Is Astroturfing Smart Content Generation?


We live in a time when most consumers, for both B2C and B2B, search the Internet to find information and solutions. They may not buy the product or service online, but they’ll often know exactly what they want to buy before they contact the supplier.

This demand for information has fostered a new era of content generation; and in a myriad of formats: blogs, articles, press releases, white papers, case studies, PDFs, interviews, chats, posts, texts, infographics, animated graphics, photos, slide shows, webinars, RSS feeds, videos, podcasts… An overwhelming and never-ending deluge of content designed to entertain, inform and educate (and ultimately persuade) you. Your expectation, as a consumer, to find an abundance of relevant and available information has spawned more information in the past decade than the world has ever produced in its history. This content generation is all for you, do you feel special?

Marketers would like you to feel special. They would especially like you to heed their content, see the wisdom in their information and subscribe to their solution. But, more often than not these days, you’re not listening. And, it’s not just the deafening cacophony of all this content shouting for your attention. Many consumers aren’t listening because they are distrustful of branded sources of information.

Corporations are working hard to build their brand online and earn your attention, maybe even your loyalty. While many consumers are skeptical of corporate motives, preferring instead to place their faith in the online reviews posted by strangers. The Internet has democratized the age of information.

What’s a corporation to do to cut through the noise and gain your attention, when your ear is tuned to other consumers rather than corporate messaging? It may be tempting to help sway public opinion with some guided content masquerading as consumer-posted blogs, comments or testimonials.

From Wikipedia: Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.

Essentially, astroturfing is corporate content posing as unbiased, public support to positively position a product, service or brand. This is done via a fake blog (flog) or website, fake reviews, endorsements, comments, etc.

Some marketers may simply see this as a form of online guerilla marketing. Marketing is about persuasion after all, what could be better than packaging information in a manner that will readily be accepted by the targeted audience? If the information is correct and true, does it matter how it is presented to the public?

I believe that it does, and that consumers see it this way as well. Astroturfing is disingenuous; it is the opposite of grassroots support, which is a primary objective of most branding efforts. Along with n aspect of information democracy, the Internet has facilitated greater transparency. Consumers may not expect more from their brands, but now they can often determine how well brands are living up to their messaging. It is incumbent on corporations and marketers to proceed with integrity. When it comes to building awareness, trust and positioning a brand — fake it ‘til you make it is not a good philosophy.

Engaging in astroturfing is misleading at best, and never a good way to try and build a consumer relationship. Establishing a strong brand and earning consumers’ attention and loyalty takes time and money to do it right. The corporations that invest in insightful and worthwhile content, who listen to their audience and invite a dialogue, who are genuine in serving their consumers’ needs — these are the brands that will rise above the cacophony and build loyal relationships.

For some guidelines on creating good content, check out Donna Kind’s Back to School: Content Generation 101.

For some thoughts on using social media to engage your consumers, check out Alexa Oliver’s Customer Service Is Social.

What are your thoughts on astroturfing; where do you draw the line when creating content for consumers?

Content Creation: How Hard Can It Be?

The recent release of State of Inbound 2015 hi-lights a number of key takeaways, such as:

“Marketers should create compelling content that reflects their company’s voice and brand while helping the consumers of this content turn into website visitors, leads and customers.”

A nice statement that speaks both on the importance of being true to your brand, and on the importance of helping your audience. All delivered through the wonder of creating online content.

If you’re an expert in your niche and loyal to your brand, you may think it should be easy. But, it’s harder than it sounds.

man putting on ladie's high heels

The reality is that many small to medium business enterprises find it difficult to consistently fuel a content pipeline.

In many cases internal experts are just too busy. Perhaps they know a lot but have difficulty in focusing in on specific ideas and topics. There’s a level of organization and planning required to consistently generate fresh stuff — blog posts, videos, white papers, or help guides. And it takes a lot of time. Every week.

Enter the freelancer or marketing agency.

Those that create valuable and compelling content don’t always have to be your own employees.

Freelancers or agencies specialize in working with companies to co-create content and take some of the burden off. They have processes and schedules built around both independent research and working with your experts to organize and publish relevant content.

