The formula for creating valuable content
What started as a means for sharing personal thoughts, stories, and opinions have transformed into an effective method for marketing businesses.
That’s right, you’ve guessed it. I’m talking about blogging.
Blogging has the potential to bring businesses all the value, glory, and (of course) sales in the world.
But a company can only become as valuable a resource as the content they create.
The author Joseph Hall once said, “A reputation once broken may be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.”
Joseph Hall’s view on reputation is the reason why we’ve created this guide to good looking blog posts.
We want you to be able to recognize good looking content from bad looking content so that you can add value to your business.
Let’s start with the aesthetics of the blog post.
Poorly formatted content is:
- Written in Blocks of Text: Large blocks of text are intimidating and time-consuming to read.
- Image-less: Images break up content and add an extra dimension to the blog post.
Reader’s today tend to browse through content and pick out bits of information that are relevant. That’s why writers must present information in a scannable format.
To maintain consistency, it’s important to use a formula that helps you produce good looking content every time you write a blog post.
An example of a template you can use to write your content.
Besides using a template, format your blog post using the following rules, tips, and tricks:
7 tips for formatting content:
- Headings: Headings are the easiest way to break up your content. Use different sized headings to get even more scannable.
See how adding headings to this article make a difference in its readability.
2. Lists: Lists are an effective way to break up content into easily scannable parts. Use bullet points or numbered lists when appropriate.
3. Short Paragraphs: Short paragraphs break up content into easily digestible parts.
4. Images: Images not only break up content, they also add dimension to blog posts. Use video, infographics, graphs, and even memes to catch the attention of your readers.
Pro Tip: Not all images will have the impact that you’re looking for. For example, studies show that “pictures of actual employees have a 95% higher conversion rate than stock photos.” Use images that add value to your blog post.
5. Image Captions: Use image captions to grab the attention of your readers.
Pro Tip: Ask a question, use statistics, or write a joke for a captivating image caption.
6. Color: Use color to your advantage and outline important information in a colored text box.
7. Bold: Bold text is well, bold! Bolded text catches the eye and lets readers know that they should be paying attention.
Here Gingerbread Marketing uses headings, lists, short paragraphs, images, color, and bold text, to make their blog posts scannable and attractive for the reader
Now let’s move onto the substance of the blog post – the content.
What are the elements that make up epic content? I believe that epic content is valuable to the reader.
‘Valuable” is an umbrella term that encompasses content that is:
All of your content should be valuable, and therefore it should also be original, relevant, actionable, engaging, and honest
Read on to find out why the following epic elements make up a valuable blog post.
“Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other cookie-cutter pages that don’t add substantial value to users.” – Google
There you have it, folks! Straight from the horse’s mouth: If you copy content from other sources without adding any original value, your Google Rank may be affected.
Ezine, the content creation farm, learned this lesson the hard way.
Ezine’s articles used to consistently have the top spot in Google’s rankings because they would copy their content from Google’s top ranking articles. Google’s old algorithm would value Ezine’s articles highly as they contained all the most searched keywords.
They maintained their top spot until Google implemented their new algorithm that punishes unoriginal content. Ezine took a hard hit as they had to ditch their old methods and start their business from scratch.
Don’t follow in Ezine’s footsteps. Follow the following 8 tips for creating original content.
How to identify Unoriginal content:
- Quote Overload: When an article contains an excessive amount of quotes, it lowers the writer’s credibility as it seems someone else can say things better than they can.
- Obvious Statements: When you read the sentence “marketing is good for business” in an article titled “Why You Need Marketing for Your Business” you know that the writer is not much of an original thinker.
- Similar Points: Blog writers sometimes use the same or similar points from more reputable brands. The next time you Google the “Top 10” of something, click the first three article and see if any of them are the same.
8 tips for creating Original content:
- Brainstorm Ideas: Ask friends, family, your dog, or anyone else to help you brainstorm six excellent topic ideas.
- Bring a Personal Touch: Opening your blog post with a personal anecdote brings in your perspective that is guaranteed not to be found anywhere else on the Internet.
- Conduct an Interview: Try emailing a group of relevant influencers with a question. Use their answers throughout your blog post.For example, I once wrote an article about ‘How to Get Started Food Blogging.‘To add some originality to the post, I sent an email with the question ‘What were your biggest challenges starting a food blog?’ Using the answers, I create an article about the most common problems.
