Content has slowly but surely become the nucleus of modern search strategy. From blogs to interactive pieces, everyone is stepping forward in attempt to dazzle consumers with their insight, trendiness and expertise in an attempt to gain links and social engagement. And yet, for all the importance placed on content as a method of attaining these crucial engagements, a recent joint study by Moz & Buzzsumo found “that the majority of content published on the internet is simply ignored when it comes to shares and links”.
Recently I attended the Brighton SEO conference, at which I found an extraordinary number of talks centred on the ideation, creation and amplification of good content. From sitting through a number of these talks, I found that the esteemed speakers of the conference and the aforementioned study agreed on two key points that explain why most content fails to gain traction & visibility:
- The majority of content being published is poor.
- A large proportion of great content is wasted as it was not amplified.
This article will focus on part 1 of the above, and pose as a refresher on a) what content is; b) setting yourself up to create great content; c) how to get great content ideas to create. Content Amplification will be covered in a future post.
What is Content?
When most people think of content, there is a natural inclination to think of blogs and infographics. These in and of themselves are great types of content, but only two pieces of the puzzle. Everything you publish on and off your website is content, from a product description to listing your store on a business directory, you are providing content for prospective customers to lead, and each and every piece of this content is important. Each piece of content is an opportunity to convert, and as such, it should be crafted with great attention to detail with your end goals in mind. Check out our article about branded content that explains the value of quality content in more depth.
Setting yourself up to create great content
Step 1 – Review Your End Goals
Now that we have refreshed ourselves on what exactly content is, it is easy to understand just how open a heading above is. Each piece of content has its own purpose and objective that links back to your overall end goals. As such, the most important thing to do before even thinking about content creation is to review those goals.
Your end goals will inform the overarching approach to all content your create, as such, it is important to have these clearly defined and written down.
Note: This guide will assume that using links and social shares as a method of traffic generation is in line with your end goals. It will also be targeted towards the ideation and creation of non-commercial, authority pieces of content, rather than commercial and stock content.
Step 2 – Analyse the industry
Now that you know your end goals, it is time to review competitor content. Find your top 5 or 10 competitors (depending on how much time you have) and conduct an in-depth review of how they produce content for their site. Look at styles of writing, content formats (e.g. blogs, guides, images, infographics, videos etc.) and then measure their success in terms of comments (blogs, YouTube videos etc.), social shares (use Searchmetrics’ Social Spread or Sharetally) and links (Open Site Explorer).
Step 3 – Content Comparison
Using the same methods as above, measure the success of your own content, and then compare this to the top content from the industry. Assuming their content is more successful than yours, how does it differ, what key learnings can you take and apply to your own content? Write down any notes you have on these and keep them for later.
Step 4 – Ask Your Target Audience
Likely here, you will have two audiences, the first being target customers, and the second being target publishers/influencers (if you don’t know who your industry influencers are, read this blog for some ideas). Reach out to your target audience and ask them what they look for in content, what kind of content would they share and/or link to. When it comes to influencers in this regard, you can do some of the legwork yourself by looking at the types of content they publish online and on their social feeds.
Step 5 – Write Some Blog Guidelines
If you don’t have them already (or even if you do), use the information you gained from steps 3 and 4 to write/update your blog guidelines. Your guidelines should not only reflect how you wish your business to be seen, but also what you audience looks for. Having these written down will serve as a refresher any time you come to write new content.
Content Ideation & Creation
At this point you should know:
- What your end goals are through content
- What great content looks like within your industry
- What your target audience looks for in content
- What guidelines all future content should follow for success
If you are satisfied that you have the above 4 areas checked off, you are ready to proceed to the ideation and creation of content. However, remember to review the above 4 elements every 6 months to ensure you are up to date with both your own needs and the industry’s needs when it comes to content.
Review Your Existing Content
For the most part, you will have already completed this step in the previous section “Content Comparison”. Look at your existing content and ask yourself, could I do this better? Have any competitors done a similar piece of content e.g. a better guide, and as such gained more traction and links? If so, you may have an opportunity simply through updating your content to meet the guidelines specified through your industry and audience research. Make a list of all your current content that represents an opportunity.
Review Competitor/Industry Content
Again, you have already done most of the legwork for this. Look at your competitor’s content, find pieces that have performed reasonably well and ask yourself, ‘could I do this better?’ If the answer is yes, write it down.
Ask Industry Influencers
You may be noticing a theme here. In the previous section, you may have already gotten a couple of ideas from influencers on what sort of content they would like to see, but now, ask them specifically if there is any particular type of content they would be interested in seeing. Not only will your answers here give you some great content ideas, but you will also already have a medium for amplification through providing said content to the influencer who originally asked for it! And what one influencer likes, others will likely be interested in also.
Look at Similar Industries
Similar to when you reviewed your own industry, look at industries similar to your own for inspiration. Are there any types of content that are successful in those industries that may also be successful in your own?
Create Your Content
At this point, you should have a reasonable list of content ideas to move forward with. Take some time to read over these ideas, and decide which format would best suit each one. Once you have this decided, you can move forward with creation of each piece.
By using the above information, you will be able to conquer the first of two key content failures recently highlighted by the Moz & Buzzsumo industry survey, and also by industry experts in that the majority of content produced today is poor. Stay tuned for the next instalment, which will cover the second content failure i.e. the failure to amplify great content.
In the meantime, check out our article about web design and interactive content that nicely compliments the recommendations above: