A Guide to Content Creation

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By Lizette Louw - August 19, 2016

What defines unforgettable content? It's that piece of content that stays in the back of your mind, floating around and making itself known whenever you have a quiet moment. It's that article you find yourself mentioning to someone over lunch, or coffee before the morning meeting. Ask yourself - are you creating content like this for your readers? Or is your content just another skimmed over piece, soon swept away in a deluge of other content?

In all honesty, everyone involved in Content Marketing asks themselves this question - and even the very best of them is forced to acknowledge there's always room for improvement. The first step to creating brilliant, unforgettable content is never to stop learning, growing and improving.

That said, there are a few tips you can use to ensure outstanding content creation.

Tips to Creating Tremendous Content

1. Engage Your Inner Storyteller

Everyone loves a great story - it helps us relate on a deeper level to whatever we're reading, taking us from a passive bystander to an active participant. When creating your content, work at crafting stories that reach out to your buyer personas and draw them in with shared experiences, struggles or aspirations. Help them to connect to you and your content.

2. Be Educational - But Put a Twist On It

One of our primary goals when creating content is to be educational and informative. If your content was a meal, the educational and informative bits would probably be the peas and carrots. And your readers don't only need peas and carrots - they want some dessert as well! Sweeten your content up with a touch of humour, or some light entertainment, along the way to ensure they're fully satisfied.

3. Get Super Focused

There are times where, as content creators, we’re required to write on subjects we aren't necessarily experts on. Does this mean we get a free pass on crafting brilliant pieces of content? Nope - it means we need to apply our focus and research our subjects in greater depth. You've got to knuckle down and focus on creating content of value for your readers, regardless of subject matter.

4. Write with personality

If someone wants to read Hemingway, they go and read Hemingway. If someone wants to hear The Beatles, they go and listen to the Beatles. Heck, if someone wanted to eat Italian, they book at an Italian restaurant.  

There’s no chance of competing with the greats or even “kind of” greats by mimicking their tones and style. That’s because you’re trying to mimic their personality, and it’s unnatural. No one will ever be able to write Hemingway as well as Hemingway, which is the obvious motivation for staying true to your own personality and letting it shine through your writing.  

5. Just Write 

Writers call it vomiting and, just like when you’re physically ill, when it’s all out you feel a lot better.  

The key to really allowing your personality to shine through is to get into a flow of writing and throw words down without trying to constantly edit them as you go. Every writer wants to edit the sentence they just wrote, but if you start going down that route then you may only finish your blog next week (or next year) 

That said, holding back from continuous editing is harder than it sounds, which is why you often need tools to help you. I suggest using ilys, which is a writing app that re-teaches your brain to write in free-flow, improves your short-term memory and only lets you edit what you’ve written after you’ve completed the prescribed word-count. 

6. Edit Bluntly, then Slowly 

When you’ve got your content down, then you’re ready to edit, and there’s two important steps to take with this.  

The first time you go through it, be harsh with your writing and make sure there’s no “fluff”. Cut down on your adverbs and adjectives, and try make sure your writing gets its point across as simply as possible. For grammar and spelling fixes, I suggest getting Grammarly to help you out. 

On the second edit, you should allow yourself to be more creative: It’s not only about the information. Is your tone right? Is your flow right? This is the edit where you can make sure that your content shines out your stunning personality. 

7. Don't Obsess About SEO

SEO is an important part of content creation. However, your content should never suffer as a result of better SEO practices. Ensure your focus is on creating fantastic content, and then optimising it for SEO afterwards. Keep in mind you’re writing for people first, and search engines second. 

8. Let Your Headline Shine

Your headline sets the tone for the rest of your content - quite often it’s the only portion of your content people will read, and your one chance to grab their attention before they shoot off to the next piece of content or website. So take the time to write well-wrought headings that seize the viewer and hold them captive.

9. Reference Your Content Reliably

If your content uses facts, statistics or quotes, be sure to reference them accurately and honestly. Incorrectly reporting facts or misquoting people damages the trust you're trying to build with your audience.

10. Dazzle with Great Visuals

It's a delight to read a great article when it's accompanied by striking and appropriate visuals. Whether it’s video or image-based, consider boosting your content with visuals. A key consideration to remember when choosing images for your content is to avoid bland, boring stock photography! As with your content, keep those visuals authentic.

11. Keep your content actionable

Content that is most valued and loved, is actionable. It gives viewers the information needed to be able to take what they have learnt and apply it to generate results. And the quicker, the better.

