5 Hacks for Creating and Promoting the Right Content
In my last post on Moz a few weeks ago, I talked about the idea of paying to promote your content using social channels. Today I actually want to go a step backwards in the process and talk about content creation.
1. How to verify you have a good idea
I could write a whole post on this one topic, but maybe that's for another day! For now, I want to share a few ways you can make sure you're on the right track and increasing the likelihood that you have a content idea that is going to be well received.
Made to Stick principles
I really like the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. They go into detail about a framework that can be used to evaluate whether an idea is "sticky" or not. There are six core parts of this framework:
You'll notice that is spells "succes" (deliberately leaving off the s at the end!) which makes it sticky to remember. I encourage you to read the book but I'll quickly summarise each part of the framework so that you can get an idea of how it can help verify your content ideas.
Is the idea simple to understand and explain? A good way of testing this is to force yourself to explain the idea to someone who you previously haven't spoken to about it. If you can do this pretty quickly and they understand it, then it's probably simple enough.
The other thing to remember here is if you can't explain the idea quickly and easily, then you are probably also going to struggle when it comes to promoting the idea using email or the phone.
This doesn't mean that your whole idea needs to be totally unexpected, but there needs to be something unexpected about it. It may be the design, an interactive element or a new story that has been crafted from some data. If you're just doing something that has been done before and are not adding anything unexpected to it, then you may struggle to get coverage and interest.
When doing client training, this is always one that provokes confusion. So I'm going to use an example from the book itself.
When JFK made this speech in 1961 about landing a man on the moon, his wording was very concrete. It had to be because he wanted to capture the imagination and support of congress and the US public. This is what he didn't say:
"We will win the space race."
If he had said this, he wouldn't have ben wrong. This is what they wanted to do right? However, it's not concrete. What does it actually mean?
Contrast this with what he actually said:
"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth"
This is really clear for anyone to understand, you can see what JFK intends to do and there is very little room for ambiguity.
There are two types of credible when it comes to content we may produce.
The first one is the credibility of the author themselves, what makes them qualified to write on this particular topic? Are they an expert? Are they respected in their field? It would make sense to say that someone like Phil Nottingham is qualified to write about video marketing or being a pirate. But Phil isn't qualified to talk about quantum physics or Python programming.
The other side of credibility is whether or not the brand behind the content is qualified to talk about a certain topic. This is a mistake I see made quite often and quite honestly, one I've made myself. Sometimes, you can produce a piece of content with the explicit purpose of getting links which means it can go off topic a bit. A car insurance company probably isn't qualified to publish an infographic about cats for example! Even if the infographic gets lots of links and social shares.
How can you trigger an emotional response through your content? Ultimately, forcing some kind of emotional response is very difficult but can be one of the most powerful elements of this framework. I'd be careful here though because provoking a negative reaction can be dangerous and lead to bad feeling towards your brand. I'm not a believer in "all PR is good PR" - even if it generates links as a result!
The final element of the framework is whether your content tells a story. A story can inspire people to take action and a story can make people remember something. We always remember a great story, it's programmed into us from when we were kids and not a lot changes, even as we get older!
Chip and Dan Heath recommend that an idea ticks a couple of these boxes but remind us that it's very, very rare for an idea to tick all of them. There can also be times when an idea or piece of content performs very well and becomes sticky without any of these elements! However if you use this framework, it can help reduce the chance of your idea failing.
2. Use FullContact for audience research
It took me a while to start using FullContact but once I did, I really liked it and it has a range of uses. The use I want to talk about in the context of content creation is audience research.
For those of you that aren't familiar, there is a feature of FullContact called person enrichment which allows you to gather more information about someone based on various inputs. These inputs currently are:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Twitter handle
- Facebook ID
In the Excel template mentioned below, it looks something like this:
So you could upload a list of email addresses and FullContact try to find associated pieces of information such as:
- Twitter account
- Facebook account
- LinkedIn profile
- Klout score
- Twitter bio
- Job title
You can download their Excel template here which allows you to do this kind of report without having to use the API yourself. To use the Excel template, you'll need to go get an API key too. Once you have that, you can upload your data and start to enrich it.
So where does audience research fit in?
As you may have noticed above, one of the data points that FullContact tries to find is job title. Another data point is Twitter bio. You can use these points to get insight into your audience and tailor your content accordingly.