You don’t’ have to do this alone.

In fact, many don’t. Turning again to the State of Inbound 2015 report, HubSpot found “leading marketer’s content comes from both in-house and out”. This is the sweet spot that can ensure your brand and voice is present but gives you time to look after other parts of your business.

Get the biggest bang for your buck.

It makes sense to use your expertise and best people in a way that delivers the biggest bang for your business.

A lot of content required is to help your online business to “get found” and to help people learn about your stuff (and decide if it is what they want or need). At this early stage people may not be ready to buy yet.

It makes sense to spend your expert time with those that are nearer to buying, after they have consumed some of your remarkable content. Have your out-source work on the “top-of-the-funnel” content while your best people are working on closing qualified leads.

Whatever the case, in-house or out, the experts agree content is the lifeblood of online marketing. Your audience must be impressed with you online and satisfied enough with what they have found in order to give you their business.

Notice I haven’t said that you don’t have to do anything. That would be too easy.

Planning for 2016: Inbound Trends & Patterns Worth Noticing

As 2015 rushes toward its close, it’s time to start planning for next year. Any business that hopes to succeed will include a marketing plan in their business strategy, but it’s not enough to just pay lip service to it. That marketing plan should be actionable, measurable, and focused on Inbound Marketing practices.

graph paper with rising bar graph and pie chart with 'plan' written on it
Photo credit: Violka08 / Thinkstock / 527478745

Not sure exactly what “Inbound Marketing” really means? HubSpot, the company who coined the term in 2006, refers to it as “the art and science of drawing visitors to your company on their own terms versus obtrusively pushing your messages onto them… [It] is the superset of quality content and other ‘magnetic’ tactics.” And their annual ‘State of Inbound’ Report is rather like the State of the Nation and the Farmer’s Almanac of marketing, combined. The 2015 report identifies trends and patterns worth noticing as you build your business plan for 2016, providing insights that are aimed at helping businesses improve top-line performance.

While I strongly encourage you to download and read the whole document, the State of Inbound 2015 Report has 54 information-packed pages, so allow me to give you a brief taste of a few key ingredients for your 2016 marketing success recipe:


“Getting found” is priority #1 (and #2 and #3) for high performers

When conducting its survey and analyzing the results, HubSpot focused on the segment of inbound marketers who generated positive ROI. They looked at these high performers to see if their priorities were different than those of low performers.

Pattern: They found that high performers focused on programs aimed at getting their content (and thus their company) found. Specifically, their top priorities, in order, were: Blogging, organic search, and content amplification. “Blogging appears to have the most substantial impact on performance.”

Inbound Marketing has become an important, cost-effective source of leads

Trend: In 2015, more than twice as many respondents cited inbound (45%) as their primary source of leads versus outbound (22%).

Trend: 84% of inbound marketers cite organic, “top of funnel” lead sources (social media, blogs, SEO, and email marketing) as rising in importance over the last six months. And the Sales team agrees that these four have become the most important, although they place a relatively higher importance on email marketing, whereas Marketing prioritizes blogs and social media.


Related patterns:

  • Organizations that source more leads through inbound tend to enjoy an ROI advantage.
  • Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI
  • While cost per lead was difficult to quantify, it was found that leads sourced through inbound programs were consistently less expensive than outbound leads. This held true regardless of company size.


Inbound is on the rise

Trend: The number of marketers who state they are practicing inbound rose from 60% last year to 85% this year, while the percentage of marketers who concede they don’t run inbound was nearly halved to 13%.

Trend: Inbound is not limited to Marketing. Sales, services, and other departments are starting to use inbound practices. Fostering an inbound approach outside the marketing department has the potential to be a big competitive advantage.


Measurement is essential

Measurement is “the first step in developing a plan and the last step in determining results. This is why data is such a central component of the inbound machine.”

Trend: Alignment between leadership and marketers has increased. This is likely due to an increase in the use of measurement and metrics to collect unbiased, objective data that can be used to drive informed decisions and set appropriate priorities.

