What is hero content?

image of the 3H model

Hero content is a concept that is central to many content marketing approaches and in this post I’m going to explain what it actually is and show how you use hero content in a campaign.

In this post

What is hero content?

Hero content is the main piece of work that an entire campaign will lead up to or centre around and can feature (among other things) a major white paper, a research piece or an eBook that provides valuable and useful information for its readers.

Hero content establishes the credibility of you and your brand and shows users that you can be relied upon to have a detailed grasp of the subject. In short, it shows you are a subject matter expert.

The benefits of hero content

To my mind there are three benefits of hero content.

The first is the establishment of credibility.

When you are working in services marketing credibility is the key because with services the potential client needs to know that they are buying quality.

A chunky piece of hero content helps to establish that credibility and shows the client that you know what you are doing. It gives them the warm feeling they need that you have the background, experience and knowledge needed to help with their particular issues.

The second benefit is that it gives you a substantial subject for the focus of your marketing.

If you are wanting to get press attention, backlinks and visits then nothing works as well as original research or a thought leadership white paper.

Your hero content can form a central part of your marketing effort and depending on your objectives will enable you to drive engagement, shares likes etc. for your site.

The final benefit is the use of hero content to build a mailing list.

There can’t be many people who haven’t signed up to a mailing list to get a valuable piece of research or to read an insightful article.

It’s pretty much standard practice in the business world and from my point of view, I accept it both as a price to pay for the content but also in the hope that when I get emails from the company they will also be interesting.

Using the ‘3H’ strategy

The 3 H strategy was devised by Google to help YouTubers and is a method of garnering interest and pushing them towards hero content.

It’s an excellent way of marketing, especially if you are in services but it works across the spectrum and you can see charities, government organisations and online stores all using the 3H strategy too.

The 3H strategy uses 3 different types of content; Hygiene, Hub and Hero to engage with the audience.

The idea is that it all revolves around giving away free content to build credibility and brand loyalty.

image of the 3H model


The 3H strategy:- Hygiene

Hygiene is the name of the content that underpins the whole strategy.

If you were to transfer it to the AIDA marketing concept then it would be an ‘A’ – Attention.

Also called supporting pieces these are short, sharp attention getters that give potential clients some insight into a small area of your expertise.

They form the bedrock of the strategy and are useful for getting hits through keyword marketing.

The important point is that they aren’t necessarily going to make you sales.

If it was in the field of human relationships then a hygiene piece would be a first date. All your customer is doing is seeing if they like you enough to go on a second date, you’re not getting married yet!

The most common types of hygiene content is a blog article but it could be a short podcast or video. In fact, anything that is designed to get attention from your target market.

Because they tend to be simpler and shorter, hygiene pieces are the cheapest to produce and many marketers will say that done well, they produce the best ROI of anything.


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The 3H strategy:- Hub

Longer and more in-depth than a hygiene piece, the hub content is the next step in the 3H marketing method.

Also called ‘pillar’ pieces, hub content is a way of gaining more engagement from your intended audience.

You’re starting to give them something of real value here so the types of assets you produce could be things like worksheets, step by steps, longer ‘how-to’ videos and indeed anything that your customer can use in their day to day work or life.

Strangely they tend to be the longest-lived content because where the hygiene pieces are often topical and of the moment, a good pillar piece can be reused in a variety of different campaigns.

The 3H strategy:- Hero content

This is where it ends up – Hero.

Now you are really getting to the meat of the issue and what you are providing is a chunky, original and useful bit of work.

Maybe you have done some original research that will help businesses or you have an ‘ultimate guide to…’ that assists startups, helps with inheritance tax or even helps people plan a funeral!

Whatever it is I guarantee that in your business there is some hero content that is waiting to be discovered.

By the time your potential customer has read some of your hygiene content, used your pillar piece worksheets and pored over your hero guide they are clear that you are trustworthy, you know what you are talking about and you are professional.

And when you are in services that is the golden nugget that you are searching for.

Start with a plan

The place to start is with a sensible and realistic plan.

