Whatever they choose to skip over will be repeated multiple times in other locations. Repetition increases the chance that your most important messages will be read.
- In-Cite a Revolt [TWEET THIS]
It's always helpful to cite your sources. Always do your best to say something like "According to the Wall Street Journal" at least three times in each article. It doesn't matter if you're using the citation to back up claims that everyone already believes.
According to The New York Times, fire can get very hot.
The quote above won't add any value to your document. Readers don't need a cite to believe that fire can be hot.
The purpose of citing sources is to improve your reputation and the trustworthiness of your other claims. When a reader sees a citation, he thinks, "Wow, this author cites famous and trustworthy newspapers. He must be well-read and trustworthy!" BAM! Instant credibility!
- Data is just a character on Star Trek [TWEET THIS]
Data is for amateurs. Everyone knows that with a little math you can prove anything - even when it's not true. That's why people are very skeptical when you start throwing a lot of math their way. They'll tune out and you'll lose your opportunity to build an audience.
Your job is to build a foundation of trust with your readers. For that reason, you should focus on stories rather than data.
Don't worry about getting all of your details right - you don't even have to limit yourself to stories that are true. The important thing is that you find a cohesive way to tell an interesting story that paints your message in a good light. Remember, anecdotals are nearly impossible for readers to verify, so you can switch around facts, leave out important details or take outliers and present them as commonplace.
For instance, I could tell you that I earned a master's degree in software engineering for simply paying $200 to my university. I'd simply leave out all the coursework that was required prior to paying the diploma fee.
Be creative! You may not win a Pulitzer, but you should be able to get through to your readers' imaginations.
- Sell what you don't sell [TWEET THIS]
"My style? You can call it the art of fighting without fighting." ~ Bruce Lee, in the movie Enter the Dragon
Many people write content for different reasons. Even if you have no intention of using your document to sell consulting services, I strongly recommend that you consider advertising consulting services at a high price.
Now, as an expert in pricing, I'm going to give you some advice worth a lot of money. Throw out a ludicrous number. A number so high that it will turn off 99.999% of your readers.
Pricing can be used to achieve many goals, and one of them is simply making you look good. If readers see your rack rate and think that it's out of their price range, they will place a higher value on your written documents. Obviously, content written by a $10,000 per hour consultant is more valuable than materials by a person who charges only $20 per hour.
- Keep them wanting more [TWEET THIS]
Of course everyone says "keep them wanting more," but few people actually understand what that means.
Most assume that you make readers want more by delivering value and solving problems. There's one obvious fault with that particular strategy: if you solve your readers' problems in the first paragraph, they'll leave and forget about who you are (and more importantly, what you're trying to sell).
Far better to increase the sense of urgency of the problem but not deliver an actual solution nor provide any actionable advice at all. If you look like you're providing value, but the readers' problems are not solved, guess what will happen. They will continue referring back to your content looking for meaning where there is none. Abracadabra! Your document has just become a Rorschach test.
The better able you are to make the reader feel ill-equipped to implement a solution, the more he'll feel that he needs you and the more he'll value your content. I'm not making this up, it's a classic case of learned helplessness.
Don't be afraid to apply lessons from readings on the Stockholm syndrome. Say what you will, those guys knew how to build loyalty without providing value.
- Remember the hero's journey [TWEET THIS]
The hero's journey is incredibly important. Many stories, films and biographies use it. A character is weak and stupid, then something happens and he becomes strong and smart.
It appears over and over again because it works. People like it. It's familiar, ingrained into our psyches and accepted.
Be sure to tell your own hero's journey. Talk about how naive you used to be. Let readers know that you made mistakes, wasted money on foolish ideas and were pushed to and fro like a weak-stemmed flower. But then point out that you learned something important, something of great value, something that appears in your document.
Because you were able to utilize this information to achieve success, your readers can too! They can take the same hero's journey that you did, and since you've already demonstrated that your path works, it should be a piece of cake for them!
There's an added bonus to using this storytelling framework. Since you started off by listing your faults and mistakes, your readers will have the ability to form an emotional bond with you.
You were just like them! Haven't you noticed that politicians always try to find some relative who was a blue collar worker when it's time to reach out for votes? Why do they do this? They're desperate to create some kind of emotional bond between themselves and the people they need to momentarily impress (the voters).
