ARTICLES | CONTENT CREATION
How to create better content, part 2
By Gary Bloomer
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.
This is a two-part article.
In part 1, we looked at what better content is, what it does, and what it can do.
Now, in part 2 we’ll look at ways to create better content, including the importance of keywords, why your niche matters, why you need to be clear on who you're writing for and why, and we'll also look at the specifics of being specific.
If you haven't read part 1 of this article, read it here.
For me, the definition of 'better' content draws from multiple places: better as in containing the maximum amount of value for the reader, viewer, or listener compared to the time they invested in reading it, watching it, or listening to it.
Better as in being more in-depth, wider reaching, and relevant than someone else's material in the same or in a related niche.
Better as in doing more good, helping more people, changing more minds, and in improving someone else's frame of mind, boosting their self esteem, and in terms of increasing their chances of success.
I don't think it's possible to accomplish any of this if your content is all about you. In fact, I'll go one better and say that as much of your content needs as possible needs to be about other people, not about you, other than when it comes to you sharing elements of your story as they pertain to someone else.
Which brings me to the point that before we get into keywords, niches, clarity, and specifics, it's important to mention the importance of research into who you're creating content for, how that content can help people, and why your content matters more than someone else's.
Why research matters
When I first started this website I skipped the research phase. I thought I knew it all and that I was too cool to cover the basics. Looking back this was a huge mistake. My arrogance cost me years of time and did untold damage. So let my example and my failure stand as a lesson in what not to do.
Knowing who you're creating material for is important. Knowing why you're creating it is equally important because if you can't put into words who you're setting out to help, someone else will.
Without a clear vision of what I was doing, where I was going, how I was going to get there, and of how I'd measure progress and success I found myself wandering around in ever decreasing circles of doubt, fatigue, frustration, and depression.
When you're planning a trip or a vacation you probably look at a map or spend time online looking for reviews and opinions. You probably do the same when you're deciding on the movie you're going to go and see. You probably read online reviews of the books and products you'll buy, and pretty much anything else you might invest your time or money in.
If you'll do this for things like a vacation, why skip it for something that's intended to help both you and the people who are likely to buy from you?
Looking back now I can't believe how myopic and stupid I was not to have spent time and effort figuring out what I was doing and who I was doing it for.
But we live and learn, and here we are.
To create better content then—that is, to create content that stands apart from everything anyone else in your niche is creating and that's also useful, helpful, valuable, timely, relevant, salient, and pertinent to your ideal audience—it's equally important to see what else is out there about the subject you'll be taking on.
Just researching the word research gave me this definition from those nice people at Hampshire College:
"Research is a process of systematic inquiry that entails collection of data; documentation of critical information; and analysis and interpretation of that data/information, in accordance with suitable methodologies set by specific professional fields and academic disciplines." SOURCE.
Research is about asking questions and finding sources of information to reference, to compare, and to cite.
Research is about reviewing, assessing, and interpreting other people's thoughts and ideas, and it's about seeing how your thinking, experiences, and position improve on, replaces, connects with, counters, or contradicts someone else's views or position.
So don't skimp on reviewing other sources of related information. Read articles. watch videos. listen to podcasts. Get a feeling for things like tone of voice; authority; authenticity; visuals, imagery, and typography; layouts and formats; presentations styles, and for things like comments, responses, and feedback.
It's even worth looking at niches that couldn't be further removed from the one you'll be focusing on. Sometimes another niche that's way removed from the one you're in can offer all kinds of hidden insights and influences you might otherwise never have noticed.
So if your niche is motorbike engines, don't discount looking through bridal magazines, or cookery websites, or at faith based content. If you're a crafter, don't discount the idea of looking at deep sea fishing websites, or at magazines about the stock market, or at anything outside of your usual realm of experience. All it takes is for
If your niche focuses on beekeeping or tomato growing, don't be shy about seeing what the realm of life coaching and health and well-being can offer.
I know this isn't research in the classic scholarly sense: you're not cross referencing peer reviewed papers and testing a hypothesis here. You're gathering related and unrelated threads to follow and to examine for ways of doing things differently. The point with this kind of research is to look for connections and jumping off points outside from and apart from your usual circle of influence and experience.
The key to success in content creation is to plan, to focus, and then to act. So look at websites. Do searches online for questions related to your subject. Go to your local library and ask the librarian for advice on related spheres.
Read magazines, articles, newspapers, and pamphlets.
Search through image databases. Listen to podcasts.
Trawl through slides shows and social media threads.
Ask your friends, neighbours, and colleagues about their interests and take notes on all of this.
To quote the French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, "In the fields of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind."
If you carry out just a few hours of searching, you'll be better prepared than 90% of your competition.
Your first step is to track down keywords for your niche
Before creating any content you need to know what kinds of keywords people are searching for within your niche.
You do this by using keyword search tools.
There are lots of keyword search tools that can help you choose relevant keywords.
Here's a brief list:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Trends
The first two are free to use. The last three are fee-based with limited, restricted use trails available for either an annual or a monthly fee.
These tools search the internet for the terms you type into them. They then give you a list of the keywords that rank the highest in search results and that have the fewest number of competing sites.
Your aim is to find high-ranking, low-competing search terms to use in your articles.
The more your content aligns with what people are searching for, and the fewer sites there are offering the kinds of content you're offering, the higher your content's search ranking is likely to be.
The higher your search ranking, the more visible your content becomes in search results, which ideally means appearing on the first page of Google (or Bing, or Yahoo! or whatever search engine you're using), ideally in one of the first five organic (that is, no-ad based) results.
You need to find keywords with the greatest relation to your niche. You also need to ensure your content competes against the fewest number of similar webpages.