Think about what you want to achieve as a result of the campaign.

Think about your potential clients. What issues do they have that you can solve?

Think about how all the pieces of hygiene, hub and hero will work together.

You can decide to produce all of the hygiene first and then roll it up into a hero piece or you can start with your hero content and then chop it down into bite-sized chunks. Then you can expand upon these in a series of blogs.

Generally speaking, I’d say you need to look at producing one hero content, 2-4 hub pieces and an 12+ hygiene pieces that all support the theme.

And don’t get too ambitious. You are much better off proving you are a subject matter expert about a single, focused issue than trying to write a hero piece that contains everything you know.

3 ideas for great hero content

So I’m going to fess up here. These aren’t 3 great ideas for hero content that I have just had.

In fact, these are all pieces of hero content that I have already produced for clients, so I’m not being original. But then the point is that these are simply examples of ideas that you could use in your own industry.

Rydoo – the state of expense management

Rydoo is one of the best global Travel and Expenses systems out there and they asked me to produce a report based on the data they were seeing from their users.
The report was designed to who how expenses claims had changed as a result of COVID and what it meant for employers and employees alike.

This is a great way to use data you may already have in your systems and produce something of value for your potential customers and to make you a thought leader in your industry.

You do need to be careful of course. You need to be aware of GDPR requirements and you need to make sure you don’t give away any trade secrets!

Download a copy of the report here.

Access webinar

So although much of the hero content you see on the web is written, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Another COVID themed piece of content, the webinar “How to use the end of lockdown to rebalance your finance operations” was a way to drive engagement with a very specific target market – people who may need to buy new finance software.

The webinar was produced for the Access Group, a major UK based software house and was promoted across their social channels and supported with blogs.

There are lots of good things about webinars; they promote engagement, allowing attendees to ask questions and become part of the discussion, they are accessible for people who hate reading, and the platform pretty much demands that people give their email addresses otherwise they can’t get in!

The good news is that you know all of the information you need. After all you are an industry expert (even if you think you aren’t) so it takes little in the way of research.

And if you really don’t want to present it yourself then why not get a good looking and intelligent presenter. Ahem…

Ebooks as hero content

One of the most important reasons for producing hero content is to build an audience.

You want people to get some value out of your work so that they come back and enjoy more content.

The truth (that most content marketers won’t tell you) is that most of the people won’t buy what you are selling, but you may well find that they recommend you to other people and you may never know.

But, if you produce some hero content with real value it will build your audience and prove your credibility on a particular subject matter.

In a shameless act of self-publicity here’s an ebook I wrote for accountants called “The accountants’ guide to digital marketing” which you can download here.

Don’t worry that it talks about marketing an accountancy practice, in fact, it’s useful for anyone who wants to know more about hero content or just content marketing in general.

Hero content - free guide to content marketing for accountants

Need a bit of help?

I’m a professional writer and I spend my life producing this type of content.

I can either write for you to your plan or I can help you produce your campaign plan that you can write or I can do the lot.

Give me a shout and let’s chat. No obligation naturally.

5 items of content marketing that every accountant must use

Two accountants content marketing discussion

For go-ahead accountants content marketing is the way to go.

If you are looking to grow your practice, or if you just want to make sure your current clients are more engaged and understand all the services that you offer, then you need to be producing content.

And there are some bits of content that are absolutely essential for your content marketing.

So here’s my list of the top 5 things you need to be doing to make sure your accountancy firm stays ahead of the game with its marketing.

#1 – Blog posts

You have got a blog haven’t you?

This the absolute number 1 thing you need.

Firstly it shows your clients that you are an up to date, current practice rather than a firm that put a website up just because it was the done thing.

Make sure you are producing useful stuff though, and make sure its relevant to your focused target market.

And if you don’t have the time then pay me to do it.


Yellow tomato - content advice for accountants
Find out why choosing your focus is so important here

#2 – Technical updates

OK so I’m not talking about technical updates in the way that you or I understand them.

