How to solve problems with your free content

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How to solve problems with your free content

Why give your content away for free? To sell.


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Put yourself in your customers shoes for a moment. 

They have a problem and need options to help them solve their problem. They're interested in knowing more about solutions. 

A solution that you have the perfect product or service for. But what's the first thing they will look for? 

Free information or content. 

How else can they make a rational choice about which of the many options they should go with to solve their problem? 

Build trust and authority​​​​ with your free content


So how do you attract these customers to your product or service over your competitor's offerings?

It comes down to creating the right content, for the right people, at the right time. 

To do this well it is important to understand your potential customers. Know their problems, the answers they need and the way they find a solution.

This is the buyers journey.

Awareness


In the early stages your customer is aware that they have a problem and need information on how they can solve the problem. 

This could be a blog post or article, an eBook, a how-to video, tip list or checklist. 

At this stage content doesn't have to just written content. Think: videos, infographics, social media posts, podcasts if you have one. 


People enjoy learning in different ways. By offering a number of content options you're widening the net and appealing to more potential customers.

Your content will build trust in what you have to say and if the content is as good as it should be, will help them to see you as an authority on the solution to their problem.

Evaluation


You've captured their attention with the free content you've offered and your customer is starting to feel comfortable with what you have to say. 

Now it's all about relationship building. Developing their trust and showing how your product or service is a good fit and can help solve their problem. 

They're evaluating your product or service...

This is also the point where you want them to see if you aren't the best fit. Convincing a potential customer that your offering is what they need can cause you problems further along with retention and refunds, especially if it isn't exactly what they are looking for.

Now your customer wants to be educated. 

Think: expert guides, comparison white papers (your offering versus your competitors) that look at features and benefits and scripted webinars that can be used as an in-depth FAQ.

Purchase


Their decision is almost made, your customer wants to buy but not necessarily from you. A gentle nudge might be all they need to hit the buy button and make the sale. 

If the content you've offered at the other stages of the buyers journey was appropriate and that content was helpful, informative and exceptional, then a little more imaginative and helpful content should help get the sale over the competition.

At this point your potential customer wants facts and proof. 

Think: detailed product or service literature, case studies that share success stories of other customers with similar problems, trial offers and product or service demonstrations so they can see it in action.

This content doesn't want to be dry or stodgy but entertaining and easily digestible.

What else is all your exceptional, free content is for?


Before you are the company that gets the clicks, the company that is seen as the go to authority, you need to get to page one of the search rankings.

This needs keyword optimised, relevant content that delivers on its promise to solve a problem in a user-friendly way.

Increasing engagement with Lead Generation content is a great way of getting potential customers on to your email list. 

Once they are on your list, you have a captive engaged audience who want to be educated, entertained and also sold to. Win, win.

Content that ranks in the first few spots on page one of Google tends to be long form, in-depth content. According to Brian Dean of BackLinko, the average Google first page results are 1890 words in length. This content still needs to be great. 

Long form garbage will damage your ranking.

Variety in content, as in life, keeps it interesting


A content strategy that offers variety above and beyond traditional blog posts or articles gets clicks.

Listicles, free training video's, how-to guides on your product or service, Infographics, even fun quizzes related to your industry will increase engagement and get traffic to your site. 

No traffic, no sales.

Ensure that your content is shareable and then promote it on all of your social media accounts, the more people who see it and share it, the more potential visitors.

The single most important takeaway from this is that any content that you produce, no matter what it is, has to be exceptional. Well thought out, informative, addressing your customers problems and a pleasure to read.

Content Marketing: 5 ways to keep it interesting

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Content Marketing: 5 ways to keep it interesting

Content: Keeping it varied

Producing great content is what we do, right? Content marketing.

The content people want, the content that answers their questions, solves their problems and most of all the content that encourages people to believe in you and trust you.

Great content helps with visibility and will  get you ranked on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

The question we need to address is how to keep our content fresh, interesting and clickable. 

Is it only stunning articles and blog posts that will draw in the hordes or could mixing it up a little get more interest, clicks and sales?

Of course, content marketing is way more than just writing articles.

