6 steps to captivating content

Content is the heartbeat of any good SEO campaign – and yet so often we hear cries that it’s impossible to create any remotely interesting content for website X because industry Y isn’t exciting.

Exciting is about perception…and with a splash of creativity you can be creating engaging, highly-readable, shareable and linkable stuff for your website no matter what industry you’re in.

Creating content that isn’t boring even if your industry is

*Notice I said ‘industry’ rather than ‘your website’, if your website is boring, outdated or just plain rubbish then as the old saying goes…”you can’t polish a turd” so if your website needs some attention, do that first before encouraging visitors to it.

Content, blogging and SEO are all attention strategies for your business – capturing, engaging and priming eyeballs before converting them into paying customers or subscribers.

The way to grab attention for your business when it comes to content creation is with exciting, engaging and sexy words, pics, graphics, data, charts and videos. Boring “SEO’d” press releases, barely unique articles and spam blog posts that are riddled with keywords just doesn’t excite anybody – in fact, you’ll probably bore yourself writing them.

Step #1 – Buy a notepad

You never know when you’ll be hit with a great idea for some content and there’s nothing worse than forgetting that awesome bit of linkbait you imagined!

Step #2 – Observe

“A wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.”

I’m not advocating becoming a ‘me too’ but I am suggesting you take inspiration from the wider web. Even if a website isn’t in your industry you can still critique a piece of content they have published and assess things like:

  • Headlines – create your own swipe file of popular headline templates that you can just populate with your own words
  • Formats – video, infographic, text, text and images – how is it presented?
  • Length – are long posts or short posts popular? A mix perhaps?
  • Subject – is it a hot topic, could this be translated to a trend in your industry
  • Frequency – how often do they put stuff out for their audience

This exercise is about informing and inspiring yourself.

If you are looking for industry specific inspiration then take a look at Alltop which has an aggregated page of the best content in nearly every industry – you can then look at what others are doing in your sector and set out to beat them.

Step #3 – Gather

Most industries have forums where everyone from newbies to experts spend their time. Look for common questions, gripes and problems…look for and devise ways of helping these people. It might not necessarily be a blog post, sometimes you may have to create a tutorial video or even create a free tool/plugin that solves their issues (think linkbait too).

Ask existing visitors what they would like to see you produce by using KISSinsights.

Mine your own stats from software like Google Analytics to see the kinds of popular content you already have – this will give you further ideas and areas to concentrate on as well as a hitlist of potential existing content that needs updating and improving.

Setup Google Alerts and create RSS feeds to capture conversations around the web (e.g. social media) in your industry. Aggregate into Google Reader or a similar RSS service and you can browse and be inspired at a glance.

Essentially you want to pull together as much data, information and other nuggets of gold as you can.

Step #4 – Brainstorm

The point of stepping outside of your industry bubble in step 2 was to widen your horizons – when it comes to content, the boundaries are limitless and the more creative you are the better chance you have of getting loads of attention for your business.

Think laterally – nobody wants to read another version of the dreaded “10 things to look for in a…” post.

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” – Steve Jobs, Apple

(To a certain degree, you should also trust your own instinct.)

Put every little idea down that you have (not matter how mad it sounds right now). Try and create headlines for each idea you have and jot down any other headlines that you think of that are good but don’t necessarily have a solid content idea to back them up yet – banking these headlines makes future content creation much less hard work.

Brainstorm ideas for; blog posts, Q&A sections, guides, FAQs, videos, tutorials and anything else you can think of. My suggestion is to focus on wordy content to start with and then branch out into other mediums as your audience grows.

Step #5 – Refine

Refine your content ideas by doing a little bit of manual pruning and some keyword research.

Weed out ideas that aren’t going to be feasible and then re-organise ideas into some logical structure or timeline – I dump ideas into 3 different buckets usually…

  • Immediate opportunities – what can we do right now to start getting attention and improving SEO?
  • Medium term – perhaps these ideas will take a little longer to develop or produce but they are still feasible and in the short to medium term will be produced
  • Nice ideas/future – great ideas but the budget just isn’t there at the moment or for some other reason it’s not doable right now

You will want to perform some keyword research at this point to really refine the content ideas you have and start assigning keywords that each piece of content is going to target. Some people prefer to work the other way and look for keywords to target before creating keywords around that content but my feeling is that this produces work that is dry and somewhat spammy. However, there’s nothing spammy about tweaking content to ensure it properly targets the correct keyphrases.

It is also worthwhile developing a content marketing strategy and understanding how different pieces of content slot into your conversion funnel.  This kind of strategic content creation helps you to identify holes in your conversion funnel which you can then plug with content creation in the future. Having an understanding of where your content fits in your funnel helps you to tailor the content to the likely attitude of the reader…are they close to a purchase at this point or still trying to identify what they are actually looking for?

Step #6 – Create

Create when you feel like it – this is a creative process and forcing the issue means the quality of your output will suffer. If you don’t have the time or the inclination then you can always hire someone but remember, if you pay third world rates you are not going to get first rate work.

When you do feel ‘in the mood’, there’s nothing wrong with ‘banking’ content for publishing at a later date.

Invest where required – I understand that budgets are tight and content seems way down the list of investments to be made however, content is a very powerful medium in modern marketing so investing in it for your business can achieve great things. Cheaping out on a designer, a skilled writer or a video producer where one is really required is very short-sighted. Bootstrap to the point you can begin to speculate and accumulate.

Finally create at least 24 hours in advance of publishing to give you the chance to edit, re-edit and make your work the best it can be.

To summarise…

This 6 step process will help to create content that is enhancing your SEO but at the same time providing real value to your audience, winning you fans, getting you the right kind of attention and helping to usher casual readers into your well-oiled conversion funnel.

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