What I am talking about is a digest of a technical development but presented in an easy to understand format.

The aim here is to inform your clients about changes like MTD, IR35 or RTI but in a way that makes is accessible for them.

Essentially you are saying “here’s a problem, here’s how we can solve it for you.”

#3 – Videos

OK so I know you don’t like to see yourself on the screen and you hate the sound of your own voice but 82% of Twitter users for instance consume video content.

But don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to employ an actor to voice or present your videos and they can be surprisingly cheap.

You can also use things like Powtoon to produce an animated video that doesn’t even need to feature you as a talking head.

#4 – Webinars

Remember that you aren’t really selling anything on your site, as a professional what you are looking to do is to increase your credibility in the mind of the client.

Webinars on specific subjects of interest to your clients are a great way to do this.

Look at linking up with other professionals who may have more experience and pool your resources and this can be a very cheap way of driving traffic.

Just make sure you record it so that users can watch it later on.

#5 – Expert reports, white papers or eBooks

One of the first questions that academics get asked when they are looking for a job is “what have you published”.

It’s a way of potential employers understanding how much of an expert the professor or researcher actually is.

So that’s my question for you – “what have you published”?

Producing a meaty piece of content that explores a subject in depth and cements your reputation as a subject matter expert is perfect.

It’s also great for using in an advertising or link building campaign.

Use content marketing for your accountants to grow your firm

Content marketing has a great ROI and done properly it can be long lived and very cost effective.

There are tens, maybe hundreds of types of content marketing that accountants can use but you MUST have these five.

Admittedly this takes time and may need a bit of expert advice and that’s where I come in.

call now or drop me a message and let’s talk about how I can help you boost your practice marketing.

What is Bounce rate?

bounce rate image

Bounce rate is a measure used to work out how useful your site is to visitors.

Bounce is one of those things that people will tell you is massively important whilst others will tell you it doesn’t matter at all.

In fact, the likelihood is that it is somewhere in between and, together with lots of other metrics go to show search engines that yours is a good site.

So how is bounce rate worked out?

Bounce rate is fairly simple to work out. It is just a percentage score of how many visitors consume your initial content and then go on and read something else – or more accurately don’t!


Check out the vid about bounce rate!


In general terms zero bounce is good, 100% bounce is bad.

So if your visitor reads a second piece of content then it reduces your rate which is a good thing.

But…

Low bouncing isn’t necessarily good (and a high one isn’t necessarily bad)

It really depends upon what sort of site you have.

So a shop site would expect a very low bounce rate whilst a site that is all about getting people to sign up to a mailing list would be fine with a high one.

And that’s the problem with looking at this in isolation – it ignores what your site is for.

If you have a mature site and your bounce rate is ridiculously low (say 20% or lower) then it kind of suggests that something is wrong with your analytics.

If you have a brand new site and you are at 100% then that’s absolutely fine because it takes time to get a wealth of information on your site so that people have something else to read.

In general services type sites are good if they are in the 50% range and shop sites need to be under this but again, a shop site with a bounce rate that is 50% but converts 5% of visitors to customers is better than one with a 30% bounce that converts 2%.


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What can you do about your bounce rate?

The first and most important thing is to have good, relevant content on your site.

The more content you have then the more likely it is that people will read more than one page.

Reduce the size of your pages too.

People may not want to read 2,500 words but they would happily read three posts of 800 words each.

Also make sure it’s easy to navigate round your site.



Split your content into chunks so that people read one and then naturally follow to another page to read the next part of the story.

You can also make sure that you point people to related pages. After all, someone who reads one post about SEO is clearly interested in the subject so may like to check out more of your SEO posts.

And finally give people more value if they read more pages.

So have a page that is an introductory part of a subject then follow that up with more in-depth pieces and finally a really useful downloadable.

You can find a more technical explanation of bounce rate from Google here.

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Need marketing help?

I’m a specialist in writing copy for financial and professional services companies so if you would like to get your bounce rate down then get in touch and let’s talk.

