The Year of Customer Conversation
For years content writing has focused on sharing the unique aspects of a business to stand out from competitors. Businesses borrowed from sales departments to create a unique selling proposition (USP) and the hard-hitting emotional pull found in direct marketing copy.
In recent years, creating content borrowed from search engine optimization (SEO) to focus on keywords, and used techniques like Schema markup to help search engines discover and present content to people searching online.
The new year 2020 calls for rethinking how to connect with customers and how search engines read and deliver content in search results.
Artificial intelligence has improved how search engines read and understand content. Voice search has changed how people search for answers. And content creators need to understand how to deliver content that works in this new search environment.
The recent algorithm with the geek name Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) improves how search engines read text. In essence, search engines now read in a similar way to humans. The algorithm looks at words and phrases and also considers the words around the main topic words.
The benefit for content writers is that writing in natural speech, the way you would speak to someone face to face (natural language) helps you match the real questions people ask. People don’t search in keywords. They ask questions in natural language. Matching content language to how people search will be a big change for 2020.
Customer First Thinking
A second big trend for 2020 is talking to your customers. A reversal of old sales tactics touting business strong points to reaching customers through their questions and pain points.
[Tamsen Webster], of Find The Red Thread, says in a Content Marketing Institute [article] on 2020 content predictions,
… start moving away from “brand speak” and more towards conversational language that reflects what their customers want and believe – in words their customers actually use.
Customer needs are the focus of 2020 content. Content creation will focus on discovering customer needs and presenting business benefits that fulfil those needs. It’s a shift away from here’s what our business can do to here’s how our business solves your problem.
Content research will focus on customer questions rather than keywords. Quantify the questions to learn what customers want the most. Then create content that answers those primary concerns written in the customer’s language.
Devices and Voice Search
Voice-enabled searches are growing to almost 50% of searches as we enter 2020. Mobile phones are almost universal and for some people, a mobile device is their only connection to the internet. Also, home devices like Alexa and Google Home allow people to speak queries and get answers.
Writing content for voice search results is aimed at providing the one answer. Unlike a traditional search that results in multiple results, voice queries have one answer. Search engines like Google often use a rich snippet from search results to supply the one answer.
ProWritingAid recently published an [article] about writing for a rich snippet result. Similar to customer-focused content, writing for the one answer focuses on a single answer to a query. Use direct, literal language for rich snippet, one-answer results. Clever headings don’t match a phrase someone has in a query.
Consumers respond to visuals, especially if the visuals reinforce written content. Gone are the days of clickbait images. Consumers don’t come back to tricks. Content writers will find assignments require images as well as text.
Supply alt text for every image. The alt text helps search engines understand the nature of the image. Make sure the alt text describes the image. You can tie the image to the topic of the text. Shun stuffing keywords into alt text.
Search engines have become sophisticated in image recognition through the use of artificial intelligence. Images reinforce the written text and can appear in search image carousels in response to a query.
Consider reinforcing every piece of content with at least one relevant image.
Video has grown to a powerful vehicle for brand awareness. Short videos that focus on one consumer question, just like the new approach to written content, help boost customer engagement.
Content agency [Clear Voice] reports that [The Economist] is using video to drive consumers back to the publication website to gain information.
Short videos from 6 to 60 seconds work to answer questions and send viewers to web content for more information. Split up content into bite-sized video aimed to create awareness and drive people to the business website for fuller explanations. Think of each short video as super-personalized content for consumers.
Commercial video scriptwriting is a growing business demand. Writers may want to expand their talents to include video scripts in their writing repertoire.
Make Content Personal
All of these trends point toward customer engagement on a personal level. The shift is away from boasting about business features to tying benefits to customer needs.
When you want customers to take action, show how your business product or service solves a problem. Touch their emotions. People may research the features but they buy on emotions. Every time you show how your business solves a problem you lead the customer to make a buying decision. Touch several needs and you are likely to make the sale.
Clear, concise chunks of information lend themselves to featured snippets and the one answer for voice. Create a series of short videos based on these chunks to drive customers back to your website.
The end goal of each piece of content is to connect with a customer to make a sale. Organic and paid search help reach the individuals that want and need a business service or product. Keep content personal and in natural language to connect with the one person who is consuming the content.
Make each customer you reach feel like the content is meant for them. The benefits you stress and the language you use are powerful paths to customer connection and increased sales.