With St. Patrick’s Day drawing close, you may be thinking of leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of gold. But if you work with content or use it in your business, you should be wondering what the gold is at the end of the content rainbow. Just what is it that makes the Holy Grail of blog content? What elements does it require? How do you create it? If you don’t know a leprechaun, don’t worry; great content doesn’t have to require magic (although sometimes a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt).
Image via Flickr by volantra
It Uses the Right Format
There is a recipe to great content, and it doesn’t include fool’s gold. It can serve as your framework and it will set you up for success before people even start to get into the nitty gritty of what you’re saying. The format of your content, each leaf of the clover, can get people to read what you have to say, and help them continue reading until the end. What does the right format require?
A Strong Headline
You’ve probably heard over and over that attention-grabbing headlines are imperative, and that’s because they are. However, you need to make sure that not only is your headline designed to pull someone away from what they’re doing, it has to be accurate and align with the rest of the content in your article. There’s not much that makes your audience lose trust in you than a misleading headline. They don’t appreciate a bait and switch.
Your reader should be able to look at your headline, scan your subheadings, and know exactly what they are going to read. The subheadings (and the title for that matter) should stay under 60 characters. You are aiming for informative, accurate, interesting subheadings.
There are so many great reasons to add a high-quality image to your blog posts. At least one high-quality image that represents your content is a powerful way to pull someone in and quickly pull together what you’re trying to say. Not only that, but they just plain look good.
It’s Accurate and Informative
A great piece of content tells the reader what they want to know. It’s a roadmap directly to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t leave them searching for treasure you tell them is there.
Not only does it answer the promise of the headline, it tells the reader something they might not have known before. As you have most likely experienced as a reader, it’s frustrating to read a great headline only to find that the article is full of basic tips or information that is common knowledge. Of course you can’t anticipate what everyone knows, but including at least one a-ha moment for a reader goes a long way. People read to learn.
Taking your time to incorporate well-researched information shows a reader that this piece of content, and its source, can be trusted. Providing sources for the facts you cite and incorporating helpful resource links that expand on information make your content truly valuable.
If you’ve ever gotten in an argument and went back to a great article to provide proof of your side to someone, you know the power an accurate, informative article can have. It may seem like a small victory to have someone go back to your article again, but that’s the sort of thing that gets content shared.
It Engages With Your Audience
Engagement doesn’t only have to happen on social media. It’s not just commenting on Instagram and answering questions on your Facebook page. Engaging you’re your audience has many paths. Learn what your audience wants to know.
- What do they care about?
- What problems do they have?
- What is upsetting to them?
- What is entertaining to them?
- What would make their week go by that much faster?
Showing your audience a topic rooted in the answer to one of those questions is a wonderful way to kick off engagement. It gets them reading and commenting and sharing and reacting. Don’t be afraid of being silly. Sometimes a light-heard piece of content is the breath of fresh air someone needs in their stressful day.
People care about brands that care about them. Writing with your audience in mind shows them you care. You don’t want a one-sided conversation. Don’t talk at people. Talk with them. Creating a relationship with your audience through a valuable piece of content is a strong foundation for future engagement.
It Isn’t Too Salesy
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a quick way to lose authority and readership for your blog post is by being too salesy. If all you do is promote your brand, readers aren’t going to believe that you have their best interests at heart. As a brand you may be thinking that of course you want to sell to them. You’re a company. Companies make money. There are better ways to use your content to sell someone on something than to beat them over the head with how great you are.
If every link in a piece of content points to one company, readers will dismiss it as spammy and probably exaggerated or inaccurate. By linking to meaningful resource, you’re showing that you are trying to provide the reader with something that’s valuable to them: knowledge.
Providing readers with quality content is the cornerstone of any content marketing effort. Give them the facts and try to leave your brand out of it. By keeping yourself largely out of the equation, you’re proving you’re an authority in your space and you care about your readers. You’re showing you want them to know you’re here to provide them with what they’re looking for. They can keep coming back for more because they trust that you’re giving it to them straight.
A call-to-action at the end of an article or a meaningful link within the context is more than acceptable; just do yourself a favor and stick to quality over extreme self-promotion.
Use these tips when you’re getting your next piece of content created, and you’ll probably find you’ve got the luck of the Irish on your side.