Write Like KISSmetrics, Charm Like BuzzFeed, Convert Like Unbounce
There is more content being created every few minutes than was created between the beginning of human civilization and 2003. That means two things:
There is a nearly-endless possibility for creativity and growth
Writing content that stands out has never been more important
Disappointingly, many companies aren’t rising to the occasion and are still churning out mediocre content (still for the sake of SEO) that just isn’t compelling enough to get noticed -- let alone drive sales and growth -- anymore.
But then there are others who are leading the charge. They are creative pioneers, actively seeking new ways to hack content marketing to maximize value to the reader and results for the creator. Their decisions are data-driven, and they are willing to test, iterate and iterate some more in order to make their content more compelling (and higher-converting), without ever descending to the level of gimmicks.
Three brands you’d be wise to study are KISSmetrics, BuzzFeed, and Unbounce. I’m willing to bet that you have probably read, shared, and maybe even commented on content from these three leaders -- just like they planned.
KISSmetrics: the Smart Friend
While it isn’t surprising that the team behind this powerful customer intelligence and web analytics platforms has created a supremely popular and well-performing blog, it certainly is impressive.
If the KISSmetrics blog was a person, it would be the smart friend that has a knack for explaining complex theories and ideas to anyone -- without ever making you feel like you’re being talked down to. They are always willing to share generously of their knowledge, and you leave the conversation feeling smarter and more capable than when you started.
Filled to burst with beginner-friendly content written by experts, the team behind the KISSmetrics blog certainly got the message that making yourself useful to your readers is one of the fastest way to build an engaged and loyal following. Creating valuable, information-rich content on complicated subjects (like online marketing) that is accessible to any layperson that Googles ‘how to do SEO’ is no accident -- these folks are pros at the top of their game.
But even if you’re new to online marketing, there are some of elements of KISSmetrics’ content that you can easily incorporate into your own content strategy today:
Keep Grandma in Mind
A couple of years ago, we wrote about making sure your pitches pass the “grandma test”. Basically, the idea is that if you can pitch your grandmother, you can pitch anyone.
While you may not be creating content for the senior citizen population, it doesn’t hurt to have the grandma test in mind when writing content. One of the ways KISSmetrics is able to make complicated topics so accessible is that they go easy on the jargon and heavy on the information.
Technical jargon is a boring and lazy way of writing. Instead of relying on terms that might confuse or alienate your reader, look for creative ways to break the concept down using plain language.
Get Creative With Explanations
Building on that last point, it’s important, particularly when writing long-form content like KISSmetrics often does, to get creative with your explanations of concepts and ideas.
For example, in How to Do SEO Without Even Thinking, you’ll find:
- Links to real-world examples
- Highlighted ‘bottom line’ takeaways
From analogies to examples to images, there are a multitude of ways to convey your point that keep the reader engaged, while appealing to different learning styles.
Get to the Point
There is one thing you will never find on the KISSmetrics blog: fluff. They conveniently tell you everything you need to know, and nothing that you don’t. In this era of decreasing attention spans, content needs to quickly and succinctly get to the point. Take a cue from their writers and run your content through the ‘fluff filter’ before hitting publish.
Make Your Value Obvious
With the volume of content floating around on the web, titles and headlines have never been more important. You have a fraction of a second to capture your audience’s attention and convince them that your article is worth reading.
Each title and headline on the KISSmetrics blog makes obvious what the reader will learn from reading each article. Titles like ‘11 Steps to Building Your Content Marketing Machine’ do a great job of incorporating keywords to catch the reader’s eye, as well as articulating the benefit that the reader will get from reading the post.
BuzzFeed: the Dinner Party Hero
If BuzzFeed was a guest at a dinner party, they would be the one that everyone gravitates towards -- the person that has turned strangers into friends by the end of the night. BuzzFeed is the guest that can charm the pants right off of you: they can talk politics without making you uncomfortable, they can give you style tips without making you feel judged, and they can make you laugh until you cry.
