6 Great Content Writing Examples

Anyone who works in content marketing is used to encountering bad examples. You get better at noticing the stuff that doesn’t work when it’s your job to make stuff that does. Because we’re so used to seeing bad examples, it feels really good to encounter examples of content writing done right.

It can give is some inspiration in our work and, if we’re the target audience, be directly useful to us as well. To provide some of you with that feeling today, I’ve collected a few examples of great content writing I’ve encountered. Enjoy.

Great Business Blogging Examples

For most companies that do content marketing, blogging is the biggest part of the job. Blogs give you the opportunity to provide fresh, useful content to your audience on a regular basis and they’re one of the best tools you’ve got for SEO.

But they’re also hungry beasts that demand lots of work and never let you take a break. That’s caused far too many businesses to try to settle for lazy, cheap content on their blogs – or give up on them entirely within a few months of not seeing immediate results.

The brands that stick with it and provide consistently helpful and high-quality content are therefore in the minority.

HomeAdvisor

Homeowners tend to have a lot of ideas for projects they want to try and questions about how to handle everyday fixes. The Home Advisor blog HomeSource is packed full of answers and tips. The blog is a mix of practical tips like how to hire a good contractor or pack for a move, along with more fun topics like decorating your home and yard.

Probably the most common questions homeowners have are those about cost. Many people – especially new homeowners – simply don’t know what’s normal to expect a home repair or update to cost. In addition to the blog itself, HomeAdvisor therefore offers a True Cost guide to give you an idea of what your budget should be before you start a project, and help you rule out any contractors that charge outside of the norm. And since the company’s business model is based on matching homeowners with the people who do those sorts of projects, they of course offer a handy CTA on the same page to help you find relevant professionals in your area.

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Rover

Rover’s got a bit of advantage over most businesses when it comes to their content. The company is all about pets (mostly dogs) – and we all know pet pictures are one of the most popular things on the internet. But in addition to taking advantage of the love people have for pictures of cute animals, the Rover blog Daily Treat also provides a lot of useful information on topics important to pet owners, such as training and safety tips and answers to pressing questions like “do dogs recognize us on a phone screen?” (if you have a dog, you’ve probably wondered).

blogging example
They’re one of the companies that can most successfully get me to click on a link in an email, because they do a great job of figuring out the things pet owners really do want to know.

Ehrlich

If you’re thinking “sure, their content’s good, but Rover has it so much easier than those of us doing marketing in areas less compelling than the cute dog industry,” here’s an example for you. The pest control company Ehrlich has a great blog, deBugged that provides lots of useful information about bugs and other creepy crawly-adjacent subjects.

Bugs aren’t a subject most of us go out of our way to do some reading on each day, but when you need to know how concerned you should really be about Zika virus or what to do about bed bugs, those posts will come in handy. And the rest of the time, you may find posts on topics like how long wasps live to be interesting as well. Like Home Advisor, they include CTAs at the end of their content where relevant so that person trying to figure out what to do about bed bugs knows who to call to help.

blogging example

 Great Examples of Longform Content

As content marketing is adopted by more and more businesses in all sorts of industries, finding a way to stand out is a challenge. One route many businesses are taking is creating content that goes more in depth. It takes more work, but if you can pack more of the information your prospects need into one longform piece rather than spreading it over a number of shorter pieces, many people will find that more helpful.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks’ target audience for their accounting software is small businesses and freelancers. That’s a group of people that thinks a lot about pricing – figuring out how to charge for your services in a way that works for you and your customers is a fraught subject.

In order to provide them information so useful it could stand out in the marketing crowd, they put together an ebook that tackled the subject of how to switch from charging hourly to project-based pricing. The 70-page book is structured like a conversation between two relatable professionals and lays out the case for a different approach to pricing that can help service-based small business owners make more.

The book got reviewed around the web and collected positive testimonials from a number of key influencers. Not bad in our world of content saturation.

longform content writing example

Moz

I mentioned content saturation before, but arguably the industry that has it the worst is marketing. Many of the earliest adopters of content marketing were marketing agencies and marketing software companies. Producing content about marketing that doesn’t repeat what’s been said before and manages to provide something truly useful is a huge challenge businesses face. But Moz is consistently good at it.

