The fact that content drives the Internet is nothing new, though today, there is a greater emphasis on the importance of quality. Internet marketers can no longer rely on publishing enormous amounts of thin content on online magazines, low-quality blogs, and article directories to build links and drive traffic to their main websites. As search engine giant Google seeks to increase the overall quality of the material on the Internet by rewarding well-researched and error-free content and penalizing sites who manipulative SEO strategies, content marketers need to start shifting their focuses to quality.
Web content is no longer primarily about written content. Although textual content is still extremely important, visual content including images, infographics, and videos are also becoming increasingly popular. The following takes a deeper look into the new face of content and how marketers can create content that both people and the search engines will love.
Why Is Great Content Important?
Content, content, content. Your entire online marketing strategy should revolve around the convergence of content, search, and social with quality content being the dominant piece of the puzzle. The goal is to create quality content to represent your business and draw in your targeted audience. Quality content is essential for the following reasons.
- Google highly rates content which is original, high-quality, free of spelling and grammar errors, and valuable. The new search engine algorithms are getting better and better at indexing and ranking your content the way a human reader would.
- Quality content is much more sharable. Social media is now the number one reason why people use the internet, so creating content people enjoy enough to share with their friends presents an enormous potential.
- Your readers are far more likely to come back to visit your site and even subscribe to regular updates via email newsletters or RSS feeds if they find your content interesting or entertaining. The search engines reward content which provides value to people.
How to Create Engaging Content
Gone are the days of publishing large amounts of poor quality content and using automated article submission tools. Creating great content, by contrast, is not quite as easy, but practicing a few good habits can make a great deal of difference.
- Diversify your content to cover a wider range of mediums. Images, infographics, streaming videos and auditory content can all help to make your content more interesting.
- Minimize distractions and unleash your creativity. Set aside a certain amount of time every week for creating content and updating your website. When creating content, think about what your readers are most likely to find interesting. You don’t even need to think about the technicalities of search engine optimization and other areas of online marketing at this point.
- Seek inspiration from other high quality sources, both online and offline. Collaborate with others in your industry and engage your audience through interaction using social media and comments on your posts. Become a part of the community by listening as well as speaking.
- Write in a web-friendly format. It is important to realize that writing for the Internet is rather different to writing for print. Web-friendly content needs to be scannable and engaging. Short paragraphs, list-type articles and bite-size chunks of useful information are all characteristics of good web content. Popular themes include how-to guides, top lists, product reviews, demonstrations, and almost anything that gives a slightly different slant on a subject to what is already published extensively online.
- Try to be fairly consistent with your publishing schedule so that you always have something to offer your readers when they come back to your page. But balance is important too – don’t fall into the trap of posting too much without doing your research.
The Complete List of Engaging Content Ideas
The following ideas are a collaborations between myself and from Rob Garner, author of the book Search and Social. Keep in mind you can use multiple content types to create your content strategy. In his book, Rob tells us to consider how your audience consumes content. Use each suggestion below accordingly.
My favorite content ideas come from industry interviews.
Interviews providing insightful Q&As with interesting people or thought leaders in your business area is a great way to attract a like-minded audience. Interviews can be fun, engaging, informative and can include many asset types, including video, audio, text, and images.
My approach to getting interviews is to invite people to be featured on my blog. This acknowledges their expertise and shows that I respect their input. That helps me build relationships with other important individuals in my field.
Interviews also help me broaden my reach and my network. I am banking on my subject telling their associates, friends, and connections about their interview, thus generating visibility for myself and my blog. As they share news about the interview, they create backlinks to my site, boosting my blog’s authority with search engines. See how that works?
Tips for the Interview Process
Interviews will provide you with a steady source of fresh, useful content.
- To make it easy, develop a standard interview process. If you create a standard list of set questions, it takes far less time and makes sure you cover all the bases.
- Identify several people who are respected in your industry and select a couple of questions that are likely to enjoy answering. They don’t all have to be serious, either!
- Don’t forget to mention you will be promoting the interviews in your social media profiles.
- If you can manage it, an audio or video recording is great because you can re-purpose the interview for a podcast or for YouTube.
Stories and Anecdotes
My second favorite is when I tell a story or anecdote. This always works for me.
Special and unique content comes when I share my real life stories and experience. When I tell a story that relates to my experiences or example within the context of a current topic or business problem, I feel I am developing a deeper relationship with my audience. Consider relating a business experience in a blog post and share on a major social network or discuss in a live presentation or webinar.
One of my favorite and most successful blogs was called “Why Do We Do Everything Google Says”. In my blog I talk about a dinner conversation we were having at my home with my husband regarding Google’s best practices and how we could use these to make changes then all of a sudden my daughter asked, “Why do you have to do everything Google says”? With that one question from someone outside our industry I was able to raise questions in my blog that created quite a bit of online conversation and social sharing. (Not to mention my daughter was excited that I included her in my blog!)