Would you prefer a downloadable PDF to read at your leisure or refer to?

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Let’s have a look at the top five alternatives to traditional article or blog post. This list is by no means exhaustive, but can serve as a starting point for your own creativity and ideas on how to keep things interesting, fun and profitable.

1. Video

Camera man filming

That video is here to stay, I think is a given. The viewing statistics for YouTube are an eye-opener

- They have over a billion users and each day those users watch a billion hours of video.

-  YouTube reaches more 18 to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the US.

-  And interestingly more than half of their views are on mobile devices.

These videos range from vloggers documenting their lives and passions to educational videos for every subject under the sun and a whole heap of corporate content. Why not you?

The opportunities to incorporate video into your content plan are endless. Explainer videos, product demonstration videos, turning your articles into videos with voice-over, the list goes on and on.

However, if you want your video to convert well; that is, drive sales and signups, it has to be scripted. A well-written script can really make the difference, even if you can't afford professional video production. 

As Neil Patel from QuickSprout says, 'it's all about the script, not the video'.

Some companies do a regular weekly video explaining and interpreting complex, new ideas from within their market. An example would be Rand Fishkin's Whiteboard Friday form the SEO company Moz.


2. Infographics

Infographic about photo formats

An infographic is a way of presenting often complex information and data in a visual way that is easier to understand and digest.

The beauty of infographics is that they get viewed more, shared more and linked to more than most of the other content types.

If you have an in-house graphic designer they'll be able to produce visually stunning infographics or otherwise's you can find a graphic artist on a site like Visually

It is possible to design an infographic very cost effectively using a site like Canva, which has a range of infographic templates that are fully customisable.

Infographics are the perfect solution for communicating data, research, statistics, in fact almost anything, in a pleasing, easy to digest visual format.

Bear in mind that to get the shares and clicks that you want, as with all the content you produce, the infographic has to be fantastic and of course relevant to your desired customer base.


3. Guides

Guide on getting found on the internet

Think of a guide as a really long article on a subject that will solve a problem or a number of problems for your ideal customer.

The need to be visually appealing, easy to navigate and well written.  

As well as using a writer who this is good at getting ideas across in an uncomplicated easy to understand way it is also important to recruit a capable designer, if you haven't got one in-house, to give the guide look and feel that will encourage engagement and shares, hire a freelancer.

Guides are great as lead magnets to collect email addresses and build a list of potential customers looking to hear more from you.


4. How to

 How to articles are fantastic for addressing common problems that your product or service can alleviate.

They are generally in the format:

  • Introduction of the problem
  • Identifying the solution
  • Discuss how the solution solves the problem in detail
  • Summarize
  • Conclusion and call to action

The more thorough and detailed this type of article is the better. Think diagrams, videos, charts and pictures which will all add credibility, interest and promote shareability.


5. Case Study

What is a case study? 

A well written case study is an inspiring success story. 

It describes how your product or service helped solve a customer problem in a unique way. The case study says: 

- Here's what we do

- Here's how we do it

- And these are the results we got

It's important that the case study offers some interesting information and isn't an exercise in marketing.

Writing your case study you need to look at these areas:

- Start with a brief summary and a preview of how things turned out

- Discuss the problem that your client was facing

- Detail the solution that you offered; step-by-step

- Present the results and how it was sucessful for your client

- Write a conclusion and a call to action


By varying the type of content that you provide, you are casting the net that little bit wider by appealing to people who prefer visual content (video and infographics), those who like detailed information on what to do and how to do it (Guides, How to's) and those who are interested in real, relevant success stories that will enhance your credibility and authority and let them see your product in action (Case studies).

Potential customers and prospects have different needs and desires in how they consume content. The more options you offer, the wider readership or number of viewers you can attract, and these people may become customers rather than browsers.






Is your content getting the love it deserves?

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Is your content getting the love it deserves?

Woman writing on a computer

Writing for the web is a combination of great quality conversational writing and basic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that ensures your content stands out from the dross. 

Consider this: there are currently nearly 1.3 billion websites with over 4.5 billion pages and Google processes nearly 4.5 billion searches per day from a little less than 3.8 billion internet users. 

