With millions of pieces of new content being generated daily online, it has become increasingly difficult to attract traffic and engage readers. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, difficult or even time-consuming. In fact, we spend less time creating new content for our own sites than ever!
We’ve worked with dozens of clients over the past couple of months to help them revitalize their content creation and marketing strategy. We found that most of those who were not seeing results (and in most cases, a negative ROI!), were making the same 7 mistakes. Let me flip those mistakes around so you can better understand what you should be doing.
The 7 Steps to Creating Results-Driven Content
1. Know Desired Outcomes in Advance
Before you start to work on any piece of content, it’s important to decide what are the two primary desired outcomes. The first outcome is focused on your visitors and the second is focused on you/your organization.
What benefit do you want your visitors to gain? I strongly recommend focusing on a primary benefit. This not only will help your readers but it will make the content creation process much easier, make writing subject lines easier and promote greater engagement.
What benefit do you want to gain? Not every piece of content you create needs to necessarily lead directly to revenue-generation but before you start to work on content, you should know what your desired outcome is.
2. Write for Humans, Optimize for Search Engines
There are two popular schools of thought:
The first is to write for the search engines so that you can get organic traffic. There are a lot of problems with this. The primary one is that content written for search engines doesn’t necessarily read well and often doesn’t make sense. In an era of social sharing, keyword-stuffed posts are unlikely to get reshared. Plus, if you over-optimize, you may find yourself penalized by Google. Finally, even if you do get traffic from search engines, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in leads or paying business.
The second school of thought is to screw the search engines and write for readers. Although well-crafted content can result in a good deal of social traffic and engagement, the shelf life of traffic is usually limited. Ongoing traffic from links may come but you’ll likely lose some of the benefits from search engine traffic.
What we advocate is to focus on content that is more conversational in nature. Speak to your visitors. Offer them information that provides value. But within the content itself, make sure to make use of relevant keywords in a natural way. Incorporate synonyms for your keywords and grammatical variations. Don’t overlook using tags, keywords and description for each content piece either.
3. Quality over Quantity
Unless your business is in publishing or you really just like spending a lot of time creating content, we suggest focusing on creating quality content over quantity. Clients we’ve worked with have seen phenomenal results by dropping back their publishing schedule from daily to weekly or weekly to biweekly or even monthly.
One significant advantage you can get by focusing on quality is that you’ll be able to get a lot more mileage in marketing your content and driving traffic to it. You’ll be able to concentrate your resources more efficiently.
Google also recently announced they have started to test an additional search option for more in-depth content. Focusing on quality over quantity may offer you additional opportunities to benefit from this. (You can read more about this here.)
4. Understand the Drivers of Engagement and Sharing
It’s important to understand at least some of the basic drivers of engagement and sharing.
One primary driver of sharing is how the reader will feel when they share. People want to feel good about themselves. They may feel altruistic by sharing something relating to social good – fundraising, crowdfunding, animal rescue or even promoting someone they know.
People want to feel a part of something bigger. This is why memes have worked so well. People benefit by feeling part of an inside joke or knowledge, especially when unique to a subculture.
What people share in social media today has also become a large part of self-identity and image.
Social sharing is emotion-driven. There’s a fantastic report available from MSI (Marketing Science Institute) written by Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman about the subject of diffusion of content. Berger and Milkman took a psychological approach to determining why people share. (You can read more about the study or purchase the report here.)
How can you incorporate drivers of engagement and sharing into your content? Do some testing to see what works best with your audience and also avoid exclusive use of the same drivers.
5. Spend More Time On Your Headlines and Subheadings
You may have all of the other pieces in place, but if your headline (subject line) sucks and if you’ve forgotten to use any subheadings, you may lose out on traffic big-time.
I cannot stress the importance of a great headline enough! When it comes to social sharing, this is what will capture people’s attention and get them to your content. If someone is checking updates on Google+, Facebook or Twitter, you want it to draw them in and compel them to click.
You’ll want to make sure that your headline is appropriate for the content. Nothing can result in traffic bouncing faster than a headline that visitors may perceive as being manipulative!
Breaking your content by using subheadings will dramatically improve the readability of written content. Consider this: what happens when someone hits a blog post you write? They’ll likely skim it over. Some never do more than skim. Others will decide whether or not to fully read the article based on skimming. Using subheadings can help them decide that your content is worth reading and sharing.
6. Make Your Content Sharable
Even if you have all of the other pieces in place, you want to make it easy and effective for visitors to share your content. It’s amazing how often I come across posts that I want to share on a specific network but the author/company has no social media sharing button.
Make sure you have social sharing buttons which are well-positioned. We prefer using either social media sharing links at both the top and bottom of our own blogs or that will scroll.
Before you start to promote a post, you’ll want to make sure to test sharing yourself. Glitches can happen. You may forget to include a description. You may need to run a post through Facebook’s Debugger (which will “pull” the current info from your page/post and alert you to errors).
7. Create a Content Schedule
The final piece of the puzzle is creating a content schedule.
A content schedule is simply a way of planning what you’ll be publishing, who will be responsible for the various deliverables and when it will go live.
There are 3 primary reasons to create a content schedule:
- To set expectations with your fans, customers and prospects: A fantastic example of this is Marie Forleo. Like clockwork, every Tuesday her fans expect her to have a new video online.
- To better manage resources: If you have a team responsible for content, there may be a lot of steps involved in getting it live. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you still have a limited amount of time. By having a content schedule, you’ll be able to schedule time not just for creating content but also for promoting it. At one of our sites, Doma.in, we publish a free monthly training video on domain names. Topics of videos are planned out several months in advance. We have to storyboard, script, create the animation, create the audio and then pull everything together. There are a lot of steps involved and, although we handle everything in-house, it’s not inexpensive.
- To integrate with promotions and contests: I assume that you plan out your promotions, contests and product/service launches. By having a content schedule in place, you’ll be better able to get more of the right visitors in place.
I hope that this post has helped given you some ideas on areas you can improve in your own content creation strategy. Please feel free to ask any questions or leave a comment below!
Need Help Putting This All Together? At Frontspace, we can work with you on creating your own content strategy plan and help you with any or all parts of implementation. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Need Help But Prefer a DIY Approach or on a Limited Budget? On September 9th, we’re rolling out a comprehensive training program geared to both beginner and intermediate levels. The training will be focused on how to create viral content. You can pre-register for the training now and get substantial savings by using coupon code “FSBLOG.” Click here to register now.