You can read the blog here: Why Should We Do Everything Google Says?
Contests and Giveaways
I love contests and giveaways, probably because I love winning! If you give away something that interests your key audience, you will receive attention in return. Use your entries as a way to offer additional content-opt-in opportunities or to simply ask them to connect with you directly in social networks (examples: “Please follow us on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook”). Keep in mind that your giveaway should be relevant to your end goals, or else you will attract an irrelevant audience.
One of the funniest contests we did as a digital agency was when Google came out with their 360 degree business photos that allow visitors a virtual tour of our digital agency. Boy, did we have fun with it.
We created a game: Instead of the same old tour, we included a treasure map laid out on a side desk in our virtual tour. The treasure hunt was then used as part of our next social marketing contest.
Even though Google prefers no people in the photo shoots, we stretched that rule a little, too. We asked some of our employees dress up as characters and had visitors online find the characters, and if they did they received a copy of a new eBook.
We tied the photos into social networking games that rely on image clues scattered within the virtual tour of our business office. These types of interactivity are important for establishing the backdrop to engage an audience to play.
You can take a tour for yourself here: Advice Offices
Other Engaging Content Ideas are:
FAQs: If there is any one particular content idea or type that should be considered mandatory for any business, product, or service on the Internet, it is the “frequently asked questions” section of your site, otherwise known as the FAQ. FAQs represent exactly what the name suggests—the most commonly asked questions about your business or service. Creating a thorough FAQ on your website provides the answers that your core audience most commonly seeks. It also offers your audience and social-media managers a basis for answering and referring to questions outside of a website and into social networks.
Content for FAQs should come from your customer-service department (if you have one), from frequently asked questions on answer sites and forums, and from common-sense questions about your products or services. The development of your FAQ is an iterative process, and the more often you interact with your audience, the more awareness you will have around their common questions. Remember that FAQs are not only for social outreach but also for search, because many people will enter their common questions about your business into a search box.
Curated Link Lists: Link lists are as old as the commercial Internet itself, and they represent the ascension of many great web properties like Yahoo! and Google. Creating valuable link lists can attract many readers to your owned assets through social sharing and search. Consider a regular content program for subjects in your themed area, such as “top blogs,” “top news posts today,” a “complete resource list,” “funniest,” or “most useful.” You can also categorize a particular area of the web that you may find to be lacking structure and create value for people who are interested in the core subject or theme.
Tips: If your goal is to show thought leadership or demonstrate commanding knowledge in a particular area of expertise, offer tips and helpful advice using various asset types, such as text, apps, video, images, and so on. Helpful tip lists are good share bait, and they provide traffic and social conversation consideration for your business and brand.
An Outline of the Basics or Advanced Elements of a Particular Topic: Online conversations can move quickly away from their original context, especially as the buzz increases. A quick overview of the basics or an outline of key issues around a topic may be beneficial to your new and existing audience. If you see a complex business topic increasing in interest on Twitter, you may find that the best way to earn your way into the content conversation may be to summarize the events or circumstances leading up to a particular story, issue, or situation.
“Complete” Lists A “complete” list is similar to a link list but is distinguished as being more exhaustive and comprehensively researched. “Complete” lists might contain as many as 50 unique items or more, with detailed information, images, and commentary for each item, while reinforcing each one within the context of the article title. Complete lists might fall along the lines of “best of” lists, “top ranked” lists, or some other context of viewing an entire scope of a particular topic or theme. These types of lists typically help attract social sharing but will also link back to the unique article. This article is a complete list.
Reviews: Consider providing regular reviews or commentary on products, services, or even business strategies within your relative area of concentration. Use text, video, audio, or a variety of combinations of asset types. You might even want to use reviews as an entire community strategy by enabling customized community tools and applications for your audience to weigh in on particular areas of interest.
How-to Articles: How-to articles are a staple of the Internet, and this content type even has its own dedicated sites, like eHow and wikiHow. How-to articles can be social, in the sense that people may contribute to the conversation via wikis or comments, and “how-to”–related searches represent a major segment of search-query volume. Whether you create your how-to and step-by-step articles in text, images, video, or other asset types, consider how this content idea applies to a wide range of businesses, including shopping, finance, travel, home, and living.
Recommendations: Providing recommendations on particular products, services, or resources is a great way to illustrate your knowledge of a particular topic by relaying helpful choices to your audience. It also puts a more positive spin on the review process, without being negative or creating any ill will with your audience.
Quizzes: Putting together a quiz for your audience is a fun way to earn their attention and help test the knowledge of your audience on a particular topic of interest. Quizzes help your audience to grow in their knowledge and reveal potential content ideas for your own strategy.
