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Less Is More: Time to Cut Content Bloat & Create Content Connections

When it comes to the craft of writing, my favorite luminary is the late William Zinsser. His book, On Writing Well, is — in my opinion — the definitive work covering its stated subject. On Writing Well is an essential read for anyone who wants to elevate their prose. Zinsser’s primary focal area is word economy. “Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly,” he implores. “Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work?” That last question is especially pertinent to B2B marketing writers. The reader should always be our top concern when penning copy, but in this case, the stakes are even higher. Attention is at a premium with business professionals, so wasted words are especially costly. Content bloat leads to audience abandonment. via GIPHY In the spirit of Mr. Zinsser, we’re offering up tips on trimming down your writing to make it more punchy and concise. And to do so, we’ll curate advice from top wordsmiths in the marketing game, with a key emphasis on overcoming the most prevalent pitfalls for today’s content creators.

3 Keys to Concise and Compelling B2B Marketing Copy

Rigid formats, giant blocks of text, and unnecessary filler words are banes of succinct writing. Here are some pointers from the experts on conquering them.

#1 – Nix Stringent Word Counts

So many writers are at the mercy of word counts, and it’s a tragedy. We’re told we need to produce at least 1,500 words, so we inject a bunch of unnecessary filler to get there. Does this serve our audience in any way? Hell no. The conundrum is that numerous studies show higher word counts correlating with higher SERP placements. However, this is misguided thinking. Long-form content is fantastic and it’s certainly part of our mix here at TopRank Marketing, but it needs to be valuable. Don’t take my word for it; here’s what Rand Fishkin — co-founder of Moz, and one of the planet’s top authorities on SEO — has to say: “700 more words will not help you reach your goals any more than 7 more words. Create content that helps people. Do it efficiently. Never write an ultimate guide where a single image could more powerfully convey the same value. Trust me; your audience and your bottom line will thank you.” [bctt tweet=”700 more words will not help you reach your goals any more than 7 more words. Create content that helps people. Do it efficiently. @randfish” username=”toprank”] According to SEMrush’s hierarchy of ranking factors, content length falls below time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, and backlinks in SEO importance. In other words, if excessive wordiness is turning readers away, the number doesn’t really matter all that much. Delivering a quality experience is vastly more valuable. To see what high-performing short-form content looks like in action, check out these examples from IFL Science, courtesy of BuzzSumo.

#2 – Use Every Bit of Space Intentionally

It might not be a writer’s first instinct, but visualization is a helpful practice. Take a step back and look at your content — how it really appears on the page. Are you making the best use of your digital real estate? Ann Handley suggests we take a page from the lead character in Charlotte’s Web, who she says might be the best content marketer in the world: “Think of how Charlotte was able to save a life with just [a few] words,” Handley said during a session at Content Marketing World a couple years back, as relayed by our own Caitlin Burgess. “How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference?” [bctt tweet=”How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference? @annhandley @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”] Think of each page on the worldwide web as a finite spider web. You only have so much space, and so much thread, to get your points across. Make it count. You might not be saving the life of a radiant pig, but you will be more likely to delight and connect with your audience.

#3 – Banish Buzzword Banality

To celebrate the NCAA Tournament earlier this year, our friends and clients at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions* put together a lighthearted marketing madness bracket, calling out the most overused jargon in the profession. If you find yourself leaning too heavily on any terms listed there, you might want to rethink. LinkedIn Marketing Buzzwords It’s not just marketing buzzwords that drag down our copy, though. Content Marketing Institute (CMI)* recently published a rundown of 25 words and phrases to avoid. “Stuffing your sentences and paragraphs with filler and fluff — words and phrases that add zero meaning to what you’re trying to say — is the opposite of clear writing,” author Julia McCoy writes. Many of the items she includes are extremely common, and the types you’re likely to summon out of sheer habit and routine. For instance:

  • In order to
  • Really
  • That
  • Then
  • Just

They seem harmless on the surface, barely taking up space. But this is exactly what makes them so insidious. Most often, you can make the exact same point while deleting these words, and you’ll provide a much more crisp and efficient experience for the person on the other end. Here’s an example: In order to write great copy, you’ll really want to avoid using words that you don’t need. If your goal is to be efficient, then it’s just the best choice. We can pare that down to: To write great copy, you’ll want to avoid using words you don’t need. If your goal is to be efficient, it’s the best choice. Six words removed, zero substance lost. Over the long haul, you’ll save readers a lot of time — and keep them more engaged — by adhering to this mindset.

