What’s the Recipe for Writing Effective Content?

consistent, compelling content - recommendation for bloging and social media marketing - a word abstract in vintage letterpress wood type on a digital tablet with a cup of coffee to illustrate What’s the Recipe for Writing Effective Content

Saw a meme the other day and got to thinkin’ about content marketing.

The meme shows an ancient-looking bearded figure in blue, gold, and red finery. He looks slightly annoyed as he gazes sorta side-eyed at the top portion of a long scroll.

Image of bearded man holding scroll to illustrate What’s the Recipe for Writing Effective Content?Above the image, some clever memester has added the words, “Scrolling through the fluff on a food blog to get to the actual recipe…”

I’ve heard lots of people complain about this sort of thing — and not just when it comes to recipes. They query Google, click on a promising link, and then have to wade through multiple paragraphs of seemingly unrelated fiddle-faddle, flapdoodle, and folderol before getting an answer to their query.

If they ever get an answer.

Let’s Chat Fluff

As I said, the image-turned-meme (a mid-19th century watercolor by Frederick Sandys, according to Birmingham Museums) got me thinkin’ about fluff and user intent.

First of all, why is there so much fluff, at least according to many readers and the old bearded dude with the scroll?

For years now, the standard industry answer has been that content needs to be at least 300 words to attract any attention. (Google does not have a “preferred word count,” however.)

SEO writing assistants provide word-count recommendations (sometimes into the thousands) depending on the topic, target audience, keywords, page intent, and other factors.

But word count is just one variable out of many that helps increase a site’s expertise, authority, and trust (E.A.T.) factor in the digital eyes of search engine spiders.

And we can’t really build up the E.A.T. factor with content that doesn’t satisfy user intent — no matter how much keyword research we do on a piece of content.

Perhaps somewhere along the way, writers lost sight of what’s most important when it comes to content marketing. And what’s most important is answering user queries, satisfying user intent, and fostering a web environment that improves the user experience and makes them want to visit a site again — and take action when they visit.

Quality Content, Quality Results

No content is going to be worth doodly squat if it doesn’t offer the user a reason to continue reading. This is true regardless of how well the content conforms to analytics or current best practices regarding search engine optimization and updates.

Without a reason to continue reading, no searcher/user is going to build up an affinity for one’s website. And without that singular affinity, there’s little chance of building more.

In other words, if users have no reason to click, reference, link to, or share one’s content on social media platforms, one might as well be screaming into the digital void.

For content marketers, especially content writers, it’s crucial to satisfy searcher intent with every piece we write, whether it’s a landing page for a local plumber or a blog post designed to answer a question posed by an organic search query.

It’s also critical to keep your content updated and relevant to modern users. A site with loads of content of minimal relevance to modern search queries will generally perform poorly in SERPs. After all, a keyword with a high search volume today may not have a similar search volume in the future. Analytics helps us keep track — and stay on track.

What’s the Recipe for Content Marketing Success?

So while readers ask “where’s the recipe?”, writers must ask “what’s the recipe?”

Specifically: What’s the recipe for creating content and content strategies that we can predict with a high degree of confidence will lead to great content that performs?

“Can the internet just get to the answer? Nowhere is that more true than when you look up a recipe. ‘How to make French toast.’ Rather than just cut to the chase, they’ll be like, ‘Ya know, breakfast was such a big thing in our household when growing up. The sound of the bacon crisping in the frying pan. The pitter patter of our feet as we get …’ How do ya make it? I don’t need to hear the sound of your pajama pant legs swishing down the stairs. Ya got vanilla in there? Ya got cinnamon? Just cut to the chase!” (Comedian Bill Burr, “Monday Morning Podcast,” August 2019)

There is room for all kinds of content, even fluffy French toast content. As writers engaged in high-level content marketing efforts, we must constantly balance competing pressures. We must write compelling content that also works for SEO.

That’s the art of the science of content marketing.

As search engines evolve, they become better and better at pinpointing web pages that will answer searcher queries and satisfy user intent. If your content answers those queries and users spend a lot of time on the page — an indication of engagement — then Google and other search engines will rank your page higher.

So what is a content writer to do? Of course, we have to follow the guidelines laid out to us by the powerful analytical tools we have at our disposal. But we also have to write informed content that answers questions, satisfies intent, engages, and entertains. Sometimes with fluff. Sometimes without.

In short, we need to write content that people want to read all the way to the end — and that keeps them coming back for more.