Writing is hard.
No matter how long you have been writing for, or how much you enjoy creating a piece of content, it is an uphill battle every single time. The difference between those who excel at creating content and others is not that writing comes easier to the first group. The difference exists in the fact that they are methodical, organised, and determined. So when they get over the initial inertia of staring at a blank page and have written a couple of paragraphs, the rest comes naturally to them.
And we have already established, over and over again, the importance of content marketing to your long term growth and sustenance. So, given how crucial creating content is for your business, I figured let’s talk about it a little bit today, and help you overcome the overwhelming and crushing feeling you get when you sit down to create a new piece of content.
What is the basic foundation of a successful content engine?
As I mentioned at the very beginning, people who are good at creating content are methodical and organised.
Writing an article is much more than typing a few hundred words in a fresh document. The actual work towards creating an article starts a lot earlier than that - right from understanding your audience’s expectations to researching the right threads to talk about.
The foundational pillar of content marketing can be described in quite simple term. You want to be consistently creating good, value-generating, well-researched and engaging content for your target audience around your area of expertise. That killer combination right there will help your content perform well in search results, as well as drive higher conversions for your business objectives.
So let us look at some steps that will help you easily create content pieces that are nothing short of spectacular.
#1. Write about stuff your audience cares about
If you create content in vacuum, you will soon run out of steam and stop your content creation efforts thinking it isn’t working for your business, or maybe it is not the right time but too early for you to be creating content.
The problem is, it is rarely the content’s fault. it did not perform because it was created in vacuum. It was centered around topics your audience doesn’t care about, or is actively looking for answers to. So naturally these content pieces did not get discovered and the poor innocent content had to take the blame.
Have you come across early stage startups where they are talking incessantly about their processes, culture, product decisions? All of those are great things to talk about - in moderation. Your blog’s primary reason for existing is your audience, so if you make it all about you, you’re going to have a bad day.
Figure out what your audience is most interested in, and what are they looking for and where, and you will have ideas on what kind of content you should be creating for your business.
#2. Do your research on topics and search patterns to come up with content ideas
Figuring out what your audience cares about helps shine a light on the direction you need to take with respect to your content creation. Keyword and topic research will help you pave the way forward.
One of the first steps in creating a piece of content is deciding on a powerful topic. Everything, from the flow of words to the examples you’ll use, depends on the topic you choose.
The topic for your content is not the same as your blog post’s headline. Similar, sure, but not the same.
I always start my blog posts with the headline. It helps me think in the right direction. And just before I finish my article, I review the headline to evaluate if it needs a fine-tuning or a complete change, based on the words that follow.
There are a number of online tools that can help you do that.
- Google Search Console
- Google Trends
- Semrush topic research
- ahrefs content explorer
You can use any of these tools, or a combination of them to come up with blog ideas pertaining to your business.
Just look at some of the results I get when I use a simple search word - analytics.
While these prompts may not be what you end up writing about, but they are useful prompts nonetheless, helping you think in the right direction and giving you a head start.
This process would help you outline topics that resonate with your target audience and will identify the most popular existing content pieces from different websites and how they are performing on Google.
You can create a matrix to look up topics based on their potential search volume, the competition for any topic (how easy/difficult it would be for you to rank for a particular topic), and their trends. This analysis will help you isolate the topics where you can achieve the most impact with the least amount of resources and time invested in it.
What you are looking to identify here are the common questions people ask around your keyword, or in your topic. It is always a good idea to utilize those since they have a high contextual relevance to the users’ search behavior.
Remember, content that answers specific questions has a higher chance of making it to the Featured Snippet result on Google.
You are also looking to create content pieces that can potentially earn you the most backlinks, given the importance Google places on content that earns backlinks from reputable domains and publications.
By the end of this process, you know what searchers are looking for in your niche, the kind of content they are exposed to, have a fair idea of what they are reading. Now you can strategise on identifying gaps and plugging your content to fill those voids.
This is optional.
Not to say it’s not important because it is. Extremely. But I personally treat it as optional - in the very early stages of my content journey. But since it has a crucial impact on your search rankings, let us look at it. I will also explain why I, personally, consider it optional in early stages.
Why is it important?
For your content to rank higher in search results, it needs to be optimised for relevant set of keywords. Keyword score helps Google’s search algorithms understand the relevance of your context to users’ search behavior, and in the early stages of any piece of content, that plays a crucial role.
