The phrase "content is king" is one of those cliches that remains stubbornly true no matter how many times it's repeated. Whether you have a blog, website or Facebook page, your content is what either draws or repels the readers who are your potential customers.
Finding great content that perfectly matches your audience is one of the central challenges of internet marketing. While there is no magical formula for creating amazing, compelling content, there are some reliable strategies to help you accomplish this. Here are five proven tips for producing content that informs, entertains, fascinates, and sells.
1. Be Clear About Your Purpose
Don't just populate your site with content to fill up space. Everything you publish should have a purpose. Your goal may be a blatantly self-serving one, such as to sell a product. In some cases, you may be merely trying to help your readers by answering a question or providing useful information. That's great, and it also serves your long-term interests. The point is, you should be able to identify the purpose of every post, article, image, video or other content that you publish. Possible goals include:
- To provide a solution to a common problem.
- To introduce your readers to a particular product.
- To entice people to opt-in to your mailing list.
- To start a conversation on a specific topic (e.g., a provocative blog post that engages readers).
2. Encourage Your Readers to Participate
Whether you're writing a blog post, social media post or an email to your list, it's essential to connect with your audience. If you can motivate them to respond in some way, you've accomplished this objective.There are various ways to encourage participation. You can use interactive tools such as polls, surveys, and contests. You can ask questions, such as "What's the main challenge you face regarding___?"
A sneaky way to encourage participation is to ask a question that requests help from your audience. People love to show off their knowledge, so asking questions gives them a chance to show off. It doesn't even have to be directly related to your niche. For example, if your site is not based on a technical topic (in which case you're supposed to be the expert), feel free to ask your readers/visitors for advice regarding computers, devices, internet security, etc.
3. Forget About the Search Engines!
It's hard to forget about Google, especially if you have a background in SEO. However, if you're keeping up with all of the Google updates such as Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird, you will notice something interesting. Google is increasingly demanding content that is user-friendly rather than designed to game the search engines.
Today, the best type of SEO is the kind that's barely visible. In other words, someone who is merely a good writer trying to provide quality material has an advantage over the SEO expert with a million black hat, grey hat or ninja tricks up his sleeve! If you can't bring yourself to ignore the search engines, at least keep in mind that your first goal should be to write for your readers. Think about optimizing your site for your customers and prospects. The search engines are secondary.
4. Get Off the Internet!
Don't get caught up in the habit of getting all of your information online. It's easy to assume today that everything can be Googled, but this just isn't the case. There's still a vast amount of useful information offline –you know, in the physical world that's always there when you shut off your devices. Try this for starters:
- Public or University Libraries – -While libraries, like everyone else, are primarily web-focused today, you can still find volumes of information in hard copy. Print books, magazines, and journals can be beneficial when doing research.
- Movies and TV — Documentaries and educational TV shows are especially useful for picking up valuable information.
- Interview an Expert — Talking to a bona fide expert in person, over the phone or even via Skype or chat (that's online, but you can cheat for this one) can allow you to access all of the information in his/her head regarding the topic.
- Bookstores — A large bookstore, preferably one with a good magazine section, can be great for browsing. You don't even have to buy any books (unless you want to). Simply seeing all of the books and magazines can give you ideas for topics.
5. When In Doubt, Curate
Content curation is a fancy way of describing the process of calling attention to pre-existing content. Curating does not mean, as some people believe, that you steal or plagiarize content. Content curators directly refer to suitable material, provide a link and then, hopefully, add something of value to the mix. This last part is essential. If you only fill your page up with links, you will look like, well, a link farm. If, however, you make some relevant and intelligent comments about the topic, then you're a real curator.
Some websites, such as BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and Digg, follow the curation model with all of their content. Your site doesn't need to be completed curated, though, to enjoy the benefits of this model. You can just as easily use material from other sites to fill in the gaps when you don't have an original idea for a post in mind.
Make Content Your Priority
No matter what your online marketing goals, you must place content at the center of your business model. You have the choice of writing your content (or shooting your videos, if that's your preference) or outsourcing it. Either way, if you want to succeed in today's highly competitive marketplace, you must find a way to make your content stand out –in a good way, of course. While many things change on the internet, and Google threatens us with ever more ferocious animal updates, content will almost certainly remain paramount.