- Tell readers what they already know [TWEET THIS]
One of the hardest things for amateur writers is... well... writing. That's obvious. Writing is hard, but why make the task harder than it should be?
Don't think that every little sentence has to be up to the standards of Shakespeare or Dan Brown. Don't think that every word has to uncover a deep, never considered truth that will stand as a revelation from on high. Creating content like that is hard, time consuming and difficult for the average reader to understand.
So what should you write? Well, write things that both you and your readers already know. If you write documents that are mostly filled with concepts that your readers are familiar with and agree with, they will likely see you as a person who knows what he's talking about. They'll continue on, reading what you have to say and looking for new nuggets of information that they don't know.
The more you write content that the readers already know, the more likely your readers will be to simply believe you when you put forth falsehoods or unproven opinions. Your earlier agreement with their worldviews causes your readers to see your writing as more authoritative than that of other writers.
- To owe is not to woe [TWEET THIS]
One of my favorite phrases from late night infomercials is "you owe it to yourself." I think that the person who came up with that line was probably the smartest man alive.
Here's why it's brilliant:
Many marketers talk about how their potential customers deserve to own their products. That's a marketing ploy that goes straight to the customer's ego. It's like saying "Wow, Sir. You sure are amazing! Why would you bother being so amazing when you don't even own this product?"
Others go for guilt. Marketers who sell educational materials for children do this brilliantly. "Aren't your children worth a few bucks? Don't you want them to succeed in life?"
The phrase "you owe it to yourself" brings both together. Both an ego boost and a feeling of guilt. Brilliant. If you can mix them together with guilt for family members all the better.
"You need to read this guide. Do it for your kids, you owe yourself that much!"
- Add some mostly-blank pages in a different color [TWEET THIS]
It looks like this sentence signifies something important.
- Don't be a novelist [TWEET THIS]
You're not a novelist, so don't waste your time trying to think of something novel to say. It's not like the internet is going to run out of space, OK?
Everyone thinks that he has to write groundbreaking material, but you don't - trust me. There are actually a lot of advantages to writing something that people already know and agree with.
When you say something that people already know, you're not just taking up space. You're building credibility. People read your words and see an agreement with their world view. You must know what you're talking about because you're repeating obvious facts that no one would argue against.
As an example, if you were writing about soup, you should make a big effort to point out that soups contain liquid. As people read your content, they'll think to themselves, "He's right! I can verify everything that he says!"
Then, when you say something more subjective later on, like "this document contains very valuable information," your readers will be much more likely to accept your statement as fact. This will build your credibility and allow your readers to put you into the "trustworthy" section of their memory banks.
- Dress it up [TWEET THIS]
Plain words are boring. They might be enough for nerds who like to read Shakespeare, Aristotle and other snore-inducing know-it-alls, but we're probably not targeting that audience. We're much more likely to target average people.Average people don't like to read, so we need to give them more clues that our information is useful to them. We need some words to stand out, so we need to make sure we use variations in word appearance like:
- Color changing
- Increased font size
Advanced users might want to use two or more at the same time. Even if you are just adding filler content to your documents, you should attempt to highlight some words (especially if they are uncommon). Here's an example:
Food can be very expensive. Not only did billionaires like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates consume significant quantities of food in their lifetimes, but their employees did as well.
A reader performing a quick scan on the content will assume that the text refers to high tech employers. This is a great example, because writing about high tech employers is too difficult for the average journalist. Much easier to use formatting to trick the reader instead.
Remember, many Writers say "Show don't tell." Show with formatting. Don't stress over telling your readers boring facts and stuff.
- Don't forget to spin them around [TWEET THIS]
When I was growing up, piñatas were all the rage. For those of you not familiar with piñatas, they're paper mache containers filled with candy. Participants are spun around until they're dizzy and then invited to wack the piñata with a stick until candy falls out. It's pretty funny, because all that spinning makes people dizzy - it usually takes quite a few attempts to wack the piñata with any strength.
Your writing should be like a piñata. Feel free to have candy (valuable information), but make sure that you add minimal context to your statements. Readers will feel dizzy, even though they recognize that are reading potential important information.
After a while, they'll pay to make that awful dizziness stop. If you've managed your up-selling technique poorly, this will mean that your readers will go watch some TV. However, if you've up-sold them properly, it will mean that they'll be willing to buy a paid guidebook from you.
