Why Your Business Needs a Well-Planned Content Strategy

Why Your Business Needs a Well-Planned Content Strategy

Harnessing the potential of web content can lead to significant returns for businesses of all sizes. Creating content that fosters lead generation, brand loyalty, and an increase in overall clout takes much more than simply slapping a few blogs together, however. To best equip your business with the tools necessary for success, it’s essential to build a well-defined content marketing strategy. Still struggling to grasp the concept? Discover the simple ideas behind creating a content plan that will maximize your business’ impact online.

Ideation: Developing Effective Content Concepts

Many business marketers want to create interesting content for the web, but they feel blocked when it comes to developing new ideas. It’s important to approach brainstorming with a twofold approach. First, consider what value the content will bring in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). Can you use keywords, external links, and social tools to capture the attention of the masses?

In addition to the value, content delivers for traffic acquisition, does your idea provide knowledge or information that your reader wants? To pinpoint great ideas, you need to possess an in-depth understanding of your customer. Holding ideas up to these guidelines will help you weed out the good from the bad.

Content Calendars: Maximizing Your Content Value

Using content as a marketing tool presents some benefits. For one, content creation often costs less than investing in traditional advertising or promotional efforts. Even if you create all of your content in-house, however, you’re still paying for content by investing your time.

Rather than letting that investment go to waste, you need to build a content calendar that will let you wring the most value possible out of your content. Building a game plan for sharing your content multiple times, publishing at the right moment, and making routine updates will help catapult good content to the forefront of your reader’s attention.

Working Towards Business Goals

If you’ve ever drafted a business plan, you understand how important it is to outline short and long term goals. Don’t be tempted to overlook this portion of the content strategy, because well-defined goals will direct your content creation in the appropriate manner. Take the time to work out goals both big and small and then focus on creating content that helps your business obtain those goals. By directing your efforts towards an end destination, you’ll keep your content on track and further boost the power of your promotional efforts.

Building a content marketing plan doesn’t have to feel like a daunting endeavor. Make time regularly to take stock of your current market position, develop goals for your future, and brainstorm content that will take you there. A thorough content strategy will take your ho-hum web content to a whole new level, as you begin to publish content that connects with your audience and builds your profile. With a bit of luck and hard work, your content could revitalize the future of your business online.

10 Best Practices for Online Storytelling

10 Best Practices for Online Storytelling

Carefully crafting your brand narrative serves a number of important purposes. An effective narrative provides context for the services and products you offer. Why, where, and how did your brand get its start and what mission propels your business forward? Prolific marketers use storytelling to highlight a brand’s key selling points without making the business the center of attention. Storytelling on the web should incorporate the fundamentals of great marketing while tailoring your message for a digital audience.

Feeling stuck? Use the following 10 keys to transform your storytelling online.

1. Focus on the Customer
Storytelling shouldn’t serve as a vehicle to talk endlessly about the greatness of your company. Instead, effective storytelling intertwines the customer’s experience with the overarching values of your brand. Capture your reader’s attention from the start by telling a story that expands beyond the confines of your business.

2. Learn How to Write for the Web
Think writing a long-winded blog post serves as a powerful storytelling tool? Think again. Remember, you’re competing for the attention of your readers. Learn how to craft content that connects with your audience effectively. Use headlines, lists, and short sentences to break up your text.

3. Keep Your Message Truthful
It’s tempting to only share a highly polished message with your audience, but consumers connect with brands that are honest and transparent. Quality, sincerity, and brand history are the key governing principles for authenticity, according to the New York Times. Make sure your story lines up with the overall vision of your brand.

4. Mix Up Your Materials
There’s a simple reason we don’t try to read classic novels to young children—they lose interest too quickly. Instead, a children’s book uses short paragraphs of text, just a few pages, and vivid images to capture an infant’s attention. Keep the same idea in mind when telling a story online. Don’t revert to the blog post for every piece of content you publish. Use images and video to keep your audience connected.

