Content marketers are struggling to produce engaging content, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends study. The struggle is real for 54 percent of B2B content marketers and 50 percent of B2C marketers.
Why is it so difficult to create great content? Without a doubt, the sheer quantity of content being generated is partly to blame.
But the true way to stand out is by focusing on quality. You need to make your content better.
What Does It Mean to Improve the Quality of Your Posts?
Quality content has become something of a buzzword. For our purposes here, we take it to mean that it achieves a marketer’s goal of persuading a reader to consume more of the content, share it with their network, or purchase a service or product.
In other words, metrics you would look out for are:
- Time on page/post.
- Shares of the post and comments on the post.
- Number of people added to your list/funnel.
- The number of purchases (if it suits that purpose).
Improving the quality of your content matters more than ever before given the number of distractions that your audience faces, let alone anything in the post itself that will put them off. Quality content helps your business stand out and gives it authority in a crowded marketplace.
How do you make your content better, without neglecting optimization to improve your organic search visibility? Here are 12 ways.
1. Focus on Your Audience
According to Seth Godin, “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.”
Your reader is the reason you are creating content. Your content needs to be persuasive and entertaining enough to get your audience to stop and read.
Despite this, however, a major reason why marketers struggle to produce engaging content is because they don’t consider their audience when crafting content. According to a Forrester survey:
- 71 percent of brands include case studies and customer stories in their content, but only 3 percent delve deeper into these stories to make them relatable to their readers.
- Only 12 percent prioritize publishing research and perspectives to offer actionable insights to their readers.
So instead of creating content that sells, you would be better off creating content that provides value by way of information or entertainment. Also, as with all forms of successful marketing or advertising, for your content to be successful it needs to be targeted to a specific person and their journey toward a potential purchase.
To that end, you really need to determine whether your content needs to:
- Address problems your audience is facing.
- Promote discovery of your business solutions.
- Address comparison questions.
- Encourage a sale by providing persuasive information the person needs.
Buyer personas play a critical role in this process.
Whole Foods, for example, shares content that doesn’t just position itself as a grocery store but a lifestyle choice. Their content embraces healthy living and earth-conscious eating on a practical level. They have a variety of articles from how to eat healthy while saving money to changing your diet. The site’s user experience is designed to make the audience feel empowered and have a role in the overall experience.
The New York Times is another example. The company is a leader in the print and newspaper industry. They also continually innovate and create to combine an old medium with new developments in technology. They recently created the NYTVR which requires the free app and Google Cardboard to give its users a VR experience of the world.
2. Fact Check
Fact checking is essential if you want your audience to trust you.
Mistakes can easily happen when you’re writing about new topics – or writing fast to capitalize on trending events.
Establishing your content standard as unbiased and factually accurate means your audience will rely on you to help them and look to you for thought leadership.
3. Add Research to Back Up Your Points
Referencing research and data is a quick way to build credibility. This helps convince your audience that you know what you’re talking about.
For example, in this post, we could have simply told you what the 12 ways to improve the quality of your posts are. Instead, we’ve used research and data is used at certain points to show you why they are worth your attention.
It’s always important to cite credible and reputable sources.
4. Use Quotes or Insights From Experts
Another way to build credibility is to use quotes or insights from experts in the industry to shed light on a particular topic. This provides social proof to your audience.
Not only does it associate your business with the authority possessed by these experts, it also implies that you are important in the industry and your words are trustworthy.
As an example, check out SEJ’s article: SEO Trends 2017: 44 Experts on the Future of SEO.
Another benefit is that it helps expand the range of your content, allowing you to cover topics you know little about.
5. Use Visuals and Examples to Illustrate Your Point
Sometimes there is a better way to communicate. Not every piece of content has to be text-based.
This is where visuals and examples come in.
Showing people a picture or graph of the data or process can be a lot more effective than writing everything out.
Visuals can also act as a metaphor. That stock photo is literally helping make a point about illustrating a point. (Or she’s pointing, anyway.)
6. Avoid Jargon
High-quality content is always easy to understand. Depending on your audience, jargon may not be easy to understand.
Some of your audience may have a more advanced understanding of the subject than others, in which case you can adjust the language and subject matter to target the appropriate audience.
If you are unsure whether the language is appropriate, ask someone from the intended audience to read through the content and identify any jargon they don’t understand.
7. Use an Editor
Don’t publish anything without a thorough edit and proofread. Mistakes in your content and gaps in the overall flow and structure can destroy the reader’s experience and their trust in you.
A proofreader should pick up minor errors like missing commas, typos, etc. However, an editor will work with you on the storyline, phrasing, order of points, and help identify what is missing.
