It is so easy to start a site these days. This has contributed to the internet getting bloated with common sense advice from people imitating and copying each other. Creating content is not difficult. The challenging part is creating great content that gets visited and shared.
We’re all on a quest for more pageviews, social media shares and followers. Many sites have adopted the approach of publishing as much as they can hoping that some of the content sticks. This is not the right approach. Most content doesn’t stick and goes completely unnoticed. Common sense that these websites publish is not remarkable. It is generic, boring. Your audience has infinite number of choices online. To have a chance of attracting them you must provide something of value. Something that will compel a visitor to remark about it.
So how do you get people to care about and share your content? Imagine you are behind the bar, adding and mixing ingredients to make the perfect cocktail. This post will provide you with the ingredients you need to create perfect content. Content that astonishes people, that is compelling, that delights them, adds value to their lives and prompts them to share.
The main currency bloggers have is our topical expertise. That one topic that you know more about than anyone else. Be great at what you do. Have a never ending thirst to be better. Always learn and improve. Acquire new skills and experiences. Live an interesting life. Valuable skills translate into valuable content and valuable content translates into valuable opportunities. You need to establish yourself as an authority in your field as people look for experts to show them the way. Be that expert. Share your expertise. Share it generously. Be useful, helpful, interesting and smart. Tell great stories. Provide substance and analysis. Give actionable advice.
Fill the needs
Your site cannot appeal to everyone. Identify groups of people that are interested in your topic – this is your target audience.
- Who is your audience?
- Who are you serving?
- What are they looking for?
- What do they need and want?
- When do they need you?
- Why do they need you?
- What will your site help them with?
Your job as a content creator is to know as much as possible about your audience in order to provide them with the content they want to consume and share. Answering these questions tells you what type of content you need to create. It tells you where you need to have a presence in order for people to come in contact with your site. It tells you what type of product paying customers already want. Think of your posts as products that fill the need in the market. Three main types of content:
- Humorous and funny content that makes people laugh. People love to divert and have fun. They love to be entertained. They love to just hang out, or just waste time. They like to be creative and share new experiences.
- Relatable and empathetic content that people can identify themselves with. People love recognition. They want to earn respect. They love to stay in touch with their family and friends. They love to meet new people. They want to feel like they belong. They want to promote themselves and their views. They want to change opinions. They want to express themselves and share their knowledge.
- Serviceable content that has helpful, useful and educational information. People like to keep up to date on the topics that they care about. They love to learn something new. People want to feel progress, they want to do better.
Explore the perspective of a beginner
You have to connect to the mindset and the perspective of a beginner. People that Google keywords relevant to your content are beginners who want to get introduced to your topic and learn more about it. You need to create content with them in mind. Get a clear picture of who you are creating content for. What does your audience look like? Put yourself in their shoes. What problems do they face? What questions do they have? How can you make their lives better and easier?
Do keyword research. Search in social media. Explore relevant forums. Ask open-ended questions like “What is making your life difficult now?” or “How can I help you?”. Listen carefully to the answers. People will tell you what they want and this is what you need to know. The insights and ideas that you need will be in there. Focus your efforts on satisfying those requests and make sure people get the answers to their questions through your content. Start basic. Explain why they need to know what you are telling them. Open gaps in their knowledge by highlight information that they are missing and then fill those gaps with useful tips and advice. Guide readers through large topics and help them understand what the information means, where it fits, and how they can use it.
Focus on the quality, not the quantity
Forget about the advice that says that you should publish new content all the time. Limit your output. Focus on the content quality instead of the quantity. Publish only such great quality content that people cannot ignore you. Instead of publishing several mediocre pieces of content, create one truly valuable post that is full of quality.
Write the first draft. Spend a lot of time on the first draft before making it live. Go through this checklist of things to do before publishing a new post. Edit the copy. Remove all the fluff. Rewrite it. Add to it. Be critical of your work and ask yourself before clicking on the publish button: Is this post actually interesting? Will it teach people something new? Will it offer a new perspective on the topic? Will it entertain my audience? Don’t publish before you can answer yes to these questions.
Tap into personalities, events and other trending conversations
Break news stories if you can. If you can break a story before anyone else you will be heard. Most of us cannot break news, but we can still be timely and topical. Think opportunistically about the news and tap into the existing conversations. Create posts about topics that people care about and are excited about – trends, names (brands, celebrities and other personalities) and events. Identify an idea or a name that’s got everyone’s attention and find a way to connect your own topic to it in order to attract attention to yourself.