All you'll have to do is re-sequence your text and maybe add a few phrases that start with the word 'because.' Then, the money will start flowing in.
- Don't be a backwards explainer [TWEET THIS]
Most people have no idea how to write and use the wrong quantity of words in each section of their papers. They find the most complicated or important subtopics and throw lots of words on the page to explain them. Then they identify the simplest concepts and use just a few to explain them. This is backwards, and the people who utilize this technique are backwards explainers!
As a content marketer, you need to do the opposite. Use as many words as you can on the easy parts. Really delve into every little tiny aspect of simple topics.
A backwards explainer for a home improvement guide might write the following:
Care should be taken to avoid hitting your fingers while hammering in nails.
What a waste! A good writer could make that section far more expansive and impressive to readers. Perhaps a full chapter could be written on the subject.
What levels of pain might be experienced? Are there historical figures who accidentally hit their fingers? Are there any relevant quotations? What about the people who avoid hitting their fingers? What are some reasons why they did what they did? Just think of the detail that could be added! This single line might spawn an entire book's worth of content... maybe even two or three.
When you find your opponent's weak spot, hammer it. ~ John Heisman
More importantly, delving deep into small topics gives you license to skip over complex topics that you don't have the background, ability or time to explain. It also provides you with the license to make blatantly ridiculous claims.
Readers will assume that since you added so much extraordinary detail to some of your other points, all of your other claims must be equally valid.
Anyone who actually does question a lack of detail in one section will immediately assume that the fault lies with him and not the writer. He'll immediately go back and re-read larger sections of your work, thus further ingraining your writing into his cognitive processes.
- Social proof [TWEET THIS]
Social proof is key. It's great to be seen as a genius, but it's even more important just to be seen. For this reason, you need to do everything in your power to get your readers to share your great work with the world. As each reader encourages his friends to read your work, your blog will be seen by more and more people!
How do you do that? I suggest that you add a lot of social sharing buttons near anything that resembles a quote or sound byte. I personally recommend Twitter, but LinkedIn, Facebook and other networks may work better in your specific field.
Tip: It's OK if you cover up the actual content with these buttons, because you want action. Reading isn't action. Sharing is. [TWEET THIS]
- A good writer can inspire his readers to think [TWEET THIS]
Many authors ask questions in their documents to prompt their readers to reflect and reconsider statements that have been written. This is a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs. While asking questions is great and adds variety to your printed words, you do not want your users to start thinking critically!
You want your readers to think that they're thinking. For this reason you should either:
- Ask questions for which the reader's answer is already known to you. Questions like "Would you like to make more money?" or "Would you want to get punched in the face?" are fantastic examples of this. The reader can feel like he's part of a dialog, when in fact, you are controlling both sides of the discussion.
- Ask questions that no one has any hope of answering. For example, tell a story about a waiter who asked you what you wanted to eat for lunch. Then ask the reader, "Do you have any idea what I said?" This builds a sense of anticipation and wonder that can add human interest to an otherwise dull story or meaningless side-anecdote intended to fill space in your document.
- Always pick on the little guy [TWEET THIS]
The common wisdom in prison is that you should find the biggest guy and beat him up. After that, everyone will treat you with respect out of fear. There's just one problem. Big guys tend to fight back. The same is true on the internet. If I were to pick a fight with someone famous or beloved, I would almost certainly lose.
Nevertheless you need to pick a fight. Just pick some positions that no one supports and then explain why they are wrong. The more you argue, the more your logic will make sense (because you're taking the proven side). Each time you "win" an argument, you will appear to be a person who deserves respect.
Here's one position that might work for teachers in elementary school:
I think small children should not be suspended from school for using crayons.
It doesn't matter if anyone in the world will argue against you. It only matters that you are able to trounce the other side.
If you're trying to put a face to your opposition, I recommend "they" as a fantastic choice. "They" represents people with more power than your readers and since "they" are nameless, few will associate any particularly good feelings toward them. Readers would prefer to root for an underdog against a "they." Any efforts that you can make to turn the "they" into the sworn enemies of the reader, the better. You'll become an ally against the forces of this sinister foe.
Take a look at this bit of writing:
They are trying to prevent you from watching television. I won't stand for it, and here's why...
I'm getting shivers thinking about how well that quote could go over as a section lead for your content.