Pattern: Marketers that measure inbound Return on Investment (ROI) are 17 times more likely to see the same or higher ROI compared to the prior year. While this data may be skewed by the fact that high performing marketers are more likely to measure results, “there’s a strong correlation between simply measuring ROI and achieving it.”

Pattern: Proven ROI has a significant positive influence on the size of the marketing budget. In fact, “past success with inbound” had a greater impact on budget than any other single factor.


Putting it all together to create a solid plan for 2016

It seems clear from the results analyzed in HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 that Inbound is an essential part of the marketing strategy and overall business plan for any organization. It has been proven to generate leads, lower the average cost per lead, and increase ROI. So, how do you put it into practice?

  • Include inbound programs in your marketing plan and earmark resources for them.
  • Focus on Content Marketing as a key component of Inbound Marketing. Useful, compelling content is necessary to drive Inbound success. “Content is the lifeblood of Inbound.”
  • Establish key metrics, and measure as you go.
  • Identify the projects, activities that are providing the highest return.

And above all, stay nimble. “Inbound is about constantly reallocating your resources based on performance.”

Does your organization “do” Inbound? Have you noticed any other trends or patterns?

Traditional Tweeting: The Merging of Traditional and SocialChannels

Marketers have long known advertising is no longer a one-way street. The social world has meshed with the so-called “real world,” with text conversations acting as bridges between in person meetings. However, in advertising, we still treat “social” and “traditional” as two separate channels.

Recent data indicates that the bridge between traditional and social has spread— at least when Twitter and TV is concerned. This means content strategies might be changing in the very near future to reflect consumers’ multiple screen habits.

In a world where personal video recorders, Netflix, and streaming are commonplace, it can be easy to think that TV is on rocky ground. However, there’s still nothing quite like watching an event the day it airs and talking about it with your friends. Twitter makes these conversations easy and real time, providing brands with a unique opportunity to engage with an influential audience.

Hashtag integration with live shows is slowly becoming commonplace. This season of So You Think You Can Dancedecided to give Twitter the power to save two dancers out of the bottom six, with the judges saving another two.Face Off, a competition reality show based around special effects makeup, has Twitter handles for the contestants. TLC often airs repeats of their programs with added Twitter commentary to show viewers’ reactions.

So what does this mean for brands? A lot, actually.

According to Adweek, 19% of people will consider trying a brand that engaged with them around a TV program. On top of this, 4 of 5 users active during primetime hours mention brands in their tweets.

Instead of simply having to rely on catchy commercials and jingles to gain traction, brands can now have genuine engagement between viewers around TV shows. Social media allows for unprecedented interaction, and conversations no longer have to rely around branded messages.

Facebook is catching on this trend, too. They’ve recently offered viewers three new ways to interact with their favourite TV shows, trying to compete with Twitter as being the go-to television social media. Whether or not these features pan out for companies is yet to be seen, but it could potentially further integrate traditional and social media into a single, indistinguishable whole.

Other media is almost certainly going to follow suit, with the availability of sharing and contributing to news articles online and augmented reality continuing to make strides. Marketers should think less in terms of “traditional” and “social,” instead viewing all media tools as complimentary tactics. The social world is here to stay and continues reinventing how we interact with the world around us. Those who ignore the shift will almost certainly be left behind.

3 Tips for Using Stock Photography Appropriately

As of late, the use (or misuse) of stock photography has been much talked about in the media. The Conservative Party of Canada has come under attack for what some feel as an inappropriate and/or ill-informed use of stock photography.

So, aside from the legal aspects involved in using stock photography (including: licensing agreements and assigning credit to photographers) what are some important things to consider before using stock photography?

Credit: ThinkStock / tanjavashchuk / 479767450

Stock Photography Tip #1: Consider Your Audience and the Context of the Message 

As with any marketing endeavour, in order to be effective, we must consider to whom we are speaking, what we are trying to get across, and how our market will interpret it. Visual storytelling works the same way, and you have to be particularly careful when using stock photography. As in the case above, you can end up offending your audience and casting yourself in a negative light.