Like a great party guest, BuzzFeed makes a point of getting to know their audience, knowing what they want to hear, and making the conversation about them. As a result, you can’t help but want to talk to them take their quizzes.
Like KISSmetrics’ writing style, BuzzFeed’s charm is no accident. Their editorial process and content structure is grounded in empirical data and research on what generates views, traffic, and shares. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the video below of Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici undergoing biometric monitoring to asses the affect on our body of consuming viral content:
Here are three ways BuzzFeed uses human motivation to make readers swoon:
Have you ever seen a BuzzFeed article pop up on your Facebook timeline like 21 Songs You Awkwardly Danced To In Middle School and thought to yourself “I really don’t have time to read this right now, but I just have to know if I danced to one of those songs”?
It happens to the best of us. And when that happens, an angel at BuzzFeed gets its wings, because you are doing exactly what they intended when they strung those words together. While parody sites like Clickhole might poke fun at the “you’ll never guess what happens next” subject lines, the reality is that it results in higher click-through rates.
BuzzFeed’s editors inject suspense and intrigue into their titles because they know it will give you that “I just have to know!” feeling. Curiosity may or may not have killed the cat, but it definitely has a knack for killing productivity.
Playing to Emotions
Heart-warming stories of courageous kids standing up to bullies. A collection of gifs that highlights the frustrations of being an intern. Nostalgia-inducing listicles of the best things from your childhood. BuzzFeed knows that emotion often supersedes rationality, and they don’t hesitate to play to your emotions.
Identity, Connection and Belonging
Our quest for belonging and connection drives a great deal of our decisions and behavior. One of the ways that we can get that powerful sense of belonging is through collective identity. As social psychologist Henri Tajfel suggests, we derive self-esteem, identity, and a sense of belonging from shared identities like sex, nationality, and sports team allegiances.
So next time you see a BuzzFeed post directed at an identity that you connect with (90s kids, older siblings, new parents, etc.) and feel the urge to click the link, know that some pretty powerful forces are driving that compulsion to click through.
Of course, all of this is only possible because BuzzFeed puts tremendous effort into getting to know exactly who their audience is. So if you learn only one thing from BuzzFeed, let it be that knowing your reader is key to creating content they’ll love.
Unbounce: the Smooth Salesman
One of the reasons that KISSmetrics and BuzzFeed have been so successful with their content efforts is that they never lost sight of the business objectives that ultimately drive their content strategy. Your content should support tangible goals like revenue generation and user growth, and to do that, conversion needs to be top-of-mind in your content process.
From top to bottom, the Unbounce blog is intentionally optimized for conversion, starting with making their best content easy to find. Instead of making readers dig through pages of blog archives to find what they’re looking for, Unbounce has created a handy list of their “Top Conversion & Marketing Blog Posts” and makes it easy accessible in a right-hand sidebar.
The lesson? Know what your readers are looking for and make it easy-as-pie for them to find it.
Like their content master counterparts, Unbounce has also put a great deal of thought and effort into their titles and meta descriptions. They know that people don’t come to the Unbounce blog simply to be entertained, they come to solve a problem. With that in mind, Unbounce’s blog post titles speak directly to reader pain points.
And when a reader gets to the end of the post, wowed by the writer’s knowledge and grateful to Unbounce for the valuable free content, they are presented with a simple, clear (and visually attractive) call to action to download the ebook for more in-depth information:
Take a page out of the Unbounce play book and optimize for conversion by placing unobtrusive calls to action in places that fit with the natural flow of a reader’s attention.
The bottom line: Unbounce is a great example that you can optimize your content for conversion and results, without sacrificing reader experience or value.
Value > Gimmicks
Before you go rush off and incorporate some of these impressive tactics into your content strategy, remember that KISSmetrics, BuzzFeed, and Unbounce have been deliberate and intentional with their content strategy. They didn’t do things because they seemed cool or trendy -- they got to know their audience, analyzed the data, and made decisions from there.
When you put these data-driven practices to work in your content, take the time to put your own twist on each of them. Your audience, and your bottom line will thank you!