- Success Stories: Write a step-by-step guide on how you came to be such an awesome person!
- Failure Stories: Write a blog post on your failures and what you learned from them.
- Case Studies: Choose a company, product, or website and create a case study on what they are doing right, why you like them, and what you can learn. Or write what they are doing wrong, why you don’t like them, and what you can learn from their mistakes.
- Reviews: Pick a product or service and write what you like and dislike.
- Guides: Check out our step-by-step guide on ‘How to Implement a Post into Word Press” as an example.
Pro Tip: There is a difference between unoriginal content and curated content. Content Curating is the process of sorting through large amounts of content to gather knowledge and information on a particular topic. The writer then presents what he/she has learned in a well- organized and meaningful way.
Pamela Seiple, a writer at Hubspot, makes a good point about curated content:
“There’s a misconception among marketers that curated content is lazy and unoriginal, but we think it’s the complete opposite. It takes time and careful evaluation to create quality curated content, and the result is oftentimes a very valuable piece of content that helps people seeking information on a given topic to cut through the clutter on the web and save time.”
Wouldn’t it seem strange if McDonald’s started selling shoes? Well, yeah. That’s because shoes are completely irrelevant to what McDonald’s does.
Your article should be relevant to your audience.
How to identify Irrelevant content:
- Comments: If no one cares enough to leave a comment in the comment section, the blog post was likely irrelevant for all readers.
- Shares: If you notice that people are visiting your blog but are not sharing or liking your article, then it’s likely that they didn’t find the information relevant to themselves or their friends.
3 tips for creating Relevant content:
- Create Customer Personas: Check out Hubspot’s template for creating basic customer personas.
- Hop on Trends: I know what you’re thinking – wasn’t my first point to be original? True, but original blog posts are still created based on trending topics, just as long as you put a unique spin on it.Pro Tip: Tools like Buzzsumo can help you find trending and engaging topics for free.Pro Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to check out what your competitors are posting.
- Talk to Customers: Why not go right to the source and ask the customer what they would like to read?Pro Tip: Tweet to your audience and ask them what they would like you to write about next.
Or get a little more creative and use Instagram Stories like Taco Bell.
Following a mini-episode about Taco Bells debut on Instagram Stories, they asked their audience what they would like to see on Taco Bells Instagram Story.
Useful blog posts are educational tools that answer questions and solve problems. How many times have you Google’d something that started with “How do I…?”
Your goal should be to anticipate the questions and concerns of your audience so that you already have an answer prepared.
Birchbox, the monthly makeup subscription retailer, created an online magazine that gives readers beauty tips and tricks.
A particularly useful section of the magazine is their ‘Ask a Makeup Artist’ series where makeup artists answer their audiences most common questions.
Professional makeup artist, Stefanie Syat, breaks down Primers.
How to identify Useless content:
- Education: If a blog post doesn’t answer a question, solve a problem or teach useful information, then it did not achieve its goal.
- Unfindable: If someone writes a blog post and no one sees its, was it ever actually written at all? The answer is no! If no one can find your blog post and read it, then what’s that point? Always include shareable buttons throughout your blog post to increase the places people can find your articles.
- Ignoring Comments: If the comment section of a blog post is unanswered, the author probably is not listening to his/her audience’s questions and concerns.
3 Tips for creating Useful content:
- Understand What Your Readers Want: Analyze which blog posts have done well in the past. The blog posts that are popular will give you an idea of the type of topics your readers find useful.Which page of your website revived the most visits? Which article received the most clicks, shares, likes, comments?Pro Tip: Use tools like Google Analytics or Piwik to measure your most popular posts.
- Comment Sections: Comment sections are extremely useful for finding common questions and concerns from your readers.
- Search Engine Optimization: Even the most educational blog posts are useless without SEO. If readers can’t find your article, then how can it be useful for them?Pro Tip: Click here to check out the factors Google uses for blog post rankings.
Blog posts that convert readers into customers are actionable.
Why do blog posts need to be actionable? Well to tell you the truth, people are lazy and are often reluctant to think about how to take the next step.
Instead, you have to tell them what to do.
How to identify Unactionable content:
- Analytics: How many people like, shared, and commented on your post? What is your page’s bounce rate? If these numbers are high, then it means that your blog post made an impact on your readers.
