Planning your content is crucial but it is not just something that you can churn out: it requires time, thought and effort. This fifth in the Link Building Made Simple series presents some ideas on how to produce lots of good content.
Quality content brings real benefit to your website:
- Content attracts search engine traffic.
- Content encourages people to link to your website.
- Content gets potential customers interested in what you have to offer.
- Content attracts media interest.
The higher the quality and the value of the content you create, the more links and benefits you’ll get.
There is a big temptation to jump in and start creating content that you enjoy creating or that you think you should create. But wait a minute. You’re in business and you’ve got limited time - you have to get a return on your investment in content.
That means you must always have a goal in mind for every piece of content you create, and that goal must ultimately lead to selling more stuff and helping your businesses grow.
The most important question you should ask about any content is “how will this lead to more sales?” You must think that through BEFORE you create the content not afterwards.
Start with the written word
There are all kinds of different types of content – articles, e-books, white papers, guides, videos, interviews, infographics, photographs and so on.
The choice is enormous but I think the best place to start is with the written word. That is because the web is still dominated by text, and written content - especially keyword rich content - will bring you more search traffic and more attention.
Also, the principles you will learn can be applied later to any other type of content, be it video, infographics or whatever.
In this article, we’re going to go through some content ideas that should be a priority, and I’m going to present them in the order in which you should approach them.
And if you're a small business you also are time pressed. You're unlikely to have much spare time. Therefore it's important that you have some tricks up your sleeve to allow you to create useful content quickly.
Answering customer queries
One of the best places to start is by what you do on a day-to-day basis every week in answering your customer queries. Every business has to deal with customer queries: the answers to these queries give you an immediate source of content ideas and this should be your first priority.
So take a note of all the customer queries you receive over a week. Record them formally in a notebook or spreadsheet as they occur.
One week later go through your list, group the queries and turn them into blog posts. Because they’ve been inspired by customer queries, they’re already going to be relevant to your audience. Just make sure you use keywords in the titles and body text.
If you’re just starting up and you don’t yet have customers you can find what people are looking for by using Wordtracker’s Questions filter within the Wordtracker tool.
For example, here is a list of questions real people are asking about tea:
The results are a treasure trove of content ideas.
Go through the list and pick out questions that are closely related to your business - then write and publish the answers.
Re-purpose or update your existing content
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll probably have written material on your site. It’s important that you review and update this material before moving on to create new content.
- Is that material still relevant?
- Does it need to be completely replaced or can it be easily updated?
- Have you ‘timeless’ material that perhaps you’ve neglected?
- What ideas are triggered going through your old material?
- Can you transform it into a different type of content? Ie, change an article into a video or an infographic?
Again for a time-starved website owner this can be a quick and easy way to get fresh content that is going to attract links.
Comment on breaking news stories
The next type of content I'd advise you to write is to comment on breaking news stories or on interesting and important articles that other people have written. So rather than sitting back and having to create content from scratch, you can take the lead from people who know your industry in depth.
You can quickly create content by either agreeing or disagreeing with the author. You can pick out specific aspects of what they’ve written and expand upon it to create your own content.
Always give a good, keyword rich link to the original article. Leave a comment on the original article or drop them a quick line telling them what you’ve done.
Write your own articles
If you’re new to article writing, you can pick up some good tips by copying what the professionals do. I think structure is all important and I’ll spend a lot of time mapping out the structure of an article before starting to write. I’ll brainstorm the important points and then arrange them into a structure that makes sense. Once I’ve got a structure, writing the actual article is easy and the result is always focused.
You’ll find the idea of a reverse pyramid useful. It’s something that will be familiar to every journalist in the world and something you simply must learn if you’re to succeed in writing effective content.
Pick up your favorite newspaper or browse a news site and read just the first paragraph of the stories that catch your eye. You should find that just having read the first paragraph of every story will give you a good idea of the day's news.
This is because of the way the stories are structured. Journalists are trained to give you important information in the first paragraph as it sets the story up, tells you what the rest of the article is about and encourages you to read more.
The most newsworthy and vital information is given at the top: that’s followed by important details that flesh out the story and that’s followed by general background information.
A series of articles
Once you get used to writing articles, you'll want to think about writing a series of articles. Can you combine some of your article ideas to create Part one, Part two, Part three and so on?
There are a number of advantages to writing a series of articles:
- It plans out your writing time in advance. You don’t have to come up with new ideas as you know what you’re going to be writing about.
- It engages your readers – do it well and they won’t be able to resist coming back for the next part.
But the best thing about a series of articles is that you re-purpose them as a valuable giveaway. So if you have a series of four articles, turn them into a single product - a PDF, email course, or a video.
Such products are fantastic for getting links and you can also use them to build your email list. Offer people the free product in return for their email address.
Submit articles externally
In the early stages of link building, you should concentrate on publishing content on your own site where it is likely to bring you the most benefit.
However, there will be a time for publishing articles externally. This has the benefit of spreading your name to a wider audience but is also a nice way of getting valuable links to your site.
In return, you’ll get a signature box that contains a link back to your site – usually you can pick the destination page and the anchor text that is used.
Many people advocate using article directories – submit your article to the directory and other sites can pick it up and publish it as long as they give you a link. I’m not a big fan of such directories as I think they result in low value links.
I much prefer to go direct to the publisher and try to build a relationship. It does take more effort but the increased quality of the traffic and links makes it worthwhile.
User generated content
Think about user generated content. From sites as diverse as Trip Advisor to Medium this is a core part of the business. Be it through reviews or user led comments and stories.
The beauty of this is that all sites like TripAdvisor has to do is provide the facility for their people to submit reviews, photographs and stories. And of course if you can do that you can get lots of content almost for free.
Collect great ideas
Become a collector of great content ideas. And that means not just content ideas in your own industry, but content ideas from any industries which you can adapt to your own.
In comedy writing this is called the switch. So you take a joke about an accountant and you switch that into a story about a teacher.
As you read news stories, watch what is happening online and as you find great ideas, even from unrelated industries, collect them (that notebook or spreadsheet comes in handy again) and think how you could ‘switch’ the idea to your own business.
Once you've followed these guidelines, you will have a fair amount of content and you’ll get reactions from your customers. You’ll learn more and more about what your customers think of your content, you’ll better understand what they’re looking for and you’ll be better able to create content that will build the reputation of your website.
Once you’ve got that solid foundation, you may want to move into video and other types of content. With YouTube there are so many opportunities to publish and create your own videos that it's something that I think everyone should consider.
Creating quality content will give real value to your existing web visitors. As a result, they’ll view you in a much more positive light and as a result be more likely to buy from you.
But of course, your quality content will also attract new customers - it can become one of your most important methods of customer acquisition. And to get new customers, you have to actively promote your content.
Once you’ve achieved some success your ability and your confidence will grow, and you’ll be amazed at what you’re able to do.