Updated August 27, 2021
Lately, I’ve noticed that many firms, copywriters and Tweeters are talking about creating great content.
- “We need to create great content for our #contentstrategy.”
- “Our content sings—it’s the most important part of our content strategy.”
- “I craft great content that will fit in with your content strategy.”
What makes your content great?
There is only one answer to this timeless question—get ready for it:
“YOUR CONTENT IS GREAT IF YOUR USERS FIND IT USEFUL, PERSUASIVE AND VALUABLE.”
I’m all for beautiful words—poetry even. But, great content delivered online means answering users’ questions, so they can get back to creating the content of their lives. (See—me write pretty too!)
How Do You Create Great Content?
First, you must define what great content is. Doing this is impossible. See a high school English class for an example; one student LOVES The Scarlet Letter. The other thinks it’s complete dreck. (For more current examples, see: The Jersey Shore, Dancing with the Stars, Eat, Pray, Love, Coldplay, etc…) Listen to people argue about books, music, photography, art, science, philosophy. Those are all examples of content that can deeply divide people.
People disagree on greatness; what they don’t disagree about is what they find useful. For example, most people own a car (I am making no political statements here). Most people do not own a horse and buggy. Why? Simply put, a car is more efficient than a horse and buggy. Is a car greater than a horse and buggy? Well—what are you using it for? A romantic marriage proposal in Central Park? Or, to travel from Boston to New York?
Brings me to my point—you must define WHO your users are and what they are using the content for if you want to create persuasive, valuable content.
What do they care about? What will help them get the information, commodity, interaction that they need? Answering those questions will go a long way toward creating content they find useful. And useful content to your users could be anything under the sun: a funny YouTube video to forward to a friend, a recipe, a picture for their bathroom, a blog post that sparks an idea.
To create useful, persuasive and valuable content you must:
- Define your users.
- Anticipate their questions and needs.
- Write copy that answers those questions directly.
- Create easy pathways toward the call to action.
Stop the Blah, Blahhing and Focus on THE GET
Users come to your site to GET something: information, a pair of shoes, a feeling of friendship, a piece of music, etc. Whether it’s a physical commodity, an interaction or a phone number, the GET is what users are after.
Problem: Sometimes their GET isn’t the same as the GET we marketers, Web people, CEOs want them to GET.
So how you we, as digital professionals, GET them to GET it?
- An e-commerce site wants users to know that there’s a sale on certain rugs for 20%
- A social interaction site wants users to send their friends birthday cards for a small fee (Hey, if each person on a 4 billion person social networking site buys 1 card for 1 dollar—this isn’t supposed to be a math lesson—but you can see where I’m going)
- A hospital wants users to find their services listed so they can call and make an appointment
I’m a content strategist, so I’m going to answer this question from a content point of view. But I’m aware that I depend and rely on designers, UX professionals, programmers and others to inform solving this problem—these are just rules from a content perspective.
Rule #1: Establish your authority and credibility on the topic from the get-go. If you are selling shoes, make sure you have a lot of shoes on your site, and show them from different angles. Describe the shoes, really, really well. Have other customers talk about the shoes. Does this sound familiar? Yup, it’s them.
Rule #2: Give your users pathways to the information you want them to GET. If you are a major clinical service line at a hospital, say cancer services, and you want your patients to know about this breakthrough treatment technology you just bought, create one page that aggregates all the content about this new technology. Write a what to expect guide about this new treatment technology. Discuss the latest research. Describe everything you can about it. The, put a button or small module that attracts users to the page and then link it from every page on your site a user might be searching for treatment technologies. Watch your traffic climb into the stratosphere.
Rule #3: Stop blah, blahhing around. Take a good look at your analytics. Watch the click paths very carefully. What are your users stopping at? Where are they bouncing off of? Take that crap down! If no one is reading it, or even worse, it’s providing a major STOP AND GET OFF THE SITE NOW BEFORE THE BOMB GOES OFF moment, then it’s not really to your benefit, is it?
How do you manage the GET?