Any time I encounter someone looking to learn the basics of SEO, I send them over to the The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz. It’s thorough, but manageable. It’s written in a way to be accessible to people new to the concept and it’s organized to make it easy to focus in on specific sections when you just need a refresher on, say, keyword research.

The guide was produced several years ago, but is updated regularly to make sure the information stays accurate. It’s been read over 3 million times and continues to generate new traffic for the site.

longform content writing example

Rodale’s

For people just getting started, gardening is both exciting and overwhelming. There’s a lot you need to know and figuring out both the answers to your questions and even what questions you should have can be challenging.

In addition to their usual helpful blog content, Rodale’s also provides some longform guides that help the people in their target audience – gardeners that care about the environment – learn all the most important basics to start out with.

Their Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening covers using seeds, using transplants, weeds, pest control, and basic gardening vocabulary. It ensures readers can go into their local nursery with all the 101-information covered.

longform content writing example

Content marketing is hard to do well, but seeing how other brands are pulling it off can help you to revisit your own strategy to consider ways to do better. Hopefully these examples will provide some inspiration for your own content writing.

 

Should Your Marketing Take a Political Stand?

In spite of the old saying to avoid talking politics and religion at the dinner table, politics has always been a topic that made its way into conversations in all sorts of contexts (not all of them appropriate to the topic). But this past November, for people in the United States in particular, it suddenly became much more difficult not to talk about politics.

The current political climate is more polarized than ever and inspires strong emotions from people on both sides. In response, some brands have seen it as an opportunity to be more open about their politics.

It’s as risky move.

On the one hand, making politics a part of your marketing message can inspire more loyalty from the customers who share your politics. But as a number of brands have seen in the past few months (and to a lesser extent, before as well), it can also provoke boycotts from those who oppose the politics you purport.

Worse, if your attempt isn’t thought through or comes off as inauthentic (or both), you can end up driving away both sides at once. Pepsi got a serious lesson in that with its recent ad starring Kendall Jenner which made a tone-deaf attempt to capitalize on the Black Lives Matter movement.

But sometimes the risk does pay off and expressing your politics can help you gain a closer connection with your customers – something all brands hope and work so hard for. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

Here are few important guidelines you have to follow if you want to get it right.

Consider your audience.

The first rule of marketing in all contexts has to be given proper weight in considering how to address politics in your marketing as well. If your audience is predominately conservative and you take a liberal stand, or vice versa, you’ll be alienating the main people who buy from you.

If you know your business doesn’t really share the values of your target audience, then you’re better off steering clear of any political messaging altogether. If you have a pretty good idea that you and your customers are on the same page, then openly addressing political issues in your marketing could be a savvy move.

Thinx knows its audience is mostly young, mostly female, and mostly progressive in their politics. As a result, it can safely base the brand’s marketing newsletter entirely around feminist issues and trust that their customers will be more likely to nod their heads in agreement, rather than get angry at seeing politics they don’t relate to represented.

thinx

Thinx has a specific enough audience (people with periods – so mostly women under a certain age) that they have it easier than most brands when it comes to knowing how their customers are likely to respond to political messaging. If you’re less sure of how your audience will respond to a political message, consider doing some customer research before taking that step.

Note: If your brand feels that your political views are important enough that it’s worth taking the risk of losing some customers, then that’s another issue entirely. If you’re prepared to risk profits to stand up for something, then it may be ok to skip that customer research and just go for it.

Be thoughtful.

Any political messaging that’s built into marketing has to be authentic. If it seems like you’re trying to take advantage of a political moment that affects people’s lives in a significant way, you risk inspiring cynicism and anger rather than the sense of camaraderie you’re hoping for.

Penzey’s declared their opposition to the Republican party in clear terms back in November, fully expecting the move to be a risk, but clearly making the case for why they felt it was an important move to take in an email to their subscribers.

They did receive some angry responses, but the email ended up being the most shared email they’d ever sent and most of their email subscribers stuck with them.

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The message they sent made it clear that they really thought through the decision of taking this step. They worked out what they wanted to say and how, and crafted their message in a way that made where they stood clear.