Writing Well (Usually) Means Writing Less

To be clear, long-form writing isn’t always unnecessarily drawn out. In many cases, exploring the full breadth of a subject requires it. Recently I wrote about the example of Backlinko’s Brian Dean, who puts together massive power pages spanning thousands of words. These posts rank and perform so well not because of their word counts, but because of what those words accomplish: they comprehensively break down important topics and provide credibility-building best-answer content for his audience. If you scan through one of these pages, you’ll find the copy is actually quite sparse in its arrangement, divvied into small chunks and broken up by plenty of visuals.

The Final Word

  1. Forget word counts — maximum or minimum. Write as much as it takes to deliver a satisfying best answer, and no more.
  2. Be mindful of space on the page. Keeping in mind that a majority of users don’t make it very far into online articles, consider leading with your most critical points, or even offering a brief summary atop each new piece of content.
  3. And before you hit publish, challenge yourself to delete every single word throughout that isn’t tied to a specific, tangible purpose. You might even consider printing out the jargon lists from LinkedIn and CMI as references for your cleaning.

The three guiding principles above might sound simple, but they don’t come naturally to even the most seasoned writers. And overthinking word economy during the drafting process can badly hamper creativity and productivity. Focus first on getting your thoughts on the page, clearly and coherently. Later, you can go back and — as Zinsser puts it — prune ruthlessly. “Writing is hard work,” says Zinsser. “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.” Indeed it is. But in the immortal words of Jeff Bezos, “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” You also earn trust, authority, and — ultimately — business. So, grab your shears and let’s get to work. Pruning and optimizing your content can happen post-launch, too. Check out our piece on why refreshing existing content is great for your audience and results. * Disclosure: LinkedIn and CMI are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Less Is More: Time to Cut Content Bloat & Create Content Connections appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Content Curation Inspiration: Types, Examples, & Use Cases for B2B Marketers

Content Curation Inspiration for B2B Marketers

If you create and share content, curation is part of your B2B marketing strategy. From seasoning a blog post with key third-party statistics to sharing an interesting article from an industry publication or influencer across your social channels, you’re curating.

But content curation has a place beyond adding an insight or two to your content.

With large volumes of information available today and short attention spans, curation allows content marketers to create more convenient, valuable content experiences for their target audience, while growing thought leadership, bolstering their content calendar, and increasing production efficiency.

What types of curation exist? How are B2B brands doing curation? When does it make sense to do curation? Let’s dive in.

Types of Content Curation and B2B Examples

The Curation Kitchen Staples: Microcontent

Statistics. Quotes. Tips. Social media commentary. Third-party videos. Gifs. Memes. Curated microcontent is what gives your content its flavor—whether its used as seasoning in a long-form blog post or modularly in short-form social content. This is foundational curation, and it plays a role in all other types. And as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden once said:

“Snackable content can often be managed and repurposed like ingredients to create a main course. On their own, short-form content like quotes, tips, and statistics are useful for social network shares and as added credibility to blog posts, eBooks, and articles.”

See what I did there? Microcontent is simplistic and easy to integrate, helping you provide more depth and insight on a topic, infuse credibility, and highlight industry experts.

When microcontent curation makes sense: Always—if the content is relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Microcontent helps you provide proof points to bolster your narrative and build credibility with your audience.

The Curation Classics: Roundups, Listicles, and Resource Hubs

Collecting key bits of information and insights and organizing them into an easy to digest format is the quintessential content curation tactic. The premise is simple: You’re gathering interesting tidbits from multiple sources on a specific topic and placing them in one central location.

The underlying theme for this curation tactic (and any content tactic for that matter) is relevance and value. It needs to be topically relevant to your audience and it can’t be a lazy compilation; it needs to serve a purpose.

