The phrase “content is king” has become something of an internet cliche, but remains true in terms of anyone wanting their blog to gain readership and have long term traction.Recent research by the Content Marketing Institute clearly shows an overwhelming view that higher quality and more efficient content creation was a very significant factor in a wide range of organizations being able to make their business more successful in the last year.
The nature of what content is has changed considerably over the last few years and whilst written articles or blog posts are often thought of as the mainstay of content, it should be remembered that the term includes videos, photographs, social media posts, retweets, etc. Often content will be a mix of all of these, and sometimes simply one of them. Writing and producing better content is in many ways a constant learning curve.
There are a number of ways that it can be done, and finding a way that you feel gives a natural voice to the blog is a really important part of the process.
1. Reader Profile
A recent survey by Crowd Research Partners asked participants what they considered the most important element was of effective content; the overwhelming lead answer was that of audience relevance. Knowing who you are writing for is an important element of deciding what to write and what content to produce.
Newspapers and magazines have always used extensive user profiling for advertising and editorial use. This is done to allow writers to narrow their view down to almost one person if necessary and believe they are writing simply for them. The same principle applies for writing blog content, although not necessarily to the same scale.
The availability of user demographic information allows you to identify who is visiting your blog by way of where they are located, their age, their gender, parental status, their household income etc. How Google collects this information is quite frightening, but from a point of view of producing content it can be really helpful, depending on the nature of the blog and how specific you want the profiling to be.
2. Answering Questions
This isn’t always literally about answering questions, although of course it can be. It is more about knowing what people are looking for and producing content that is relevant to their search. It is worth thinking about this in fairly broad terms, as opposed to the sometimes very specific keyword research that can be done more for SEO purposes.
The Google auto-suggest tool is a great way to do this. As you type a word into Google it will suggest certain questions that are the most common search terms. This will give you an idea of what people are currently looking for. There are many question and answer sites that can be quite useful as well, but can also seem quite spammy, so use with care.
3. Finding Information
Research by Forbes shows that while a huge majority of B2B marketers use content marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy, only about a third of them had a documented content marketing strategy. Some blog content will require detailed research, and knowing where to find good and reliable sources can sometimes be a bit tricky, simply because there is so much information online that knowing where to go can be quite time-consuming.
University and educational sites are always worth a first visit, as our government sites of all countries. The information is normally very reliable and can often be easy to access. Universities also have a wide range of ongoing research projects which can highlight current work. Many of them also have links to some open source journals that don’t need a subscription and can be accessed online.
Other good sources of information are RSS feeds and Google alerts. RSS feeds are not thought of as being as popular as they were pre-Twitter, but they are still very useful. They tend to be very focused and provide good sources of information. Many RSS readers have gone, but there are still some good ones around in mail clients Ike Thunderbird and Sea Monkey.
Having a structure is a really useful way of being able to focus on what to write and how to write it. Using a mind map and other study skills can be really helpful. Most universities have online new student sections, that anyone can access, that give good basic advice regarding the whole area of how to research, study and write. Whilst their focus is helping students academically, university study skills modules are available for anyone wanting to write content online, and cover things like goal setting, planning, research, procrastination etc.Using keywords is also a really good way of getting some structure into a blog post or article. The overall volume of blog articles is an important element in the long term ranking of a blog or website on search engines, and it is important to continually be updating it with new posts.
Voice recognition software has improved dramatically over the last few years. Current PCs and Macs come loaded with some type of voice recognition capability built in to the operating system, which is not always as powerful as commercial software but for many people is perfect adequate. Proofreading is hugely important, however the content is written, and it is a good idea if you can to leave some time between writing the original article and coming back to look at it for a second or third time. It is also a good idea to read it out loud to yourself, and if you can to print it out and read it from paper rather than do it on screen.
Usability is normally thought of in terms of website design, which is crucial in terms of making the most of your blog content as it needs to be easy to read, and easy on the eye. Usability can also be used in the sense of producing content itself, and has been defined as the following five elements : learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction.
In terms of producing better content, this means that it needs to be useful, needs to be easily understood, needs to be easy to remember, needs to be free of mistakes and ideally makes the reader want to return to the blog or to continue reading other articles, and ideally link to it.