Online Marketing Blog

Web design resources and news for small business owners in Snohomish and around the world.

What makes content “work?”

What makes content “work?”

There are basically three approaches to writing content:

  1. Original and authentic content tailored to you and your customers
  2. Generically-produced content, designed to be serviceable with a minimal investment on the part of the creators. This can be thought of as “cookie-cutter content” and it's created by a writer or staff of writers who piece together info using the internet. There’s nothing in it to set you apart or help your customers understand who you are.
  3. Syndicated content, in which the same exact content is available for everybody who offers similar products or services. (We only mention this one to advise you to stay away from it. There’s very little value in it. It generally leads to a tragically bad user experience.)

We’re hereto encourage you to look at content as an opportunity, rather than an obligation. Personalized and authentic content is provides the best return for you, as the client, and for your customers. To understand that, let’s look at everything that content can do.

The objectives of website content

1. The first thing you can expect from your content is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Populating your website with a high volume of words commonly used in search queries will drive traffic to your site and help the most qualified leads connect with your brand. Cookie cutter content usually focuses primarily on this.

2. Writing interesting, relevant and useful content is just as important as SEO. The content needs to appeal to your ideal customers, the people you want to build relationships with. That means its more than a cabinet of curiosities littered with buzzwords. The message needs to be one that resonates with people and gives them useful information that changes their life in some small way. You, as the expert in whatever you sell, are a wealth of tidbits like this.

3. Finally, your content can bean extension of the people behind your brand. It can advance the conversations that you’re having with you customers, your market, and with the world at large. People don’t expect brands to care about them, because brands care about numbers and bottom line. But they expect other people to care about them. You want readers to feel connected. You want your blog to become a destination, a go-to resource for info about certain topics --- a place that people go to for answers and human contact.


Cookie-cutter content will address all of the above to some degree, but it faces limitations in #2 and #3, because the writers are trying to crank out pieces using the most easily available resources. This typically means other blog posts. A great opportunity is missed here.

Your content gives you a chance to have a stronger presence in people’s lives, and to reach out to them in a way that positions you and your people as reliable experts in your field. There’s an important sub-text to note here, too: the quality of your content shows your level of investment in serving your customers.

You want people to land on your page and feel the presence of the people behind the brand, reaching out to help them. With generic content, users will simply see your website as a mechanical resource that’s been provided simply because it is expected. But its really an opportunity to make them feel like you know exactly what they need, to make them feel understood.

What it takes to make content that connects

The people making your content need to have an in-depth (and evolving) understanding of what makes the content valuable to you and to your customers. There needs to be a correspondence between you, as the expert on the subject matter, and the writers, who put the story together. The reason for this is simple: you are the best resource your customers have.

Think about how much you know about your field, compared to the uninitiated. How much of that is useful information for the people you do business with? You know things that your customers don’t even know they need to know.They don’t know the right questions to ask.

If everything you’ve learned was in one giant book, how long would it take the reader to read it through? Luckily, they don’t have to. They have experts(like yourself) and content writers to do it for them. To tell them,look, save yourself 20 hours of reading. All you really need to know for your situation is this.

There’s an untapped wealth of value you can provide your customers which will get them to rely on you and your brand more. This is the wealth that we want your content to tap into. This is hard, because you’re busy. This is hard and it takes time and effort and relationship building, which is why cookie cutter content writers are not going to do it. They’re going to hop around the web, piecing together a generic collection of buzzwords that says almost nothing about you and doesn’t help the reader feel understood.

Accessing the wealth of wisdom in your head is easy

Here are a few prompts that illustrate how easy it is for you to simply regurgitate some wisdom that can change people’s lives in some small way.

You probably find yourself saying things all the time that include:

  1. Most people who use this product don’t know this, but…
  2. How much you need to spend really depends on…
  3. If I was you, here’s what I would do...

And you probably get questions/comments all the time that sound like:

  1. Do I actually need one of these? Examples: Do I actually need a real estate agent? How can I tell if this prescription is working? How much time is this tool going to save me? One blog post can answer these questions to hundreds, if not thousands of people. More informed customers will then be asking you better questions.
  2. Is this right for me, though? Am I the exception to rule because of...?
  3. Will I actually get my money’s worth? Use a blog post to discuss the value of a product or service and eliminate uncertainty in the mind of the customer.
  4. Is this my best option? What are my other options? Sure, you might end upsetting them on a product you don’t offer. But you’ve positioned yourself as a trustworthy, reliable expert who is not going to exploit them for something they don’t need.
  5. Wow, seeing you do that is amazing. This particular comment illustrates the difference of ability and knowledge between a pro and a novice. They might see you d something that looks like wizardry, when in reality there’s a simple trick or bit of info you need to make it easy or just years of practice that make it easy for you.

If you start looking for these patterns in the conversations you’re having, you’ll become acutely aware of how easy it is to provide valuable info to your customers -- info that will also inspire them to utilize your product more.

Content based off the above prompts can advance the conversation you have with your customers before they walk through your door (or you through theirs). They’re going to be asking better questions, digging deep into what exactly your product can do for them. And isn’t that every salesperson’s objective --- to get them interested? You can use your content to encourage people to explore just how much value they can get out of your product, your service, your people, and your brand.

Don’t be afraid to share your story. Don’t let your website be impersonal and mechanical. People want to know you. Why are you in this field? What is your goal, your purpose? What makes you tick? Help your customers experience what feels like a real relationship with real people,rather than a surface level series of transactions. You can’t quite achieve that with cookie cutter content, because its written by people who aren’t actively building on their knowledge of what is important to you and your customers.