In order to be successful, you must be sensitive to the needs, values, and beliefs of your audience. Take time to perform the research necessary on your audience and on the content you are planning on placing in your ad before allowing it to go live.

Lastly, if you have the resources, testing it against your market in a focus group or otherwise might be a wise final check.

Stock Photography Tip #2: Be Careful to Stay on Brand

It can be a challenge to stay on brand when using stock photography, as you are limited to the vision the photographer had at the time of taking the photograph. For example, you might find a photo that captures the right kind of person with the perfect expression, but the lighting in the background of the image is foreboding, while the message you’re trying to send about your brand is a cheery one.

Finding a piece of stock photography that fits in perfectly with your brand and message can be a challenge, but it is worth getting it right to maintain the integrity of your brand.

Stock Photography Tip #3: Strive to Maintain Authenticity

There is a lot of good stock photography out there. However, sometimes even the best stock photography can come off as less than authentic and genuine. People can appear too posed, with overly polished expressions, and are often found standing beneath unnatural, fluorescent lighting. If you want your current and potential customers to trust you, you need to establish and maintain a sense of authenticity.

People (young people, in particular) have become incredibly savvy and are able to detect and then distrust and even ridicule what they feel to be phony, posed photography. There are even contemporary celebrities who make fun of the truly terrible stock photography out there.

Also consider: is it even authentic for your brand to use stock photography at all? Many brands, depending on a variety of factors such as their target demographic may eschew stock photography altogether. The Instagram Generation in particular (i.e. Millenials and Gen Z) is one for which you should exercise caution when opting to use stock photography. This generation expects to see and responds positively to natural, organic-looking photography. Further, they can often tell when stock photography is being used and might not respond the way you would hope.

BONUS: Hire a Professional Photographer

When the budget allows, it is of course ideal to use a professional photographer. You have a much greater chance of successfully communicating the message you want to get across to your audience and getting the response you want. A professional photographer will work with you to help ensure you reach your goals, ensuring every detail works together to achieve the intended results.

Social Media is NOT a Numbers Game

Google Analytics, ROI, CTR, traffic to site and followership. We try by every means possible to measure our impact on social media but somehow forget that social media is a social interaction and not a measurable, predictable one. Simon Kemp, from We Are Social, recently said on stage that as marketers we too often focus on the ”media” in ”social media” and not enough on the ”social”.

Just as a friendship or any relationship we have, social media is a channel to create those kinds of interactions. As a business, you or your customer wants to know:

How much am I getting out of it?
How much does each post cost me?
How many customers or sales do I get out of this social media strategy?

Which as a business, don’t get me wrong, are fair questions to ask. But if I apply the social logic to them and compare them to a human interaction related question, would we ask ourselves the following in life?

How much money am I getting out of this friendship?
How much does each phone call or text or dinner with my friend cost me? Is it worth the investment?
How many new friends or gifts to I get out of this relationship? Do people like me more?

All of a sudden, doesn’t sound so right, does it? So then, the discussion continues, so what can we measure in social media and how do I know if my strategy or tactic is successful or not?

Followers do not mean Customers

Now, number of likes or followers or hearts are numbers that are often measured and used to see if your presence online is improving or not. Your followership can be an indicator of the level of interest your audience might have for what you are selling but their engagement is what will be the key to your success. Facebook offers an engagement rate in their analytics that can be of use but still has to be considered with other factors.

An example of that can be noted in a recent contract I had.

I was working with social media specialists in different countries. The company has a presence on Facebook and one of their community engagement specialist in France wanted to attract new customers with contests online. One of her first efforts brought in big with a Facebook contest that attracted over 1,000 participants. She thought that whatever she had done, worked, so tried to repeat the experience but following contests attracted an average of 300 participants. In that sense, were her efforts more successful the first time?

From a numbers perspective, the answer would be yes. Her first contest was more successful but from a social standpoint, my opinion is that she now knows that she has an average of 300 participants that will interact with her contests and online efforts which is a pretty good number. The ultimate goal is that an engaged community will eventually start using the company’s service on their own because of their engagement with the Facebook page.

