How to create search friendly content

It’s no secret that creating compelling, unique content is the way forward.  It’s also no secret that creating that content takes time and work.  But is it really as hard as people seem to think it is?  If you had a template to follow when creating your content, would that make it easier to do?  Here’s a list of questions that can get you started:

  • What’s my topic (target phrase/keyword)?
  • What questions related to my topic can I answer for a reader?
  • What resources can I link a reader to in the article?
  • Where can I source images/videos for the content?

By templating the work of creating content, you build a repeatable process that takes the guesswork away.  If you struggle to find images to post with the content, you know to skip that step as it wastes your time.  Time to move to Photoshop and create the image you need, for example. 
In the end, planning this work as a process can help streamline the work effort and make sense of what people think of as a daunting task.

There are tons of ways to uncover new content ideas.  Some are hip, cool and now, others are much more old school.  From Twitter, to keyword research to magazines, all can provide a constant flow of ideas for content creation.  Keep in mind, though, that we’re not talking about repurposing other people’s content.  We’re talking about finding ideas that you can create fresh content around.

What topics are hot right now?

Keyword research and trending topics on Twitter can help uncover these items.  We’re always looking to find the freshest information on any topic, whether that topic is old, or trending.  Devote a portion of your research time to looking for things that are trending now, or that may be about to trend.  It’s tough to predict the future, but there are clues.  If a business makes a splash in their field with a new product or service, other businesses in that same field could bring the next trend forward.  Their product or service, while similar, will be slightly different.  And that difference could be what spurs something to trend.  That difference could be what resonates with searchers and the general population.

How to incorporate your target keyword

There is really no other way to explain adding your keyword to the copy you write than to say add it… But, when you’re done writing, read your content out loud.  If you feel like the target phrase is repeated too often, it is – remove some instances of it.  That may sound a bit strange, but it works.  Reading out loud forces your brain to slow down, which allows time to actually hear the words.  You’ll then notice if something sounds out of place.  Always be sure to follow proper grammar and language guidelines as well.  Skipping these steps can lead you to produce content which readers find disjointed and distracting to read.  That will affect whether they stay or leave, and can influence if they ever return.

If you’re wondering about “keyword density” (how often a keyword appears compared to the rest of the words), don’t.  It’s an old topic that is dead and gone.

Hooks

A hook is something that captures attention and engages a reader.  There are many forms.  To read more about them, a quick peek at Todd Malicoat’s admittedly older post on the topic of hooks for link baiting can help fill in the blanks for you.   We don’t condone link baiting, obviously, but hooks are real. There are pros and cons in using hooks, but the thing to remember is that when you find one that resonates with your audience, it’ll drive traffic, links, views, shares and more.

Hooks you could consider are ego, contrarian, humor, desire, usefulness, etc.  The point behind the hook is that it fills a need or desire the reader has; it catches their attention.  As noted above, each has pros and cons.  When employed carefully, they can work well.  Think before employing some of them, however, as using an aggressive hook could lead to problems if you’re not careful.

How much to write? 

There is no ideal number here.  Your best approach is to be useful and try to answer the questions a reader is likely to have.    Most posts on our Webmaster blog are between 900 and 1300 words (give or take a bit).  The generally held best practice is to produce at least 250 – 300 words of content.  The thin content approach simply doesn’t work, as the engines watch how searchers interact with sites and web pages.  If there is little interaction, or signals lead us to believe your version of content is thin and won’t meet the searchers needs, the content simply won’t rank well.  If you’ve produced a larger article, feel free to split it up across multiple pages to keep readability up.  This could be a solid basis to create a series of posts on a blog, for example.  One large article could end up being 3 weeks of blog posts.

Keep in mind the idea of “thin content” is situational.  If someone wants to know the temperature or the time in another city, you won’t need much content on the page to meet their need.  If they want to know how to replace a flat tire on their bicycle, three simply steps won’t really do the topic justice.

Finding sources for related information

If you have a blog, many companies will consider you as press, so request access to their press materials.  This is where you’ll find corporate sourced items such as product images, videos, press releases, detailed spec son new models, etc.  This approach not only ensures you’ll see fresh information from the source faster, but allows you to embed quality images and video direct from the source with your own content.

If the company has placed an embargo on their press release and information, you should honor it.  Failing to honor an embargo and publishing the content early will likely result in you not being invited to participate in the future.

Enlist the help of others

Bring in others within your company to write content.  As you spread the work around, you’ll find that some people are naturals and others struggle.  You’ll also see which topics your people have knowledge in.  That discovery can be invaluable, as they may be capable of creating excellent content related to a select topic you routinely target.  Such expertise can be leveraged, ultimately helping you create quality content.  Nothing works better for creating great content than letting an expert on the topic loose.  Look around internally and find out if you have any expertise that can be put to work on content creation.

Monthly periodicals and magazines

These can be a great source for finding content ideas.  Every month, thousands of magazines are published across a vast range of topics.  Chances are excellent that no matter what vertical you’re in, there’s a magazine (or more than one) focused in that niche.  Part of their job is to inform you of what’s new.  While scanning the pages, make note of any new products or services related to your area of coverage.  This can serve as a short list of sources to reach out to for more information.  Every month businesses release thousands of new products into the marketplace, and keeping up can be a daunting task.  Use these options as filters to narrow down the flow and target things you think would make excellent content for your own site.

Creating quality content takes time.  You can streamline things by creating a process for collecting research, images, etc.  Finding ideas for creating content is the easy part.  After that, it’s just a matter of sitting down and putting words to the hard drive.

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