- Don't fall into a trap of your own making [TWEET THIS]
What's the first thing a law enforcement officer will do after picking you up for questioning? Here's a hint: he won't demand to know if you've committed a crime. He won't demand to know anything at all. He'll just try to get you talking.
In many cases, accused parties only get into real trouble once they get caught saying something that can be proved false. Once you're caught telling a lie, your credibility is shot and your trip to the slammer is all but assured.
In many ways, content writers are in the same position as the accused. So what should you do? In general, you'll want to avoid saying anything that is verifiable (testable). If you speak in generalities, your readers will have a much harder time proving you wrong.
That said, a lie is like a bluff in poker - sometimes it pays off big time! I've read a number of guides explaining how websites can earn many backlinks, but when I performed an analysis of the sites in question, I discovered that they had earned almost no links themselves.
Uh oh, that's a problem for the authors of those guides, right? Absolutely not! I'm more technical than their target customers. Sure, I can see through their lies, but their target demographic can't. Folks who lack the technical sophistication to double check the facts presented in their white papers will be impressed!
- Rome wasn't built in a day [TWEET THIS]
There's a very fine line that you have to walk while writing your document. On the one hand, it's important to show that the information contained therein is useful and valuable. The best way to do this is to imply that your own massive gains in wealth, popularity or some other measure were due to following the lessons that you're sharing with your audience.
Unfortunately, guaranteeing that it will do the same for your readers is dangerous. Their situations may be different. You may have gotten lucky. Some other factor that you forgot might have played a huge part in your success. Or you might just be selling snake oil.
In any case, you need to tell people that they have no right to criticize your work until they've tried it for a suitable period of time. I've seen requisite time periods as high as two years. This will provide you with ample time to sell add-ons and courses to the people who believe you. It will also provide you with a long enough period of time for those who don't see early successes to drop out. Thanks to survivorship biases, people will look at those who have followed your advice and see only a collection of winners. It will be all but natural to assume that your content contains valuable insights and is worth a tremendous sum of money.
- Don't try to influence [TWEET THIS]
Don't try to misuse your authority as a writer to influence your readers' thoughts about you. I hate when writers imply that they're the best, the smartest, or the most authoritative. It's pointless. Little hints about content quality are ridiculous and readers typically throw out any influence that you try to peddle.
That's not to say that you should just let your readers form their own opinions of your work - that might be disastrous! They might decide that your work is awful and that it isn't worth referring to others - that's exactly the opposite of what you want! Instead, you have to get out there and say exactly what you want them to think. I call this superliminal marketing. Don't hint. Tell. Tell them that your writing contains the best analysis and that it's the most complete.
Don't believe people would be foolish to fall for such a thing? Do a quick google search for just about any topic and let me know how far down you have to go before you have an article described as the "ultimate" or "most comprehensive" resource in its particular domain.
- Have an invisible friend [TWEET THIS]
People don't like to take advice from losers. People who spend their time alone are more likely to be bombers or mass-shooters than successful people worthy of idolization.
For this reason, you can't keep explaining things from your perspective. You need the perspective of others as well. Of course, getting the perspective from other people is annoying. Not only do you have to find them, but then you have to twist their words around to make sure that they match the point you're trying to make.
That's where invisible friends come in. Throughout your text, tell people that "someone wrote in with a particular question or observation." Technically, there's nothing in that text stating that that person isn't you.
All you have to do is pepper that line into your document a few times, and guess what? It looks like you have a large following. People are contacting you? They're seeking you out for advice and consultation? You must be amazing. Now I feel like I should contact you as well! I mean, it's not like I want to be a loser loner or anything.
In fact, one of my many readers asked me if this tip is very useful. Quite so! If you'd like to contact me too, drop me a line.
- Cite your sources... carefully [TWEET THIS]
Citing other sources is a great means of providing additional strength to your arguments. Of course, you shouldn't have to prove every single point you make. That would get tedious and tiresome. Just pick a few points (even minor ones) and use some external sources to bolster your points. Ideally, you'll find someone famous (qualifications and actual knowledge are far less important).
Feel free to use quotes as needed, but never, ever, ever link a source directly. Depending upon the nature of the quote and the source, a direct link or attribution may cause you to lose business to the other party, or take readers away from your page (at which point they'll forget about you). In the worst case, links to external sources may encourage readers to perform additional research which may confuse them or break the worldview that you've created in their minds.