What is TLDR and why you should care

TLDR (or TL;DR as it used to be known) means ‘Too Long;Didn’t Read’.

Simple.

So why should you care?

Well TLDR is really important when you are composing your blog posts and web content and I’m about to tell you why.

In this post;

Truth is no-one likes a wall of text

Have you ever been faced with a wall of text and just decided that life’s too short?

That’s TLDR in action.

A massive wall of text on a webpage is offputting.

Sure if you are sitting in the garden with a white wine spritzer and a copy of catch-22 then you can spend some time enjoying the experience of reading, but if you just want to find a recruitment consultant then you haven’t got enough life left to make it worth while.

Research has shown that our attention span reduced from 12.5 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015 and the trend is continuing.

This means that as a blog writer you need to make sure your posts are snappy and to the point.

Otherwise your readers will drift away

person drifting away from a boat
If you’re not smart your users will drift away

Split up your text

So what can you do about it?

Well for a start you can practice writing in short, snappy sentences.

Long paragraphs of text aren’t attractive at all so you need to avoid them and make sure you use easily accessible language because the average reader won’t be wanting to read acres of jargon.

Make sure you break up your text with relevant images too that illustrate your point.

Text for your homepage

So here’s the thing – Google says you need plenty of text on your homepage to tell it what it’s about but in reality your users won’t read it. So what do you do?

You start off by getting to the point above the fold.

Above the fold means the bit you can see without scrolling.

If you check out my homepage it says quite clearly above the fold – expert professional services marketing.

If you’ve come to the wrong place then you’ll know straight away but if you have come to the right place then you’ll scroll to…

Telling people what problems you solve

Look, we don’t want to read a page full of jargon, we just want to know what you are going to do for us.

So get to the point as quick as you can, the problem, the solution, who it’s for.

So don’t dance around your handbags for half an hour before getting to the point because your TLDR readers have already left the building.

I’d suggest that above the fold you go for your most important services.

Then as the user scrolls down you provide more detail.

And when they click onto another page you can expand your thought process.

TLDR for blog posts

Have you noticed that I answered the question right at the top of the post?

I did this for two reasons.

The first is for the TLDR people. They don’t have to read any further than line 1.

That’s fine.

If you are going to buy from me then you probably want to know much more than just the simple answer to the question.

So I am happy to give TLDR people the answer to their question because I know that they probably aren’t going to engage with me anyway.

The second reason is for Google.

Google likes posts that answer questions, and it likes to use the answers on it’s featured snippets panels.

So if you answer the question that people are asking quickly and succinctly in the first sentence then you are much more likely to be highly placed.


Free resources to help with your copywriting and SEO
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Chuck in a bulleted list

Did you see at the start of the article that there was a bulleted list?

This is designed to help readers get to the bit they want to read without scrolling or reading through the rest of the article.

Seriously though, with so much great information available why would people scroll past?

But they do!

Oh and set up page anchors so if you click on the item it takes you to the relevant section. Find out how to do page anchors here.

TLDR is important to keep readers engaged

So in summary then the principle of TLDR is important if you want to keep readers engaged in your blog and if you want site visitors to read more on your site.

On your home page make sure you get to the point right away and make it above the fold.

For blog posts, answer the question your readers are asking straight away as this will help engagement and will also boost your SEO score for the page.

And make sure you split your text up into manageable chunks and include the odd image here and there.

Here’s the ad

If you’d like help with your site, whether it be copywriting, marketing or anything else then give me a shout and let’s chat.

How to choose your copywriter

How to choose your copywriter

If you’ve never hired a copywriter before how on earth do you go about it?

In this post I’m looking at the way I think you should choose the best copywriter for your project.

Now this is heavily caveated by the fact that I obviously think you should choose me but we’ll gloss over that and move on

So read on and find out how you can find your ideal writer.

Personal recommendation

This is a great way to find someone and I heartily recommend it.

In fact I recommend recommendations.

Personal recommendations will tell you whether the person is good to work with, does a good job and produces their copy on time and on budget.

It won’t tell you anything about their style or whether they will get on with you or not.

