The year was 1996, and a spry-looking Bill Gates wrote an essay and published it on the Microsoft website. (Today, we would call that a blog post!)
The essay was titled, “Content is King.”
The beginning of the essay started…
“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.
The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment…”
The essay, which is certainly worth reading in its entirety, paints a prehistoric picture of what the internet could one day become. And Gates’ words are almost spooky in their accuracy.
He would go on to write…
“One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.”
Bill Gates saw it when the rest of us assumed the internet was nothing more than a tech fad for a strange class of nerds. And though much about the internet has changed, one truth has remained: Content is still king.
The only question is, are you creating quality content that allows you to leverage this powerful asset to grow your brand in a noisy marketplace?
It’s nearly impossible to discount the importance of content in today’s world. Without it, there’s no social media, blogging, websites, landing pages, email marketing, or online courses.
Content is the currency of the internet. It’s the way we communicate, share, influence, educate, and sell. If there’s no content, there’s no exchange of ideas or
Content is what allows a business to build a relationship with a customer and invest in long-term loyalty.
Content improves brand recognition and ensures that people know, like, and trust you.
Content is a powerful tool for informing and educating consumers on new and/or complex topics.
And as a result, content generates an impressive return on investment (ROI) for brands that lean in and do it well. (More on what this looks like in the following sections). Consider the following data points:
As an increasingly large percentage of our lives gravitates into the online space, content (of all mediums) will continue to play a prominent role. And it’s the brands that are there to meet this demand that will survive and thrive.
There’s been a massive shift in content best practices over the past two decades. And it’s important that competitive brands don’t get confused on what it means to produce effective content.
In the early days of the internet – meaning the late-1990s and early-2000s – it was a game of quantity. Whichever brands could produce the most content were the winners.
Successful brands were content machines. They would pump out dozens of articles a week and flood the interwebs with post after post. The only problem was that the content was thin and low in quality.
It used to be that you could get away with writing a 400-word blog post with the same keyword used 17 times in the span of three paragraphs and Google would reward you for your hard work.
Today…well…we call that spam.
As the internet has grown and Google’s search algorithms have matured, so have the expectations for content.
SEO manipulation is no longer the order of the day.
Google has made it quite clear: While content might be king, quality is queen.
In other words, if you want your content to rank well, attract clicks, produce engagement, and ultimately drive conversions, it must be high on the quality meter. People want content that adds value and gives them what they’re seeking.
This isn’t a trend or a small scale shift in perception. This is a permanent evolution in the internet marketplace (and human psychology). Time is more precious than it’s ever been, and attention spans are in short supply. To stand any chance of engaging your audience, you must show them that your content is worthy of consumption.
The challenge for most marketers and brands is figuring how to produce quality content. And that’s precisely what we’re going to focus on for the remainder of this article.
There’s no magic button you can hit to produce a piece of high-quality content. There are, however, plenty of proven principles you can put into action to increase your chances of generating top-notch copy that positively impacts your brand and takes it to the next level.
As you reimagine what it could look like for your brand to start winning with content, consider the following tips and principles. This is how you develop high-quality content that moves people to action:
Quality content is relevant content. And in order to produce relevant content that has a positive impact on your larger brand initiatives, you must understand who your audience is.
Audience research isn’t something you’re going to do in an afternoon and cross off your to-do list. It’s an ongoing investment that requires you to keep a finger on the pulse of the marketplace as time passes. However, you can get a pretty good feel for who your audience is right now by doing some of the following:
Detailed insights are a must. Because once you have a pool of data to work with, you’re going to turn it into audience personas.
Audience personas are basically one-page documents that explain who each of your target customers is. (Most businesses have somewhere between two and five types of customers.) In these documents, you include a picture (stock photo example), demographic information, interests, hobbies, and other details about their needs, wants, pain points, and experiences.
While you’ll have to make some assumptions, the hope is that you have enough insights to paint a fairly accurate picture of each customer segment.
With audience personas created, your focus becomes writing each piece of content as if you’re speaking directly to these individuals.
Keyword research can be done using any number of tools (including both free and paid options). However, it’s not picking the tool that’s most important. It’s understanding how to select high-value keywords that are relevant to your target audience.
Many marketers make the mistake of assuming that they should just go after the keywords that have the highest search volume. So if there are three keywords with monthly search volume of 15,000, 5,000, 1,000, they automatically assume that the first keyword is the most valuable. But that’s not always true.
Search volume does matter, but you have to look at it in a larger context. You also want to consider how hard it is to rank for these keywords. Most keyword tools will give you a column that tells you how hard it is to rank for the keyword based on the content that already exists in the search engines.
