Good content is created when people are becoming parts of the structures you’ve built to serve them and to invite them to interact with you. Think of content writing as the best way to future-proof your digital strategy and use it to build an audience and to further grow together with this audience.
It is only through serving and engaging audiences that content writing matters and makes sense. And this happens way beyond keywords.
Content that desires and therefore deserves its readers
We are stepping forward, beyond the flat world of one-dimensional relationships that our use (and abuse) of the world wide web has shaped. We are entering the interconnected world of a semantic web where digital is an extension of real life, not an imaginary (easy-to-fake) world in which we can easily pretend to be somebody we are not.
In this brave new world, you don’t win and maintain relationships with audiences by churning out poor content. You do it with exceptional, inspired writing that really cares about the person on the other side of the text.
What follows is a sample lesson from my course Content Writing in the Semantic Web. The slides with the notes below them are part of the section Writing as Connecting.
Let’s take a look at how we as creators, publishers should cast a wider semantic net with our content and make sense of our data, so that it has lasting value and can live it’s live across a variety of channels and platforms.
Here we will talk about content writing basics, about semantics and last but not least about words and texts as experiences.
SEO is not dead. Spam is.
Thankfully, with the advance of technologies that “read” content on the web, slowly but steadily we are waving quick wins and “gaming the system” goodbye. Yet there is something we shouldn’t skip and these are basic SEO requirements, something like a digital literacy. (Here’s a nice On-Site SEO Basics Guide ; you might also want to check: THE NEW MARKETING IS ALSO THE NEW SEO )
Although keywords don’t matter as much for your content, you still need to be clear about what exactly your business is about and choose wisely the main words you will be using. Query-based titles and subheadings are good. They are not a technique or a tip, they just help people find what they are looking for and align you to your topic (for search engines). Your task (the piece of art you are required to create) is to craft relevant titles with people in mind first, yet with basic “information retrieval” literacy too.
Content writing basics are here to stay
There are content writing basics that are here to stay. Among the most significant are:
– Write to inform
– Be clear unambiguous
– Stay relevant
– Engage in (ignite) dialogues
Most importantly, answer questions.
Content that answers questions
If you think of all of the above listed are hard to achieve, you will see them organically happening when you do one simple but very often neglected activity: answering questions.
Your basic starting questions when planning to create content:
- What is your product/service/content about?
- How does your your product/service/content enrich the life of the person who consumes it?
- How does it translate into benefits for your customers and prospects?
- Why it will be the solution people are looking for?
Provide value, tell you readers something they don’t know, help them get things right or get things done or even figure out things.
And there you go, by looking to satiate your readers’ curiosity or meet their informational needs, you have seamlessly created content that:
1) creates context
2) with which you cast a wider semantic net
In other words, you managed to write content that in the first place is aligned to your topic which is the most important thing for your readers. Something more, you have structured your content as a source that is more easily understandable by search engines. The richer your content, the deeper it addresses the topic, the easier machines can figure out what you are about, they can eliminate ambiguities, they can categorize and classify you better.
So, thinking about semantics is important as semantics is where the organic nature will meet intent. It is you who should set the parameters and the basic structure your content to grow, leaving no room for ambiguity. Then it is that same you who should let the content develop in the wild, wild web, forming relationships and context.
A case for context
Context, the story around your words, is what helps your words jump over the fence of being only words and nothing else. Semantically you create context by casting a semantic net, that is by creating semantic fields around your business.
What is a semantic field?
Keywords are queries and you can use this to check how people search, however, what you also want to do is broaden the reach of your content and add new, unthought links and relationships between subjects.
You start with core words and concepts. Imagine you are creating a mind-map of the topics you will want to cover. And you create a net. This is what you use to loosely structure your content writing efforts, to plan and ideate your content. With these insights in mind you also create tags and categories to wisely to group your content under.
And then you are ready to start spreading the word.
Be the centre of your content, make it spread. When writing, listen to the “beat” of the online dialogue, engage your readers, show them something unique, something that makes you stand out.
Join the conversations in your field and ignite conversations, based on what you have decided to cover as topics, themes, subjects.
Cast a wider semantic net with your writing
As meaning is web-like, not tree-like, creating an environment for your writing to grow organically is vital.
We are streams of meaning and understanding. Two dynamic flows that live and unfold in a context. Both your readers need context to understand you, and engines to properly classify your content to further retrieve and rank it.
The wider your semantic net, the broader your reach. Naturally, bigger networks attract more followers, as everybody finds their they in it.
Weave a web of words (and people)
What the disruption the unfolding semantic web together with social media causes is greater transparency. That in turn paves the way for texts to get back to where they belong: the realm of meaningful open, two-way communication.
That means it’s time to start focusing on what really matters, in our case, serving (customers prospects and) audiences with the type of content writing that makes sense, meaning and helps, not just feeding whatever engines that mean nothing and what is more help nobody.
Ignite meaningful open, two-way communication
Words are things. They are experiences too. Experiences in turn translate in social signals, earned links and engaged audiences. Real-world relationships feed their existence, not the mind of somebody hired to put a 300-word promotional post on your blog, who doesn’t even know your audience neither cares for engagement or interaction.
- What are your audiences about?
- What do they need?
- How do you make sure you listen to them?
- How do you help them become their better selves?
In other words, what experiences do you create with your writing?
Good, resonating (that is relevant) content that fosters social signals, earns links and engages audiences.
Remember: Experiences in turn translate in social signals, earned links and engaged audiences.
Identify the topics your audiences cares about and discusses. Connect with them by entering their dialogues or inviting them to an interaction with your content, interaction that will make their lives easier and will help them solve a problem.
Giving information with your web content is important but actionable advice and true expert guidance is as important. This type of content has it’s costs and does not just appear, it is created within the interaction with your readers (customers). You need to nourish this interaction and cultivate what comes out of it.
At the end of the day, a text is a unique connector. It is bigger than SEO and larger than your digital marketing life. Your text is something that should transcend all tips and tricks, and reach far away beyond keywords to become a solution in someone’s mind or even feeling in someone’s heart.