Content creation is a long process. It starts with a creative thought, a note scribbled on a piece of paper or an interesting article you stumbled upon while browsing the Internet – and it could end as the latest viral sensation.
Is there a secret formula for creating great content that works?
Absolutely not. But, you can definitely make the process go smoother with some tools, tips, and advice, which we tried to gather in this guide and infographic.
After years of experience in both content creation and promotion, you definitely pick up on some things – what does and does not work, what could inspire you, which tools can be your secret weapon.
Sometimes all these things work like a charm and sometimes they don’t – content marketing is very dynamic, but the things mentioned in this infographic are more or less universal and should serve as a source of help and inspiration in your content marketing efforts. So, let’s start.
Step #1 – Finding a topic
Beginnings are often the hardest part, especially when you are creating content so often that you feel drained of ideas. Luckily, there are lots of ways to find new ones and get the creative juices flowing. And, to make it even better, many of them don’t require any special effort – they are just a part of your every-day life.
1 – Listen
…to your audience. Look for inspiration on social media, Q&A sites, and even in blog comments to give your audience exactly what they want. A good foundation for this step is doing a target audience analysis, which will help you understand who exactly your content is for.
Question and answer sites like Quora, Yahoo Answers, and even Reddit are a great source of inspiration for new content. You can see what exactly is bothering your audience since they ask questions and share their problems themselves.
Social media is an almost never-ending source of inspiration. You can monitor your own following, hashtags you are interested in, bigger accounts and influencers in your niche or you can just simply ask your followers “What do you want me to create?”.
2 – Read
…publications, blogs and news articles in your niche daily. You can take inspiration from what others are writing about or write your own view on current issues. There are thousands of new articles published every day and even though not every article will be original and useful, many will be, and you should learn from those that aren’t.
Here you can use social media to find articles that are getting a lot of attention but it’s a good idea to have some sort of content curation tool setup which will send quality content your way on a daily basis. Pocket, Feedly, Google News and RSS Feed Readers will find articles that you can dig into for inspiration and education.
3 – Talk
…to your coworkers, friends, and bloggers. Even a casual chat with like-minded people can produce a lot of great content ideas. We often get ideas while discussing projects and every-day work here in the office!
Talking to other bloggers can have more positives than “just” getting new ideas – you can easily use their thoughts and quotes in your new piece of content, link back to them and ask them to share it with their readers. This brings us nicely to 4th tip!
4 – Invite
…other bloggers to guest post on your blog. This is a great source of content, especially if you’re stuck for ideas yourself. Inviting other writers can add a fresh voice to your blog that offers new views and ideas.
It’s also a good way to get more exposure, both for you and for the guest blogger. They will ask their readers to come see your site and read their guest article, and you will do the same for them on your own social media and other channels.
5 – Unplug
…for a few hours, see what’s happening in life “offline”. When everything else fails and you just feel like you won’t have another idea ever again, unplugging could be the best decision you can make. The world is full of inspiration, no matter how cliche that sounds!
Go for a walk, watch a movie, read a book that is not related to your work. Let your brain breathe a bit and trust me, ideas will come.
A common piece of advice for all of these 5 steps for finding content ideas is to save everything. See an interesting article? Save it to your Pocket (which you conveniently set up in the READ step!). Someone at work pointed out a problem or a fact that sparked an interest in you? Use apps like Notes or MS Office on your computer or smartphone – or go “old school” and just write things down in a notebook. We have a saying here in Croatia – idiots remember, smart ones write it down – be a smart one.
Step #2 – Creating great content
After you found your topic idea, it’s time to create the content around it. It’s the part that asks for most of your time and effort, but there are ways to make it a bit easier and smoother.
#1 Pick the type of content you will create
Content isn’t only a plain blog post – it can be an infographic, video, quiz, presentation, and different form of an article as well. You can write an in-depth guide, a how-to tutorial, a review of some tool you like using, or your own comment on latest news in your field.
The type of content you choose depends on the topic you have. Some topics are best covered in a “good old” article form, where you have an intro, a body, and conclusion. Tips-and-advice type of topic can be done in basically any form, depending on the amount of resources you have. The video is an up-and-coming type of content and definitely something to try if you haven’t already done so.
#2 Create compelling content your audience will enjoy
Creating content is a long process, so don’t force it – a piece of content doesn’t have to be done in one sitting, in a few hours or even in a one day. The key is to not forget what is the main focus, goal, and purpose of the piece of content you are creating.
