Content writing to move your niche market.
Basic concepts for content writing that anyone can master. This tutorial will help you drive audience engagement and interaction for any niche market.
I’ll tell you a secret about content writing for niche markets, composed into this one simple phrase: Content writing is easy until it gets hard. Okay, before you toss this out as mere glibber, allow me to complete the thought.
As we expect, the more narrow the market, the tighter the community. We also expect that such communities, thoughts, ideas, and concepts (especially for products and services) are more natural to express mainly because market demand and need are well-established.
Content writing for niches also invites people to share ‘secret’ information like novel concepts, adaptations, new developments. Name the niche market, and you find volumes of ‘things’ that seekers seek. This means that information is readily available, making the gathering process reasonably easy. That leaves the hard part of knowing how to package your information into ‘chunkable’ bites for your target market to consume.
Chunking down the Info
There are two aspects of ‘chunking’ that I’ll briefly cover here. One is the people driven aspect, the other is the machine. All content writing must take both aspects into consideration. For the people, we’re looking for readability. We don’t want to pass everything we know into one freaking long blog post (like this one) and expect people to ‘get it.’ How will people find the important stuff it’s buried deep inside your manifesto?
Thinking about the machine, we have to please the Google/Bing spiders. We can’t make the chunks too small that search engine spiders can’t find it, or if they do, the algorithms will slap low-quality penalties and rank it far below search results that you’ll need a gravedigger to find them. Read The Google Endgame for more details about how to achieve a balance between people and machine optimization.
This lengthy article sets down what I call “the 3 scopes” of content writing: Scope of Market, Scope of Conversation, and Scope of Specialization. These concepts distill the essential skills that most marcom pros study in college, with added inflections from 30 years of experimentation to make content writing more effective and easier to deploy.
Content writing for “Scope of Market”
This is about as basic as it gets for content writing—without being trivial or prosaic. First, let’s admit that if you don’t know your market scope, then you’re in serious trouble. Of course, keep in mind that the focus here is on content development for marketing communications and public relations. But at the end of the day, you must know these three things about your marketplace:
Who is your audience? – That’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? Particularly in a niche market. But this goes far beyond demographics – you’d better know a lot about their personality, opinions, and past experiences.
What do you want to tell them? – It’s up to you what you want to tell your audience, but remember that the choices are practically limitless. The direct approach is to write about features, benefits, and concepts about products or services. The indirect method would be writing about ideas that relate back to features and benefits.
What do you want them to do? – Vote, friend, follow, buy? Whatever your call to action, do not forget to keep asking for it, via social media and your regular communication with your audience (be they clients, customers, constituents). Some may think of this as the “CTA” – the ‘call to action’ and you would be right.
This is a crucial area of content writing that not only touches on what kind of content we create but also how we deploy our content (e.g., content flow). Indeed, the effectiveness of content depends significantly on the level of engagement we design into the stream. This is the ‘how’ in converting engagements into interaction (i.e., sales). And guess what? There’s a metric that shows us just how effective we are at fulfilling this task.
Google calls it ‘average time on page’ (AToP if you’re into acronyms). Old school marketers (like me) call it ‘dwell-time.’ The general thinking is that the more time-on-page, the more likely we’ll convert our audience engagement into interaction. As for metrics, good AToP measurement for an informational website is about 3-4 minutes. Six minutes if you’re outstanding. Less than one minute means it’s time to redraw the page.
But let’s stop here. Is a 3-4 minute page engagement really effective to ensure high-level interaction? A bit optimistic to say, ‘yes,’ isn’t it? Very important to remember that ‘dwell-time’ is cumulative. That means our audience may leave our informational page after 3-4 minutes (possibly printing or bookmarking), then move onto other outlets like social media. Incidentally, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are all excellent outlets for this kind of content positioning. Strategic placement (think ‘timing’ and ‘tagging’) helps elongate dwell-time, possibly exceeding an hour or more depending on the product or service. Ergo this statement: dwell time is cumulative; therefore, the flow of content must be everywhere.
What’s your “Scope of Conversation”
As far as content strategies go, this stage is the one that people often skip over. For me, this is the area where I pay the most attention because I want to make the conversation’s scope as tight as possible. I’ll look for any clue about where my audience is going. For instance, if I’m writing for a car mechanic – I may start by casting my net as broad as possible to catch as many people in my target audience. I may want to give away tips on how people can tune their cars, an easy hack for silencing a noisy power steering system, suggestions on troubleshooting simple electrical problems, and so on. The resulting “conversation” may then traverse all sorts of related topics, and ultimately back to you as the expert.
Then, as I learn about the audience, I may decide to move toward more aggressive issues. Let’s say that my mechanic works on electric cars as well as gas-powered ones. I’d start looking at the pros and cons of various models of electric cars – the cost of maintenance, electricity, reliability. I may then tighten subsequent articles to focus more narrowly on comparisons of hybrid cars vs. all-electric; or types of batteries and development of new battery models.
