How To Create Exponentially Better Content In 2017
2016 was a huge year for the digital marketing world.
We saw a lot of people shy away from disruptive advertising methods such as pop-ups, video pre-rolls and banner ads.
Essentially, ads that don’t work to create a better user experience are beginning to fade.
Last year, Content Marketing Institute reported that 88% of organizations use content marketing (up 2% from the previous year).
While we’ll have to wait for an updated 2017 study, there’s a good chance this has risen to 90% or even higher.
People are starting to realize that if they focus their energy on creating valuable content for consumers instead of selling to them, a loyal audience begins to take shape.
But that ‘aha moment’ still hasn’t come for a lot of companies. How do we know? We know because they’re still pouring 90% of their ad budget into TV commercials and magazine ads.
The idea behind content marketing has more or less stayed the same.
- Define the goal of your content, or what you want your content to achieve.
- Think about who your audience is, what they want to consume and where they want to consume it. Take a look at your competitors and see how their audience likes to consume content.
- Publish your content consistently. Maintaining a regular posting schedule builds trust with your audience.
- Take a unique approach to the topics you’re covering. Focus on topics where you have the authority to be an expert in. By taking a unique angle, and by creating content that is better than your direct competitors, you start building your reputation as a thought leader in your industry.
- Measure and optimize the content you distribute. You must analyze how your visitors are interacting with each piece of content in order to determine its effectiveness. When a piece of content performs exceptionally well, you know that’s where you should be devoting a large portion of your resources for promotion and future content.
Even though the core idea remains the same, we can always make improvements to our content marketing process.
We learned a lot in 2016. In fact, we learned more than enough to set us up for success in 2017 and beyond.
Just look how creative big brands are getting with their content. Studying successful campaigns such as these always helps me to break out of my comfort zone.
You can’t be worried whether or not people will respond well to what you’re writing. Do your research and then execute accordingly.
Most people get stuck before they even begin, and that’s largely out of fear.
Get over the initial hump and start getting your ideas out on paper. Nobody is going to see your first draft so don’t worry about what you write.
If you sit there feeling afraid that no one will like your content, that next great piece of content will be stuck in your head forever.
Okay, let’s begin our path toward creating better content in 2017 and beyond.
Know Your Audience
Understanding our audience used to be a lot more challenging. We would rely solely on the interactions our employees had with customers in order to find out their most pressing problems
While this technique should still be utilized, we now have a near endless amount of resources available to us online.
A simple Google search can show us some of the questions our customers are asking, for example:
This is the best place to start when brainstorming ideas for your next piece of content.
Start typing in a question relevant to your industry and you’ll be given several more questions that your customers are actually searching for.
See if anyone has created content that answers the question in-depth. If so, can you do it better?
Maybe the current top ranking content is outdated, or maybe it lacks visual storytelling elements (images, videos, gifs, infographics). Finding ways to one-up the competition is simply part of the game.
The best content will always win, period.
People are used to cutting corners, so often times there’s plenty of room for you to sweep in and set a new standard for content quality in your industry.
Your goal is to become a thought leader, which is not quite as intimidating as it sounds.
If you put out exceptional content regularly, people will start to listen to you, follow you and trust the things that you say.
You want to be a leader, not a follower, and in order to do that, you have to make yourself vulnerable. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try to. If everyone was afraid to put themselves out there, there’d be no thought leaders at all.
Let Your Personality Shine
How many of you enjoy reading high school textbooks?
The answer is probably none.
As humans, we like to consume content in a way that resembles human interaction. Forget about the traditional style of writing long paragraphs, start writing like you’re writing to your best friend.
People have short attention spans, they enjoy reading text that’s conversational instead of giant paragraphs, who could’ve guessed?
And even though it might feel a bit weird, speak from the heart and voice your honest opinion. A little bit of controversy never hurt anyone.
Even big brands let their personality shine. In fact, their unique personalities are what attracts us to them in the first place.
Bryan Dumont, the president of APCO said it well:
“The best brands are those that build a strong, enduring emotional attachment with consumers.”
APCO studied 70,000 people across 15 different countries to determine the top 100 most loved companies in existence.