So ask around amongst your contacts and see who has a good copywriter as they will be worth looking up.

Loving the style

So once you have a couple of names it’s time to do a bit of homework.

Check out things they’ve written and see if you like their style and more importantly, is it the style you want for your content?

Another method of finding a good copywriter is to find examples on the web of writing you like and then contacting the company to see who they used.

Although it might seem a bit cheeky, actually most people respond well to compliments and if you are telling them that you love their style so much you want to hire their copywriter then you’re on the right lines.

Use other networks

I belong to a fair few groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. and generally speaking if I need something I can usually find someone who does it or who knows someone who does it.

Not quite as powerful as a personal recommendation to be sure but still pretty good and if someone has been helpful, has provided valuable input to the group, has a great sense of humour or just uses a cute cat picture as their profile then I don’t see why not.

Also, think about any other networks that you may be in. Lunch clubs, sports clubs neighbourhood associations or whatever. You’d be surprised where we copywriters hang out.

What about platforms like UpWork and PeoplePerHour?

Meh.

To be honest they feel a bit like a race to the bottom.

Now I’m not saying you won’t find decent copywriters on these platforms, and they do have a rating system that helps you choose people based on the feedback you get but in general, I’m not a massive fan.

If nothing else it takes forever going through the proposals from Indian Sql programmers who would be happy to write your lifestyle blog for you.

I do have time for The Work Crowd though. I have found a couple of great people there to help me and the site seems a bit less of a race to the bottom.

Should you interview them?

Yeah why not.

I mean it’s not like an ‘INTERVIEW’ interview but in fact, I’d certainly recommend a meeting if you are close by or a zoom call if not.

I’m massively in favour of working with people you like and trust. I have found over the years that gut instinct works really well when choosing who to work with.

So if you do a call and get on like a house on fire then that’s another positive tick in the box.

Should you ask them to write a test piece?

Yes if you like.

But it should be a paid piece and you should make this clear.

I don’t think I’m the only copywriter who has had people trying to con free work out of them by saying it’s a ‘test piece’ for an eleventybillion pound mega order that’s just around the corner.

Some writers will refuse and that’s fair enough.

Some will be happy to write a test piece and you can use this to see if they deliver in terms of style, deadlines and research.

I sometimes offer to write a paid test piece but to be honest clients who have already booked a bigger run of articles or an eBook always get preference. Sorry.

Remember to choose people who are good at the thing you want

Not everyone is good at everything.

In fact, the best copywriter I ever met had an awesome reputation due to the fact that he immediately turned down things that he knew he couldn’t do. See the dunning-kruger effect for more details.

I’m very good at working for professional services firms due to my consultancy background with finance, HR and IT.

I’m useless at writing descriptions for ice cream. Useless.

Great copywriter for accountants - not so good at ice cream
I’m useless at writing about ice cream

Found a good copywriter? – Hang on to them

If you’ve found a good copywriter that you like and trust then don’t let them go.

Someone who can write exactly the sort of thing you like is worth their weight in gold so think about looking at a retainer type contract.

You have to remember that a good copywriter will be in demand so they won’t always be able to look after you if you just feed them the odd job.

Also don’t hide them.

If you have liked their work then tell people because we are business people too and we love recommendations and positive feedback.

Choosing a good copywriter is important

A good copywriter will do wonders for your business and should be pretty much self-sufficeint in an ideal world.

You won’t need to manage them and you shouldn’t need to give them too much direction.

But more importantly they will supercharge your marketing and bring an added dimension to what is already a superb offering.

OK so that’s me. If you’d like to talk than click the big blue button and if you have any questions about the process then why not drop a comment down below?

Oh and like and share!

How does the copywriting process work?

How does the copywriting process work?

If you have never engaged a freelance copywriter before then you may be wondering how the whole copywriting process works.

Well wonder no more!

This post will tell you how the process works from start to finish so that you can go ahead and commission that urgently needed piece of content.