So why so many participants the first time? Many factors can be accounted for. Maybe it was a good day, maybe she hit a peak time in France for shopping online, maybe the colours of her ad where enticing, maybe people had nothing to do and had time to participate, maybe exfoliating cream is a popular prize in France and maybe something else. It is important to remember that it is still a human being sitting in front of the screen and making a conscious decision of commenting or liking or sharing a post or not. We can influence that decision, but we cannot predict the outcome.

Quantity is not Quality

So what about content? There is a general belief that if we are able to put more content out there, we will eventually get someone to click on it. Right? Wrong!

Although content is important, you have to remember that quality remains a key factor. Scott Vetter of PROSAR, clearly explains the potential ”con” in not structuring your content properly. Check out his post: Is there too much ”con” in your content? And his take on this approach is dead on. I recently worked with a client that could not see past the number of keywords in the text or the number of content we were pushing out to their audience instead of focusing on the relevance of the keywords used and maximizing the content pieces to offer their customer a meaningful journey through their website.

Indeed, if we want to put that into numbers, even if you have more content out there, if it is not relevant, your bounce rate will still be high and your time on site will remain low as customers won’t find what they are looking for once they have clicked on this so-called ”content” that you published. Social media is a two-way street and no longer a one-way as traditional marketing used to be. It is all about having a conversation or creating a long-lasting relationship, which also require time and effort, just as a normal relationship with a real-life customer would.

And as for frequency, SocialBakers did a study about posting frequency that showed that posting more than 2 times per day would not necessarily help you increase your engagement rate on your Facebook page. And all articles indicate that your content has to be relevant to spark an interest. Keep that in mind.

Finally, remember that social media is about socializing. The great viral successes or popular companies online have often done their share of traditional marketing to build their brand recognition online and offline. Social media will remain an important channel for marketing in the future but has to be seen as a place to converse with your customers and new potential customers and create an interest for your company. No one knows what exactly makes a social success actually a success and each audience will have their own preferences which need to be tested, tried, retried, tweaked and changed again. Stay alert, listen in and see what your audience is telling you instead of trying to tell them what to do. And to understand all of that info, do not hesitate to ask your PROSAR agency about interpreting that feedback and having an expert help you answer all your questions!

Customer Service Is Social

Taking care of your customers is how you stay in business. Customer support lines, email accounts, and in-person offices give customers touch points to reach out and solve their problems. However, this has become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of a socially connected world.

Twitter accounts and Facebook pages have become open forums for consumers to ask questions about your products— and complain about the service they receive. According to the Sprout Social Index, consumers keep turning to social media for customer support.

Unfortunately, most of their messages go unanswered. This lack of focus on social media based customer service costs US businesses an estimated $41 billion a year.

So what can you do to keep up?

1- Monitor Social Media

Tools such as Hootsweet or Tweetdeck allow you to set up custom-tailored streams that let you keep an eye on only tweets you want to see. Monitoring tools also have the advantage of sending emails when you receive a mention, meaning you don’t have to constantly check back your accounts and can spend more time working on your business.

At the very least, you should be checking your social media notifications. Most customers will directly message your property when they’re looking for answers. A daily check to see if you have any questions will ensure timely answers.

2- Dedicate Time to Reply

All the monitoring in the world won’t do anything if there’s nobody there to reply. Unless you have somebody manning the “phones”, so to speak, then your social presence remains a void. Depending on the size of your business, you might not need somebody full time. However, replying should be on somebody’s task list.

Preferably, you’ll want to implement a whole strategy that integrates social media into your pre-existing customer service processes.

 3- Remember It’s a Conversation

How many times have you solve a customer service issue with a single email? The answer is likely ‘never’. Once you reply to a customer’s question, you have to keep tabs on the string of messages to make sure your customer walks away satisfied. Once you receive a complaint, keep following up until the issue is solved, just like a normal customer service call.

