There’s been a distinct explosion in SEO spiel over the last year or so with a lot of industry experts spending a great deal of time talking about “great content”. That’s all well and good but there are very few that actually get specific and define what constitutes greatness.
At the same time, sadly, only a very small percentage of online content is actually stellar, while the vast majority is mediocre and repetitive – even amazing writers and content creators have a hard time consistently producing high-quality, original, material.
Because of this, most online content is viewed briefly, shared if it looks half decent (whether the reader has got to the end or not) and then thrown by the wayside. The Holy Grail, which is especially difficult to construct, is amazing content with true ‘evergreen’ staying power.
In my opinion, the key to success is to look at your competition, keep an eye on what others are doing in creative niches, and (I know this is easier said that done) use that inspiration to make your own industry better.
Audience First, Always
The most important thing to remember when creating great content is the audience that it’ll eventually reach. You wouldn’t pitch a video on barbecue techniques to the readership of a blog dedicated to vegetarians, would you? The definition of great content depends on the audience, so tracking what users react to most positively is of the utmost importance.
Using analytics will help you to glean valuable nuggets of truth from the raw data so don’t just look at top level stats – consider things like bounce rate, social metrics, time on site, page views and conversions.
Also, use relationships that you’ve built to help with your content creation – ask opinions, find out what people want to see, and listen. Always listen.
Great Content Doesn’t Have a Format
As a content creator, you’re equal parts narrator, writer, curator and online tour guide. It’s a heavy mantle to carry, but it’s the one you signed on for. If you’re experiencing a creative block, take a step back and learn to subvert conventions by delivering value to your readers in novel ways.
In some industries this could be a top 10 list or an infographic – in others it might be a piece of parallax design or kinetic typography. Great content doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it will be judged based on the quality of the associated content surrounding it, so mix things up and inject a bit of variety into the life of your readership.
Amazing content sinks its hooks into you right off the bat and never lets go, deftly transitioning from one talking point to the next. Whether it’s a video, a post or an infographic, you need to make sure that arguments are logical throughout and easy to consume.
It doesn’t matter how much scintillating or relevant information is packed into your content if people don’t stick around to digest it. You basically need to sell your audience first, then keep them simultaneously entertained and informed as you go. It’s a tough balancing act to pull off, but it’s one that’s worth the effort.
Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate
Whatever you plan on posting online as content, be forewarned that somebody has usually already done the same thing. The key is to deliver content that’s different in some way. Instead of writing a bland product review detailing pros, cons and features, compare one product to another based on its ability to solve a specific problem.
For starters, this will draw in niche users and help to build a loyal following. Furthermore, it’ll help to establish credibility by showing that you think outside the box and are therefore worthy of repeat visits in the future.
Stir the Pot a Little Bit
You don’t have to troll your audience (or someone that has influence over them) to get a reaction. Just make a strong but sensible statement and back it up with facts that can be interpreted differently by various types of people.
Provoking a passionate reaction from your audience that actually elevates the level of discourse isn’t difficult. Also, it doesn’t have to lead to the kinds of rancorous, idiotic debates seen on YouTube comments sections. Respect your audience, but be willing to take an opposing viewpoint from the consensus opinion in the interests of fueling interaction, promoting debate and increasing traffic.
Use What Works, Ditch What Doesn’t
Nowadays, creating captivating content for the web that doesn’t recycle trite cliches or pander to the audience is tricky. It’s always been difficult to stand out without alienating people. Still, the blandness of most Internet media gives you an opportunity to shine.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”.