I’ve also included a template for you to download, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start at the beginning

Decide what outcome you want to achieve

This might sound stupid. After all you just want some content don’t you?

But actually there’s more to it than that.

The outcome you want will change the type and style of writing you need.

For example, if the outcome you want is that you need a professional website that allows people to check your credibility and qualifications, then that is a completely different type of writing to a company that needs a sales funnel filling.

By the same token, commissioning content that will boost your search engine ranking requires someone with what’s called ‘on-page SEO’ skills.

So deciding what the output is forms a key part of writing your brief.

Write your brief

I’d always suggest putting down in writing what you are after. In media terms, this is called a ‘brief’ and it simply sets out what you are wanting and when you want it by.

I’ve produced an example project brief which you can download and use as your own and you can find it here (don’t worry you don’t have to give me your email address!).

Your brief needs to set out some housekeeping like who the writer needs to contact and their email or phone number.

It will also include stuff like a project name if you have one or maybe a Purchase Order (PO) number if your company uses them.

Importantly it will include details about your project such as deadlines, what you actually want to be delivered and what tone of voice you’d like it in. (find out about tone of voice here)

You don’t have to do a project brief but if it’s the first time you have ever worked with this particular writer then it’s a good way to start.

I have clients who just send an email with what they want and this is fine where it’s a short project and you’ve worked together before.

Find your writer

I’ve written up a guide to finding the right writer (or the write righter) here but suffice it to say that this is the point in the copywriting process that you probably want to go out and find a writer.

It’s quite usual in the industry to send out a brief to more than one writer or agency but you don’t want to overdo it.

You’ll probably be wasting the writers’ time and yours because it takes time to decide.

Be prepared to meet up or have a chat on the phone/zoom. I always prefer to do this as it can often stop misunderstandings happening.

If you’d like to know how much a copywriter costs then have a look at this post here.

Once you have chosen your writer then you need to agree terms and often your writer will ask for a deposit and possibly send a contract.

This is quite normal in the creative industries and a deposit will normally be around 1/3rd to half the eventual project cost but varies depending upon writer or agency.

The message has to be – get it in writing.

If your writer doesn’t send you a precis of what was agreed then you need to send it to them. Email is fine, hard copy is fine but write it down.

Leave them alone!

This is pretty important.

When you have agreed what you want, you’ve paid your deposit and you’ve written it down then you need to leave them alone.

Don’t start to panic until the deadline arrives.

Every time you phone your writer you are interrupting their process and you’ll slow down production.

I’d say 70% of the copywriting process is actually thinking and structuring and I can promise you that constant calls and emails don’t speed this up.

In fact this morning I was working out how to structure this post on a cycle ride down to the beach!

If you have chosen a good copywriter then you’ll get a draft copy at this point.

Make amends

This doesn’t mean you have to make up for something you’ve done wrong – amends is simply the shorthand way of saying amendments.

Most copywriters will include at least one round of free amends and you shouldn’t be shy about using this, writers are used to sending out a draft and then altering it later.

Just one point, I prefer to send out my draft in a finished version. What I mean by this is that when I send out my draft the client could just copy and paste onto their website.

Other writers will send things out with spelling or grammatical errors and then only correct at final draft stage so don’t be too disappointed if your writer works in this way but you should ask them if this is how they work ahead of time.

Agree future work

A good copywriter is hard to find and if you have happened upon one that does a good job and who you get on with then you should hang on to them.

Give them constructive feedback and if you have future work that you need doing then talk about it.

Often businesses will need regular content for things like their blog or social media so agreeing a future work plan is a good move because a good copywriter’s time will fill up quickly.

The copywriting process in a nutshell

The copywriting process then is pretty simple

1 – Decide what you want

2- Write up your brief

3 – Find your writer

4 – Agree terms and pay a deposit

5 – Wait for the output

6 – Feedback your amendments

7 – Feedback and agree future work.

So that’s it. The copywriting process in a nutshell.

If there are any questions that I haven’t answered or you want something expanded then please do leave a comment below and don’t forget to share the post if you have found it useful.