Category Archives: Content Marketing

When Should You Update Your Site? Why It Matters

Many small businesses have what could be called a “build it and forget it” approach to the Web.  They work hard when the site is built, then let it sit undisturbed, hoping that it will draw traffic.  This is not a sound approach!  To discover why, read on.

Google and Currency

Google dominates search, so our first attention goes to what Google does about this issue.  Google’s goal is to deliver search results that are relevant to a user’s query.  They’ve decided that one important aspect of relevance is currency.  Their users don’t just want just information, they want current information.   First-time visitors to your site want information that’s current, and repeat visitors want to find something new.

Google’s response to this assessment of their customers’ desires is to include currency as an important ranking factor.  When you create a new site, currency will be in your favor, but over time this will degrade as you don’t add new content.  You can no longer just set up a site and have the traffic roll in; you need to keep supplying it with current content.

This is not unreasonable on Google’s part.  When you get the newspaper on Monday morning, do you want to see last week’s news?  Sure, you might see some stories that go back in time, but what grabs your interest is the latest news.  Similarly, Google is particularly interested in giving its searchers the latest information.  How does Google do this?  By moving sites with more current information–that have received new content recently–higher in search ratings.

I Don’t Have Time to Write for The Site

In a small business, everyone is doing lots of things.  You’re busy.  You can’t take time to write articles for the site!  But do you take several people to go to a trade show?  And spend all the money to get a booth in a trade show?  What if, for much lower cost, you could get more leads from your Web site, just from an hour of writing once a week?

Making effective use of your Web site is the best marketing expenditure that you can make, because it’s working to connect with people who have expressed an interest in what you offer by searching for it!  These are all prospects, you’re not just printing paper and spreading it around, hoping that someone who is interested will see it.

You need to take the time to write for the site.  If it means doing less of something else, that’s fine.  Find some marketing activity whose productivity is doubtful, and write for the site instead.

What To Write

A good starting point if you aren’t writing much for your site is a blog.  Find short articles that you can write that provide useful advice to your target customers.  In these short articles, indirectly convey your selling message, whether it’s product quality, customer support, great service, or whatever your key selling message is.

A blog is a good place for these articles.  They can also be used as newsletter fodder as well.  This is an example of just such a blog/newsletter article.  It’ll go on the site in Web Marketing 101, which is my blog, and it’ll also be sent out as a newsletter.

The Bottom Line

Get writing!


Storytelling–How to Do It

Storytelling–How to Do It

A previous edition of this newsletter talked about the benefits of using storytelling in your marketing.  This newsletter talks about how to write a story–what’s the appropriate structure.  It turns out that the structure of stories, called dramatic structure, has been analyzed since the time of Aristotle, and is well understood.  There is a well-established pattern that successful stories follow, after centuries of experience that we humans have had to perfect the craft.  This issue discusses that structure.

Freytag’s Analysis

Gustav Freytag was a German novelist who lived in the mid-19th century.  His analysis of dramatic structure, now called Freytag’s Pyramid, is often cited as the definitive work on the subject.  There is usually a protagonist the main characters, with whom the audience is intended to identify.  The protagonist comes into conflict of some kind with the antagonist.  Freytag’s Pyramid, shown below, consists of these five parts:


1. Exposition–introduction of important background information, such as the setting, back stories for the characters, events taking place before the plot, and so on.

2. Rising action–a series of events that build toward the point of greatest interest.  These events are usually the most important part of the story; the entire plot depends on them to set up the climax

.3. Climax or crisis–The climax is the turning point, where the protagonist’s fate changes.  In a comedy, things may have gone badly until now, and they start going well.  In a tragedy, things have been going well and now change from good to bad.

4. Falling action–during the falling action, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, and one or the other prevails.  There may be a moment of final suspense whether the outcome of the conflict is in doubt until the very end.