And they tied it back to the brand by pointing to the larger culture of cooking: “The kindness of tens of thousands of generations of cooks created our humanity, but racism, sexism, and homophobia can all very quickly unravel all the goodness cooking puts out into the world. As the voice of cooks, we will never sit idly by while that happens.”

This wasn’t a blind grab for attention by referencing something in the news, it was smart, well thought-out marketing that took a risk, made a stand, and paid off.

Be ready to put your money where your mouth is.

Saying you back a particular issue or cause can let your customers know where you stand, but actively donating to that cause or showing a willingness to take steps that could lose you money in support of it tells your customers so much more.

Patagonia is a brand that appeals to people that love the outdoors – a group which has a big overlap with people who care about the environment, for obvious reasons. It makes a lot of sense for them as a company to take a stand for the environment. And their website puts their opinions on the subject front and center.

patagonia1

But they’re still a brand out to make money and it could be easy for their customers to roll their eyes and see their mentions of environmental issues as pandering.

It becomes harder for customers to maintain that kind of cynicism when they see the company  put their money where their mouth is with their $10 Million for the Planet Initiative. The company committed to donating all their sales from Black Friday to grassroots organizations working on environmental issues. Their customers came out in droves that day and helped the brand make over $10 million to give to a good cause.

patagonia2

 

The move showed their customers they were prepared to do more than just talk.

 

Addressing political issues is decidedly not a good move for every brand. But if you consider your audience and carefully think through both the how and why of taking a political stand, it could be worth it for your brand. In this political climate, it’s definitely a risk, but it’s one that could lead to a stronger connection with your audience, a more meaningful positioning for your brand, and the moral sense of doing something that matters – not a feeling that regularly comes with marketing work.

7 Tricks to Always Have a Blog Topic Handy

blog topic ideas

If you have a blog, at some point you’ve hit up against the challenge of coming up with topics to write about. While you know that there’s no way you’ve covered every subject possible that’s related to your industry, sometimes you just can’t seem to think of anything new.

A successful blog strategy requires staying on top of this issue. Your aim should be to always have a list of topics you can turn to when it’s time to update the content calendar. And you definitely never want to find yourself scrambling for a topic with no good ideas right before it’s time for a new post to go up.

You can do better than that. Developing a few good habits can ensure you’re always prepared with an ongoing list of relevant topic ideas. These seven tips are a good start.

  1. Have a central place to keep a list of ideas and resources.

For every other step on this list to pay off, you have to take a second to jot down all the ideas you have as you go. And at least as importantly, you have to get them down somewhere that you’ll think to return to at the moment when you’re planning out your content calendar.

The place you choose to do that is up to you, but make sure you find somewhere consistent to regularly record your ideas where it’s easy to add to the list and make notes in the moment while the idea is fresh in your memory. This could be something as simple as a Word or Google document, or your list could live in a tool more designed for the purpose like Evernote or Trello.

Treat this as your central repository for ideas. Don’t be particular about what goes in. As with a brainstorming session, there are no bad ideas. An idea that you’re not sure is strong enough on its own for a blog post could later inspire you to think of a related topic that makes for great content. Any idea you have, throw in there. You can refine the ideas later when it comes time to put actual topics on the calendar.

  1. Always be researching.

This is good advice for life in general – we should all strive to be learning more as we go. When it comes to keeping your blog running smoothly though, research can play a key role in helping you generate topic ideas regularly.

Most good ideas in history have been built off of other ideas. What you read in another industry blog (or maybe even in the news or a magazine) can be the seed to a great blog post you write later.

Make research a part of your daily to-do list and always be on the lookout for ideas buried in the articles you read, videos you watch, and podcasts you listen to that you can build off of in your own content. You can save articles you see shared on social media for later with an app like Pocket, and you can add blogs and publications that consistently provide information you find valuable to an app like Feedly so discovering good articles on the regular is simplified.

The tools we have available should make it easy for you to always find new research materials to consume, which will in turn help you keep your list of ideas growing.

  1. Use keyword research to see what people are interested in learning.

Keyword research is one of the early steps in any SEO strategy, but it’s also an important resource for figuring out what people are talking and thinking about. A number of keyword research tools exist, including Google’s free Keyword Planner.