5. Don’t Forget Story Structure
Great stories have three key elements: a beginning, middle, and end. Make sure you address every part of the story’s structure, or you could risk confusing your customer. When your customer becomes confused as to how the story relates to your brand, you risk alienating your buyer.

6. Turn to Real People
Customers like to hear stories that feature real people—other customers, employees, or company founders. It’s easier to connect with a story that feels directly tied to the real experiences of everyday people. Consider using your own customers or people in your organization to highlight how your brand connects with them.

7. Steer Clear of Objectivity
You’re extremely biased towards your unique products and services—and that’s okay! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your content needs to be overwhelmingly objective. You’re not a journalist; you’re a marketer. Highlight what makes your brand truly great.

8. Keep the Big Picture in Mind
Yes, your story should have a clearly defined end, but that doesn’t mean that the stories you tell should serve as one-off marketing vehicles. Work to create “mini stories” that fit into an overall theme for your business. Captivate your audience and leave them eager for more.

9. Say Goodbye to Jargon
Using industry jargon or overly salesy language doesn’t generate the results you’re after. Keep your message clear, concise, and easily understood. Your story shouldn’t be complicated.

10. Expand Beyond Your Blog
Of course, your website serves as a great platform for reaching the masses, but don’t restrict yourself to the boundaries of your site. Look to expand beyond your company blog to maximize your brand’s exposure. Continue to tell your story through social media, advertising campaigns, and content published on other sites.

Professional Photography: Why It’s Worth Paying for Photos in Web Design

Professional Photography: Why It’s Worth Paying for Photos in Web Design

Truly effective website design incorporates a number of different elements, including graphics and photography. Many small business owners are tempted to snap a few photos on their smartphone to save money, but paying for professional photography often offers greater benefits. Not only will professional pictures help establish brand credibility, but images play an integral role in evoking an emotional response.

Furthermore, research has continually shown that the presence of photos encourages web users to read blog posts and articles.

Foster Better Conversion Rates

Web marketers spend a lot of time and energy attempting to boost their conversion rates, but photos are an effective way to do so with little effort. 60% of consumers feel more likely to contact a business if it posts photos online. Additionally, blog posts with images receive 94% more views than those without photos. PPC campaigns and aggressive marketing rarely rivals those numbers, all of which can be achieved simply by using professional photos.

Create a Visceral Response

Emotions have always played an important role in marketing, which is why you’ll see countless ad campaigns that attempt to pull on your heartstrings or conjure pleasant memories. Professional photos should go hand-in-hand with an interesting narrative that ties back to your brand’s mission. Together, photos and written content create a potent potion for marketing success.

For businesses in the hospitality industry, stimulating positive emotions will cause potential customers to crave the experience you offer. Plunge your readers into the soft cotton sheets in your hotel’s suites, make readers smell the juices of your freshly grilled steak, cause their tongues to salivate in anticipation for your newest merlot. Stunning photos paired with vivid descriptions will maximize your selling power.

Establish Your Brand Authority

Why should customers choose your company over your competitors? It’s a simple question, but too many small business owners don’t have the right answer. A well-defined company culture and a polished appearance go a long way toward convincing consumers to choose your products or services.

Think of brands within your industry that have catapulted themselves to mass acclaim. Review their marketing materials, and you’ll likely find real people enjoying themselves. Happy customers and courteous staff enjoying the products and services in question. If you want to compete with these brands or even enjoy a small taste of their success one day, it’s worth investing now in photography that connects with your customers in the same manner.

Professional photography doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does represent a significant investment. While you may be tempted to cut corners and use DIY shots or stock imagery, professional photos offer the only effective way to control your brand narrative and ensure you connect with customers in a meaningful way. Consider photography one of those unavoidable expenses and partner with a local photographer who can help bring your brand to life on the page—you may be surprised to see just how useful it ultimately proves for your online marketing efforts.

Headline Tags: How to Optimize Your Content for SEO

Headline Tags: How to Optimize Your Content for SEO

Writing for the web differs greatly from writing an essay or a letter to a friend. Online readers don’t consume content in the same way they might read the pages of a novel. Instead, most web users skim pages quickly, jump from page to page, and only read the parts they find most interesting. Further complicating matters, search engines consistently browse the pages of your site, using information buried in the HTML to influence your search ranking. Fortunately, learning to master the art of headline tags will help you address both of these challenges.


