Writing Your Way to the Top of Search and Social Results

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Search and social media writing – we’ve come a long way in the past 10 years. Hiring nameless, faceless, anonymous writers from underground sources at $25 a pop is so yesterday. Poof! No more. Garbage in, garbage out.

Today’s smart brands are putting their money where the return on investment (ROI) is, investing in the growth and development of real authors. 2015 brings a new set of standards, the art of producing real, genuine, authentic, and high-quality content coming from an accredited and trusted real person with a notable byline.

Fast and furious content days are over. Search and social experimental writing is history. It’s the dawn of authenticity where bots, fakes, and frauds can’t survive. We’ve entered the era of intelligent content that is laced with smart optimization and is penned by qualified writers who have a name, rank, and serial number of credentials and influence.

Follow Google’s Right Way to Write

Where do brands begin with gaining quality content? Start by hiring writers with a reputation backed by:

  • Expertise
  • Authority
  • Trust

Brands and marketers can gain inspiration from the E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust) concept outlined in Google’s Search Quality Guidelines when creating quality content guidelines for Web pages, social media posts, press releases, or educational guides.

After all, don’t we want to influence the quantity and quality of traffic to a website or blog from search and social? If we look at just Google search traffic, organic results dominate, receiving about 80-82 percent of its search traffic, while ads receive a mere 18 to 20 percent of search traffic. In today’s race for attracting quality eyeballs, the most influential factor can be in the writing quality of a brand’s content, down to every last title tag, meta description, and tweet.

“High-quality writing conveys expertise and trust signals,” said Virginia Nussey, content and media manager at Bruce Clay, Inc. “The better the writer, that is a trust signal of their understanding of the topic.”

SEO and Writing – It’s So Meta

Optimization and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you think about it, it should be easier to teach experienced writers how to optimize than to teach technical SEO programmers how to write. Make it a best practice to invest in educating writers, content creators, and even your public relations team with basic SEO training. This can turn your quality content into search- and social-friendly content that can be better found in search, whether that searcher is performing a Google search or a Twitter search.

Provide writers with data such as targeted keyword phrases and trending hashtags that can help them help you optimize better. Invest in your writers with training and resources so they can deliver. Utilize reliable SEO resources that offer free guides, content, and tutorials on writing for SEO; these organizations make a living offering free SEO educational materials and tutorials:

Tip: Free can cost you if the information is outdated! Be sure to offer your writers resources that are provide current and up-to-date information that follow, for example, Google’s and Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms.

The Long and Short of Content

Let’s face it – as brands and marketers we are writing all forms of content ranging from 100-character tweets to 600-2,000+-word blog or news articles. We are writing for the attention deficit mobile user and the desktop power researcher. The one thing in common is that the content, regardless of size, must be well-written and optimized to maximize the search results and social sharing opportunities.

Going for the Hail Mary of long-form content such as a case study, guide or in-depth analysis? Make sure to:

  • Use bullets
  • Tell stories
  • Use call out quotes of some of the main points
  • Keep it visual with charts, graphs, or infographics
  • Think about the mobile use and have a visual slideshow version

As brands morph into news publishing-like models, it’s important to take note of what types of content work best on news sites. Experts say to avoid 500-800 word counts because it’s not long enough to have substance and too long for the average reader’s attention span. But quality content of 400 words is about what today’s social and mobile readers really have time to read. Hmmm…makes sense now that newswire services such as PRNewswire recommended word count is around 400 words.

“I recommend blog posts be at least 1,000 words in length and offer up the most detailed content,” said expert blogger Ian Clary of Razor Social. “But that does not mean a 400 well-written post can’t be successful.”

Pinpointing the Persona

Regardless of size, the target audience is what is important to a brand’s writer. Who are we writing for and targeting? The more specific information we know about our buyer personas, the easier it is for the writer to create content and for the marketer to properly target – ultimately impacting the brand’s results. Creating persona profiles that will illustrate who the content is intended for can create a magnetic win-win by reaching the right audience with the right message. Take Starbucks as an example – you might be writing for Sally Sales Executive who is a frequent coffee customer looking for reliable Wi-Fi and a temporary desk with a latte on the side. Or you could be writing for Stay-at-Home Dad David who has five minutes to get his java fix refill before the after school carpool. Both are possible personas for Starbucks, but both require two different types of writing style of content.

Share Words of Social Influence

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If you have research and data that will help a writer include words that work best for social networks or tips in email writing, do share it with them! QuickSprout produced an infographic to help writers understand what words work best in different social media networks:

  • To gain more retweets on Twitter use the words “Free,” “Retweet,” or “New Blog Post”
  • Facebook users respond best to words such as “Inspires,” “Discounts,” and “Submit”
  • Looking to land a deal on LinkedIn? The best words to include are “On Time,” “Accomplished,” “Created,” and “Researched,” but skip the overused words such as “Creative,” “Responsible,” and “Strategic.”
  • Google+ users take action on words such as “Share,” “Promote,” and “Increase.”

User-Generated Content

When going for the trust factor, your brand is actually not your best and most reliable source of content for your customers. It’s the reviews that matter most to today’s social-savvy consumer. So although you want to invest in the most qualified writers, your best writers don’t actually have to be hired guns; they can be your biggest brand advocates who are ready and willing to write reviews for your products and services.

Less Is More

Filling space with junk content results in junk audience or no audience. It’s most important for businesses to spend more time writing less content that’s better content. So that means reduce the editorial calendar work and publish less with an eye on a more focused execution.

When Facebook finally admitted that organic reach was down for many businesses, they explained why by pointing out that Facebook is dedicated to show only the highest-quality content and reducing the amount of spam-like content in the newsfeed.

“Organic content still has value on Facebook, and Pages that publish great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — can still reach people in News Feed,” noted Facebook’s Brian Boland in Facebook’s Product News.

Bottom Line: The search engines and social networks are drawing a line in the sand and calling for quality content. This means it’s up to brands and marketers to invest not just in hiring quality writers, but also training and educating writers in SEO best practices, content styles, and trends as well as being included in the brand’s research process and findings such as buyer personas profiles.

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