Post Panda, the ‘quality content’ angle has been a hot topic so with more and more of my clients starting blogs and wanting to get more involved in the content process in house, I thought I would take a look at what is considered to be quality content, how you can think about creating your own set of in house content Ninjas!
As a consultant and an SEO, the questions and statements I often hear are:
- So if I write a blog post every day, I will get to the top of Google?
- We are already paying for our staff so we’d rather they write the blog
- We just don’t have the resources to write 3 times a week let alone 3 times a day
- I put a load of keywords in each paragraph for SEO right?
- What do you mean there are different types of blog post?
- What should I write about?
The Starting Point – Who is going to write this thing?
Not all clients are huge brands or have an unlimited budget, and pretty much all of my clients have wanted to do their own blog in the initial stages. Once it is realised how much of an undertaking it actually is, this has changed but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you are setting up from scratch.
I think it is important to understand that writing content is not something that everyone can do – or wants to! Forcing people to blog is not a good strategy if you want engaging content for your brand. Likewise, letting Sheila in accounts ‘have a go’ is also not the best idea.
An ‘already-paid-for-but-never-blogged-before’ team does mean cost savings, but it can go hand in hand with an unrealistic expectation of what can be achieved with no training or experience. It is also underestimated how much longer writing takes for noobs than seasoned writers, so you also have to consider how much time may be taken away from staff doing their actual job.
Picking the wrong people to write, or using people that ‘are not busy at the moment’, may be the wrong decision if you want to create consistent, regular, quality content that does not need re-proofing five times for grammar and spelling, and the pressure of having to deliver something you are unfamiliar with can actually de-motivate in the workplace.
That said, the people that are hands on know much more about the brand and what the customers want – they just may not realise that. sometimes all it takes is a gentle push in the right direction for them to let loose with retained information that may help the content cause.
What should I write about?
When trying to start off an in house programme, I always suggest a brainstorming session for the potential team to search online for things they would be interested in reading about (or currently read about), and to talk about ideas. I then ask them to make me a list of 5-10 articles they have found interesting with the subject lines and put them in to a shared Google Doc. It is not always the best way to get those in house creative writing juices flowing start but it does actually start the thought process and get the team connecting.
I will normally have researched the market area in order to give some pointers, but I think if you want to encourage an in house team, you need to get them thinking for themselves. Asking team members to research in this way also gives you an idea of who has the potential to think in the ‘right’ ways, and who may be suited to different types of content creation.
Areas that I start teams researching or thinking about include:
- What has happened in your company this quarter?
- What happened this month in your industry?
- Who are your main competitors? If they have blogs – what did they write about this month?
- What products you sell?
- What are your Industry related events
- Articles in Industry publications
- Do they have any interesting facts about the product or service?
- Type [industry phrase] + infographic – see what comes up
Once we have completed this process – we move on to creating an editorial calendar and refining the types of article so that the team can visualise how the content they have thought of may work for them. It also shows how easy it is to put ideas into a spread sheet in advance so that they don’t have to always think of what to write.
Different Types of Post – The quality content and social angle
We should by now have our list of potential subjects, so we now need to consider quality, variety, and share-ability
There are many types of content, but this is the quick list that I start people off with:
- Lists - Top 10, top 5 / Checklists
- Blog - Quick Blog/Longer Blog/with pictures/without pictures / Guest Posts
- News – industry news, company news, press releases
- Informational - Resource Articles / FAQ / Product Review / Case Study / Interviews / Q & A problem solvers / The Roundup Article / Comparison /Presentation
- Instructional - How To / 10 steps to
- Image based– Infographics / MEME’s / Galleries
- Multimedia Based - Audio embed / Video embed articles / live streams / hangouts
- For more ideas read this! http://outspokenmedia.com/blogging/content-flavor/
Upon showing this list, I am often met with ‘we don’t have time to create all that content’, ‘how can we create image and video posts?’ and the obligatory ‘how much is that going to cost?’ – which leads me to the next point…
Content Strategy – an element of realism
As mentioned earlier, the time taken to properly plan and implement a content strategy is often underestimated, but if you want your team to become the next content ninjas (and they are willing), you can do a lot on a small budget with a motivated team.
With pictures and videos becoming easy to create on high quality smart phones – quality content does not necessarily mean high budgets, but it does mean time.
If you are short of time, you can think about outsourcing articles, but if you want to remain in house, you can work smarter by encouraging your marketplace to provide you with that content so you don’t have to, or simply become a resource that points people to useful information written by others online.
If planned and scripted, you can create quality, highly shareable content with Photoshop – a recent example is http://onetinyhand.com/ - simply making one hand smaller on various photographs creating a viral meme. This is a simple blog with a simple concept but it works.
No Photoshop skills? Head over to http://www.quickmeme.com/
The prize angle – encouraging customers to upload their own photos for a chance to win a prize – using your products, caption compeitions, public holidays, best use of – the possibilities are endless.
Video and Audio Content
Video is proven to encourage users to stay on your site for longer (lower bounce rates, higher time on site = analytics win), so it is time to consider embracing video. You may also want to find out ways to get your audience to provide you with as much of that content as possible
OK so smartphone video may not be the quality you will get for a full on professional video, but most of the successful videos on YouTube are not slick, well edited hour long programmes. The thing that most people find difficult to get over is being visible to the public!
Things to try:
- Set your webcam to ‘GO’ and just talk about your products or ‘how to’ use them in various ways.
- Use your smartphone or camera phone to interview key people in your office – you never know it may be the first step to getting a video budget!
- Start a Google Hangout to engage customers in the sales process and show them products, or just to start a community vibe with special guests. Hangouts can also be recorded for future upload.
- For the competition element – ask your customers to provide you with reviews for the chance to win prizes
If you are afraid of video, consider audio – you are on the phone to your customers every day, so recording some of the things you tell them daily to sell to them can be used on site.
Newsjacking as it is now known is also a way of using the success and popularity of a news story gain media coverage for your brand. Made popular by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage - you can find more information on his site http://www.newsjacking.com/
Or visit this rather splendid post on Newsjacking by Hubspot
This is the point that I am met with ‘but what has that got to do with my business?’ Answer – maybe nothing ‘directly’, but creating highly share-able content is important for link and traffic possibilities. Showing your fun side can often win over followers that were bored with endless posts about widgets, but if you are worried about diluting your brand or offending people, try a set time for fun e.g. silly picture of animals Friday, embarassing pictures of us when we were young. If you can get your customers to provide your content for you with a competition (upload to win) – you have instant galleries, content and traffic that wants to promote you
The Editorial Calendar – putting it altogether
Chances are if you are serious about your content strategy, you will already have a full editorial team and be armed with a full suite of automation tools (that’s another post!). However, you don’t have to invest in expensive software to create an editorial calendar, things can be pre-planned in a spread sheet. As you progress and content become a more important part of your business, you can upgrade to full tools and automation some of which are included in this article:
Caring is sharing
Don’t assume that your customers will just tweet you, like your Facebook pages or share your content. Know where to put it, and where are the best places for different types of information.
I was going to write a lot more about where to share and with what type of content, but practising what I preach, I have discovered that IonSearch put their videos live last week, so here is a session from Dave Snyder ‘Content Marketing in a Post Panda World’ that puts it all much better than I could, which adds not only a presentation in this post but a video as well – Enjoy!