The internet is a very busy place to do business.

There is nothing more frustrating and soul destroying than to spend hours or sometimes days writing an article or blog post, hit publish and get no response, nothing.

  • No comments or engagement
  • No sign-ups to your newsletter or opt-in offer
  • No traffic, and perhaps worst of all
  • No sales

However, with a little optimising, the chances of your content being discovered and driving the engagement and sales you are working so hard to get, can  improve dramatically.

Here’s 5 ways that will help get your content, product or service found, clicked and acted on.

1. Quality Content

Obvious isn’t it? 

If you want to attract readers or customers you need to produce content that answers their questions and addresses their problems.

What is Quality Content?

Quality content is real answers to real peoples questions. 

It educates and entertains them. It tells them how to do something or how to find something.

It gets quoted, linked to and shared, that shows that it is trusted.

Quality content is what people choose to read, choose to talk about with their friends and colleagues and choose to mention on social media.

It’s that good.

However, quality means different things to different people. 

Know your customers

Getting to know your readers and customers, construct a buyer persona’s of your ideal customer based upon research of your existing customer base and discovering what interests them, what questions they are asking and what worries them.

With this information you have a wealth of subjects that you can use to create quality content that will answer their questions and address their concerns.

Learn how your customers ask questions. 

Try using Google suggest to see the types of questions being asked and how they are phrased. 

Check out forums relevant to your niche, look at your blog comments and see how your customers speak.

Now, use those words and phrases when you are creating your content and you will be answering the questions they are asking when they are searching for information.

What else is quality content?

Content isn’t for selling. That’s the job of sales pages. There’s nothing wrong in linking to a sales page if your product or service can help solve a problem, but your content is not there to sell. 

It’s for providing information, building trust, answering general product or service questions and for educating and entertaining your customers. 

Why shouldn’t they enjoy your content and have some fun?

Consistency is essential. Posting content on a a regular schedule will quickly build up a store of content that will be able to answer a wider range of your customers questions.

More than anything, make sure your content is better than everything else on offer. Do that little bit more than your competition and yours will be the link your customers click on.

2. Keyword Research

When should you do keyword research?​​​​

Before you write anything. 

  • Articles 
  • Blog posts 
  • Sales pages 
  • Landing pages 
  • Product pages
  • Newsletters
  • Service Pages

Literally everything. 

There are a wide variety of tools available to help with keyword research. Depending on how much you are prepared to spend and the level of complexity, there is a keyword research tool out there for you.

Free Tools

Googles keyword Planner, which can be accessed through your Google Adwords account,. It can give you an idea of the search volume and can suggest additional keywords that are similar to your choice.

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Other free Google tools that are useful when you want to know the types of questions that your customers are asking are, Google Suggest, which gives you related ideas for keywords which are shown as you type in your search term

Google Suggest

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and Related Searches which are shown after the results for your search.

Google Related Searches

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If you are looking for long and medium tail keyword options you can use the Google wildcard search by putting an asterisk after your search term for suffix suggestions or using an underscore (_) prior to the search term to see prefix options.

Google Suffix Terms

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Google Prefix Terms

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Additionally using Wikipedia to find contextual keywords or synonyms can reveal some great keywords that few, if any other companies will be trying to rank for.

Paid Tools

Amongst the paid options are tools offered by SemRush, AHRefs, Wordtracker, keyword tool, keyword discovery and Spyfu. 

An in-depth review of these tools and others is available here on Brian Dean’s Backlinko site.

3. Headlines

What is it that differentiates one article, product or blogpost from another? 

Why do we click on one and not the one that is above or below?

How is it possible to turn your article or product into a click magnet and let you overwhelm the competition?

Your headline.

In his report - Why Headlines Fail - Sean D’Souza doesn’t just tell you what you should do and how you should do it, he adds in psychology so that you know ‘why’ it needs to be done this way. (Check it out here). 

Headlines should contain a question:

‘Do you know where you fail in your marketing strategy?’

Or

‘Are you struggling to pay your bills?’

As well as a problem:

‘Is procrastination ruining your life?’

