Content is a nebulous topic, it's hazy, vague, ill-defined.
Working as a content strategist I'm often asked similarly nebulous questions. For example - 'what sort of content should we create?'
I'm a firm believer that content should be goal-driven. By this, I mean that what you create should be driven by what you want to achieve.
What do folks ultimately want to achieve?
They want to make money...
They'd possibly also like world peace, but they'll settle for the money.
Well dear reader, in order to make money, the vast majority* of sites need four key types of content:
- content to entertain
- content to educate
- content to persuade
- content to convert
This visual was inspired by this matrix by First10 and Smart Insights.
Why do you need content to entertain?
What am I blethering about? Why do you need content to entertain if you want to make money? Well, content to entertain allows you to reach people right at the top of the sales funnel, and indeed those who might not even know that they need your products/services yet.
Content which has been created to entertain might not be directly related to your products/services, however in order to do its job, it does need to appeal to your target audience.
As 'entertain' suggests - this sort of content has an emotional rather than rational appeal. It's the sort of content that's very shareable (and deliberately so) - the more it's shared the further your reach.
Why do you need content to educate?
Content to educate does a similar job to content to entertain - it allows you to reach people at the very top of the funnel. However, whereas content to entertain has an emotional appeal, content to educate has a rational appeal. As before, it's very shareable.
Why do you need content to persuade?
Content to persuade nudges people gently along the path to conversion (whatever a conversion might mean for your site - this could be a purchase, an enquiry, a call back request, etc). Content to persuade uses an emotional rather than rational appeal.
Why do you need content to convert?
You didn't really ask that did you? :)
You need content created with conversions in mind in order to close the deal. This content typically uses a rational rather than emotional appeal.
Why do you need both emotional & rational appeal?
Essentially this is a 'different horses for different courses' argument. Some people respond better to an emotional appeal, and some respond better to a rational appeal. In order to cover all the angles it's best to have a spread of content with both emotional and rational appeal.
In some instances you'll need to use different types of content on the same page. For example, on your product pages you'll probably have details about your product (largely rational appeal) and customer reviews (largely emotional appeal).
*What's with that 'vast majority' nonsense?
It occurred to me in the course of writing this post, that there are some exceptions. For example, publishers who rely solely on advertising for their income (i.e. they aren't looking to sell subscriptions to premium content) will still create content that 'persuades' and 'converts' but it will look very different to the sort of persuasion and conversion content on your typical ecommerce site.
For sites who rely on advertising income, it's likely that their conversions look like social shares and additional page views. As such, their content to 'persuade' or 'convert' will be more along the lines of calls to action for social sharing and recommended or related posts (speaking of which, Buzzfeed does this really well - I don't think I've ever managed to read just one post on that site).
- Content Marketing Guide. Distilled’s guide to many of the practices described in this article.
- What is Content Strategy?. Our summary of what a content strategy and the first steps you should take.
- Tone-of-Voice Guide. Our guide to defining a brand tone-of-voice.
- Elements of Content Strategy. A content strategy book available to read online for free.
And so, dear reader, over to you - do you agree?
I'd also love to hear your thoughts on our content matrix visual, do let me know via the comments.