The main difference between just creating content and actual content marketing is that content marketing is about providing massive value to your target customer while paving the way for the sale. But let’s talk about written content in particular.

What we’re taught about writing at school has almost nothing to do with writing content that provides value while being effective from the marketing point of view. The medium is different, the motivation and expectations of the reader are different. And the times have changed too.

There’s a constant stream of online notifications, emails and number of other cues distracting our brain so that we’re never fully present. In other words, to achieve your marketing objectives – engaging your audience, building trust and developing brand image – you need to follow different rules.

Your Headlines Matter the Most

Today, we’re all bombarded with ads, articles and emails trying to get our attention. An average office worker gets over 120 emails a day on top of the 5000+ ads we all come across daily. As a reader, your first glance is at the headline and its image. And that’s all you’ve got as a marketer to stand out in the crowd and grab your customer’s attention.

What’s mind blowing is that 6 out of 10 people will share your content without actually reading it, according to a new study by Columbia University and the French National Institute. In other words, in 60% of cases, the headline is the only thing people have read before sharing your article. Top content marketers like Ramit Sethi, spend as much as 50% of their time on the headline. And as marketing legend David Ogilvy said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Great headlines make people stop whatever they’re doing and pay attention. How? By following the rule of four U’s – Urgent, Unique, Useful, Ultra-specific. You want it to stand out, promise a value that’s specifically tailored to your prospect’s needs and you want it to make them stop whatever they’re doing and take action NOW. Great headlines are also emotionally charged. Emotion sells. Logic bores. In fact, most content actually doesn’t get shared.

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When CoSchedule analyzed over 1 million headlines, they found out that the higher the density of emotionally charged words they higher the share count. A great tool to use is Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Headline Analyzer. When CoSchedule benchmarked a sample of headlines against EMV score, it correlated with the share count they achieved.

Headline + Opening Sentence = 80%

So you’ve got a great headline that makes people click on it. Now what? They start reading it and either you engage them or they bounce. All of this usually happens between the first few lines of your content. As David Garfinkel points out in his book Breakthrough Copywriting – “A headline and a compelling opening sentence are 80% of the sale”

The point of the first sentence is to get your audience to read the second sentence. The point of the second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence. If you can get them to read about three or four sentences, you have a very, very high chance they will keep reading.

Does Content Matter at All?

Absolutely. At the end of the day, the body is the most important part of your content. Without people actually reading it, no engagement will ever happen.

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After reading your article or a white paper, you want your customers to feel like they’ve gained some quantifiable benefit that will help them grow their business or make their lives better. Your content should be engaging, flowy and easy to read. However, keep in mind that content marketing is not a written language, it’s a spoken language. Readers want to feel like they’re talking to a real person. And they want that person to sound genuine.

Your content should also be ridiculously easy to read. The rule of the thumb is to use the language of a fifth grader as much as you possibly can. If a fifth grader wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, your content isn’t easy to read. To keep it engaging, break it down into smaller parts – each with its own headline and an opening sentence that grows out of closing sentence of the previous paragraph.

Give reader no chance to squirm away. Keep in mind, even easy reading can be tiring after all. Thus, complementing your content with valuable and relevant data, pictures and infographics will making more refreshing.

So Let’s Get to Writing

Great content can strengthen your brand image and build a thought leadership. But the ultimate goal is to get results in terms of ROI. What kind of results however, depends on your business objectives. Whenever you produce content, the actual piece may start with a good headline but when you’re brainstorming, be sure to start with the end goal in the mind.