Or 

‘Is your marketing strategy missing a vital link’

And finally curiosity (think ‘How To’ headlines):

‘How can you turn procrastination into motivation?’

Or

‘How to get your articles read by your customers’

A headline doesn’t need all of this psychological triggers but if you can use two or even three, it will strengthen your headline and force more people to click through. Headlines are one of the most important elements of your content and deserve to be given as much time as writing the content, if not more. 

Additionally, the keyword you are creating your content around needs to be included in the title so your customer knows exactly what to expect and it will help to improve how the content ranks.

A poor slap-dash headline won’t attract anyone, whereas, a carefully crafted headline will.

4. Meta Description

They loved your headline, but before they take the next step and click to take them to your website, they want a little bit more detail to be absolutely sure that you have what they are interested in.

Enter the meta description, the text that sits directly below the clickable headline in the search results.

Meta Description example

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Those 320 characters can make the difference between a click or your customer looking at the next search result. 

It’s your chance to concisely describe the essence of the article or product in a way that will elicit the reaction you want — clicking through to your article or landing page. 

If you don’t include a meta description Google will pull text from your content which might or might not encourage the click.

5. Sub-headings

They’ve arrived, clicked through and are on the landing page or article but will they read it?

That depends.

Does the introduction give them a clear roadmap of what’s to come and what format to expect?

Is it scannable? If it’s in-depth, comprehensive and authoritative (and it should be), can they click through to the sections they want to read first?

Is it easy to read and enjoy?

Sub-headings break up the text into easy to consume sections, that will keep your customers reading. 

Here’s a good example.

Breaking up a wall of text into bite-sized, chewable chunks makes a lot of sense and will also help Google to determine what the content is about, which could assist to a limited degree in ranking.

And finally…

​​​​Being found on the internet is a constant battle, a battle that, with a little forethought can be won.

By doing the basics: writing quality, informative, authoritative content that is structured to be read and enjoyed and enticing the reader to click with a superbly crafted headline, you are doing more than the majority of sites.

Add well researched keywords and basic on-page SEO and you will stand out to both the search engines and your customers as a beacon amongst the millions of mediocre websites operating on the internet.

Why is eLearning booming?

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eLearning is booming and that isn’t going to change, in fact the growth rate is only going to increase.

In 2014 online education and eLearning was worth around $56.2 billion and one year later had leapt to $107 billion global industry. With a CAGR of 7.2% it is anticipated the industry will be worth around $325 billion by 2025.

This surge of interest in eLearning is partly explained by the formats that eLearning now offers. Mobile learning, gamification and micro-learning broaden the appeal and let us learn new skills in the way that suits our available time, personality and budget.

What else could be driving the rise in eLearning?

With an increasing rise in automation and the rapid development in algorithms that can replace humans in jobs ranging from farming to armed services and on to stock trading, are we entering an age of reinvention?

Algorithms are replacing humans…

​In his book Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari states that algorithms are being trusted with increasing critical decisions in the armed forces; think pilotless drones programmed with ethical algorithms to conform to the latest rulings of the international criminal courts (Harari, 2017, pp359-360). This reduces the need for the numbers of soldiers and airmen.

Farm workers are seeing signs of their jobs disappearing as farming becomes increasingly automated to increase productivity and efficiency. Spread a Japanese company is building the world’s first robotic farm with all of the processes except planting seeds to be fully automated. This will improve energy efficiency, labour costs and will boost production from 21 000 lettuces a day to 50 000 and within five years they plan to increase that to 500 000 lettuces daily.

Have we outgrown our usefulness?

Economically humans are also losing their importance as intelligence is decoupling from consciousness (Harari, 2017, p361) and computer algorithms are being developed that will allow computers to outperform humans in a variety of tasks from playing chess to driving cars, diagnosing diseases and identifying terrorists (Harari, 2017, p361). Algorithms excel at pattern recognition often performing as well humans in accuracy but many times faster.

Robots and 3D printers are replacing many workers in manual jobs and white-collar workers are facing a similar threat. Banks are using fewer staff and more automated services for deposits, withdrawal of money and lending decisions. Travel agents are becoming superfluous when you can buy a holiday on a smart phone and hiring new staff where algorithms convincingly outperformed humans at all levels of recruitment is going to get increasingly automated.