For more information, check out the Sprout Social Index’ infographic on social customer care:


Back to School: Content Generation 101

While some schools started last week, it is today that the majority of our kids are headed back to school. In honour of this occasion, today’s blog post is all about continuous learning on how to create great content and how to ensure that your best content keeps working for you. So, whether this is new to you or you are simply seeking a refresher, let’s head back to school for Content Generation 101.

tablet surrounded by broken pencils with "back to school" written on it like a chalkboard
Photo: Thinkstock iStock / nito100 / 506210469

What are Content Generation and Content Marketing?

Content Generation is an essential step in generating online traffic to your website, and in nurturing prospects into becoming customers and advocates of your business. Content Marketing is the practice of creating content that people actively seek will out to help them, amuse entertain them, or otherwise provide value to them. Useful content will be shared, which further benefits your business by increasing its reach and extending your influence.


Develop a solid content strategy

As with any marketing effort, the best way to be successful at content generation is to start by developing a strategy.

  • Set objectives: What are you hoping to achieve? What are your business goals?
  • Identify your audience: Who are you trying to reach? What interests them the most? Which of their pain points can your business address?
  • Pinpoint the fit: How do your products or services fit the needs of your audience? What content can you create that will resonate with them?


Create a plan and editorial calendar

An effective content generation plan will start with the objectives and strategy you’ve set (see above), and set out the tactics and steps required to make it happen.

  • Aspects of the plan: Some of the most effective tactics includes blogs, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media.
  • Types of content: Create a range of content of varying depth, including blog posts, infographics, website content, newsletters, and white papers.
  • Develop an editorial calendar: Building a list of topics and ideas well in advance will help to make content generation less daunting and make it easier to keep up with a steady flow of blog posts and other marketing assets.
    • Decide what your key messages are.
    • Identify topics that reflect this message and that are consistent with your overall company brand and objectives.
    • Monitor news and trends in your industry, and cover these topics in a way that is meaningful to your target market and pertinent to your business offering.
    • Set a calendar identifying these planned topics and the dates you will publish posts on these topics. This will keep you organized and on track.


Focus on Quality

Once you have the content generation machine in motion, it is easy to veer off track in the quest to churn out frequent content. Don’t lose sight of your primary business objectives, your key message, or your value proposition. High quality, useful, relevant content is critical to steer a steady stream of prospects to your website, and to convert them into qualified leads, then into happy customers and advocates. Consider the things that will interest your audience, educate them, or make their lives easier, and marry those up with the benefits and unique features of the products or services you offer. Connect the dots for your prospects, and provide them with useful information.


Attract and Nurture your Audience

For a content marketing strategy to be effective, your content has to reach your audience, draw them into your website, and nurture them through your sales process. If you’ve followed our advice on creating and implementing an editorial calendar with frequent generation of useful content, the hard part is done. Our last recommendations focus on propagation of your content:

  • Make sharing effortless: Now that you are regularly creating terrific content, you want people to share it far and wide. Make this as easy as possible by:
    • Publishing your content in accessible formats (for example, .pdf, .jpg, mobile-friendly web content, YouTube videos, etc.)
    • Including social media sharing buttons, so that sharing your content is a simple click away.
  • But keep some of your deeper or more focused content “guarded” to guide people through your sales nurturing process. In other words, keep some content accessibly only by filling out a form on your website. This lets you see who has downloaded specific content and gives you an opportunity to collect a bit of information about them and their interests – knowledge that will allow you to continue to nurture the relationship.


Content Generation is something all businesses need to do in order to stay relevant, to continually draw new prospects to their website, and to convert them into loyal repeat customers. We hope our Content Generation 101 post has given you a head start on creating meaningful, interesting content for your business. And now, school’s out for today!

Is there Too Much “Con” in Your Content?


Any professional writer understands that the art of communicating effectively lies in the structure of the information, how points are stated and the selection of appropriate words. A good marketer would add the importance of understanding your audience and positively positioning your solution (and brand). An experienced SEO consultant would delve even deeper to determine what specific keywords your audience would search for to find the solution they seek.

This is a simplistic view of the process, but it illustrates the necessity of using the right terms in order to attract the right audience to your website. And most companies understand this, in a rather simplistic manner. In fact, many SEO companies have a superficial understanding of the role of content on your website, and that can cost you dearly.

