Here is my review of what I call the six layers of quality content writing, relevant for the web, books, news or even a technical white paper. I gave these tips to my team and thought it would be worth sharing them here on EJ as well.
1. Topic Selection
You already know your niche. You already know your audience, you already know your competition, and you also know where your audience hangs out.
Let’s say you are a web designer, you know that web designers like to visit DesignersTalk.com, read Envato Blogs, Web Designer Wall, CSS-Tricks, and a million other websites. Visit some of these resources and see which topics are getting the most COMMENTS, LIKES, TWEETs, and Social Shares. Some topics get more engagement than others, naturally.
The research has already been done for you! Your audience has demonstrated overwhelming interest in certain topics, why reinvent the wheel.
Most of us don’t invent ideas. We take the best ideas from someone else. – Sam Walton
Good Artists Copy, Great Artists steal. – Steve Jobs
Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. – Albert Einstein
The point here is to take inspiration from others. Why do untested experiments when it is not needed?
2. Original Content – Your Gut Knows When “It’s A Good Topic”
Continuing with the web design example – You know the topic of responsive design is hot these days, you know CSS3 and HTML5 is hot. You know HTML5 video players are hot and you know the masonry JQuery plugin that lets you design Pinterest like design is hot. You know all of this.
Grab the hungry audience in your niche because you understand your niche. You know what people want, so give it to them.
Topic inspiration can come from any place. It’s easier to find such topics if you know your audience well. Here are a few resources (specialty websites) that can be a great inspiration to find content topics for marketing, technology and social media related industries:
- Warrior Forum (Internet Marketing Forum – Mostly Get Rich Quick People are there)
- Inbound.org (Online Marketing, Social BookMarking Site)
- Reddit (Social Bookmarking)
- Digg (Social Bookmarking)
- Stumble Upon (Social Bookmarking)
- Hacker News (Social Bookmarking – Audience: Technical Startup groups, Hackers, Programmers)
- AllTops (Social Bookmarking – Audience: Social Media Hobbyists and Experts)
3. Write Killer Headlines
Some headlines never go wrong:
- Headlines that offer a HOW TO GUIDE
- Example: How to Get A First Page Ranking on Google
- Headlines that claim to be the Ultimate Resource
- Example: The Ultimate Resource to Launch a Successful Tech Startup
- Headlines that offer specific results
- Example: Triple your email opt-in conversion on any website in any niche
- Example: How I landed 3 recurring paying clients in my first month of business
- Headlines that offer results in a specific time
- Example: Triple your email opt-in conversion within 20 minutes
- Headlines that call out to popular news or celebrity (Check the news, you will find a ton of these)
- Example: Tiger Woods finds thrill at Bay Hill (actual news item on Google News)
- Example: Google Announces the launch of Company pages on Google +
- Headlines that offer X number of something
- Example: 6 Tools Every Webmaster should use for maximum Google Love
- Example: 9 Web Design Trends for 2012
- Example: Top 12 Startups Ideas of 2011
- Example: 10 Fastest Growing Startups
For more headline writing advice, read How To Write Award Winning Blog Headlines
4. Write To Press Celebrity Hot Buttons
If you want to make it big in a certain niche, this could be your killer technique. I accidently stumbled upon this technique by virtue of hard work. As they say “The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
After I wrote the article, it occurred to me that I should reach out to them and let them know that I mentioned them. I did just that and got a prompt response from both of them thanking me for the mention.
As an artist, it gives us great pleasure that our work is appreciated. This feeling cannot be bought, but can only be earned. Both of these guys earned my respect and I expressed my appreciation for their work publicly. After this, do you think that I am just another audience member for them? Not at all. I am special, they will remember me, they know me, which is a door opener to opportunities.
Caution: Of course if I mentioned Donald Trump, who has gatekeepers, and hoped for a personal response from him, that would be an unrealistic expectation. The bigger your circle of influence, the more likely that you will get a response from bigger celebrities.
Bigger Caution: Please do not forcefully mention a celebrity just to get their attention. If you genuinely believe that they have influenced you, mention them.
BTW, mentioning someone bigger or smaller should not be any different. Seth Godin consistently mentions small companies and regular people (Bartenders, Cashiers) who are doing an outstanding job.
Tim Ferriss consistently mentions friends and colleagues that he is inspired by (he has mentioned: Chip Conley, Ramit Sethi, Mike Geary and many many many others).
Michael Ellsberg, author of the book The Education of Millionaires wrote a genuine article on The Tim Ferriss Effect: Lessons From My Successful Book Launch. It’s great quality content and he is calling out Tim Ferriss from the headline to the content of the post.
An alternate technique to calling out celebrities is find their faults. You don’t have to always love and appreciate someone .
Neil Patel recommends that you pick a popular celebrity, who can be a potential client and blog about all the mistakes they are making. This will help you grab not just their attention, but will help you grow your audience. The bigger the brand/celebrity, the bigger the audience you will attract as a side effect of picking on them.
5. Let Your Writing Be A Secret Resource
People will only come to your website if they perceive you to have something special to offer that cannot be found anywhere else.
Google.com offers the best search results. Is that true? Maybe, or is that just a perception held by the majority of the population?
Walmart has the lowest prices. Is that true? Again just a perception.
Similarly your content has to have some great nuggets in them that are hard to find, or are not offered by your competition.
For instance, in this article you will see that I given some fun facts disguised as part of the content. The quotes by Steve Jobs, Sam Walton and Albert Einstein are examples of content pieces that convey my points.
Mentioning mini-celebrities such as Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Neil Patel, and Michael Ellsberg gives you reference to people whose content is amazing. You will probably remember me for referring them to you.
6. SEO (Only Applies To Web Content)
Everybody hates this part, including me.
As I am writing the rough draft of this post, I do not want to go back and optimize this article for search engines. After we write quality content, we do not want to optimize for a machine, but we must do this to help maximize the amount of people who find and benefit from our content.
Here is a brief outline of my Search Engine Optimization strategy for all web content I write:
- Think of one to three keywords that you want your article to rank for. Pick one primary keyword, the others can be secondary. These can be long tail or short tail keywords. Do not worry about the amount of traffic the keywords have. If you have been around in the market and have been writing for a while, you should have a good feeling of what the users want. If you are unsure, use the Google Keyword Tool to get some ideas and validation/de-validation about your initial assumptions.
- After you decide your keywords, be sure to include your primary keyword in the title.
- Break your content down into smaller sections. For every section, include a (subheading <h2> tag) and include your primary or secondary keyword in there.
- Back your point with a source (by source I mean a link). If you make a point in your content on how Google has 60% of search traffic, hyperlink that with a link back to a source where that point can be confirmed. It’s beneficial if that point is related to your keywords. Hyperlinking keywords will further optimize your content. Do not overdo this. You can’t have a back link for every point you make. Overdoing it is bad for your users as well as the search crawlers.
- Bonus Tip: Use SEOPressor, Scribe or BloggerHigh SEO for WordPress or Content Optimizer for Drupal to get instant feedback on your content as seen by the search engines.
I give my team more details than what I have revealed in this post, but hopefully the six tips above have helped you in some way to create better content.