Content that thrills

It is so easy to start a site these days. This has contributed to the internet getting bloated with common sense advice from people imitating and copying each other. Creating content is not difficult. The challenging part is creating great content that gets visited and shared.

We’re all on a quest for more pageviews, social media shares and followers. Many sites have adopted the approach of publishing as much as they can hoping that some of the content sticks. This is not the right approach. Most content doesn’t stick and goes completely unnoticed. Common sense that these websites publish is not remarkable. It is generic, boring. Your audience has infinite number of choices online. To have a chance of attracting them you must provide something of value. Something that will compel a visitor to remark about it.

So how do you get people to care about and share your content? Imagine you are behind the bar, adding and mixing ingredients to make the perfect cocktail. This post will provide you with the ingredients you need to create perfect content. Content that astonishes people, that is compelling, that delights them, adds value to their lives and prompts them to share.

Shareable content cocktail

Topical expertise

The main currency bloggers have is our topical expertise. That one topic that you know more about than anyone else. Be great at what you do. Have a never ending thirst to be better. Always learn and improve. Acquire new skills and experiences. Live an interesting life. Valuable skills translate into valuable content and valuable content translates into valuable opportunities.

You need to establish yourself as an authority in your field as people look for experts to show them the way. Be that expert. Share your expertise. Share it generously. Be useful, helpful, interesting and smart. Tell great stories. Provide substance and analysis. Give actionable advice.

Focus on the quality, not the quantity

Forget about the advice that says that you should publish new content all the time. Limit your output. Focus on the content quality instead of the quantity. Publish only such great quality content that people cannot ignore you. Instead of publishing several mediocre pieces of content, create one truly valuable post that is full of quality.

Write the first draft. Spend a lot of time on the first draft before making it live. Go through this checklist of things to do before publishing a new post. Edit the copy. Remove all the fluff. Rewrite it. Add to it. Be critical of your work and ask yourself before clicking on the publish button: Is this post actually interesting? Will it teach people something new? Will it offer a new perspective on the topic? Will it entertain my audience? Don’t publish before you can answer yes to these questions.

Fill the need and provide answers to questions

One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is that they create content about themselves and not about their target audience. Unless you are interesting to them (and this is a relationship that takes a lot of time to build), visitors don’t normally want to hear about you. There is no love at first sight in blogging. Visitors don’t want to spend time on someone they don’t know talking about things with no relevance to them. They don’t care about you. They want to hear about themselves, about things that matter to them. They want information that they can use. They want to be educated and entertained. They want to get answers to their questions. Think of your posts as products that fill the need in the market.

You have to connect to the mindset and the perspective of a beginner. People that google keywords relevant to your content are beginners who want to get introduced to your topic and learn more about it. You need to create content with them in mind. Get a clear picture of who you are creating content for. What does your audience look like? Put yourself in their shoes. What problems do they face? What questions do they have? How can you make their lives better and easier?

Do keyword research. Search in social media. Explore relevant forums. Ask open-ended questions like “What is making your life difficult now?” or “How can I help you?”. Listen carefully to the answers. People will tell you what they want and this is what you need to know. The insights and ideas that you need will be in there. Focus your efforts on satisfying those requests and make sure people get the answers to their questions through your content. Start basic. Explain why they need to know what you are telling them. Open gaps in their knowledge by highlight information that they are missing and then fill those gaps with useful tips and advice. Guide readers through large topics and help them understand what the information means, where it fits, and how they can use it.

Break news stories if you can. If you can break a story before anyone else you will be heard. Most of us cannot break news, but we can still be timely and topical. Think opportunistically about the news and tap into the existing conversations. Create posts about topics that people care about and are excited about – trends, names (brands, celebrities and other personalities) and events. Identify an idea or a name that’s got everyone’s attention and find a way to connect your own topic to it in order to attract attention to yourself.

Create profiles. People love to learn about the experience and lives of big personalities. Profile big and popular names. Celebrities, writers, politicians and sports stars. These posts are quality posts that are useful and educational. And they already have an audience: fans of these celebrities. For examples see my profiles of famous people such as Stephen King, Steve Jobs and Beppe Grillo.

Curate lessons learned and takeaways. Your audience can learn from the popular topics like brands, events and best-selling books. Do your research, consume the original material, create your analysis and sum up lessons learned and takeaways for your audience. For some examples see my stories about successful online sites like Mashable, The Daily Mail and Groupon.

Simply talk about popular, trending stories. The key is to bridge the conversation and make it relevant to the audience you are trying to attract. It can be done by quickly summing up the trending story and straight away leading into your main content with bridge such as:

  • This story is a nice reminder of
  • The same thing happens in our field
  • Why am I sharing this story with you?
  • There is an important lesson here
  • What’s the takeaway from this story?
  • Hearing this story makes me think
  • I love this story because it

Bring something new and unique to the table

Quality content is not reporting on and repeating what everyone else is talking about. There are too many look alike sites and me-too articles. These articles are not substantive, not interesting, not appealing and they don’t thrill. Avoid that stuff. People want something fresh and new. You need to be different, unique. Don’t just repeat someone else’s advice. Don’t publish the same rehashed content. Don’t do another tired old top 5 list. Don’t bring in the same podcast and interview guests that everyone else in your field is covering.

Online users adapt quickly to consistent patterns. It makes them tune out. Our brain is very well aware of changes. You need to break a pattern, surprise people in order to grab their attention. Look at what everyone else is doing and then do something truly different. Bring something new to the table. Keep it fresh and interesting. Mix things up. Experiment with different types of posts and formats.

Make your content look beautiful

Presentation is a very important element of creating shareable content. In order for people to dig deeper into your content you need to present it well, establish trust and showcase your quality as soon as someone lands on your site. You only have few seconds before the visitor decides to either stay or click on the “Back” button. Make sure your blog and articles look amazing. Make them beautiful and visually appealing by following this checklist:

  • Create an irresistible headline.
  • Write well. Be a great copywriter.
  • Use high-quality imagery. Do image editing and brand your images with your logo and the headline of your post. More on use of images here.
  • Use multimedia. Try out different content formats such as video, podcasting and infographics.
  • Style the content with large font, subheadings, and split the text into short paragraphs.
  • Use lists. People love lists. They are easy to go through and learn from.
  • Add internal links to other relevant content and call-to-actions.
  • Be timeless. Publish content that will still be relevant in a year. Posts that will bring you traffic for a long period of time.

For more on making your content look great take a look at Essentials Of Creating Immersive And Sticky Content.

Content marketing routine and data analysis

Just publishing a great piece of content is not enough. Not many people will see it unless you already have an established audience. You need to get into the habit of promoting your content and building your audience. Go to social media and inform your following. Submit the post to sites like Reddit, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Post it in relevant forums. Here is an overview of my own marketing routine – all the things that I do upon publishing a new post.

So you’ve started doing everything you can in order to create better content. But how do you know if your content is actually getting better? It’s difficult to guess this. Many times posts that you don’t expect to do well actually do. Some posts you don’t even want to publish, but when you do people like it and share it. Public response is what counts and what determines if your content is good. Take a look at your analytics to identify how your content performs. Figure out why people reacted the way they did. What made them like that piece of content so much? What made them stay on your site for such a long period? What made them share it with their family and friends? Figure out what works well and then do more of that and less of things that didn’t do so well.