- Comments: Specifically check any positive feedback you receive in your comment section. If people benefited from your blog post, they’d let you know!
4 Five tips for creating Actionable content:
- Examples: Examples are highly visual and make it easier for your audience imagine themselves putting your point into action.
2. Visuals: According to Hubspot, “People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.”
3. Call-to-Actions: Call-to-actions are powerful motivators. They give reader’s a direct action to perform, without them having to think about it.
4. Comment Section: Ensure your blog posts contain a comment section. Comment sections are where readers will be able to ask for clarification on any points they don’t understand.
Engaging content is content that is read all the way through.
Engaging is an umbrella term for:
How to identify non-engaging content:
- Analytics: I know I’m repeating myself, but a blog post is engaging when it receives high numbers of likes, comments, and shares.
5 tips for writing Engaging content:
- Write a Killer Headline: With over 2,000,000 blog posts written and published each day, writing a killer headline is crucial for catching the reader’s attention.Imagine, the following headlines:”8 Ways You Can Make the Best Out of Your Blog Post: More Tips and Tricks from Gingerbread Marketing””8 Methods for Writing Epic Blog Posts”
Headline #1 is lengthy, unclear, and irrelevant (readers likely won’t care if it’s a guide from Gingerbread Marketing).
Headline #2 is concise, clear, relevant, and use exciting language (the term ‘Epic’ is pretty exciting).
- Write a Killer Introduction: Writing the introduction is often the hardest part of the blog post because it has to make a real impact on the reader.Start your blog post with:
- Questions: “Have you ever wondered what’s the secret to a successful blog post?”
- Quotes: Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
- Statistics: According to Hubspot, “Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.”
- Stories: The first time I ever wrote a blog post, it was a disaster. But that’s because I didn’t know the following 8 tips and tricks.”Pro Tip: Your conclusion should also aim to make an impact. Try ending with a thought-provoking question, a call-to-action, or a powerful quote.
- Use Popular Culture: Celebrity names, TV shows, movie titles, authors, and comic book characters are entertaining and an easy way to grab attention.Include them throughout your article, so your audience associates your writing with being entertained.For example, the title “What Britney Spears Can Teach Your About Writing” or the quote I used earlier from Ernest Hemingway are great examples of using pop culture throughout an article.
- Focus on Flow: When a blog post has ‘flow,’ it seamlessly moves from one topic to the next.Pro Tip: You can determine if your blog post has flow by reading it out loud. Alternatively, you can ask a friend to read it out loud for you.
- Focus on Depth: According to Buzzumo, 85% of content is less than 1000 words long, but content over 1000 words long receive more shares and backlinks.Matthew Barby writes great examples of blog posts that are well over 1000 words and engaging.
Matthew’s blog post has a catchy headline and introduction, it has flow and even quotes relevant celebrities
David Packard, a celebrity in the business world.
Honesty in the writing world refers to sourcing and citing.
Not only will Google punish your ranking for improper sourcing, but the writing community will reject your articles and decrease your chance for backlinks and shares.
How to identify Dishonest content:
- Tools: The best way to determine if content is dishonest is to use plagiarism checker tools like Plagiarism.
4 tips for writing Honest content:
- Paraphrasing: If another author contains information that is perfect for your blog post, put it into your words.Pro Tip: If you use more than two words in a row that are not your own, then you must use quotation marks.
- Quoting: Quote sentences and paragraphs exactly as they appear.
- Citing: Citing is the most effective method for avoiding plagiarism. APA and MLA are examples of different citing formats you can use.
- Images: There are many ways to source images. You can:
- Copy and paste the image’s link below or above your image.
- Embed a hyperlink on your images.Pro Tip: Great content embraces outside experts. They build credibility and add an extra element of excitement. Just be sure to source and quote the ideas you take correctly!
Bonus Element: Edit and Proofread
Great content is edited and proofread for quality.
That’s why we’ve created a checklist to help you organize and manage your editing (and proofreading) so that you can create powerful content that makes an impact.
Pro Tip: Check here for the “The Ultimate Editing and Proofreading Checklist For Epic Content” so that you can write quality content every time.
Try following this guide and write your first blog post – then play around with style, format, content, etc. and see what hits home with your audience.
Remember, epic blog posts are consistent, so once you find your formula that works, stick with it!
Have I missed an element? What are the elements of a blog post that you think make up epic content? Let me know in the comments below!