We are going back to the beginning to say that knowing your audience is one of the key things when it comes to creating content. Knowing who you’re creating for is very important – it allows you to pick topics and type of content you know they will appreciate, but also to adjust the overall style and tone of the content. Good target audience analysis is a half of your work in any content marketing campaign and will be useful for more than just content creation.
While you’re working on the content, you will probably ask yourself how big or long should it be.
Well, again, it depends.
The average length of blog posts these days is 1,600 words, but it all depends on the topic and what you want to achieve with the article. If you are looking for more blog comments and a discussion among your readers, aim for shorter pieces with questions in the end.
For more social shares, it’s good to keep the word count under 1,200, but also to include more visual aids. Articles with images, infographics or videos get a lot more attention on social media.
On the other hand, Google and other search engines really love and appreciate long-form content with 2,000 words and more. Many readers like that too, but keep in mind that any in-depth article or infographic has to be well researched which will take more time and effort.
While writing, it’s important to stay focused and have a unique voice. In the content piece, focus on one topic, one point, and try not to stray away. If you’re covering a popular topic, make sure you do it in a unique voice and have a unique point of view.
It’s not easy to find a 100% original topic online these days, so having a personal, unique voice is sometimes the only way you can produce an original piece of content.
No matter the type of content you decided to create, try to add something extra to it. If it’s a blog post, add some visuals. If you’re filming a video, write an article around it. An analysis by BuzzSumo found that articles with images after every paragraph or two get twice as much social shares as articles without images.
#3 Edit, refine and then edit some more
When the first version of your content piece is created, it’s time to polish it up, check for errors, add or remove details, adjust for SEO and make sure it’s readable, shareable and interesting.
You can do that yourself, but it’s not a bad idea to ask one of your colleagues or friends for help – sometimes they will notice something you missed after looking at the same piece of content for a long time!
Remember to create a great headline – no matter how great your piece of content is, if a headline doesn’t spark curiosity and bring attention, not many will read it. The Quicksprout guide even suggests you should spend as much time on finding the right headline as you do on writing.
Here is an insightful advice from Adam Connell, founder of Blogging Wizard:
Click-bait headlines are becoming increasingly popular and it’s no surprise because they can drive a lot of traffic but if the content doesn’t back up the headline, all it does is erode the trust that people have for content creators. And it’s not surprising because they inevitably lead to disappointment in most cases. Instead, think of headline writing like this: your headline is a promise and your content needs to deliver on that promise.
There are a few tools that can help with coming up with the best headline Optimizely and CoSchedule will analyze your headline and suggest changes that could bring more attention, while HubSpot’s Blog Idea Generator and BlogAbout by ImpactBND will give you ideas after you enter a few keywords.
Some headlines are proved to catch more attention:
- X Secret Tips – a list of helpful pieces of advice and tips will never not get attention!
- How To Solve [problem] – this is a type of headline you can come up with when browsing through Quora and reading about what really bothers your audience
- The Best / Worst Advice – a collection of pieces of advice that can help or harm your audience, which has a potential for being a highly useful piece of content but also a more fun and light-hearted kind if you decide to list some silly things you read or heard. If you add a number to the headline, even better!
- Why We Love [something] – is there a tool you like using on a daily basis? Or a website that just keeps bringing out amazing articles? Write a piece on it, link the tools or sites, mention them on social media and voila – a fairly easy piece of content with lots of potential for sharing.
- A List Of Best [tools, sites..] – again, a list type of headline – something it’s hard to miss with.
- Ultimate Guide To… – a headline made for a long-form type of content.
After you have a killer headline, you need to work on the body of text. The key here is to keep it dynamic and short. Ideal paragraph length is up to 6 lines of text, while ideal sentence has 25 words or less. Sometimes you will have longer sentences and bigger paragraphs, but try to avoid it.
If that happens, try to break the text up with some elements that add a bit of dynamic:
- Bullet points
- Bolded text
- Headings and subheadings
- Links to other relevant sites
One thing you just have to avoid and never neglect is grammar and spelling. Use tools like Grammarly or similar WordPress plugins that will check that for you and suggest changes. There are also tools that help with readability issues and sentence length – like Hemingway App and Readability Test Tool – that will give you advice on how to make some sentences better and make your whole article easier to read and understand, without changing the point.