Whether I increase the likelihood that members of the audience will purchase a hybrid or all-electric vehicle is neither here nor there. The point is, I’ve injected my client into an ongoing evaluation of information. If the post is informative enough, they may interact with my client for answers to questions, and ultimately end up as a new customer once they’ve made their choice.
When I think of “scope,” I also think of “ROI.” Okay, not “return on investment” – although that’s important too. I’m talking about the gold standard of content development: Relevant. Optimized. Impactful.
Relevant – Not only define your target but get into their head and know their trends.
Optimized – Refine the content and identify the conversations that trigger engagement, interaction, and conversion.
Impactful – Dial into audience attitude and aptitude for HOT topics that they care about.
Content geometry is essential as I keep this ROI in my rearview mirror. I’m anxious to feed my target audiences with content they want, but cautious about letting them drive too much of the conversation. I stay close enough to the conversation to learn just the right “pick up line” to attract the interest of my target audience: e.g., topical triggers that delight die-hard fans; or several target audiences for the same offering.
A little note about Niche Replication-Differentiation
You may find that some products/services you offer to meet the needs of one or more niche markets. In these cases, you may find that specialty content/pages will perform better than a big ‘one-size-fits-all’ page. However, developing entirely new content for each market is a real pain.
The alternative is duplication. I adopted the term “niche replication-differentiation” to describe a process where I will copy content and deploy the overlaps to each niche market via differences in the URL, headline, subheads, and reword 60% of the text content. I’ll even change the names of images that go with each new page.
If you’re wondering… “why reword 60% of the text content?” That’s because more than 40% of word-for-word duplication is flagged by Google/Bing as ‘duplicate content.’ It’s not a real penalty (as it once was); however, Google may list only one version of your duplicate page. Worse yet, you don’t have a choice which one they contain. I found that 40% differentiation is generally enough to prevent that from happening.
Rabbit holes: engagement through inquiry
The ultimate goal for mapping your ‘scope of conversation’ is generating engagement through inquiry; by using the audience’s thirst for new information to drive the conversation TOWARD whatever conversion you want. If all the pieces come together (and I’m paying attention), I can design the “scope of conversation” that will help me guide enough of the conversation to excite real-world discussion.
When I create content, I think about what kind of information my target audience wants and anticipating a range of responses. Rabbit holes come to mind. Check out my chapter on content silo strategies that goes with this chapter (but was making it waay too long). One last concept to think about: we want our rabbit holes to be as deep as possible. Which takes us back to the previous point about dwell-time, doesn’t it?
And “Scope of Specialization.”
Niche markets are all about the specialized conversation. That’s where your content writing must take you. The more experienced your audience, the more specialized your content writing ought to be. And with specialization, our goal is to increase your topic authority. For example, set aside age groupings and buying habits, then look for specific content angles that may engage members of those groupings.
Another strategy – niche audiences respond well to user-generated content. Find a way to produce and publish content, but make sure that the content doesn’t compromise sound and authoritative reporting of customer experience. Also, remember that depending on your industry, there could be laws that govern the use of ‘testimonials.’
Not long ago, marketers created edutainment content as a way of specializing content with creative wrappers that made it seem like you weren’t being pitched. They built playful storylines that hid the ‘pitch’ within the narrative. How can you make these tactics work effectively for you? Three key points:
Structure and consistency – the more ‘niched’ your audience, the more control you need to deploy. Example: stick to your topic. It may be tempting to blog an op/ed about what seems like a relevant issue, but make darned sure that your opinions loop back to the most important topic: your product/service.
Trend and moods – rather than try to force patterns of your own, follow your audience’s atmosphere, and be ready to adapt when moods shift. The prerequisite (of course) is that you’re paying close attention to your audience (i.e., direct customer interactions, social media, predictive analysis). If you gain enough authority with audiences, you’ll find you can move trends yourself. Know key topics well enough, you may anticipate changes in attitude and opinion. Bonus points when you can change audience opinions with just one tweet!
Wonder and wit – because people love to be challenged and amused. I can harp about “talking about what your audience talks about” all day long. But what does it take to drive the audience? You need to master the topic so you can tap into the experimental side of the conversation. Humor may come into it, even strategically placed sarcastic remark may generate a massive response from your target audience. Where do you find these insights? Look for imaginative uses of your product or services from existing customers. Watch your competitors for ideas. Peruse audience commentary and observations and watch for the truly inventive (and funny) things people do.
The fact is, all markets are niche, or they should be treated as such. And, as with most marketing rules, we always leave room for interpretation and personal processes. If you’re new to this, write as though you were trying to explain something to your mother. If you’re more experience, do as Mark Twain suggests, “Write what you know” about you and your offering.