Consider using a freelance editor or bringing one in-house to ensure your content is consistent with your style guide and to identify opportunities to make your content better.
8. Tweak Your Headlines
OK, so you have probably come across many articles that talk about writing great headlines like this and this. But the fact remains that your headline will determine whether a content-saturated audience is going to click through to your post. In other words, it plays a role in:
- Driving more traffic to your site.
- Helping people notice and click on your content over other options. Headlines aren’t about value. It’s about getting people in the door.
- Helping people find your content so valuable that they’ll share it with their networks.
To improve the visibility of your headlines, consider the following tweaks:
Highlight the Value
Why should people read your post? Consider what’s in it for them and ensure the benefit is clear. Also use words that incorporate excitement, drama, or humor while still being genuine and delivering on your promises.
Use Adjectives and Power Words
Adjectives like beautiful, fun, horrifying, strange, useful, or ridiculous can create interest and intrigue, causing your audience to read on.
You can also get more persuasive by using power words like you, free, because, new, and instantly.
Headlines with statements or questions can be an effective way to pique curiosity in your readers, if they are crafted correctly. A key rule of thumb is to never ask a question that your audience can answer “no” to.
Take for example the following ad by John Caples:
It provides intriguing but incomplete information. It tells the reader enough to pique their curiosity but doesn’t provide so much as to give the whole story away. As a result, the headline creates tension resulting from this gap in knowledge, which today (the ad is from 1927) would cause readers to click through to read and find the answer.
Keep It Short While Optimizing for Search & Social
You want to optimize your title for your audience first, but then you can try to optimize for search and social as well.
How do you do all of that?
- Focus on keywords your audience is searching for, then include them in the title, either close to the beginning or the end.
- Keep your headline to under 60 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engines.
- Ensure your headlines are tweetable. In other words, around a 120 character limit to allow attribution and links to be inserted.
9. Pay Attention to Your SEO
One powerfully easy way to improve your post’s search ranking is to optimize on-page elements. For example, you should include your target keyword in the title and metadata.
Amit Singhal of Google’s ranking team published a paper in 2011 that provides an explanation of what Google considers to be a high-quality site. This gives us a good indication of what makes for a high-quality post as well.
These elements (and more) all play a key role with on-page SEO:
- Content quality.
- In-depth analysis.
- Author trust.
You can learn about more important on-page optimization elements in SEJ’s Guide to SEO.
10. Focus on Internal Linking
An internal linking strategy can help whenever you’re trying to improve the search rankings of particular posts. Internal links help search engines identify the site’s most important pages and provide context. Variations of your target keyword can be used as anchor text on other posts or pages that link to your target content.
You may have noticed that this post links several times to resources found elsewhere on Search Engine Journal.
Worried about using keyword-rich anchor text in internal links? Look at how Google uses internal links in the Google webmaster blog.
In the above excerpt alone, the majority of links are internal links, most of which are highly optimized. Above all else, internal links should help your readers by directing them to relevant sources. It shouldn’t just be about ranking.
11. Use More Visual Content
Consider the following statistics from Social Media Examiner:
- 37 percent of marketers said visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging (38 percent).
- 74 percent of social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, ahead of blogs (68 percent) and videos (60 percent).
A recent case study shows how adding custom graphics to a post increased the readers’ average time on site by 46 percent, improved search rankings and increased traffic by 962 percent.
So if you are serious about improving your time on page and engagement, which can indirectly impact your search rankings, you need to include more visual elements in your posts.
Consider creating and using original visual content like memes, quotes, brand images, charts, datagraphics, workplace shots, etc. to show off your brand personality and to build connections with your audience.
12. Update Your Content
One of the best ways to give new life to your existing content is to update it.
Does it work? Eugene Chen updated and repurposed his content via SlideShare to get 10,000 subscribers.
So how do you decide on what content to update?
Look at your analytics. Identify evergreen content, then spend the time to update, add visuals, optimize, or add new perspectives to freshen and make the post more in tune with current circumstances.
Important tip: don’t change the URL of the post.
Using the techniques described above, you can dramatically increase your content quality.
Doing so will lead more of an audience to your site and create more buzz around your brand. How? Because your content will:
- Stand out amid all the distractions that the internet holds.
- Help increase your industry authority and reputation. This, in turn, will lead to a greater presence in the marketplace.
Having said that, improving the quality of your posts to the point that your audience will care about it takes a lot of time and effort. However, if you give it the time and attention it deserves, you’ll see it improve your search rankings.
Featured & in-post image: DepositPhotos
Screenshots by Vinay Koshy. Taken May 2017.