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How to Write Content that Inspires

Date published: October 19, 2011
Last updated: October 19, 2011

At Angie’s List, creating good content means promoting action—promote consumer awareness, good hiring practices, smart spending, etc. But to produce the best original content that drives rankings and increases conversions, you can’t just promote action. You have to inspire it.

Think about it. It’s simple. We write meta descriptions to inspire a click to our landing page. We write content on landing pages that demonstrate the value of our product or service. Finally—once we’ve gotten our new customers to take every possible desired action—we kindly ask that they share their newfound love for us with their friends and family by linking to our pages and sharing our site on every possible social vehicle.

It’s easy, right? Well, not really.

Putting into words the response you want is usually where the dream dies. So for inspiration for writing inspirational content, make sure to consider this:

1. Let your customer write for you

Too often I read feedback on articles or posts and only consider what a customer is saying. It’s equally important how they say it. We utilize keywords in copy that reflect how a potential customer might search for us. Don’t stop there. If you receive feedback on a product or an article, use their words. Replicate the actual language (the kind that’s grammatically correct and family-friendly) in your copy. At Angie’s List, we don’t obsess over writing “primary care physicians” instead of the more common “family doctor.” Don’t be too technical or muddle your page with industry speak. Social content speaks to the customer, not down at them.

2. Be bold

Aristotle promoted moderation in all things. Good thing he came before the search engine. Inspiring content stands out from the crowd. It’s rooted in substance but aims high with its words. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. No one links to the middle of the road. Your customers may hate it or they may love it. But content isn’t going to sell or gather links without some swagger. To date, our most popular article asked whether homeowners allow contractors to use their bathroom. Always error on the side of audacity.

3. If you write it, they will share it

Proper placement of social bookmarks or the right words to ask someone to share a page is overrated. When was the last time you were ready to leave a page but saw a Twitter icon and decided to share it? Probably never. Your customers don’t think that way. You shouldn’t either. Easy access to social sharing is important but the medium isn’t the message. Make it apparent that your page is focused on what you can give to the customer. It’s for them to decide what they will give back.

4. Say thank you

If you are going to say “please,” don’t forget the “thank you.” Find the customers that are showing off your content and promote them too. Allow space on your site to shed light on the customers sharing links and talking about your brand. Demonstrating the actions of the most desirable customers inspires new visitors to do the same.

5. Focus on success

No one told Ted Williams in 1941 that he was failing almost 60 percent of the time he stepped to the plate. Instead, the focus was on how he could hit better than anyone else (and anyone since then). Success with original content is defined by failing a little less than everyone else. Few pages will go viral. Even fewer will inspire new customers. Find which pages are ranking highest and driving the most traffic. Figure out why. When we realized a story titled "Is air duct cleaning worth it?" was ranking well and bringing in new customers, we developed more articles on the necessity of certain services and the costs associated with them. Repeat the successful elements in all the content you create.

It may be simple, but it won’t be easy. Inspirational content sometimes comes from the most unlikely copy. But never forget that you are writing to a person. Keep your customers in mind and, eventually, they will come around. Hopefully, that inspires you too.

Brock Benefiel is an online editor at Angie’s List. For the past year, he has been on the company’s search marketing team devoted to producing original content to help homeowners and consumers, drive search rankings and increase membership.

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