As mentioned a few times before, adding visuals in the text is slowly becoming as important as grammar check! Just kidding, but you should definitely add in visual aids whenever possible.
These days you don’t have to have lots of knowledge and experience with graphic design tools. There are simple, browser-based tools and smartphone apps that allow you to create really cool graphics. You can use Canva and Pablo for images, Piktochart for graphs and infographics, Giphy for gifs, and more.
Just like it’s important to have a good start, it’s equally as important to end your content on a high note. Make sure you add some kind of call-to-action at the end your article. It could be a simple invite to the conversation in the comments, or asking the readers to share the content on their social media, or, more direct, offering something in a form of a lead magnet.
The final step in the editing process is search engine optimization. Pick a few keywords and use them in headlines, titles and image alt-tags. Optimize your meta description so both search engines and people searching for related information know what hides inside your piece of content.
Make sure that your site and any piece of content on it is mobile-friendly, as most people are browsing the internet using their phones these days. Lastly, don’t forget to link to your sources and even to your previously published work if you get the chance.
Step #3 – Content promotion
Work on a clear idea and promotion strategy while you work on content ideas as well. Content creation and promotion should be inseparable. No content, no matter how good it is, is worth anything if no one gets to read it! You can have the best ultimate guide on something you are expert in, but if it just sits on your blog without you promoting it, it won’t get the recognition it deserves.
I’ve listed a few ways to promote your content, and some of them go hand-in-hand and work the best if mixed up. For example, use social media or email to contact influencers, or share your lead magnet in online communities and forums.
In your piece of content, try to mention influencers and relevant publications – it will come handy during the promotion on several levels. It can be as simple as linking back to an article that inspired you, a great stat that illustrates your opinion or asking an influencer for an exclusive quote on the topic you are covering. Find influencers on social media using tools like BuzzSumo or just simply through Google search.
Your own social media channels are the best way to promote your own content. Publish it on every profile as soon as you publish it on your blog. You can share it again next day, a few days later and every now and then in the upcoming weeks.
It’s a good idea to create several different versions of a title (perhaps using one of the tools suggested for creating headlines) so you don’t always post the exact same update on social media. Use tools like Buffer or Tweetdeck for scheduling your updates.
Use your personal profiles to share your content in relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups – but always make sure you are following their rules. You can tweet your content directly to influencers even when you don’t mention them specifically in the text.
Communities & content sharing sites
Sharing your content in online communities, like niche forums or particular subreddits, is a great way to get it to those who matter the most – your target audience. Especially if you covered some of the problems they are discussing on a regular basis – these communities might be smaller than the open social media channels, but they will probably appreciate it more.
Use email to promote your content in several ways. Reach your own email list (if you have it) using a newsletter or one-off email for when you have a really great piece of content they might find useful. You can use Mailchimp or similar tool to set up a simple newsletter in minutes.
Email outreach is a great way to contact influential people and publications directly. You can use outreach tools like Pitchbox or Buzzstream to find contacts and send them a simple email, just sharing your brand new piece of content. Don’t forget to send an email to anyone you mentioned in your content – but only if you didn’t contact them on social media already. No one likes spammers!
Almost any kind of content can be presented in some other form. You can transcribe a video or a podcast you recorded and make an article out of it. A long ultimate guide type article can be turned into an ebook, an infographic, or just a simple PDF file for easy download. There are tools like Lumen5 for turning your blog posts into videos. Whitepapers and how-to tutorials can be done in form of a slideshow presentation as well as a video webinar.
Transforming same content into several different types goes hand-in-hand with creating lead magnets. If you have a long form content that you turned into an ebook, offer it as a free download in exchange for an email. There are several great sites and plugins you can use for creating your lead magnets like ThriveLeads and SumoMe.
One thing is sure, you have to keep in mind that creating content is not a short nor an easy process. It takes time and effort, and sometimes more than one person, to create a great piece of content. And, to make it even more challenging, you then have to work even more on promoting it and getting the most out of it.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools you can use in each step, and there are plenty of tips and advice around that will help you get through it all a bit easier. Also, creating a content marketing calendar is a great way to manage all these tasks. Research, production, design, editing, publishing, promotion – don’t get ahead of yourself by thinking you can produce high-quality content on a regular basis without a proper plan.
We know how to create great content
Great content can do everything – attract, nurture, convert, and retain. If you need help with any part of your content development process, we invite you to learn more about our content creation services.