Five things to consider when creating content
Website content should have a purpose. It’s not there for its own sake: we want it to cause a reaction. It needs to earn its keep.
There are really five ‘reactions’ to think about when creating content, or developing a content strategy. Conveniently, these five reactions map exactly to the steps most is would like our website visitors to take.
Using these five reactions as a litmus test helps us to generate content that gets results, rather than automatically churning stuff out for the sake of it.
We want our content to be found, right? So, a key question to ask when creating content is: “are people looking for this/things like this?” Does the content answer a common question or resolve a common issue? Is it something people are looking for? In which case, how do we suppose they are searching? Which kinds of search queries would lead us to this content? Thinking about these questions enables us to not only create content that people want, but also to structure it, write it, in a way that makes it findable by default. Don’t get sidetracked – the question here isn’t “how do I get this to the top of Google?” – stick with more realistic goals. The content-creation challenge: how will people find this?
More than page views: page reads
Assuming our content can be found, we want it to be read. It’s common for people to check their analytics to see which pages are popular. Looking at hits isn’t really enough – we should be creating content that people read. So, we’re wanting to see a greater number of people on the page for longer, combined with a reduction in bounce rates (those people who come to the page and leave almost instantly). Page hits can be thought of as a kind of simple vanity measure: getting people to consume what you create, rather than simply glance at it, takes more work. The content-creation challenge: will people really want to read this?
If it’s good enough to be read, is it good enough for someone to recommend it to a friend? Is it useful to others? Will it make our website visitors look good in the eyes of those who receive the share? Have you made it easy for people to share the content – by including sharing widgets for common social media platforms? Our goal here is to think about the content’s value to a wider audience – to create something that someone will feel is useful to others. The content-creation challenge: will people want to share this?
There are lots of reasons why content gets shared – and, let’s face it, some of them are trite. Creating funny videos with cats may well get you likes and shares – but that’s about it. Content strategies which are based on likes and shares only really work for those who are using likes, shares and hits for income. That’s why you see lots of click-bait websites littered with advertisements. Our content needs to go a step further. It needs to change people from being viewers into enquirers. Now, let’s keep firmly in mind that content marketing is a long-term game that’s usually undermined by throwing in the hard sell. Therefore, we don’t expect every piece of content to have a call-to-action or to generate an enquiry. But we do expect it to contribute to an overall strategy which encourages people to interact. The content-creation challenge: will this help me take a step towards customer engagement?
Ah yes. The reason we’re here. A key difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is that content marketing builds towards a relationship which encourages people to become customers; whereas traditional marketing seeks a conversion at almost every turn. We’re out to create long-term customers, not generate one-off sales. We want people to think of us when they’re ready to buy, because we've been helping them when they’re not. But at the end of the day, it’s the sale that counts. So, does your content support your business proposition, its products and services? Can people move easily from that content to make an enquiry? As with the previous step, this isn’t about a call-to-action or closing the sale. It’s about ensuring that visitors are aware of what you do and how you can help them. Let them make the buying choice. The content-creation challenge: can we lead people towards thinking about buying, without using a call-to-action?
There you go – five things to think about when creating content. Interestingly, you can see that lazy content marketing focuses on one of these elements, rather than all of them – perhaps creating stuff that’s great for sharing, but has no purpose. The other thing to think about is that if you get this formula right, you don’t have to worry about search optimisation much – people will find it, people will share it and it will contribute to your overall strategy.