All of them can help you grow your list of topic ideas with the confidence that every idea you add to the list is something your audience cares about.

  1. Subscribe to relevant email lists.

Seek out every important and successful blog in your industry and sign up for their email list. The emails they send out will point you toward their content, which will keep you abreast of what your competitors are doing. Seeing what topics they focus on can serve as inspiration to help you come up with (different, but related) topics for your blog.

  1. Pay attention to Google Trends.

Wonder what people around the world are thinking about right now? Google doesn’t have to wonder, they know. Every search someone does in the search engine turns into data that they share with Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 4.29.02 PMmarketers in a number of different forms. One of those is Google Trends.

You can see generally what people are thinking about. You can see the subjects that are most popular in different categories. And you can search specific terms to narrow down the data and see how popular that particular term is, along with a list of related terms people are searching for.

The more you explore in Google Trends, the more you gain a snapshot into what people are thinking about and looking for more information on. Not every trending topic will be relevant to your own blog, but finding those that are can give you great ideas that you know people are interested in.

  1. Hang out in relevant forums and social media groups.

The best way to find out what your audience cares about to is to hear it from them. That means hanging out wherever they are online. Look for forums, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter chats, and Facebook communities your audience is a part of. Follow relevant topics in Quora and pay attention to the questions people commonly ask.

Visit popular blogs with comment sections and read through them. When discussions get going, you’ll often find hidden gems of questions and comments that point you toward topics people want to know more about. The internet provides you with different opportunities and ways to listen, find and take advantage of them.

  1. Look for examples.

Is there something you’ve written about before that can be demonstrated with examples? For a lot of topics, it’s easy to find general advice and harder to find specific examples or case studies of how that advice plays out in real life. If you can fill in that gap, a lot of people will find it valuable.

Examples lend weight to what you’re saying and thus provide real, tangible value to your readers. It takes some work to put together blog posts that highlight specific examples of good advice in practice, but it’s a worthy topic category to tackle.

 

This list should keep the topics coming over time and ensure you consistently have a steady store of them to turn to whenever needed. When you have a long list of topic ideas to work with, your blog planning will run more efficiently and you’ll be able to consistently publish content that people are actually interested in.

 

The Path to Successful Content Promotion Is All About Relationships

As if creating high-quality content wasn’t already hard enough, content marketing doesn’t work anymore without a plan for relationshipspromotion. There’s simply too much content out there for you to trust that people will find yours if you don’t put some real effort into making their discovery of it easy.

Content promotion has become one of the most important components in content marketing success. But figuring out how to do it well is tricky.

You’ve got a few obvious places you can start:

  • You can make sure your blog posts are optimized for SEO.
  • You can push out your content on social media.
  • You can send your new content to people on your email list
  • You can pay for ads on social media or Google to get your content in front of new people.

All of those are useful and important tactics to help guide people to your content, but a lot of the most effective long-term methods for content promotion have one thing in common: they’re about building and leveraging relationships.

People who know and trust you are more likely to share your content.

In content, as in life, strangers are far less likely to care about or believe what you have to say than people that have had some past, positive experience with you. If anything, gaining trust is harder for a brand than a human stranger, since people know you have a (not so ulterior) motive: you want to sell something.

One of the most powerful ways to cut through that initial trust barrier is social proof. Your potential customers will always believe what a third party has to say about you before they’ll take your brand’s word on the subject. And that’s not just true when it comes to buying from you, it also influences how likely they are to click through to your content or care about what you have to say within it.

Think about it: if someone you follow on social media shares content by a brand you’ve never heard of with a resounding recommendation to check it out, how much more likely are you to click than if you see the same link in an ad?

For those people to share your content to begin with, they already have to have some relationship with your brand. Maybe they saw another friend share it, maybe they’re already a customer, or maybe they’ve been following your blog for a while – whatever the reason, their decision to share shows a level of trust that immediately makes others more likely to check your content out and consider your brand trustworthy.

Promoting others helps them self-promote.