Keyword research will help you identify valuable keywords and look them up based on their search volume, competitive difficulty, search engine results, CPC etc.
You can use Google’s ad planner and keyword research tools for this. Though you would not be creating an ad, these tools will help you understand the prevalence and impact of certain keywords in your content.
Here, you have to evaluate the worth of keywords based on the context they are presented in.
For example, keywords with higher CPC indicate higher intent for purchase behavior or transactions. The higher your content is able to rank for these keywords, the more ROI it generates. On the flip side, the highest ranking keywords are naturally extremely competitive, making it all the more hard to rank for them. Since they have a high CPC, basic demand-supply dictates that they have a huge list of businesses spending money on them. So these search results will likely be dominated more by ads as compared to organic results. As a result, even if you end up ranking higher for these keywords, chances are your visibility will be outshadowed by paid ads. A classic Catch 22 situation, if you ask me.
Why do I consider this stage optional?
— Addressed at the end of this story. —
#4. More research. But this time, on the actual content itself
Okay. We have talked a fair bit about how to become favorite for Google’s search algorithms. After all, to perform well, your article needs to be optimised for search engines. But the golden rule you need to remember is that at the end of the day, your articles are written for the users, not the search engines.
You may see content that gets itself to rank following just topic research and maximising keyword density. But they are rarely able to retain their ranks. This “written for the users” is what throws them off of their thrones.
Google’s initial fondness for your content is based on the rules and parameters its algorithms are based upon, but eventually what Google gives most prominent score to is user engagement. How valuable the searchers are finding your content. If your content was to rank lower on search results, but is clicking well with the searchers, keyword optimised or not, Google will rank it up higher in subsequent results.
So your content needs to be informative, value inducing, factual and ultimately cater to the users’ search intents.
A good way to judge content deemed valuable by searchers is to go through some of the top performing keywords and topics. What are the top results? What information are they presenting? How are they presenting it? What topics do they touch upon? How deep or wide do they go while addressing these topics?
Answers to these questions will help you come up with a plan about your own content.
Researching these well-received content pieces will help set the standard your content needs to match up to or outperform, if it is to expect favorable reception amongst your target audience.
While you are doing this research, keep an eye out for issues and topics that are underrepresented or completely unrepresented. Your content can plug in these gaps and become a new, unique and possibly more valuable replacement to what searchers are currently looking at.
That’s it. Following this simple process even once a month or once every couple of months will help you generate dozens of ideas around your content. Make a Google sheet containing both your research and your content ideas and just pick one off of it every time you are to create a new content. The research you did in #4 will even serve as a model you need to replicate for your content, making the process even simpler.
Time sucking processes to avoid
In addition to these, you can also use plenty of tools to evaluate, among other things:
- how well your articles are written and composed
- how do they compare against existing content out there
- what changes you should make to your draft to increase the odds of having it rank higher
You can look at readability, length of the article, keyword rich titles and heading tags, keyword optimised image alts, links within the content to other content pieces you have, keyword density etc.
You can also look at how optimised your content is with respect to presence of keywords.
I advise against all of it.
While each of those contribute to the possibility of giving your content a higher presence in search results, they take a lot of time, and can often be painstakingly frustrating. And they are not the biggest contributing factor to ranking your content and your website in any case.
The most crucial factor to ranking your content, and the only factor I would like you to stay focused on is your user. Everything else will just suck time out of your day that could have been spent on creating more valuable content for your users.
Your content needs to be contextual and relevant to the searcher’s search intent and it needs to carry a punch when it comes to passing on value to their needs and expectations. That, more than anything else, will help your content gain ranks consistently.
That’s the same reason why I don’t put a lot of focus on having the right keywords in my content. If my content is valuable, it will start ranking higher even for peripheral keywords. So my only focus is always on my users, as yours should be. Your users will take care of the rest.
Every single one of the 4 steps we outlined here are to help you overcome the anxiety we all feel when we have to get started with creating content. They are to help you come up with a plan that can help you consistently create content, without ever feeling lost on what your next content should be about. None of them are about how to manipulate Google’s search algorithm or leverage its ranking patterns. They are about giving your content creation process a boost. The ranking part? You create content for your users, your users will carry you through across the finish line.
Do you face any challenges with your content creation process? Let me know, I would love to help.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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