Tips, techniques and inspiration for marketing communications from Richard Groom at Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Points 6-10 of my ten-point copy and content audit tool

Here’s the final part of a short series introducing my tool for assessing the suitability and quality of existing marketing content. You can also use it to assess new content while it's still in the draft stage.

If you haven’t read my blog summarising points one to five yet you can do it here. (Quick reminder, they are Context, Clarity, Comprehensive, Customers and Clickable.)

To wrap things up, this is a run through points six to ten.

6. Competition

If your competition has created similar content, you probably need to check how your piece stacks up against theirs. Maybe when you published your piece it was the best source of information around. But what if someone has since gone one better?

You could use other criteria in this framework to score competitor content, seeing how it matches up against yours in a head-to-head. For example, is competitor content more comprehensive than yours, or more customer focused?

For online content this step starts with Googling to find competitor content similar to yours. But don’t just use the obvious on-page copy for this comparison. Dig deep to see if competitors are publishing white papers, eBooks, videos, webinars, podcasts, slides, infographics, FAQs, case studies, how-to guides and so on.

I like to print out a few examples and get my Sharpies out. I annotate with notes on what I would like about the competitor content if I were a reader within the target audience. I do the same thing with hard copy content such as brochures or print advertising.

All the above refers to assessing how individual pieces of content stack up against competitors. It’s worth also mentioning some things you can look at to assess your overall content against competitors. Five criteria to consider are:

Volume. Does your total amount of content look slim compared to what your competitors offer?

Publishing frequency. If you publish news or a blog every couple of months and your competitors do it weekly, you may have a problem. (An easy fix to hide the fact that your frequency is poor is to remove dates from blogs, if you are blogging ‘evergreen’ content that will always be relevant.)

Subject matter. Are competitors covering subjects that you haven’t even thought of? (Or thought of but never got around to covering?)

Social media engagement. The level of likes, shares and comments competitor content is getting could be an indicator of how well their content strategy is resonating with audiences.

Traffic and SEO performance. Tools like Alexa, Moz and SEMrush can tell you how well competitor content is performing in terms of the traffic it’s attracting and its SEO performance.

7. Credibility

There’s a very simple question you can ask yourself to instantly assess the credibility performance of a piece of content:

If your most wanted customer read the piece, would they be more willing to do business with you as a result?

Improving performance in several of points 1-6 in this framework will bolster the credibility factor of your content. But now is the time to zero in on what you can do to go further.

Here are five examples of content you can add to build credibility:

1. Numbers. Do you have any stats that strengthen any claims you are making about the performance of your organisation, product or service? Remember to always say where those numbers come from, ideally referencing reputable external sources.

2. Expertise. Sharing genuine expertise could mean interviewing the experts within your organisation. Involve the people who know their stuff.

3. Co-create. Content created in partnership with credible influencers will likely carry more weight than content you produce on your own. Who do you (or colleagues) know across your industry? Can you involve them? (In a 2017 survey by DemandGen, 87% of B2B buyers said they give more credence to industry influencer content – so try to get influencers working with you.)

4. Links. You may not want to link people away from your content. But including a link or two that backs up anything you are saying makes you appear more involved and engaged in what’s happening across your sector.

5. More help (and less sales). Too much salesy content can ruin your credibility. You look desperate. Sell less. Help more people, more often. (Unless, of course, the content really is purely a sales piece.) 

8. Creative

Being creative all day, every day is hard. It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of ‘churning out stuff’ rather than fully committing to excellent content. That’s why when you assess existing content you may find it’s a bit dull, even if when it was published everyone loved it. (Maybe everyone loved it because it was finally finished after a painful process.)

Assessing a piece of content’s level of creativity is not easy. It’s almost impossible if you just try to score it based on a single, blanket ‘creativity’ metric. This could be why advertising legend David Ogilvy preferred to use the word ‘remarkable’ instead of ‘creative’.

Instead, try asking these questions:

  • Does it really answer a question or meet a need?
  • Does it stir emotions?
  • Does it have a great flow, like the best stories do?
  • Does it instantly look as though it will be an easy, interesting read?
  • Will readers think ‘this is about me and my life’?

If the answer is ‘no’ to all these questions, work is needed. The starting point could be to edit the piece so that the answer to one of the questions is ‘yes’.

9. Call to action

It’s hard to think of a reason NOT to have a call to action (CTA) in every piece of copy and content. Will including one bring in thousands of enquiries, every time? Of course not. It can’t do any harm though. And it will probably do a lot of good.

The simplest call to action is along the lines of ‘contact us to find out more’. But if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your content, why not follow it through with a compelling CTA? Like these:
  • Netflix have managed to provide three benefits within a single CTA device: “Watch anywhere, cancel anytime. Watch free for a month.”
  • Basecamp make it a no-brainer: “Give Basecamp a try – it’s free for 60 days.”
  • Rothy’s add an air of exclusivity to their mailing list sign up: “Find out first.”

Make sure your CTA reflects the context and where the reader is in the relationship cycle. If the content is likely to be one of the first places they come to, and you offer an expensive or high-involvement purchase, you may want to avoid a ‘Buy Now’ CTA. Something like ‘Learn More’ might be better.

And if you haven’t used CTA buttons within your content, start now. Pretty much all the A/B testing I’ve seen found that a CTA button gets more responses than a standard text CTA. Follow your main CTA proposition copy (eg ‘Join our subscriber list to get exclusive offers’) with a button. Ten examples of button copy to consider as a starting point are.
  • Subscribe.
  • Sign up.
  • Join.
  • Get started.
  • Count me in.
  • Yes please.
  • Give it a try.
  • Send me more info now.
  • Take me to the good stuff.
  • Get a demo.

10. Correct

When you review a piece of existing content it’s a good opportunity to check it for accuracy. Some of this is covered under ‘context’. For example, if a piece of legislation is mentioned you need to check that it’s still relevant and hasn’t been replaced by new legislation.

Here are some other things to check:
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar. Why not do a proofread, just in case any typos slipped through the net when the piece was published?
  • Links. Are all the links still working and still pointing to the right place. Don’t send your readers off to 404 error pages.
  • Contact details. Check that anyone mentioned as the contact person is still in position, and that any contact email addresses and phone numbers are valid.
  • Images. Do you have permission to use any images that are part of the content? Include this step if the content was published at a time when people were using images without permission.
  • Brand. If your brand (including your written style guide) has changed since publication, decide whether you want legacy content to follow current guidelines.

As always with proofreading, ideally it should be done by the writer AND somebody else, preferably someone who is good at it. It’s also the final step in any process, a time to spot and fix any errors, and not a time to do more editing.

Would you like the complete content audit resources?

The ultimate resource is my new e-book, which includes more detail and examples across all ten criteria, a checklist and scorecard, and hints and tips for easy fixes for the most common problems. Drop me an email now if you’d like to a copy (it’s free!).