You can with uploading your information to FullContact, let's say this is a list of Twitter handles. These Twitter handles are your followers on Twitter which you've exported using a tool like Followerwonk. Once it's finished running, you'll have a list of these handles with related information if FullContact has been able to find it. Here is a snippet of one of my outputs to give you an idea what you'll get back:
If you take the column for "Occupation" and paste the entire column into a word cloud tool such as Wordle, you'll get something like this:
This gives you a really good, quick snapshot of the type of people who follow you on Twitter. If you're looking to create content that will appeal to these people, you can immediately see where you may choose to pitch it. In the case above, this may mean we want to create content that appeals to senior management / marketing people and perhaps we should promote this content using something like LinkedIn where these people may be active.
3. Pay to promote your top content
With the right tracking setup in your analytics, it's possible to see how content has contributed to conversions. Most content created outside of product / category pages is unlikely to lead to direct conversions, but it is perfectly possible for them to play a part in the process somewhere.
If you use Google Analytics, then you can do to the assisted conversions report and then set the report to include the landing page URL for your content piece. This looks something like this:
Once you've done this, you'll be able to see if any of your content pieces contribute to the conversion process:
Assuming they have contributed to conversions as the example above did, you can make a decision to try and send more traffic to this piece of content, knowing that it may help send more conversions. There are obviously a few ways to do this including usual organic outreach to try and get links. But you should also consider using some budget to send paid traffic to the content piece too. You wouldn't want to spend loads of money on this because the conversion rate for the page is likely to be pretty low in comparison to product and category pages.
Having said that, using something like Twitter, LinkedIn, Outbrain, Taboola or Facebook advertising as outlined in my previous post could be a good way to send more traffic and more assisted conversions.
4. Find your content competitors and learn from them
Most of us have done competitor analysis at some point or another. The goal is usually to get an idea of where your website sits in the industry landscape and know what you're up against. The problem with the usual type of competitive analysis that we do is that it tends to show us pure search competitors - based on similar product or service offerings.
Your competitors in terms of products and services can be very different to those who publish content which competes with you.
Let's use an example to illustrate the point.
A while ago at Distilled, we published a guide to social media for Simply Business. If we'd limited our competitor research to their direct competitor - websites that sell business insurance - then we wouldn't have come across this guide from Mashable.
Clearly, Mashable don't sell business insurance!
By looking outside their immediate competition, we could see that the content idea had been done before. This meant that we could take a look at how successful the piece was and see what we had to do in order to be successful too. It also meant that we had to ask ourselves questions around whether we could do a better or different job on it. Remember the Made to Stick principles above? Those applied to us and we had to try and do a better job than Mashable.
There are a number of ways to find your content competitors but the simplest way is to use Google!
In the example above, it was simply a case of searching for "social media guide" and searching through the results. If you want to go a bit further, you can use the Moz keyword difficultly tool which gives you all sorts of metrics alongside each result too:
Whilst a goal of your content may not be to rank for many keywords (although it very well could be), these metrics are useful because it gives you an idea of how linkable this kind of content is. This is valuable to know if goal of your content is links!
5. Find positive or negative sentiment from your target audience
When it comes to generating content ideas, one of the things you should think about is the mindset of your target audience. What causes them problems when it comes to your product, service, brand, competitor or industry? Going back to Made to Stick, this would sit in the emotional part of the framework.
Once you can find something that causes them pain or causes them to be positive, you can use this to drive your content ideas forward.
One hack for this which I've stolen from Mark, our VP Creative, is to use the following searches to reveal these kind of things:
These can reveal discussions from your target audience that are emotional in nature. The words love and hate are pretty strong, especially when being typed! So if you can find discussions that mention these words, it could lead you towards content ideas that your target audience feel emotional about in some form or another.
To wrap up, I'd encourage you to also take a look at this slide deck from Mark which steps through his process for producing ideas, as it gives lots of examples of the things I've described above.
Understanding what your target audience is searching and why is more important than ever. Britney Muller shares everything you need to begin understanding and f...
There are ways to remain creative even within a grander, primarily SEO-driven strategy. Here, let's dive into six tips to ensure you don't have to sacrifice you...
By leveraging data-centered campaigns, paired with personalized outreach to top publishers, we regularly garner earned media placements for our clients. In rare...
If Google were to use a measure of content authority, what might go into it? In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones walks us through what exactly migh...
I spent hours using Ubersuggest, putting myself in the shoes of various Americans. I tested a variety of keywords to see which ones have exhibited a trend durin...
Expert content isn't out of reach. In this Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones arms you with the tools and processes to expand your content all the way from prompt to...
Domenica D'Ottavio of Fractl shows how businesses across seven niches can set realistic expectations for their link-building content, based on insights from ove...
What's involved in scaling your content marketing efforts to 100,000 words a month (the length of a 400-page book!) — and what's the payoff? One software compan...
For marketers, Reddit is more than a tool to while away your lunch break. It's a huge, thriving forum with subreddits devoted to almost any topic you can imagin...