Good to great: How to create content that is better
We strive to publish our blogs every Tuesday and Thursday of the week. I will admit here right away that sometimes this content scheduling doesn’t work out for us. That is mostly because I am unhappy with either the way a blog has been written, or the way in which the idea has been presented or the way in which the structure has been built. And even though it results in irregular postings, which bothers my digital team immensely, I cannot seem to get myself to publish a blog that does not read interesting or isn’t good.
So the question here is – is it okay to publish content that is not so great for the sake of regularity, or should you post less but post really good stuff?
Ever since content marketing became the must-do thing for every brand, most marketers have been on a content creation overdrive. While there was a lot more content created in 2016 than before, most of it came in the category of average. They were created not to genuinely share knowledge but to be a “me-too” click bait. Which is why when you look for products, research or answers, you see so many similar content pieces. One person saw the opportunity in writing about the topic and several others simply chose to mimic it.
While we are still not sure if all this “content marketing noise” is good or bad, I know that people are now wading through a lot more average content. The good thing is – this also means they will eventually get better at identifying quality content – and so will the search engines.
Also, here is an interesting point. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI)- Why is Content Marketing Today’s Marketing? 10 Stats That Prove It, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates more than three times as many leads. The one thing that statement misses out is that not all content generates these results. Its content that differentiates the good from the great. Its content that differentiates the boys from the men.
So here is my advice (which you probably already knew) – If you want to see some real results from your content marketing efforts, never settle for the “good enough”. Always strive for the better and best content. Here’s how you can create really good content.
Table of Contents
Document your content strategy
Did you know that while 88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, only 32% have a documented content marketing strategy. This, by far, is the best way to differentiate the good from the good enough. Defining your content strategy on paper makes it a concrete “living” thing that you can look up anytime you need.
Discussing it verbally with your team leaves it open to interpretation and no concrete way to analyze and follow up. At Justwords, we created a neat 2017 resolution list for our team to follow. This is an overarching list that is used as a guideline to keep a check on our quality. But beyond this, we have a definitive strategy document that allows us to keep track of the metrics that matter the most. If you are wondering how to start, here is a great article from CMI- The Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer
The Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer. Answer these 36 questions to create your own content strategy document.
For those of you who are looking for a template to get started, here is a great Google doc template created by Moz to help you get started. This template runs you through everything that is needed to create your content strategy.
Get an in-depth understanding of your target audience
Susan Chritton probably defines this the best in her book “Personal Branding for Dummies”, where she underscores the importance of understanding your audience.
Defining your brand and your target customer plays a huge role in your content strategy. This isn’t a superficial definition like “25-30-year-old females”. Instead hang out where your target audience does. Find out their likes and dislikes. You can run both online and offline surveys to zero in on their preferences. Once you have this, you’ll be able to use the information to create more targeted content. For example, your target audience will now be defined as 25-year-old females from Thailand with interests in solo travel and fitness. This additional information can now help you put together tailored content that they’ll love to read. You can also see the content that is currently being consumed by your target audience and find a way to connect your product and service to it.
In his comprehensive guide to building your personal brand, blogger Neil Patel devotes an entire chapter to “How to Define Your Target Audience”. Even though it’s meant for the personal brand, the lessons are worth reading.
Your audience persona should tell you –
- Who are you creating your content for?
- What is the pain point you are solving for her?
- Where is this person located?
- Why does he want to read this piece of content?
If you want to go deeper into this, then you should look into the –
- Job title
- Job function
- Pain points
Be a Storyteller
With action, drama, romance, tragedy and comedy, a story resonates with us because we identify or empathize with it. This content has the highest recall value. While all the emotions may not be right for you, it is a useful tool to set your voice and tone. Your hero is, of course, your customer. And every hero wants to save the world. This is where your brand comes in. It becomes the best sidekick there is to help your hero succeed in his mission.
The AMEX Open Forum is a great example of how effective customer storytelling works. They have created powerful stories with their specific target customer personas and how their brand was helping them succeed. The campaign eventually became the top source of leads for AMEX.
To know more about how top brands have used the power of storytelling to increase engagement and leads read our last blog.
Because of sudden content marketing overdrive, you are likely to find many “re-written” pieces of content. These are done by lazy marketers who want to see if they can attract some timely traffic using someone else’s idea and research. Most of these pieces are poorly referenced since they are more often than not just rewritten for the sake of SEO and also to escape plagiarism.
Sometimes, though, I have to admit, that it’s the client who demands this. More often than not, it’s the demand of an ill-informed SEO team which wants loads of cheap content to plug in the keywords through which they want to drive traffic.
“We want loads of content on our website and you need to make this happen within a month’s time. This content does not have to be original. Just ask your writers to scrape off whatever is written on these topics and rewrite them. We just want content to fill spaces and push SEO. But please make sure it does not get caught in any plagiarism software.”