Using our previous example, the keyword with 15,000 monthly searches might have a ranking difficulty of 93/100. (That means it’s really hard to supplant the links that are already ranking.) At the same time, the one with 1,000 searches might have a 7/100 keyword difficulty. (This means it’s fairly easy to rank for.)
In a situation like this, you have to ask yourself, would I rather have a zero percent share of 15,000 searches or a 25 percent share of 1,000 monthly searches? Most would agree that the latter is far more useful.
Quality content is built around the right long-tail, natural keywords. And if you get this part of the equation right, it’ll empower the rest of your efforts.
The next step is to create a content plan. You can’t just throw up blog posts all willy-nilly and expect something to stick. You need a strategy.
One of the best (and simplest) content strategies is the “pillar page approach.” With this method, you develop two or three “pillar pages,” which are extremely high-quality, in-depth pieces that address a high-level topic that your audience deals with. (If you have three reader personas, you’ll want at least one pillar page for each persona.)
These pillar pages become your greatest content assets. Your entire promotional strategy centers on them. You try to garner backlinks to these pages, you share them on social media, and everything is focused on building links at scale.
These pillar pages then get turned into smaller topical pages. (You can think of it as a spider web, where the pillar page is in the middle and the topical pages are spun off it.) So if your pillar page is about car maintenance and repairs, each piece of topical content is laser-focused on a specific element of that topic: how to change a tire, how to change your oil, how to fix a leaky hose, tips for washing and waxing a car, the best air fresheners on the market, etc.
Each topical page then links back to the pillar page (and vice versa). Thus when your pillar pages generate traffic and see improved search rankings, your other pages benefit by proximity.
Most of the content you encounter on the internet is surface-level nonsense. It’s cheap, shallow, and adds very little value. In many cases, it’s simply a replica of another piece of content from Google. (And that piece is often a replica of another piece…and so on.)
Quality content goes in-depth. There’s no exact word length requirement, but this is usually going to mean at least 1,000 words (at a minimum) and more like 2,500 words or more.
Never write to the point that you feel like you’re rambling just to reach a word quota, but do be thorough. If it takes you 5,000 words to explain how a home’s plumbing system works, do it in 5,000 words. If it takes you 8,000 words, do it in 8,000 words. Depth gives readers value and forces search crawlers to take notice.
Copywriter Joseph Sugarman has some good advice when it comes to developing high-converting copy. This is his principle:
These days, attention spans are minuscule. If you want to grab attention, you must nail the beginning. Don’t write as if you’re building up to some big reveal. Write like you have one sentence to convince someone to stay.
The human brain has a love affair with numbers. When people see numbers in copy, it forces them to stop skimming and zero in on the specific data point or statistic that’s being communicated.
Data also has the benefit of making your content seem more credible – especially if you have graphs, charts, and infographics.
Enhance the credibility of your content by placing a greater emphasis on researched facts. By aligning your content with studies from authoritative researchers and names, you actually increase your own credibility by proximity.
The days of producing 100 percent textual copy are behind us. To be competitive and engaging in today’s noisy world of excessive content creation, you have to find new ways to pull people in and excite their senses.
While blog posts still work (and continue to be the core element of most content strategies), you should mix your posts up by including a variety of mediums. This may include:
Not only do these different elements create some diversity, but they also serve as visual interrupters that stop people from skimming. This increases the average time on page and lowers bounce rates.
There’s nothing worse than a dense piece of content with 200-word paragraphs, long sentences, and minimal line spacing. People get intimidated and hit the “back” button.
It’s imperative that you let your content breathe. You can do this in a number of ways:
These are just a few ideas – you can certainly come up with more. But at the end of the day, the mission is the same: Let your content breathe.
As mentioned earlier, the headline is arguably the most important element of a piece of copy. By some estimates 10-times more people will see your headline than will actually read your content. And if you want more people to read it, you must deliver a compelling reason to do so.
A good headline does one or more of the following:
The more of these “boxes” you’re able to check off, the better the headline will be. So don’t be afraid to spend some time working on you headline. Advertising legend David Ogilvy famously spent half the amount of time it took him to write a piece of copy on the headline. Replicating his approach would be a wise investment.
One of the biggest challenges of content marketing is producing content at scale. Because while quality is certainly important, you ultimately need a large quantity of high-quality content.
Very few brands have the internal resources to produce massive amounts of high-quality content without neglecting other areas of the business. But that’s okay – our blog writing service is here to help!
At SEO.co, we make it our mission to help brands produce better content at scale. We work with startups, small businesses, growing brands, and Fortune 500 companies alike.
And our formula is really pretty simple:
If you’re looking for a way to generate better content at scale – all while driving authoritative backlinks to your domain in an effort to enhance search rankings – well, you’re in the right place.