Headlines 101: What are Tags?

Headlines break up your content and direct your reader through the page. Tags are used within a page’s HTML code to mark the headlines. Contrary to popular opinion, headline tags do much more than simply determine the font size for your text. The tags determine the importance of each headline.

Don’t try to stuff your headlines with keywords or use them too frequently in an attempt to “trick” the search engine. It is important to remember, however, that the search spiders do compare keywords in your headlines to the body of your text. As long as you’re writing relevant headlines, you’ll be in good shape.

How to Use Headline Tags

An h1 tag should be used for the most important headlines on your page. Each subsequent number h1-h6 denotes a subheading of the number before it.

It’s important to follow this hierarchy, or the search engine spiders won’t be able to understand your headlines within their intended context. You’ll likely be using a content management system like WordPress for creating your blog posts, in which case, you can simply highlight the text and choose which headline style to use. The system will add the tags to the code for you.

Understanding Headlines from a Reader’s Standpoint

Unless you’ve studied web user behavior, you likely underestimate the importance of a page’s headlines. The next time you find yourself browsing online, pay attention to how you use headlines to guide yourself. The most important headline (h1) shows you what a specific page references, whereas subheadlines help you find the relevant portions you wish to read. Using headlines effectively helps optimize your site for SEO purposes, while simultaneously improving overall user experience.

Headlines might appear complicated at first glance, but it’s quite easy to master these helpful tools. To maximize your headline potential, experiment with different headings and pay attention to metrics like bounce rates and incoming visitors from search engines. With a bit of luck and hard work, you’ll be able to work out how best to use headlines to improve the quality of your site’s pages.

Food Styling: 5 Simple Tips to Make Your Photos Pop

Food Styling: 5 Simple Tips to Make Your Photos Pop

Conjuring up the right words to describe the delicious aroma of a decadent dessert or the stunning visual artistry of an entree often proves tricky. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and modern consumers are eager to share their indulgences with the world via social media. Many social media users share these photos with the cheeky hashtag, #FoodPorn.

Whether you’re a restauranteur courting would-be diners or an entrepreneur blogger showcasing your latest creation, mastering the art of the simple food shot is vitally important. Use the following simple tools to take photos your followers will be thrilled to share with the world.


Find the Light

It doesn’t take an artistic genius to know bright fluorescent lighting rarely makes for a great photos. On the flip side, you’ll also want to avoid taking pictures of your food in a dimly-lit restaurant. Instead, try to flood your frame with natural light, which highlights the dish’s appearance without washing it out. If your photo looks washed out, try to adjust your white balance to correct the color.


Keep Distractions to a Minimum

Your food should be the star of the show, which is why it’s always preferable to eschew patterned dishware and busy backgrounds in your photos. Keep overall photo composition clearly in mind—remember, social media users will likely see a small thumbnail of your picture. If you crowd the shot with too many items, your picture will fall flat.


Bring Your Audience to the Kitchen

While it’s only natural to focus on your finished product, social media users love to take a trip behind the scenes from time to time. Why not amp up the value of your photos by including pictures of the actual cooking process? Bowls of batter, boiling vats of oil, and ingredients in their raw form can all look contribute to a great feature piece on a particular food item.


Play with Angles and Bites

Don’t position your camera directly over your dish, take a snap, and call it a day. Try some different angles to add interest to your photos and discover which perspective best highlights your dish. You might also want to interact with the food, using a fork to stab a bite or photographing a piece of cake in hand. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and try to transport them through the image itself.


Forget Hot Out of the Oven

Advertisers have long used visual tricks to make food photos more appealing. Mashed potatoes stand in perfectly for ice cream, and Elmer’s glue looks more appealing than mayonnaise. You might not want to dabble with non-edible ingredients, but at the very least, experiment with photographing your food at different temperatures and add various components at different stages of the photography process.