Content has rightly taken a far more prominent role in SEO in recent months. Given the fairly new but oddly familiar status, we are currently somewhat in a state of flux; brilliant content is a necessity, but many of us are unsure about how to create it.
Creating fabulous content is easy – if you know where to look. You don’t have to have a team of Shakespeares in order to create something mind-blowing, though a certain amount of experience outside of SEO is always helpful.
The important thing to remember before creating any content is that this is the element of the site that is customer facing. Imagine your website or blog like a shop: the retail assistants may have a relatively small role in the overall running of the shop, but they’re the people you remember, the people with whom you directly deal.
There are numerous resources you can use to create content that people will remember – these are just a few of them.
Social Media: The World’s Greatest Online Resource
We’ve all come to realise that social media is not just a fad – it’s an incredibly important part of many online business strategies. While the actual websites we use may change periodically (remember Bebo anyone?), the way we use it has to be consistent from platform to platform.
At this moment in time, Facebook and Twitter are the greatest resources for content in terms of clarity, honesty and variety from potential customers. Trending topics on Twitter can change almost instantly, meaning you know exactly what your potential customers want, as soon as they want it.
It’s evident to a lot of people that the two biggest social media platforms out there are absolute gold mines for content ideas, but it’s not entirely clear that enough people exploit them on a regular basis for inspiration.
At the time of writing, #MoviesThatNeverGetOld is trending in the UK. The tweets including this hashtag were updating pretty much every second. So if you’re writing for a film site and you’re looking to talk about films people actually enjoy (not the films we’re told people enjoy by the film buffs at IMDB, etc.), you have a hugely rich resource in what is nigh on real time.
Despite being a pretty massive film fanatic, I’d never think to use White Chicks as an example of the kind of film thousands of people would want to read about – but they do, and thanks to Twitter, I now have about three different content ideas just from one trending topic and one odd yet popular film suggestion.
The Keyword Tool
We may also hail the Google Keywords Tool as a fantastic source for judging what people are searching for (and we hail as such because it is), but it doesn’t give us much feedback as to what potential customers really think. Using Twitter to search for terms or products allows us to see first-hand just what kind of content works and what fails miserably.
For example, we’d automatically assume that people looking to read about mortgages are both expecting and desiring dry content. However, there may be a huge audience of people who need to know about mortgages, but are avoiding these pieces of content because they think they’re boring. Social media helps us stop assuming what people want to read and make us realise what people actually do want.
For something similar, this visual highlighting Google’s trends can work as a much faster version of Twitter’s trending topics. If you ever have a spare five minutes, sit and watch this, take notes and allow Google to kick-start the flow of creative juices for you.
Do Feed the Trolls
Authority sites, such as The Guardian, The Times and the BBC, have always been known as great sources for creating content. They announce new developments at a far quicker rate than an SEO content team is able to, whilst simultaneously creating brilliant culture, comment, lifestyle and business features.
As these sites are already known as great sources of content, I’m not going to rehash the same old argument for them. I am, however, suggesting you start reading the comments that linger underneath them.
Comment strings are a fantastic source of inspiration for truly creative content, as you are being given completely honest feedback from those who probably don’t have an output elsewhere. With just five minutes spent on a comment board, you can tell exactly what the majority of the reaction is to news and opinions, as well as how potential customers are thinking and what their desires are.
Of course, many of these comments are created from a heat-of-the-moment reaction, but it’s your job to develop these seeds of ideas and nurture them into fruition.
Harness the Power of Your Imagination
Good content writers are good because they are able to use their imagination thoroughly, which is really something anyone can do. We are all customers, so rather than think ‘what do they want?’, instead think ‘what do I want?’
You may not be interested in the particular topic at hand, but if you can create a piece of content for a brand you wouldn’t consider to be relevant to yourself that you actually want to write and read, then you’re onto a winner.
Drawing upon past experiences also helps on many levels. Remember a time when you were particularly impressed by an experience in a shop – were they overtly professional and formal? Did they crack jokes? Did they seem genuinely passionate about the brand? Use these positive experiences to shape the tone of the content as well as the subject matter itself, because, as I said earlier, content is the only customer facing part of the entire process.
The intention of the page is incredibly important, so you must use your judgement to decide how your content should appear page-by-page. If you’re reading through a blog, ask yourself if it is actually entertaining, or is it just full of links back to your main page? Likewise, for a page on an ecommerce site, is it reassuring? Would you put your credit card details into this page? Is there a nugget of content there that is pretty pointless?
Ask yourself these kinds of questions and utilise these kinds of resources about every piece of content you create and you’ll rarely go wrong.
Are there any other resources you’d recommend over social media, comment threads and your imagination? Where do you think resources for truly fantastic content lay?