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Let your Content Strategist do his Job!
Written by Doc Sheldon
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 16:00

We’ve all seen dozens of articles and blog posts on how to select an SEO service provider. Sometimes it seems there’s nearly as many different ways to approach the issue as there are SEOs. What isn’t often talked about is how to develop your copy. First, let’s consider the difference between copywriting and content strategy. I think a good way to look at it is to compare the two to link-building and SEO. Link-building is a subset of SEO; so too, is copywriting a subset of content strategy.

Strategy wins more battles than force

Content strategists don’t just generate text, sprinkled with keywords and phrases. That would be putting the cart before the horse. Before generating copy is even contemplated, the strategist has to decide who the copy is for, what it’s supposed to accomplish, how it will accomplish that and the style that should be used.


Who is the audience?

Knowing the demographic of the audience is critical for effective content. Some of the first questions a savvy content strategist will address are:
  • Age group
  • Sex
  • Income level
  • Culture
  • Education level

Obviously, each of these can impact greatly the writing style that should be utilized. Strangely, though, many of my clients can’t answer those questions, even though they may have already indicated that they have a particular style in mind. Guess what? I want to know the demographic! You’re probably already using that style, and if we’re talking, there’s a good chance that it’s because that style isn’t working so hot. So let me do my job, okay? 18-25 year-old female high school grads in Georgia need to be addressed differently from 18-25 year-old male college grads in Maine. If you’re presently generating your just content for 18-25 year-olds, you’re missing the boat. Badly.


What is the goal?

Conversions, you say? Well, maybe. But I also have a lot of clients that are just wanting to build credibility and authority. Others may be trying to build brand recognition. Many just want to inform. It’s important to know exactly what is wanted as an effect, both short and long-term. Without it, you might as well just slap up a few pages of Lorem ipsum and call it good. At the very least, rankings are a likely target, though.


How will the goal be reached?

There are a lot of different ways to achieve different goals – too many to list here, even if I was so inclined. Let’s just say that determining the path you’re going to take depends upon your start point and destination, as much as anything in between. Once you know your demographic and your goal (and the short, intermediate and long-term goals may need to be adjusted along the way), you can start planning the attack plan.

Informative, instructional or merely thought-provoking are some techniques that may fit your project. Tutorial or anecdotal may suit your case better. The strategist will analyze all the information gathered thus far, and come up with his plan. Plans, actually, is more likely. I usually have at least my preferred technique and one alternative… sometimes more. I may even do some testing to see which brings better results.


What’s the style?

Having identified the technique to be used, the next step is to formulate the style. Stiff and formal works great for semi-legal copy – for other stuff, not so much. Friendly and helpful is great for blogs, FAQs and informal pages, but doesn’t really exude “authority”. Precise an informative certainly has its place – news, review, opinion, for instance. And what I call Uncle Joe… very informal, some slang, sentence fragments – basically, a loose conversational style – can have its place occasionally – usually on a blog, unless you demographic is primarily good ole boys from across the river. Again, depending upon the venue, the demographic and the goal, the style that best suits the project will vary.

One thing that bears mentioning: Just as most clients don’t really know who their target demographic is, most tend to want to put up copy that they like. I don’t care what they like! I only care what the users like. And that’s all the client should care about, too. The key is to make them realize that. I had the CEO of a Fortune 500 company tell me, “I don’t like it” when I handed him my first draft for their new site’s About page. My response: “Good! I wrote it for your customers and prospects, not for you. Do you really think that many of your visitors are CEOs with a Master’s Degree?

He laughed, agreed and signed off on it.

Doc Sheldon -

Doc Sheldon is a retired business management consultant, and a perpetual student of all things SEO. He’s also a copywriter, providing professional webcopy, articles and press releases. He’s been involved in SEO for a little over five years, and writing professionally for over thirty.

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0 #1 Robin Jennings 2011-12-29 19:17
As always good points Doc. Especially about writing what your audience wants not what you personally like.

If you want to be indulgent by writing what you love- write a novel.

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