Create step by step instructions, provide guidelines to processes or procedures and develop tutorials for challenging tasks. The more educational and actionable you content is, the more your audience will reference, share and use it. 

12. Use formatting effectively

It’s not a revelation that people read differently online than they do a hard copy novel. We have become speed scanners. We skim material to determine whether we want to commit the time to read an article or eBook in full.

Win your audience over by making your content as easy to read as possible. Apply effective formatting to ensure your main points are clear, even with a simple glance at the article. Make use of headings, subheadings, punchy paragraphs, bullet points, lists, bolding and italics to make your content highly readable.

13. Most importantly: Know Yourself, and Your Readers

When you’re writing your content, keep your audience in mind. Your persona profiles will shine a light on opportunities for you to relate to your audience - and once you've spotted these openings, it's up to you to dig deep and find elements of your personal experience you can share with them.

We've made you aware of the importance of choosing the right content format at the right time. The model we proposed included consideration of the following dimensions: individual learning styles, the objective of your content asset, and your focus stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Although these three dimensions set a good starting point for selecting content format, we received some feedback by our readers asking a burning question: How do we overcome the gap between the marketing content we create and the content that our buyers are looking to find?

The Complex Matter of What Users Want 

Buyers, as human beings, are complex individuals, and any simple answer to the question of “What do buyers want?” would be folly.

Do any of the following statements sound familiar?

Buyers are too busy to read in-depth content.”
Digital natives expect vendors to engage through social channels. ”
 

At the same time, you don’t have to search long and hard to find an equally strong (research based) argument proving the exact opposite could be true:

Long-form content performs better across the board.”
“B2B buyers essentially require information about pricing, shipping, and technical support before requesting a quote.” (Source: 2015 B2B Web Usability Survey)
“The digital generation are yearning for a personal touch in business interaction.”
 

The X Factor for Creating Buyer-focused Content: Put it to the Test!

If the complexity of creating user-focussed content is making you feel overwhelmed: don’t lose hope, we have the solution!

The Scientific Method: Research, Improve, Measure, Repeat!

If you consider the moment you click the “publish now” button as the final step of your campaign, now is the time to reconsider your content creation process.

Posting a piece of content is only the beginning of a cycle of continuous improvement: publish, measure your results, tailor your content (in format and substance) according to user metrics, publish new content, test your results, etc.

Are you excited to employ a scientific method in your content marketing campaigns? Here are a few simple methods to start off with:

Website & Analytics

If you have been publishing different content formats over a couple of months, you have a golden opportunity. Analyse your website and social content to identify the highest performing content. If you find that certain content formats have been outperforming the rest, double-down your efforts to create new content in the same format. 

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a more accurate way of establishing the effect of one particular aspect of your content (in this case, format) on user analytics. Here’s how to apply this method to content format research: 

Step 1: Create multiple versions (at least two) of the same blog, social post, advertisement, or download offer. If your test question has to do with the format of the content on offer, make sure that it is the only factor differentiating your offer, e.g. “Blog post X” vs. “[Infographic] Blog post X”.

Step 2: Promote both of the content pieces on the same channels; at the same time of day and week to ensure that no other variables slip in. Now, let your users do the voting! 

Here are some thumbs-up/thumbs-down analytics to give you an idea of the content formats your users prefer:

  • Click rates on ads and social posts
  • Click-through-rates on blogs
  • Submission rates on landing pages
  • Conversion rate on web pages

Approach your buyers

If your website is new or doesn’t yet have a broad enough reach for conducting reliable research experiments, you can start off by approaching your existing customers and buyer personas directly. Interview your ideal customers and ask them about the content formats they enjoy. If you have a larger pool of buyers to draw from, send out an online survey to get an idea of their preference concerning content format.

Once your website drives a reliable amount of traffic, slide-up surveys could be the solution to getting into your buyers’ minds. Make sure to pose that content format specific question at the right point in time. If your landing pages are delivering a low submission rate, consider using a slide-up survey when a user navigates to close or back instead of submitting. Ask them directly: “What’s preventing you from downloading this offer?” Or even, “Would you prefer to receive the content of this eBook as an infographic?”

The Results 

Interested to know more about the rewards you can expect from applying user testing to pitch your content in the right format at the right time? Read about the lessons we've learned from executing A/B tests on landing pages

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the variables to consider when choosing a content format, be assured: if it were easy, everyone would be doing it and you would have no opportunity to shine!

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