The value of relationships in content marketing is behind the growth in influencer marketing. Mentioning relevant influencers in your content provides a reciprocal benefit. It makes them look good to be identified as an expert and it strengthens your content to have the insights of an influencer included.

More important, in terms of the theme of this post, when you include a quote or reference to an influencer in a way that makes them look good, the chances of them sharing your post with their network increases. It’s not guaranteed they will, but when promoting your content also means promoting themselves as well, a lot of people do.

If the person you highlight has a large audience of people that trust them, seeing that you have a relationship with them makes that large audience more prone to check you out and trust you.

How to Build Connections

As long as you’re a stranger, attempts to get an influencer or anyone else to pay attention to your content – even if it mentions them – will be an uphill battle. You have to put in the work of building those connections first.

While there are loads of ways to connect with people in the internet age, a few you might consider taking advantage of are:

  • Attend industry conferences. Conferences aren’t just good for checking out vendors and attending educational sessions, they’re one of the best opportunities out there for meeting other people working in your space. Go. Strike up conversations. Introduce yourself to anyone whose presentation impresses you. You’ll come away from the conferences with the beginnings of lots of new relationships.
  • Start doing more local networking. You can’t be at conferences all the time, but you can tap into the local community through networking events. Look into the relevant organizations and meetups available in your city, and get out there and start meeting people.
  • Conduct interviews. Interviews often strengthen content because you’re able to use the insights of other experts to lend weight to what you’re saying. Many people are willing to set up expert interviews because it gives them a chance to show their knowledge and reach a new audience as well. Once you’ve interviewed someone and used the knowledge they provided in your content, they now have a relationship to your brand.
  • Interact on social media. Reply to people’s tweets or Facebook posts. Share their content. Participate in Twitter chats or LinkedIn groups. Social media has vastly simplified the process of making connections with people in your industry. Use it.
  • Leave comments. A lot of people and businesses with blogs actually read and reply to comments. Leaving a thoughtful comment is a good way to get on their radar, especially if you do it more than once and interact with them in other ways on this list in the mean time.
  • Pitch guest posts. Guest posts can both be a way to promote your own brand (although not too directly, usually) and a way to create or solidify a relationship with another person or brand. If you do pitch a guest post, make sure you pay attention to any guidelines the blog has and pitch an idea that’s relevant to the blog’s audience. If you send a tone deaf pitch that shows you didn’t do basic research first, it will backfire.

How to Use Connections for Content Promotion

Once you’ve made enough of a connection, you’ll have a much easier time asking  people to help you out without crossing any lines.

As much as possible, look for opportunities to suggest mutually beneficial modes of promotion. That could mean hosting a webinar together, partnering to complete a research study with both your audiences combined, or featuring them as an expert in your blog posts.

Even once a relationship is established, aim to help them with promotion and engagement at least as much as you ask them to do the same for you.   It’s gotta go both ways or they’ll have little reason to continue the relationship and view it fondly.

 

Making connections has a tendency to pay off in ways beyond boosting your brand. You might make some real friends in the process. You’ll meet people you can learn from who have real insights to add to your life and your marketing efforts. Building relationships shouldn’t be all about content promotion, but it’s one of the best paths you can take to get there.

 

Why Your Content is Facing an Uphill Battle

Content marketing is no longer optional for businesses – at least not if you care about being mountainvisible and reaching customers on the web. But a lot of people doing it are struggling to see the kind of results they want.

If you feel like you’ve been putting so much time, money, and energy into content marketing without seeing much response, it’s not just you. For anyone starting content marketing now, and even most of those who got started in the in past year or two, you’re facing a challenge on par with scaling a mountain.

Moz research found that the vast majority of content businesses are publishing never gets shared or linked to at all. In a lot of cases, that’s probably because the content’s not all that good to begin with. But that’s not necessarily the case across the board. In our era of content saturation, good content gets ignored too.

The odds really are stacked against the average joe business trying to get noticed on the web with content.

That’s because, right now, content marketing success primarily falls to two categories of businesses:

  • The early adopters

    These are the guys that started content marketing over five years ago, sometimes over ten. They were the first in their space (or close to it) and created some of the cornerstone, established content that people in their industry have been looking to for years.