5. Denouement, resolution, revelation or catastrophe–the unraveling of the complexities of the plot.  A tragedy ends with a catastrophe, a comedy with the protagonist better off than at the start of the story.

An Example

You may think that this complex structure, used for Greek and Shakespearean dramas, isn’t applicable to a modern story in a newsletter or Web page.  Indeed it is!  Here’s a well-know example of storytelling by Moe Levine, a famous plaintiff’s lawyer.  Juries usually listen to long closing arguments; this is the complete closing argument famously used by Mr. Levine:

“As you know, about an hour ago we broke for lunch. I saw the bailiff come and take you all as a group to have lunch in the jury room. Then I saw the defense attorney, Mr. Horowitz. He and his client decided to go to lunch together. The judge and court clerk went to lunch. So, I turned to my client, Harold, and said “Why don’t you and I go to lunch together?” We went across the street to that little restaurant and had lunch. (Significant pause.) Ladies and gentlemen, I just had lunch with my client. He has no arms. He has to eat like a dog. Thank you very much.”

As you can imagine, he obtained a large verdict in favor of his client, who had a double amputation because of an accident.

The Bottom Line

When you use storytelling, consider Freytag’s Pyramid.  It has stood the test of time and it’s a way to write stories that move your reader.


Ron Burgundy and Content Marketing

anchorman2Anchorman 2 is now in theaters. The promotion for it is a great example of content marketing, an example that we can apply to the Web.

What is content marketing? It’s providing content that attracts and engages an audience, building a relationship that may bring the audience to make purchases at some time. Content marketing doesn’t even have to reference the product being promoted. In this case, all the content marketing consisted of Will Farrel appearing as Ron Burgundy, and in 70 YouTube videos highlighting these appearances, not once does he mention that a new movie is on its way.

For example, he appeared (in character) on Conan O’Brien’s show to promote a fictitious Ron Burgundy autobiography. The appearance was hilarious, illustrating how funny the Ron Burgundy character is, without even mentioning the movie.

As Ron Burgundy he did a series of ads for the Dodge Durango, and sales for the car increased, although it’s hard to tell which figure for the increase is real and which is part of a spoof. The commercials featured Ron doing such things as deciding that the name should be pronounced “Yodge”, talking about how many packages of gum the glovebox would hold, and so on. These ads were successful at selling cars, as well as promoting the movie.

I’ll confess to being influenced by all the content marketing–I saw the movie and thought that it was terrible! I didn’t even check reviews before seeing it.

There Can Be Too Much

When we’re developing content, there’s a danger that, knowing that we need to create a serious presence, we can produce too much. This happened with the Ron Burgundy campaign. Several weeks into the campaign, there were complaints that there was too much Ron Burgundy. The studio’s reply was that no single moviegoer would see more than a small part of the campaign, so individuals weren’t being saturated, although people in the media might think so. As someone who doesn’t see a lot of television, I personally saw only a small amount of the campaign, so it wasn’t saturating for me. However, this campaign either came close to overdoing it or they overdid it.

Good Content Won’t Rescue a Bad Product

Ultimately the movie was not a big success because of poor reviews–moviegoers who weren’t taken in by the content marketing campaign, and checked the reviews, didn’t go, in droves. So the clever content marketing didn’t save the film.

The Bottom Line

Because of the advertising results the content marketing campaign delivered, the Ron Burgundy character will continue for a long time, long after the dud movie is old history.

Like Ron Burgundy, build your content for the long term, so that your content can keep its value and contribute to the brand over the long haul.

Tell a Story!

The Power of a Story

You’re absorbed in reading a great story.  Your mind is in the story–you don’t answer the phone, your coffee gets cold, you may stay up until 2 a.m. reading.  Is this what happens when visitors to your Web site read the copy on the site?  Or do they see the usual sales talk.

