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by Michael P. Hill May 10, 2017

Creating centerpiece content is a great way to share your passion for your products and industry while also integrating your SEO, social media and content marketing strategy for weeks or even months to come — but how can you create a dynamic and informative content piece?

Before you write

Content marketing for Shopify

Although your first instinct may be to start writing, a key part of ensuring your content will be well thought out and work across additional marketing strategies is to outline how you will organize your content into sections:

  • Identify your main or general topic area
  • Then look for ways to break up that topic into distinct components or topics
  • Next, break each of these topics into subtopics
  • If appropriate, you can continue breaking down content into additional groupings

Nested under each subtopic or other grouping, write a brief notation of the main points you’ll cover here, for example, in our “Why protecting your favorite electronics is important” example you might want to include:

  • The types of damage your devices are susceptible to and how to protect electronics in each scenario as well as the various parts of electronics that are at risk for damage, such as the screen, battery, internal electrics and other parts
  • How specific products or product features offer protection against the various possibilities for damage
  • Why it is important to protect your investment and how making a small investment in a protective case can have a positive return on investment

Be sure to save this outline for reference; it will come in handy as you write and as you continue forward with utilizing your content in the other ways that we’ll discuss in this series.

Also, keep in mind that you may find your outline changes or shifts as you begin writing — this is fine. Think of your outline as a plan, not a set of rules. If you do decide to add additional topics or points later, however, update your outline accordingly so you always have a good reference point for your content structure.

Writing tips

Content marketing writing tips

Once you’ve selected your topic and have a structure, it’s time to start wordsmithing. However, before you begin writing, consider these points:

  • Make your content easier to read by writing in short sentences and paragraphs.
  • When appropriate, present your content in an alternative format such as a bullet list (like this one), charts, tables or graphics.
  • Use headings and subheadings frequently to allow users to understand how your content piece is set up and organized. Using the outline you prepared is a great way determine when to use headings or subheadings.
  • Avoid overusing jargon and technical terms. However, if your industry is particularly niche, using commonly known terminology is a good strategy to make your content more authoritative, but always consider if your audience may need a brief explanation of what a term means.

Bring your words to life

Shopify content marketing design

Once you’ve created the text of your content, it’s time to start formatting your content to be both visually appealing and easy to read.

A common format for centerpiece content is a PDF.

Although you may find it a bit surprising to rely on this format, PDFs have several advantages, namely that they can feature more complex designs that can be downloaded and printed easily, no matter what device the user is using.

Also, keep in ind that creating eye-catching designs does not require purchasing and learning a program such as Adobe InDesign.

There are a variety of free and low cost services that can be used to create dynamic layouts with minimal design knowledge, and without training or purchasing expensive licenses:

  • Google Docs: Google Docs is best if your design needs are simple and there will be a heavier emphasis on text. Achieving more complex design features such as columns and blocks can be a bit tricky in Docs. Google Docs also comes with a library or premade templates as well as its “explore” feature that can suggest images and layouts.
  • Google Slides: Even though it’s meant to be used for slide presentations, this service can be a good alternative because it has more flexibility in arranging elements in columns, blocks and other complex layouts (hint: go under File > Page setup > Custom size to create a document that’s the same size as a standard sheet of paper). Slides comes with premade designs and the “explore” feature as well.
  • Canva: This Web based design tool offers a variety of premade templates and stock imagery as well as the ability to create more advanced layouts. It’s free to use the basic features, though there is a fee for using certain stock art, templates and other features.
  • Pages or Keynote: If you’re a Mac user, you likely have access to both Pages and Keynote for free. Both of these tools are great ways to create PDF files and come with templates.
  • Word: Many computers come bundled with Microsoft Word installed, and the software does offer quite a bit in the way of layout options.

When designing your file considering the following points:

  • Create an eye-catching cover design as the first page. This is important not only to give users an overview of what to expect, but it’s also a good visual representation of your content piece as you begin distributing and marketing it. If you establish a “look” or visual styling here, you’ll be able to reuse it in related social media graphics, for example. 
  • Create a consistent color scheme and use one to three fonts at the most. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily have to use your website colors and fonts. In some cases, you might be able to create a more friendly look and feel that’s completely different from your site. The key is consistency across the centerpiece campaign.
  • Consider creating a universal footer that has a page name, the name of the content piece and your business name or logo and website address. It’s important to keep your name or logo small and unobtrusive to prevent your design from feeling overly “sales-y,” but it’s still worth including it on every page so if the file is shared (which you want it to be), readers still know who’s behind it.
  • Read up on basic design rules such as dominant elements, color and legibility. Canva offers a good collection of design tutorials.

A PDF alternative

PDFs aren’t the only option for your centerpiece content, either.

Another good option is to use Shopify’s built in page tool to house your content, though this may require knowledge of responsive HTML, especially if you want to create more complex layouts using columns and images, for example.

If you go this route consider these points:

  • Consider breaking up the content piece into several pages to keep each page focused.
  • Create a “main page” that gives an overview or introduction to the content piece and then provide links to each of the sections and subsections, each of which can be posted on its own page.
  • For quicker layouts, see if your Shopify theme has a built in column framework. Although it takes a bit of time to learn the code needed, this can be a great way to create pages that go beyond just line after line of text and images.

That said, my personal preference is to use PDFs and there are some points to consider when deciding on a format:

  • PDFs make it easy to “bundle” your centerpiece content into an easy to download “package” that users can download, keep and share.
  • PDFs avoid issues of making your designs responsive for mobile devices.
  • A PDF file can also be printed easily while maintaining the design you created.

In the next in this series of posts, we’ll explore how to use your centerpiece content as a lead generating and email marketing tool. The series will also cover how your main content piece can fuel your blogging, SEO and social media efforts over time.

Read the whole series

Be sure to explore this entire series:

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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