This is a typical demand placed for content generation for SEO. And this is exactly the sort of content that you should steer clear off. Google has long made it clear that it does not want copied content, punishing websites that produce copied mindless garbage.
Also read this –Google does not want these 13 mistakes in your content
Original, unique pieces of content work as cornerstones on the topic. They take a deep dive and provide original research, which shows off the brand’s expertise on the topic. Even though it is more difficult to create than the generic pieces but it is well worth investing time and efforts into creating at least 3-4 such pieces a month.
While we know it’s extremely difficult to create original content, here are two ways that can help you write better content that are unique.
Try and write something that you are passionate about. Yes, your SEO team will always be prodding you to write on the highly searched keywords in the Google Keyword Planner; but don’t always follow what they say. Remember to write on topics that you are an expert on, or topics that you are passionate about. This way, you will be able to share valuable knowledge with your readers.
This step should be taken when you have the right intention of creating original blog posts but don’t have the time to do the hours of long research. A great idea is to look at what the top influencers and competitors are doing in your industry. Once you have skimmed through the headlines, pick something you can write but in a different angle. The best blogs are often those which are built upon existing ideas. Just make sure your content does have an original take on the topic.
Newsjack relevant stories. Newsjacking is the art of focussing on current trends and identifying a news related to which you can create content. It’s basically listening to what people are talking about and then creating content based on the trending news. Newsjacking involves being aware of the recent news, knowing what keywords are being searched, and quick content creation. Even though you cannot newsjack every story, you can get decent topics to write on if you are following these channels –
Be ready for the landscape to change
There are new rules in the content playbook every day – and contradictory ones at that. You’ll hear that you need to create 2500+ word content to be favoured by Google. Then again, people look for more visual content than text. And Google claims that it wants to give people what they are looking for. As things in the content world go around in circles, the key differentiator between the good and the good enough lies in staying agile. You’ll have to adapt to the changing content landscape around you to experiment and see what works for you.
Take the 360-degree approach
Content isn’t just your blog. It is your website, images, social posts, newsletters, guest posts, emails, drip marketing strategy, white papers, quizzes, contests, news, press releases, testimonials and case studies. Email marketing, is in fact, the most effective of the content marketing strategies, which gives higher leads and conversions than an average blog. While you can focus on each medium to ensure your content reach is maximized, there has to be one cohesive strategy that binds it all together.
This one is pretty straightforward. You must know how your content fared. There are many advanced tools in the market that allow you to slice and dice data. From the standard Google analytics to advanced tools like the URL profiler, you can find out everything from your competitor’s page-wise keyword density to article level backlinks.
You can rank your articles by social shares and your posts by their engagement rates. But all this is just fancy data unless you actually analyze, conclude and test it out again. Finding out why a particular piece of content is performing well while another failed miserably is the key to building a successful content strategy in the long term.
Make sure you research well and give readers value
- This I think is the most important thing to remember – create content that gives value to your reader and he will always be coming back for more. A couple of blogs that have mastered this art are Quick Sprout, Content marketing Institute, Copyblogger, Curata, Convince and Convert to name a few. The reason these blogs attract piles of traffic is because they share stuff that people can use. There is an abundance of research that goes into writing each blog which ultimately pays off.
- In short, good content = good research.
- If you haven’t been doing that, here are a few steps to follow –
- Start bookmarking all the good articles that you read and feel will be useful for you later.
- Set up Google Alert on the keywords or topics you want to know more about. Google will happily share with you all relevant content being published under that topic. That should give you loads of reference materials and ideas on what to write.
- Start using something like Sticky Notes or Evernote where you can jot down all your notes. Going through your notes helps you structure better articles.
- Once you know what topic you want to write on, do a Google search for similar articles that have already been published and have attracted good traffic. Buzzsumo is a great tool for this. A study of these top articles can help you gain a lot of information as well as help you develop a new angle to write. You might also want to go through Google scholar or Statistica to find relevant papers on the topic.
- Use content enhancer to increase the value of your content. This can instantly amp up the interest quotient of your article. You can do this by using –
- Numerical facts and figures that can be put in a visual form
- Graphs or charts from credible sources
- Quotes from relevant authority
- So there, we have created for you a guide that should help you write better content. Remember that one good piece of content is equal to four bad pieces of content and so it might be worth publishing that one really good blog. Valuable content will not only improve your brand but also get you more traffic and finally win your loyal customers.
3 things you can do now
- Leave a comment below about how you plan to write better content
- Share this blog on LinkedIn and Facebook. The point of sharing good content is to be viewed as an expert in your field as well as getting your connections to pay attention to your posts. It should also establish you as a thought leader in your space
- Deep dive into content marketing by reading these articles –
- Want to learn content marketing? Take lessons from these 4 brands
- A Fail-Proof 10-Step Guide to Good Content
- A Master Chef who has the perfect recipe for Content Marketing