Many companies spend a lot of money each month in defining, monitoring, researching, testing, tweaking and tailoring their keywords to increase relevant traffic to their website. This can be a very strategic and effective means to attract prospects. (Actually, I should have used the term ”leads” as that ranks much higher than “prospects” as a keyword.) So we are getting very sophisticated in determining the magic terms to lure leads to our lair. And that is a good thing: leading our market to find the solutions they seek is helpful for all concerned.

The problem, as I see it, is that an intense focus on keywords often seems to hijack the underlying intent. Getting relevant leads to your website is not the end game; effectively communicating your message to your target market is your goal. And too many websites are written to attract the reader, not to engage and inform the reader once they are on your website.

This is the potential “con” in content, attracting visitors with the promise of a solution, and providing an empty experience devoid of any substance or valuable information. When the primary intent is on keywords, websites tend to be repetitive and focus on claims and positioning statements. Ironically, many superficial and sensational terms rate well in SEO. Not because people are searching for empty promises, they simply don’t know enough about the subject to know what they should be looking for. So “top results for PPC,” despite sounding rather spammy or too good to be true, is possibly a good term to attract desperate companies in need of SEO guidance. Let’s assume it is: once the SEO prospect is guided to your website, there should be some information and depth that goes beyond empty terms, promises or slogans. However, if most of your website text is geared to attracting visitors, your content may be superficial and lacking the substance required to convert new leads to customers.

Focusing on keywords to attract new leads is a smart tactic. However you’ll only reap rewards if it is part of an overall content strategy that considers your message and how effectively it is communicated. And that will help you stand apart from much of your competition. Don’t be alarmed by their regurgitation of pre-digested slop or the lack of any new information, insight or constructive value… simply Stay Calm and Content On.

Related Reading:

5 Things You Need To Know When Writing Ad Copy

Truths and Myths About Going Viral

What to Consider When Writing for Web vs. the Page

Multitasking businesswoman at work with a laptop

Is all content created equal? Our team has done a lot of writing for clients over the past couple decades. When PROSAR first started, we wrote content primarily for printed material: brochures, magazines, posters, ads, reports, even a national literacy program for students. Now, most of our content is used online: website, e-newsletters, banner ads and CTAs, whitepapers, and infographics.

Multitasking businesswoman at work with a laptop
alphaspirit/ getty images

In the early 1990s, when we focused on keywords (a term which we didn’t use at the time), we were looking for words that were evocative and would illicit a desired thought or action. We choose wording that would support the purpose and the brand while providing clarity, comprehension and conciseness. This hasn’t changed (or at least, it shouldn’t have changed), but some additional considerations now play a major role:

  • Writing for Search: strategic use of keywords in headings and paragraphs is important to alert Google of the relevance (and value) of your content. This may involve some testing and analysis to determine which keywords resonate with your target audience and which ones offer a probability of success. (Writing seemed difficult enough in the 90s, now it is layered with even more levels of research wordsmithing.)
  • Writing for a Multimedia Environment: I’m not sure if more people these days suffer from ADHD, but I do appreciate that we have far more stimuli and choice at our fingertips. So who has the concentration required to read an entire article without clicking, swiping, hovering, or simply glancing aside at the ads, email and texts competing for your attention? We look for snippets and sound-bites (or bytes?) to get the gist and move on to the next bit/byte.

Whether in print or online, each project has its own objectives, audience and tone or style; that does not change. But how your audience will be reading the content does impact how it may be composed. We tend to read more slowly and thoroughly when dealing with print, rather than a faster skimming of the content online. The printed word has a physicality and permanence that seems to give the text some added gravitas. Digital content, on the other hand, seems almost inconsequential; how important can these words be if you can swipe them away with thumb? (Put your thumb away and keep reading; you’re almost finished.)

The reality, is that many of us read far more from a screen than a page these days. So the art of successful writing is now to be as compelling and condensed as possible, while cramming sufficient keywords to encourage good search results.

What are your thoughts on the art of writing online?