Just do what you can to keep your readers reading your pages and away from other portions of the internet. Other sites might lead them to stray from your message.
- 50% of Americans will die from brain cancer... [TWEET THIS]
According to a new research report by a neurosurgeon, a full half of his American patients are expected to die of brain cancer.
Oh, was the title of this section misleading? Maybe. But it got your attention, right?
Everyone from politicians to salesmen know that you need to do whatever you can to get your audience's attention. That means making bold claims and taking a stance. You can add fine print and whatever else you need later on in the document.
You know the old expression "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission," right? Totally true. The folks who write nuanced copy don't get readers. They can write nuanced resumes at the nuanced unemployment office.
Who would want to read boring, middle-of-the-road text? Certainly not me!
- Make it as easy to understand as possible, maybe easier. [TWEET THIS]
Make sure your content is easy to read. Academic papers are often complex and difficult for the layman to understand.
If people don't understand what you're saying, they're not going to continue reading it. Over-educated pundits will argue that the key for writing to be understood is to explain your points well. Such advice is completely inane and irresponsible!
That type of writing is hard, tiresome and quite frankly not in demand by today's reader. Instead of worrying incessantly about content, focus on the way you use the language itself.
- Keep paragraphs short. This will ensure that readers feel like they are making consistent progress.
- Keep sentences short. We want readers to be able to complete each sentence quickly, without the need to reflect on complex ideas contained in long sentences.
- Choose words so as to minimize their length and complexity.
- Nothing is enormous, but plenty of things are big.
- Nothing is heterogeneous, but many thing are mixed.
Don't make your readers tired, don't make them work, and by god never, ever, ever make them think. Remember Steve Krug's famous book on web usability entitled Don't Make Me Think? Follow his advice. Never make readers think. That's not your job in life and it's certainly not your responsibility as a writer.
- Give yourself an out [TWEET THIS]
"Lady, I never walk into a place I don't know how to walk out of." ~ Robert De Niro as 'Sam' in the movie Ronin
It's important to avoid blame for mistakes at all costs. Let's face it. A few people calling you out can cause an immense amount of damage to your reputation. For that reason, you should generally close your document with a series of disclaimers. I recommend sticking with one that says something like this:
Of course, the world is always changing, so from time to time I plan to update this document to compensate for the shifting landscape.
Not only does it give you an important out, if some people fail to achieve success by using your writing, it also makes you look like a dedicated steward of their best welfare. After all, you're taking your own time to update your documentation. You're not only a knowledgeable expert, but a kindhearted good-natured one at that.
- Repeat as needed [TWEET THIS]
Don't be afraid to repeat your points. Sure, you'll probably want to change around some of the words, but repetition can be a very good thing. You'll be able to use it to expand the length of your work and make it look much more impressive as a result.
Would you rather be able to say "I wrote a 10,000 word paper on the topic" or "I wrote a 400 word essay on the topic?" The amount of knowledge contained in each may be the same, but a larger box is always a more impressive box for a gift.
- BONUS: Have one [TWEET THIS]
Always have an extra bonus at the end. Even if it's not valuable. Even if it's just a rehash of something you already wrote. Even if you're not really saying anything at all. You've heard the phrase "under-promise and over-deliver," right? Your job should be to find a way to over deliver on a promise that you made to the reader.
If you promised ten tips, add one more. If you promised twenty-eight, make it twenty-nine. The extra tip will make readers feel like you really went the extra mile. Even if you add nothing of actual value and you're actually just forcing them to waste more of their lives reading some useless text, they'll thank you for it.
It's not enough to simply add the bonus section to the end of your document. You have to really ham it up and act like it required an extraordinary effort to produce. Remind your readers how many tips you've already provided and that your tip-quota has been met. Then call out the additional material as a valuable bonus. You may want to add extra wording such as "and I've saved my best tip for last, this one will really push you over the top" or "I can't believe I'm sharing this bonus tip with you, my loyal readers."
Remember: it's the thought that counts.
I hope this document helped you in your quest to write more effective, more desirable content marketing materials. Even with a guide such as this, it can be difficult to implement new methodologies. Luckily, I'm available for a small number of clients. Contact me for a one hour strategy session. Typical rates start at a minimum of $2500 for the call, but the price will likely increase for more complex cases.Comments:
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