Sales Resistance

To keep our sanity in today’s world, where we constantly encounter sales messages we build up considerable sales resistance.  This resistance goes up automatically–we may not even notice it–whenever we hear the usual “persuasive” words of ad-speak.  Lots of evaluative adjectives can set off sales resistance–and once it’s in place, nothing else that you communicate will be accepted easily.

What Makes an Effective Story?

Green and Brock published results of their research that show that a factor called “transportation” is a mechanism whereby a story can actually effect beliefs–whether the story is presented as factual or fictional.  By “transportation” they meant the extent to which the story absorbed the attention of the reader; it involves imagery, emotion and the focus of attention.  This tells us that if we tell an effective story, not only can we grab our reader’s attention, but we can change opinions!

How Do I Write a Story?

Here are some techniques to consider–but the central idea is a simple one.  Think up a story that indirectly brings in your sales message.  That’ll avoid raising sales resistance, and let you persuade without “selling”.
  • To write an effective story, use imagery–use actual images to help portray the message, or paint a mental picture of the situation.
  • Suspense is a time-tested technique; we all want to see how something turns out.
  • To persuade your reader to change–and adopt your approach–have the story talk about that very change.

Overcoming Sales Resistance

In a story, how do you overcome sales resistance?  Think about your marketing message–what makes your offering different.  Then use a story that indirectly shows that, without trumpeting as a marketing message.  For example, if great customer service is part of your message, then tell a true story about how one of your people was able to help a customer.  This story could not only get across the idea that your support people do great work, but also it could talk about some wonderful product feature that the customer couldn’t get to work.  Now two parts of your marketing message have been delivered, without encountering sales resistance.

The Bottom Line

Take a look at your sales copy, and if it’s boring, think about telling a story.  You’ll persuade better, and who knows, you may even have fun writing it..

The 3S Approach for Web Content

Succeeding with Content

There are many slogans for how to produce content.  None of them is the ultimate answer, but on the other hand each has something to offer and learn from.  So here I offer Skyword’s 3S approach:  searchable, snackable and shareable. 


Content must capture the motivating issues for prospects–the pleasure and pain points–but, importantly, it must be described in terms that use currently popular search terms.  Google does over 1 billion searches per month, so it’s essential for business success to be found in those searches.

The best way to find out the most relevant words to use in your content is to do a couple of Google searches and observe the prompts that appear below the terms you enter into the search box.  For example, for “Maryland crab” the terms are “Maryland crab restaurant,” ” Maryland crab soup,” and “Maryland crab cake recipe.” For position in search engine results, including all these terms in your article would be a good idea.  If they’re relevant, of course!


We’re all busy and don’t have the time we’d like for in-depth research.  We’re hungry for information that we can consume quickly.  The quantity of information may leave us hungry for more–which brings us back.  Today, people see an average of 3,000 brand impressions, and the average attention span of an adult on-line is just 8 seconds.  So our content indeed has to be in bite-sized pieces.

A good way to put your content into bite-size pieces is to be sure your paragraphs are wider than they are high–think about the golden ratio which essentially says that a rectangle has more pleasant appearance if its short side is about 2/3 as long as its long side.  Paragraphs with this proportion are more pleasing in appearance and more likely to be read.

Be sure to put subheadings throughout your text.  Keep in mind that busy people will be skimming your Web pages–so give them lots of markers to help find information that’s of interest to them.  Good news for all of us is that Google also likes subheadings, and uses them as cues to the meaning of the text that’s under a heading.


Conversations across social channels cause buzz around products and services, that brings visitors to Web sites.  So our content needs to be compelling enough that it’ll be shared.  Facebook carries 2.7 billion LIKEs and COMMENTs every day; it’s important to be part of that.

Of course, be sure to provide plenty of sharing buttons, on each page of your site and on your newsletter, too.  Those shares introduce you to new people, which is great for business.  They can also lead to additional quality incoming links, which Google uses to gauge the importance of your site, and where it should rank you in its results.  Good all around.

The Bottom Line

Think about the 3S approach when you’re writing or reviewing content.