Polls and Surveys: Polls and surveys are a great way to gauge what your audience is thinking and get a pulse on your market-research efforts. There are many free and paid survey applications that you can use with your blog or on a social network.
Live Video: Use Ustream, Google Hangouts, or other live video services to broadcast content and create a live discussion format with your audience. For instance, Dallas radio talk show-host Richard Hunter broadcasts with real-time video on his Ustream channel.
Case Studies: Creating a real-world business case is another excellent way to attract a like-minded business or consumer audience in both earned and social spaces. Good case studies can take on a life of their own and often get shared around the Web.
Research and Statistical Data: If you have any data or statistics that provide unique insights into a business or consumer problem, then research is one content idea that could catapult your website and social presence into the mainstream social conversation. Think about the unique data that you may be collecting in some form, or think of a potential research study you would like to conduct. You can show your results as simple charts or graphs or in more complex ways, such as a searchable database or application that produces customized charts and reports.
Scoops or Exclusive Announcements: Consider contacting the press-relations departments of the major players in your business space (you might want to consider noncompetitive companies for this type of content), and ask whether they have any new products or services that you could cover for your blog or other publishing site. If you have a relationship with the provider, they might even offer you information under embargo, which means they give you information prior to a public announcement, as long as you wait to publish the information. This delay in publishing usually provides plenty of time to create quality content and also get the scoop on other bloggers or news content providers in your space. Being first with a great story can be a tremendous advantage as content breaks out in real-time.
Q&As from People within Your Network: Answering questions and offering expert advice should be a fundamental part of your content strategy. Answer questions that you may find on third-party networks, or create a blog post with three to five common questions you receive and answer them for your audience. Also remember to add your answers to your site FAQ.
Images and Image Channels: Photos and images are great digital assets to post on a regular basis. Photos are common regular content features on a wide range of blogs and suitable for many types of businesses. You can showcase entire galleries or photo channels on Flickr or SmugMug or create your own galleries on your blog or website. If you want to engage your audience directly, shoot an industry or consumer event and tell your subjects where to find you online. You will likely find that audiences are almost always captivated by content about themselves.
Bios and “Get to Know You” Features: Whether you have a small or large organization, consider a content feature that routinely spotlights different people on your team or within your company. Add a picture and publish a Q&A.
Community and Current-Event Coverage: Covering community events is a great way to capture topical and real-time search interest around an event. It also provides your audience with a window into an important event that they may not be able to attend but would still like to know more about while it happens.
Live Blogging and Live Tweeting: If you are attending a business conference or other consumer conference or event, consider blogging live from the event. Give a factual recap of what is being said in real-time, or offer your own side commentary. It is very common for people to monitor social streams by hashtag or keyword during these types of events. Injecting your content into the conversation is a great way to gain real-time attention in a meaningful way while the event is happening.
“Things to Do”: If you are in an area that you know well, offer recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, and other helpful localized tips. If a sizable amount of your audience is from out of town and attending an event in your area, show a little bit of hospitality and provide useful content – they won’t forget.
Posts About Other Posts: When Rob write a column for MediaPost, he will often include an additional post on our company blog or personal blog. This way, he can tell the regular audience in one channel about his MediaPost column and also offer different bits of information to supplement the topic. Sometimes he will also write a quick blog post about a press mention or citation with additional background and commentary.
Commentary and Editorial: In establishing yourself as a conversation leader, it is important to communicate your opinions on the main issues and topics that are critical to your industry or to the needs of your audience. This commentary can come in the form of a blog post, social conversation, status updates, longer white papers, and many other formats. If you have an opinion and you know you are right, don’t be shy; share it with your network. Be ready to elaborate on your position and to follow-up with comments from your audience or network.
Thought Leadership: A good piece of insight is one of the best ways to establish yourself and your business as a thought leader in both the content space and your business space. Thought leadership may take on the form of a book, live speaking, webinars, PowerPoint slides, white papers, or a blog. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you will need to be diligent, consistent, and focused in your efforts.
Glossaries: Providing a glossary, or dictionary of terms related to your area of business, is a great way to provide informative content that can be referenced in social spaces when needed, and to appear in search-engine results. Consider putting all of your glossary terms on a single page, or create unique pages for each term for expanded definitions.
Downloadable Assets: Offering up an application, screen savers, plug-ins, ebooks, and other productivity enhancements is another great way to solve a problem for your audience and create a shareable event. Useful assets can travel quickly via shared networks and gain a lot of exposure for your business.
Have any other ideas to add to our list of engaging content? We’d love to hear them. Feel free to share them with us in the comment section below and don’t forget to share this blog…
Image Credits: Shutterstock
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