Stock market trades are also governed by algorithms that can process more data in a second than a human could in a year and there very speed of action has been responsible for a number of ‘flash crashes’ over the years (Harari, 2017, p.364). Algorithms are not infallible, but are continuously improving.

A pizzeria in Silicon Valley is a ‘co-bot’ restaurant where robots help to prepare pizzas. Its owner expects that the restaurant will be fully automated within five years.

As many huge corporations invest increasing amounts of money in automation the list of jobs, careers and livelihoods that are affected by the unstoppable rise in algorithms will only increase.

Click to have a have a look at this infographic on the probability of automation in a number of jobs.

So, what? Isn’t this a good thing for business and profit margins?

Maybe, but what about the people displaced from their jobs or careers? If your job was outsourced to a robot or an algorithm costs a fraction of what it would cost to employ you and can work twenty-four hours a day, what are your alternatives and what can you do to get your life back on track?

Reinvent yourself.

Reinvention through elearning

PWC estimate up to 30% of UK jobs could be impacted by automation by 2030 with the US and Germany expected to see rates of 38% and 35% respectively, though this should be offset by job gains elsewhere in the economy.

When you read these figures, it is natural to be alarmed, but hey – you’re a professional; a doctor, pharmacist, lawyer or a recruitment head-hunter – you’ll be safe, no computer will be displacing you from your office, you’re indispensable.

Sorry, you’re not even remotely safe.

Computers diagnose lung cancer more reliably from MRI scans than doctors and the FDA has approved a device that can deliver low levels of anaesthesia automatically. Robotic controlled pharmacies are here to stay; a robot operated pharmacy opened in San Francisco in 2011 and dispensed two million prescriptions in its first year; without a single mistake. Algorithms to automate recruitment are adding value by speeding up the process and cutting the cost of recruitment. Sifting through tens of thousands of documents in the discovery phase of a lawsuit is increasingly being performed by databases exploiting big data techniques including syntactic analysis and keyword recognition.

If extensive job displacement is the situation that is facing the global workforce; reinvention, re-training and strategic learning will have to be part of the answer.

Elearning: free or paid?

Ongoing education and eLearning is certainly going to be key in enabling the people displaced by technology and automation to reinvent themselves and re-train to fulfil a new purpose, but what should they learn?

The options for eLearning are, to be honest, numerous ranging from paid course to free and from full degree courses to quick and easy, short taster sessions. These course options encompass traditional learning environments with amazing support like the Open University to courses offered by commercial companies like Udemy or through platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable.

Have you heard about the Massive Open Online Course’s (MOOC) on offer? Top universities like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and many others are offering open access to some of their courses to increase their accessibility. These range from humanities to science and on to classics and all completely free.

Want to be an online marketer? Lots of free and paid eLearning courses from people like Neil Patel, Bryan Harris or Pat Flynn.

Prefer to learn a language? Try free courses at Duolingo or a paid course through Rosetta Stone or Berlitz.

Need an access course to get into further education? Want a new career in web design? Programming? Want to publish the novel that your desperate to write?

It’s all out there. Somewhere.

The internet is a very big place…

There are thousands of companies who are keen to train, educate and help people to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.

They want to be found. Really, they do.

It may require a little tenacity and a few false starts but soon you’ll be inundated with ideas that can be refined. There will be lots of content leading you back to their website that offers you a vast array of information to give you a taste of what’s out there.

Sign up for some newsletters to get a feel for the company and have a really good look around their website.

Are there free taster sessions? Downloadable eBooks to give you the basics? How expensive are the courses? Can you attend a webinar to see first-hand their style of teaching? Give them a call and speak to them, ask questions, keep asking questions until you are happy.

A lot of the reputable online course providers will offer a money back guarantee if you’re not happy in the first thirty days or sometimes even longer.

The single most important thing is to ensure is that you perform your own due diligence and you are completely happy before you sign on the dotted line. Ultimately, no matter how enticing the sales pitch, only you will know when you are happy.


References​

Harari, Y. N. (2017) Homo Deus, Vintage.