FREE Tools to improve your own Content
The problem with Content Creation!
In the digitally connected world, creating content for your marketing is a never-ending task that hangs over many of us as a perpetual task. The demand for continually posting social updates, LinkedIn articles, blogs on your website, marketing emails and more, all mean we need to be great at content creation.
It’s just words and pictures?
At the heart of it, content creation is simply the preparation of an article and possibly an image or two to support the article and provide visuals to engage the reader (yes, we know video exists, but we’ll leave that for another article!). The content can be as small as a tweet or as long as an in-depth technical white paper … or anywhere in between.
The problem is that actually, most of us are not that good at producing content and we ‘have a go’ and ‘do our best’ … which is almost always not good enough!
But, despite this, we KNOW we must do it! So we force ourselves and end up producing sub-standard posts and articles that actually risk letting our business down and losing important prospects.
Of course, you can outsource this to an external supplier – the World of content creation suppliers has grown massively in the last 10 years with talented writers and photographers getting involved at all levels. But, outsourcing this task costs, and is also not as immediate or dynamic as you might want – sometimes you just need to get something out today!
Free resources to help you improve
The great news is that there are a number of free resources that are available that can help anyone improve their content creation skills with a little practice. Read on for our top recommendations.
1. The written word – Headlines that appeal to the reader
We’re all aware that a ‘good’ headline captures attention and draws the eye. In the modern world, we’ve all got limited attention spans and pressures on our time so we scan through headlines to decide what we want to read. A great headline to your article does the job.
The Advanced Marketing Institute uses a scoring system based on the ‘Emotional Marketing Value’ of the headline and gives you a percentage score with 30% being a ‘minimum standard’ to aim for and 50+% being excellent.
On their free website tool (https://www.aminstitute.com/cgi-bin/headline.cgi) you enter your headline and select the ‘type’ of audience it’s aimed at. Here are some examples (based on a business audience):
Blogging, social posting and email marketing skills – EMV Score 28.57%
Content creation for a beginner – EMV Score 40%
How to improve your own content creation – EMV Score 57.14%
(That’s why we used the last one for the title of this article!)
2. The written word – Body text that can actually be read!
Consider the following blocks of text – they essentially say the same thing and have a very similar word count … which one is easier to read and consume?:
Content creation is the essential task that ensures that your business communicates with the best possible imagery and copy to enhance and improve your appearance to prospective customers.
It is the complex and challenging process of capturing the readers’ attention, engaging their thinking, entertaining or educating them through the content and drawing to a structured conclusion to influence your sales pipeline in a positive way.
Grade: Post Graduate! – 65 words, 2 sentences, both considered hard to read!
Content creation is a task that helps your business communicate. With the use of images and words, it helps you keep in touch with your customers. The steps include;
1. Using headlines and images to catch attention.
2. Using ‘easy to read’ language to make your point.
3. Using directive text to help prospects take the next step.
Done well, you will be able to increase your sales pipeline in a positive way.
Grade: Grade 3 GOOD – 73 words, no issues
We used the free Hemmingway Editor website (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/) to score the above comparisons.
The online tool looks at your copy and works out what American school grade age group would be able to read it. So Grade 3 (as above) is the use of language that will be fine for an 8-9-year-old. Although this might seem young, your content should always be kept simple. If you were writing a technical article for technical customers, a higher grade would be fine.
There’s no right or wrong reading age to aim for, just make sure your content creation is aimed at your reader!
3. Images – Quality is king
The quality of an image is important. Take a look at our recent article on Photography for your Business where you’ll also find a downloadable resource to help you plan your photos properly. The challenge is that it’s unrealistic for a small business to be calling on a professional photographer every other week – so the normal alternatives are full of risk:
I’ll just use my mobile phone – The problem being that photography is all about lighting, shutter speed, ISO, composition, focus, skill, depth of field, etc. Many modern mobile phones do have a ‘professional mode’ but since when did you use it or understand it? We’ve all seen the poor quality mobile images being used on websites and blogs and they stand out like a sore thumb!
I’ve found a great image on Google – OK, but you’re almost certainly then breaking copyright law. Copyright is a law that instantly grants ownership to the originator of an image / design / written piece / etc. So, regardless of how big it is, if you grab an image off Google, you’ve grabbed someone’s image without their permission. Don’t do it. Not only is it illegal, but image libraries make an awful lot of money prosecuting businesses who’ve done it!
So … the legal solution? Use a stock library when you can’t use images that you’ve had professionally taken. There are loads of stock image libraries on the Internet but you normally have to pay for a subscription or per image and, although this can be very reasonable, it’s still taking a bite out of your profits. We’ve come across two wonderful, FREE online stock libraries that are full of high-quality images. Take a look at:
https://pixabay.com/ and https://unsplash.com/ … both provide amazing images free of charge and for legal commercial use. The vast majority of images used on Yorkshire Powerhouse are from these sites.
4. Images – Size is everything – it’s time to edit!
Doing your own content creation demands you understand some basics around image size. If you take your average 12m pixel mobile phone, it’s providing images that are often up to 4,500 pixels wide … images from the above free stock libraries can be bigger still. Yet, the average website (like our very own Yorkshire Powerhouse) is less than 1000 pixels wide … so you need to do some editing.
Take a look at https://pixlr.com/x/ where you can easily crop and resize, adjust and tinker – just don’t go over the top!
Always start with the crop … remove parts of the image that you simply don’t need. Once done, then you can look at resizing the image down to suit your needs (see below for a FREE social media image size fact sheet download). You might also like to adjust the colour, contrast, apply labels, etc. All this can be done and then saved for use.
In truth, all image editing software can look a little daunting at first but hand it over to a 10-year-old to tinker with and they’ll be able to show you in no time! If you don’t optimise, crop, resize and sort your images you’ll simply be presenting a poor quality image to represent your business.
5. Images – Social media image sizes
Use the following document to get a copy of our Social Media Image Size References that lets you know the main image sizes to aim for when posting images to social media:
Content Creation – a summary
With all the above free tools, you can soon be creating content that really packs a punch and gets noticed – yes, it will take a little time to do it well, but surely your marketing quality is worth that investment. If you own a slightly larger business and you have a digital marketing apprentice, you can build in a reporting system to their activity where they have to provide you with the headline and Hemmingway scores as part of their discipline. That way, you get a clear and easy to understand picture of how they’re doing.
If you’re not producing regular digital content for your business then you are almost certainly not making enough noise in this modern digital world. Strategy should come first though – if you’re lacking a sales and marketing strategy, talk to us and we’ll help you to talk to experts in their field?
Blunt advice from Yorkshire Powerhouse
Have you any questions?
Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:
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Having a successful digital marketing strategy can be an amazing channel but only when actioned using the right message and targeted at the right audience