They used something called emotional linking to determine how emotionally attached people are to their favorite brands.
They measured admiration, approachability, curiosity, empowerment, identification, pride, relevance and understanding.
Is your content admirable? Does it empower the reader?
These are the things you should be thinking about each time you create a new piece of content.
It’s Time To Get Visual
Are you still posting content without any images or videos? If so, you’re making a huge mistake.
Including a video in your blog post attracts 3x as many links as a text-only post. Earning triple the backlinks for simply adding a relevant video to help tell the story, seems like a no-brainer to me!
What if we add some photos and images to the mix? Statistics say posts that include images receive 650 percent more engagement than posts that do not.
This should paint a clear picture of what people want. We’re tired of reading walls of text with no visual guidance or storytelling.
That doesn’t mean you should be stuffing your posts full of images just for the sake of it.
Don’t forget, using images also allows you to snag some valuable traffic from Google’s image search.
Make sure to use alt text and image descriptions, Google uses these to determine where to place you in their image results.
If you use WordPress, I recommend using the SEO Optimized Images plugin to automatically optimize tags for your images.
Being Unique Is No Longer Optional
Creating something that already exists serves no purpose. There’s already an endless amount of quality, entertaining, informative content out there, so it’s crucial that you go above and beyond in order to stand out.
We should aim to create something that has never been done, or is significantly different than what everyone else has done in the past.
Let’s say you have a great idea for your next piece of content. You look online and see 3 people ranking in the top 10 with similar ideas. Does that mean you should scrap the idea completely?
You have two options here, you can either
- Put a unique twist on the topic or idea in order to make it original
- Create a piece of content on the subject that is far better than anything else online
Ideally, your content checks off both of those boxes. You don’t want someone else coming along and improving on what you made, now do you?
Look through the current content that ranks well, make a list of things that are missing or could add value to the piece, and get to work.
Make content length a priority. If the top ranking content piece has 2,500 words, why not make yours 5,000? And don’t just add fluff in order to make it longer, add an additional 2,500 words of value to the piece!
Hiring an illustrator or designer will also help bring your content to life. Avoid stock photography, when I see someone using stock images it immediately screams ‘low-value’ and shows a lack of creativity.
Try looking through Behance using the “most recent” filter. This will help you find undiscovered talent willing to work for cheap.
If your content is more entertaining to consume, and also provides more educational value, there’s a good chance you can outrank the competition.
Conduct Surveys & Studies
Setting up interviews, surveys and studies are some of the best ways to become an influencer in your industry.
For example, look at the annual Content Marketing Institute 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report for North America.
This is the sixth annual survey they’ve done.
This time, they surveyed a total of 3,714 recipients from around the world. These were people from various industries, locations, and company sizes. The report shows results from the 1,521 respondents who said they were B2B marketers within North America.
Now, to be fair, this is quite a large survey.
In order to reach that many recipients, they collaborated with MarketingProfs, the Business Marketing Association (BMA), Blackbaud, The Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), Industry Week, New Equipment Digest, and WTWH Media.
It’s always good to collaborate with other industry leaders who have a lot of influence in order to boost the size of your study. Because of their collaboration, they were able to hit multiple email lists and reach a massive audience that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.
Studies such as this earn a ton of natural backlinks and immediately position you as a respected source within your industry.
This survey has been earning new quality backlinks for the past year, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
The report continues to bring in a steady flow of new organic visitors year round.
Remember, keep the quality and accuracy of your study high, and present new information with your results that don’t exist anywhere else.
Don’t be afraid to conduct smaller surveys with a participant pool of just 50-100 people or even less.
As an example, you could reach out to hundreds of CEO’s asking how much coffee they drink each day. Explain to them that you’re compiling data for a unique study and at least a small percentage of them will certainly participate.
You then have your own set of data to use for a blog post, infographic, or ebook. You can title it something like “37 CEO’s Tell Us About Their Daily Caffeine Habits“.
This is just a silly example to get your brain stirring, the possibilities are endless!
People love consuming content that presents fresh data, so be sure to carry out new studies for your industry whenever possible.
Do you have some fresh ideas for creating better content in 2017?
Let us know in the comments! We love hearing from our readers.