Create profiles. People love to learn about the experience and lives of big personalities. Profile big and popular names. Celebrities, writers, politicians and sports stars. These posts are quality posts that are useful and educational. And they already have an audience: fans of these celebrities. For examples see my profiles of famous people such as Stephen King, Steve Jobs and Beppe Grillo.
Curate lessons learned and takeaways. Your audience can learn from the popular topics like brands, events and best-selling books. Do your research, consume the original material, create your analysis and sum up lessons learned and takeaways for your audience. For some examples see my stories about successful online sites like Mashable, The Daily Mail and Groupon.
Simply talk about popular, trending stories. The key is to bridge the conversation and make it relevant to the audience you are trying to attract. It can be done by quickly summing up the trending story and straight away leading into your main content with bridge such as:
- This story is a nice reminder of
- The same thing happens in our field
- Why am I sharing this story with you?
- There is an important lesson here
- What’s the takeaway from this story?
- Hearing this story makes me think
- I love this story because it
Bring something new and unique to the table
Quality content is not reporting on and repeating what everyone else is talking about. There are too many look alike sites and me-too articles. These articles are not substantive, not interesting, not appealing and they don’t thrill. Avoid that stuff. People want something fresh and new. You need to be different, unique. Don’t just repeat someone else’s advice. Don’t publish the same rehashed content. Don’t do another tired old top 5 list. Don’t bring in the same podcast and interview guests that everyone else in your field is covering.
Online users adapt quickly to consistent patterns. It makes them tune out. Our brain is very well aware of changes. You need to break a pattern, surprise people in order to grab their attention. Look at what everyone else is doing and then do something truly different. Bring something new to the table. Keep it fresh and interesting. Mix things up. Experiment with different types of posts and formats. For inspiration see: Ideas For Types Of Posts You Can Publish.
Explore long form content and in-depth storytelling
Long form articles have 1,000+ words and contain multiple formats such as videos, charts and infographics alongside the text based content. These posts need a lot of time invested from the reader and are very good at contextualizing a larger topic and cover it in depth. This recent statistical study on what makes online content go viral has found that long form articles are shared far more often than shorter articles. Word count of a post seems very closely related to the number of shares. Just look at the success of http://longreads.com/, http://longform.org/, and social media hashtags like #longreads and #longform. Some of the great examples of the long form, multiple format posts are:
- Michael Jordan has not left the building
- Snow Fall: The avalanche at Tunnel Creek
- Sean Parker: Agent of disruption
One of the reasons for the success of long form articles is that they mostly are timeless pieces. They take a long time to research and write, so they are on topics that are less time sensitive. This makes the life time of an article much longer than your standard news piece making it particularly valuable in social media where it gets shorts a long time after it is published and also in search results where it continues ranking for a long time.
Make your content beautiful and sticky
Presentation and stickiness are very important elements of creating shareable content. In order for people to dig deeper into your content you need to present it well, establish trust and showcase your quality as soon as someone lands on your site. You only have few seconds before the visitor decides to either stay or click on the “Back” button. Make sure your blog and articles look amazing. Make them beautiful and visually appealing by following this checklist:
- Create an irresistible headline.
- Write well. Be a great copywriter.
- Use high-quality imagery. Do image editing and brand your images with your logo and the headline of your post. More on use of images here.
- Use multimedia. Try out different content formats such as video, podcasting and infographics.
- Style the content with large font, subheadings, and split the text into short paragraphs.
- Use lists. People love lists. They are easy to go through and learn from.
- Add internal links to other relevant content and call-to-actions.
- Be timeless. Publish content that will still be relevant in a year. Posts that will bring you traffic for a long period of time.
For more on making your content look great take a look at Essentials Of Creating Immersive And Sticky Content.
Content marketing routine and data analysis
Just publishing a great piece of content is not enough. Not many people will see it unless you already have an established audience. You need to get into the habit of promoting your content and building your audience. Go to social media and inform your following. Submit the post to sites like Reddit, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Post it in relevant forums. Here is an overview of my own marketing routine – all the things that I do upon publishing a new post.
So you’ve started doing everything you can in order to create better content. But how do you know if your content is actually getting better? It’s difficult to guess this. Many times posts that you don’t expect to do well actually do. Some posts you don’t even want to publish, but when you do people like it and share it. Public response is what counts and what determines if your content is good. Take a look at your analytics to identify how your content performs. Figure out why people reacted the way they did. What made them like that piece of content so much? What made them stay on your site for such a long period? What made them share it with their family and friends? Figure out what works well and then do more of that and less of things that didn’t do so well.