    Other influencers in the industry (and Google) all see them as an authority already. They can keep doing what they’ve been doing and it will keep working for them, but if you try to do the same, you’re starting out much further behind.

  • The businesses with the most money to invest

    ViperChill recently published an eye-opening post on the companies that dominate search. They found that just 16 companies – behemoths like Hearst and Time – own the vast majority of websites that rank for a wide range of lucrative keywords. From software to food to health and pretty much everything else you can think of, these companies claim most of the top spots in Google.

Why It’s So Hard to Outrank These Guys

The initial thought that inspired this post came from working on a recent post on how writers choose what websites to link to, which gave me cause to really think about my own research process when working on a post.

When I go looking for examples, data, relevant extra info to back my points up – I go to Google. The stuff that’s already showing up on page one and two is the stuff I’m most likely to click on and read, and therefore the stuff I’m most likely to link to within a post of my own. Is it fair? No. But how much work would I have to do to find your awesome post – even if it’s better than the stuff on page one – if it’s sitting on page 13?

That creates a cycle. The content that’s already doing well in search is the stuff I’m most likely to find and link to, which keeps it high up in the search. And as the ViperChill article makes clear, since many companies are using their high-authority websites to link to their new websites, the new sites with the best chance of breaking that cycle are those that already have an unfair advantage.

What Can You About It?

It’s good to know what you’re up against to keep your expectations realistic, but that’s no reason to revel in doom and gloom. Plenty of adventurous people actually do manage to scale mountains – but only with the proper preparation and plan.

Content marketing is hard, much harder than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean your case is hopeless and it’s better not to try.

Commit, all the way.

First off, you can’t just throw up a blog, put together some haphazard content once a week, tweet here and there and think that’ll work for you. If you’re going to get anything out of content marketing you have to make a real commitment to doing it right.

That means:

  • Taking the time to understand your audience and develop a strategy based on what they care about and need.
  • Being consistent with your content production. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, get burned out, and let it dwindle to almost nothing. Figure out what you can do realistically and stick with that.
  • Don’t just produce content. That’s not all content marketing is. Do the work to get your content in front of people and stay connected with those people once they find you.

Promote.

Publishing relevant content was once enough for those early adopters, but if you don’t fall into that category, it’s not enough for you. You need to do the extra work of promoting your content to help get it in front of people.

At this point in the game, a lot of your best promotion options will mean spending some money or committing some serious time. That could mean buying social media ads, trying paid distribution platforms, or putting in the work (or hiring someone) to help you land some big guest posts that will get you attention.

You’ll have to do some testing to figure out what types of promotion work best for your content and audience. Whatever form it takes, promotion needs to be an important part of your content strategy.

Target and interact with influencers.

When you look at those early adopters, you shouldn’t just see the people that were lucky to get on the bandwagon early, you should see potential contacts that may be able to help you. Work to get on their radar.

Interact with them on social media. Comment on their blog. Go to conferences or networking events they may be at. Share their content.

One of the best ways to make the kinds of valuable connections online that lead to a larger reach and more links is to actually make connections with the people behind those websites and links. Don’t be creepy or demanding. But do let them know you’re paying attention to their work and appreciate it.

Over time, those interactions could lead to an actual relationship, a guest post on their blog that drives traffic to your website, or a tendency to share your stuff (now that they know it exists).

Expect to play the long game.

Even if you do everything right, it takes time to build up authority. Don’t expect any one thing you do to be the magic bullet that launches you to visibility online. You have to do a lot of different little things and keep doing them for a while.

Pay attention to what’s working as you go so you can tweak your strategy over time. And don’t get discouraged and drop everything when you don’t see results right away. You’ll just end up that much further behind when you decide in a year or five that actually you should have stuck with this content marketing thing after all. Better to stay on top of it now.

Don’t set all your store on Google.

Google matters in online visibility. Of course it does. But it shouldn’t be the end all be all of your marketing plans, if for no other reason than that, right now, it’s out of reach for a lot of businesses – at least if you’re interested in keywords that are at all competitive.

Focus on reaching people through whatever other channels you can find. As more people find and trust you through other places, over time you may find your authority in Google growing. But by then you won’t be dependent on Google anyway.