When you type a search query into a search engine a series of computer reads the contents of millions of web pages looking for a series of relevant results to provide as its top picks, ranked by relevance and possible interest to the person performing the search.
This is all done by computer programs that work with a related set of parameters based on hundreds of variables, including the number of keywords, the age of the webpage, the number of visitors the page gets over time, the number of sites that link to a specific page, and so on.
But because you are not just writing for machines, the next point is critical for your success.
Make sure your content appeals to human readers, viewers, and listeners
Your goal is to create content for people first and for search engines second.
All a search engine is is a computer program with a certain set of logical commands that equate to: if this, then that.
Write for people first, and for search engines second. Don't reverse these points.
To do this you need to make your content interesting, relevant, timely, and fresh. Fresh content is unique.
Even if you're writing about a popular subject, your opinions and experiences will set you apart.
So to draw readers in, do as much as you can to make your content interesting and personal.
Include your personal experiences of the subject. Add amusing, timely, or thought-provoking anecdotes, observations, and opinions. Inject your personality into your content and word will get around that your stuff is worth paying attention to.
Your goal is to write content that's as engaging as it is useful to readers in your niche.
Offer tips, advice, and insight. Dispel a series of myths. Debunk accepted falsehoods. Challenge conventions and offer alternative ways of seeing, doing, responding, and behaving.
Highlight a series of common yet overlooked information points. This will draw readers to your blog or website.
Put your content to work in several different ways
Why create one piece of content when it can be chopped up and used in so many other ways? With a little planning, effort, and work, it's easy to convert an article into a series of social media posts, or into a slide show, or into a video (and vice versa).
Slides can become stand alone images. That same article can become a script for a podcast. That podcast can become a video. And so on.
You could use parts of your article as an marketing message to
your email list. You could collect several articles together and format them into a special report that you can sell.
There are several different combinations that can work here and each element can link back to your website, or to a special offer.
Let's say you do complete your keyword research and that you find a phrase that is popular and that has low competition.
You then create an blog post using your keyword phrase in which you list lots of helpful tips, strategies, and resources.
You then rework the post and you create a standalone article on the same topic. You then distribute the article to article directories, or you use it as the basis of an in-depth comment on a niche blog.
Your article could even appear as a guest post on a well-regarded industry website, with a link back to your website. You could also write a series of social media posts based on the particular phrase and you do the same thing for similar phrases.
You link each appearance of your post and your article back to your website in a non-sales way. Each of those social posts could also become and email sequence.
You combine several emails, posts, and articles into a special report that you either give away to build your list, or that you sell.
The thing to remember here is that for any website or online business, quality content matters.
For me, quality content:
- questions or challenges accepted beliefs.
- offers varying viewpoints.
- presents new ways of looking at things.
- surprises, delights, and amuses.
- asks leading questions.
- offers useful tips, strategies, and advice.
- leads with insight over an obvious pitch.
- presents a deep dive.
- aligns with the reader's self interests.
- answers 'how to'-style questions.
In short, your content needs to grab, hold, direct, and focus your reader's attention. It needs to help them see new ways of seeing and doing things. It needs to bounce them out of their mental bed and into the bright blue light of new day of exploration, discovery, realization, understanding, and comprehension.
But what if you're having trouble grabbing someone's attention?
Then what? Do you give up?
Do you panic? Do you run and hide?
Here are a few ideas.
First, the last things you're going to do is to give up panic, or run, or hide.
Everyone hits a dry spell from time to time. It took ages before
I fell into a content creation rhythm that felt right for me.
If you suck at writing, how about appearing in your own videos?
If you're camera shy, why not record an audio? If you're not happy in front of the camera or behind a microphone, why not write?
If you're not creative, can you find someone who is who can help you in exchange for services or advice?
If you have no clue what your ideal buyers are looking for or interested in, look outside your current circle to see what other people are doing.
Maybe you have a certain skill that sets you apart but that you don't think connects with your niche and what you're doing? What's stopping you from using that skill or trait to set you apart?
Why just sing a song when you can create an event?
Instead of copying everyone else, why not take things in a totally different direction? What is there about your personality that might appeal and that might help you stand out?
I know of several marketers who use specific colours, or typefaces, or a specific background or a particular style of writing.
By adding elements that are unique to you you automatically stand out from the crowd. Don't worry about appealing to everyone.
Focus on appealing to just a few people who get what you're about.
In a field of content that all looks the same, salience—that is, the quality of being particularly noticeable or important; the trait of having prominence—will set you apart.
Forget about being perfect. Done is better than perfect.
In whatever you do, focus on being you and set your mind on telling your story and share your narrative in ways that move, touch, delight, amaze, and inspire people.
Your audience—the ones who will connect with you and with whom your stuff will resonate—are crying out for new, unique voices to listen to and people to pay attention to and one of those people is you.
Creating better content isn't difficult.
It simply takes planning, time, and work.
While many others in your niche might seem to have it all worked out, when you plan, focus, and act, the barrier to entry is a lot lower than you think it is.
Yes, the process of standing out for all the right reasons requires a little effort and focus. And as much as any of us would like to be an overnight success, failure is a great teacher and in the long run, the results are worth it.
I hope you've gained at least a little bit of value from this 2-part article and that if you're just starting out, that what I've shared here helps you be more prepared.
Don't be shy. Think literally and laterally and don't be afraid to explore new avenues.
Your tribe is out there, somewhere, and they're waiting for you.
Go out there and find them.
About Gary Bloomer
Gary Bloomer is originally from the UK. These days he lives just outside Philadelphia. Since 2009, he's answered over 5,000 marketing, branding, and social media strategy questions from small business owners from all over the world on the Know-How Exchange of MarketingProfs.com. His website is a love letter to the world of small business marketing.
To learn more or to get in touch, read the About page.
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