“We’re unsure what to write.”
I was having a conversation with one of the new copywriters for a FinTech start-up we’d just taken on to do PPC with. I’d taken a look at the site, and he was correct. Lots of content, 2-3 pieces a week, around 4-500 words each.
“We were told that recency was one of the most important things when it comes to SEO”
It can be extremely intimidating to sit in front of a blank page, know you need to create something and have no idea what to do. I was like that for years. It’s scary.
We’d been working on a template, a framework to turn any question into long-form content. Something that was valuable, something any audience would want and in this case, most importantly, 1200+ words long.
Oh, and it’s made in such a way that you can grab the featured snippet most of the time. Sounds too good to be true right?
I’d like to talk you through this framework right now, so let’s jump right in.
What is a common question you get from your customers?
Let’s start with something you know about really well. What are your customers struggling with?
Now the way I want you to be thinking about this, and how it should be written is pretty casual.
You’re in a bar with your friends, not work colleagues, friends. They don’t know the in’s and out’s of what you do. But they know you’re the right person to go to with this question.
You’re waiting for your drinks to be made, you have a lot of friends and are generous so you’ve bought everyone drinks.
This friend comes up to you and ask the question. THE question. And as such, you answer it.
You’re actually really thankful they came to speak to you because there is no way you can carry all these drinks by yourself. So you give them what they want. And in 2-4 sentences you answer the question. Casually, not using any crazy terminology, but succinctly, to the point and confidently. Your friend is happy and now you have two people to carry all the drinks.
These 2-4 sentences are your snippet. I’ll show you where to put it in the article in a moment.
How to turn any question in 1200 words of pure value
So pretty much any question can be broken down into multiple smaller questions that we can use to help turn this 2-4 sentence answer into 1200+ words.
That breakdown looks something like this.
Why does it happen?
Pretty simple to answer. But remember this, it’s easy to go pretty thin on the answer here. In a lot of cases though it makes sense to not only go deeper on the reasons why, but to use it as an excuse to talk about terminology and niche specific things. If you’re going to do this though, explain them.
Don’t just throw and SQL or a BoFu out there without first explaining them.
What to do when it happens
Now we discuss the main issue the reader is facing.
What to do right now.
If there are a few facets to the “now” part of the issue, then break these down into their component parts and answer them.
Let’s take this article for example – What to do when you don’t know what to write?
My answer might be something along the lines of. Go talk to your sales guys, go find out what questions they’re dealing with a few times a day. Could you write something to address that question?
What if you don’t have a sales team? Go back to your audience research. What did you find out there? There has to be a reason you’re building your company right?
For less than £25 ad spend you can make a couple of Facebook ads, attach a survey and get a handful of questions from your target audience.
Now you have the question break it down in the way I’m discussing right now.
How to prevent it from happening again in the future?
This section might be a little harder to create because the overwhelming thing to do is to promote your product/service.
Don’t do this.
We’re not shilling out. We’re here to provide value.
Teach them how to solve the problem without you. I could very easily be talking about “get in touch with me and I’ll teach you one on one how to write your first blog article. It’s not only easy, but you’ll rank well too.”
Nope. I’m just going to tell you how to do it. I know how hard it is to actually make it happen, but here are all the steps.
So teach the user. Show them the steps. All of them. There is no value in half a solution.
How to apply this learning to something else
Now that the user has learnt from the error of their ways, let’s not put that learning in a box. Show them how they can take this idea, this knowledge and apply it to something else.
In the case of this article, it’s as simple as – this is the framework to create content about pretty much anything. But unless the answer to the question is a template or framework this section is rarely this simple.
Let’s say you’re an EdTech company, you’re promoting new ways for employees to learn at work and the question is – How to I get my staff to want to learn at work?
Maybe the answer is getting them to embrace new things and maybe even incentivizing the learning. Some kind of monthly draw, or getting paid to present your new learnings to your team.
How you would apply this to other things would be, what else do the employees push back on? Or aren’t adopting in the way we envisioned? How would you answer that question with the same logic?
Now, I’m no expert at all when it comes to helping employees learn. So please don’t take my advice on this.
It’s more about how the logic that solved problem A can be applied to solve problem B.
The full outline all put together
TITLE (<60 Characters)
- Capitalize words as if it’s a book title
Confirmation the reader is in the right place (2-3 sentences)
- Re-wording the question they had in the first place.
- Giving confidence to the reader you can help them
The answer to the problem (up to 300 characters total) (30 words for voice search)
- Directly answer the main question.
- Usually formatter as one paragraph
- Answer using the bar analogy earlier
- Though short, this is arguably the most important section of the whole article. Optimise for getting in that snippet
Reading On (1-3 sentences)
- Convince the reader there is more to the problem that just the solution you’ve given them
- You’re going to show them how to break it down and really understand the issue
Breaking down the problem section (each one is an H2)
- Write your own headings for this part whilst breaking the problem down into these sections
- Why does it happen?
- What to do when it happens?
- How to prevent it from happening again?
- What else can I apply this learning to?
General pointers for the whole article
- Don’t stray from the main topic, if you find yourself talking about something else, that’s ok. It’s just another article
- Consider what the reader’s next question will be when writing the article. Feel free to add/remove/re-order the above guidelines if they don’t make sense for the problem you’re writing about
- Keep all paragraphs to 6 lines or less
- Break up text with interesting formatting – Tables, subheadings, images, videos etc.
- Ideally you never want a “wall of text”
- Don’t leave the reader with any remaining doubts
Did you hit your 1200 words? 1500?
Once you know how to take pretty much any question you get asked and break it down into it’s component parts, 1200 words is a walk in the park.
All this framework is is a plan to take the knowledge you know so well and put it down on paper. To be a little meta, look at this post, I’ve pretty much followed the same advice to write the article you’ve just read.
I’d love to see how you do with this, and if it’s your first post ever, congrats you’re on your way to ranking success.