News roundups are perhaps the most popular of the curation classics. We’ve all seen them and likely have a few we go back to on a regular basis, so I won’t spend too much time here. (Shameless plug to check out our weekly digital marketing news roundup.)

But here’s an example of a roundup style piece from EHS and sustainability consulting firm *Antea Group that brings video content together to have a little fun and spark a connection with the audience.

The post showcases six workplace safety videos—all sourced and easily embedded from YouTube—with movie-critic-like commentary that make connections to the daily life and work of their target audience.

Content Curation Example from Antea Group

When it comes to resource hubs, HubSpot is an “ultimate list” destination on a variety of subjects, most notably digital marketing statistics. Here’s a recent example featuring Instagram statistics.

Content Curation Example from HubSpot

For listicles, one of our recent BIGLIST editions featuring 50 of the top marketing blogs featuring martech brands is a solid example. Time was spent on researching and vetting, and the list provides a short and sweet description of each blog, as well as our favorite recent article to give readers a cue on what’s worth checking out first.

Content Curation Example from TopRank Marketing's Lee Odden

Finally, events can be great opportunities for curation. *Introhive, an enterprise relationship management (ERM) platform, regularly curates social and team member insights to compile post-event infographics with top takeaways.

Content Curation Example from Introhive

When classic curation makes sense: Classic curation is largely an awareness and engagement play. If you’re looking to provide your audience with a helpful resource that hits quick on the points, and showcase your brand as a thoughtful expert in the space, this type of curation can make it easy for your audience to find insight and inspiration—and minimize the amount of time they need to spend on the hunt.

The Next Level of Curation: Thought Leadership Mashups

Curation isn’t limited to assembling a robust, scannable list of information or resources, or seasoning original content with stats, quotes, or videos. Curation can fuel thought leadership.

Great examples of this kind of curation are trends-focused pieces. Taking a cue from the classic curation formats, this kind of content aims to identify one or more trend or pattern using curated bits of information, all tied together with your knowledge and expertise.

This could be small-scale or large-scale—meaning a single concept could provide the supporting content or tie-in, or it could be your take on a collection of related trends, facts, or insights. This piece from *SAP’s Digitalist Magazine is a great example.

Content Curation Example from Introhive

But this kind of curation doesn’t just lend itself to discussing trends. Many of our own blog posts use a mashup curation method to educate and engage marketers, and define our perspectives and approach to marketing.

This can be seen in a recent post from Nick Nelson on how to write clear, concise content. Using our words intentionally is a core belief, and Nick was able to illustrate that with his deep knowledge and some relevant insights from third parties.

Content Curation Example from TopRank Marketing's Nick Nelson

Also, when we say “curation,” we don’t just mean collecting insights from third-party sources. You can curate your own content—it’s just most often called repurposing.

Salesforce has a great example here. This recent post touches on a key trend in the marketplace (lack of consumer trust), leverages microcontent from Salesforce’s own research (the Trends in Consumer Trust research report), and then original content builds a narrative for a specific audience (retailers).

Content Curation Example from Salesforce

In addition, curating and repurposing influencer content is an especially big opportunity. More than likely, the insights that influencers share with you have implications and applications across other related topics.

When curation mashups make sense: If you want to build thought leadership on a subject, mashups should be in your content lineup. Mashups allow you to elevate an idea, perspective, challenge, or opportunity, while using existing content as a jumping off-point or as part of the foundation of your take.

Read: A Tasty, Strategic Addition to the Content Marketing Table: ‘Repurposed Content Cobbler’

Content Curation for the Win

Regardless of your editorial plan, you’re already doing some form of content curation. However, you can make curation a more deliberate and effective part of your overall B2B content marketing strategy.

Whether you create an ultimate list featuring statistics from multiple sources, provide high-level takeaways from an event or report, give your own content new life to build thought leadership, content curation can provide value and convenience for your audience and writing team.

Looking for content curation best practices, tools, and more examples? Check out our post on Content Curation 101.

*Disclosure: Antea Group, SAP, and Introhive are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Content Curation Inspiration: Types, Examples, & Use Cases for B2B Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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