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After attending the 2013 Content Marketing Show last week, I noticed that there was a common theme throughout a number of the presentations. This theme wasn’t just “content”, as this would be the obvious, albeit most relevant choice, but instead how do we actually add value to the content that we create?
Many of us have seen varying degrees of change and experienced the goalposts shift within the digital marketing landscape. As a result, we have become aware that we are no longer simply creating content for content’s sake. Our time is now spent trying to capture an audience though creating something imaginative and unique that will help to build a following and encourage more traffic and conversions.
The content we now work with has more value attributed to it than ever before. A few years ago, no one would bat an eyelid if you were writing content and uploading it to a couple of article sites. Opting for this outdated tactic in today’s content environment however would bring about a very different response.
The Times They Are a-Changin’
As far as I know Bob Dylan didn’t have any affiliation with the SEO world, if he did that would have been pretty impressive, but anyway I digress. “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin” sang Dylan back in the 60s and this message (although as far as I believe not directly targeted towards digital marketing) applies to the content we create today.
The fact is that besides no longer writing content for content’s sake, we are also no longer writing with just the search engines in mind. Value will be attributed to a piece of writing if it’s of use to an audience and in terms of how much traction it gains once it’s been published, for example, traffic, links and social shares).
With so many businesses utilising content, as well as a number of PRs, publishers, content marketers and copywriters working in the industry, making your content stand out might seem a little challenging. So how do we actually add or provide value to the content we create? Here are 10 tips to get you started.
1. Be the first to cover breaking news
Keeping your finger on the pulse is a great way to spot a potential opportunity to work with content as soon as an issue arises. For example, in the SEO world we’re always keeping a close eye on the next Google update and what exactly this will target. Once an update is revealed, creating content around the subject allows you to learn about what’s happened and also provide a useful resource for your audience too. Bookmark the best industry blogs and resources, set up relevant news feeds and add Google Alerts to find out about breaking news first. As soon as you have an insight, you’ll be ready to get in there early.
2. Encourage audience participation
Where possible, see if you can break away from the standard forms of content by encouraging audience participation and promotion. An excellent example of this is when fashion company Burberry launched a website called Art of the Trench. The premise of the site was to get people to submit photos of them wearing a Burberry trench coat. The company then chose the best ones to showcase and users had the ability to share photos, comment on them and browse by category to find specific images.
National Geographic are currently doing something similar in their 2013 traveler photo contest whereby they ask people to share their photos from around the world. The winning submitted photo, as chosen by the institution, gets the chance to go on a National Geographic exhibition to the Galapagos and also view their photo in the National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Companies like Burberry and National Geographic are obviously going to utilise content in many different forms. However, they are both great examples as to how you can get your audience to work with the content you create.
3. Incorporate different forms of content within a single piece
Don’t always stick to a set format with your content. Instead, use many different forms within one piece. So for example, if you want to create a blog post, rather than just simply writing 500 words of text, see if you can incorporate videos, Infographics and links to Whitepapers too. In doing so, you will be providing a much more comprehensive and resourceful piece of information for users to read and share.
4. Focus on solving people’s problems
As mentioned above, value will be attributed to content if it’s useful to your audience. Therefore, try and help people by creating content that will solve everyday problems. This shows that you are taking customer and client needs into consideration and not only adding value to the content you write, but also to the lives of other people.
Find out what frustrates people in your industry and listen to any previous customer feedback. This can be used to create an insightful piece on how to overcome a particular problem. Whether it’s a technical piece or something related to DIY or career choices, providing solutions is a great way to offer your audience something really valuable. This can be achieved through a number of forms of content, such as FAQs, short guides or just a simple blog post.
One recent and excellent example comes from American home improvement company Lowe’s. They created a series of six second videos through the mobile app Vine to help solve common DIY problems – a genius way of embracing new media, creating a buzz online and solving everyday problems.
5. Link to additional sources
A great way to make a piece of information more comprehensive and in-depth is to provide external and additional sources within it. This reinforces the message you are trying to convey and also offers your readers a wealth of information, should they need to find out about a particular subject. Even if they don’t actually read all of your content but still take away a few key pointers, they are much more likely to visit again in the future as a result.
6. Tell your audience a story
Another idea that featured in the Content Marketing Show was to make your content more engaging by telling a story. Creating content in this way allows your audience to relate to their own experiences and keeps them interested as you deliver your message.
Storytelling exists in all forms of content and it’s not restricted to just one medium. Google Chrome: Dear Sophie and Old Spice, Meet the Wolfdog are two excellent examples of how a brand can connect with their audience by telling a story. Although both videos are only just over a minute and a half, they have amassed views in the millions.
7. Use Google Analytics
Even with a basic understanding of how to operate Google Analytics, you can uncover which products and services are the most popular. Building content around these subject areas will be much more beneficial than creating content around unpopular products.
Although there may be times when you are looking to improve the rankings for search terms which aren’t doing too well, creating content around what you already know works well is more likely to pay off.
Analytics also allows you to view the most common search queries too, as well as many other functions. Again, from this information you can create content around what you know people are currently searching for.
8. Uncover topics through social media
We all know that social media holds an important role within SEO today, so why not use it to uncover what people are currently talking about? Are there any developments in your industry that people are discussing or is there a current theme that you could tie into your own content creation.
Using these ideas will also help to make your content more relevant, targeted and sharable too. Many of your customers and clients will be using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, so get in the habit of regularly looking to see if they’re talking about anything interesting to cover.
9. Use tools to your advantage
There are plenty of other tools at your disposal to use in order to add value to your content. Followerwonk for example allows you to find and connect with influential people in your industry on Twitter and see what they are saying and sharing.
Google+ Ripples also allows you to see how a public shared post has ‘rippled’ through the social network by displaying an interactive graphic. From this, you can see who has shared your posts, follow new people and see which posts gained the most traction. You can use this function in Google+ by clicking on the drop down menu in the right-hand corner on any public shared post in your stream. From here, click on ‘View Ripples’ to view the data.
All of this information helps you to come up with future content ideas that are more likely to succeed. Once you know that a particular tool has provided a useful insight to make your own content more valuable, you can use it again in the future.
10. Speak to your clients
Finally, for those working in the agency side of the industry, why not speak to your clients to determine what their customers want? Ask them if they have to regularly answer a series of common questions and then use this information to create content that will address these areas.
For example, if you work closely with a technology client, you might want to create an Infographic or video on how to get the most out of a particular piece of software. Alternatively, if you have a client based in the health industry, why not create an FAQs page on their site to address these questions?
Speaking to your clients will allow you to think about new and creative ways to work with content based on what they know is important to their customers.
In order for your content to really be successful, you have to think about new, exciting and engaging ways to use it. If you provide your readers with something that is valuable, this will encourage greater promotion and sharability once a piece is published.
Content is much more than creating a piece of text, chucking it on a blog and hoping for the best. You need the correct insights to make something that will stand out from the crowd and help to draw in an audience. These ideas don’t always have to be the most elaborate and expensive in the world either. Simple ideas can cause just as much traffic and engagement too.
Hopefully the above points will help you when it comes to your future content. Obviously I couldn’t cover every single method as to how to add value, but if you’ve got any additional suggestions, please add them in the comments section below.
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Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.