Building a successful website has a lot in common with running a restaurant: the food quality has to be top-notch, the menu has to offer interesting varieties, the staff have to be responsive and courteous and the ambience must be just right.
Content to your website is like food to a restaurant. You would like your website to feed visitors with rich and valuable content served in an attractive format. But how should a new site owner start content production? This guide helps answer that question and at the same time aims to provide menu suggestions and useful recipes for you to start preparing gourmet content.
In this guide we will discuss the main topics of content creation, including:
- You content plan
- Best blog post lengths and posting frequency
- Recommended types of content
The advice in this guide does not only apply to blog and website content but also comes in handy when creating content for social media platforms. This guide is a good start for new bloggers and companies to get the ball rolling with content creation.
Your content plan
Don’t be the hunter shooting aimlessly in the forest, hoping that a random animal will get hit. Be the man with a plan. When it comes to content production, this cannot be more true.
To steer your content efforts in the right direction, ask yourself the following questions when developing your content plan:
1 – What is the main purpose of my content? – Don’t start producing content without a goal. Whether it is for commercial purposes, such as driving traffic to your products or establishing yourself as an expert in a certain field, or for personal reasons, such as recording your weight loss journey or reinforcing what you have learnt from a course, have a clear purpose for your content in mind.
2 – Who is my target audience? – Find out the profile of your typical readers. Skip the superficial demographic data, “men 18-35, living in the United States”, and be more specific about your audience’s behaviors and needs. Good target audience profiling examples are: working women with young children who need fast dinner recipes or businesses in Denver that do not have in-house cleaning staff.
Depending on your target audience, your content plan and promotion strategies should be tailored accordingly.
3 – What are the other channels that I have to produce content for? – It’s a common mistake that bloggers or webmasters only create content for their own website or company blog. When preparing the content plan, you have to take into consideration all the channels that you or your business is present on.
There are basically 3 main channels that need content:
- Your own blog
- Your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Plus, etc.)
- Other promotional channels (guest blogging, email marketing, etc.)
Best blog post lengths and posting frequency
There is no exact number of words that each of your blog post should have. However we do know that 200 words is considered as thin content and may hurt your site’s ranking in Google searches. Does it mean the longer the post the better? That might be true to some extent. But with the modern reader’s attention span of a goldfish, your 3000+ word article might not keep your audience captivated.
So what is the ideal word count for blog posts? A research by Medium revealed that 7-minute posts, which come in around 1600 words for each article, capture the most reading time on average. Even though this is a useful statistic, you don’t have to follow it blindly. When it comes to keeping your audience psyched, substance is a lot more important than pure word counts.
Food becomes stale fast, and so does blog content. Your blog should be updated with new content regularly in order to stay fresh in readers’ mind and rank well in search engine results. Therefore no matter how busy you are, try to update your blog at least once a week, any longer posting intervals might already make your blog look a bit stale.
Just as important as frequency is when your post is published, once you have garnered a certain readership base, your posting schedule should stay constant. For example if you always post twice a week on Monday and Thursday, try to stick to that schedule to avoid leaving readers scratching their heads wondering why your blog posts are not live.
Recommended types of content
It might be a bit overwhelming when you first start a blog. You have to come up with the theme of the content, the niche to focus on, types of content to create, etc. Below is a nifty list with the types of content that you can use to build your blog posts. These content types will work even better if you know how to combine them in a way that keeps readers interested.
Text articles – Unless you are building a video or photo-centric website, most blogs and websites are mainly made out of text. Think of text as the main dish in your dinner. You can save time by having only one casserole dish with potatoes, meat and veggies all cooked up together, and it’s totally fine. But your meal will become a lot more interesting with a soup as appetizer or a side salad. The same goes with your article. It can be made out of only text, but images and other embellishments do wonders in keeping readers engaged.
Images – If you have a camera or a smartphone with a built-in camera, you already have the fundamental tool to produce images. Images are especially important in certain niches such as decorating, weddings, fashion, food and travel. A picture is worth a thousand words. So the next time you are lost for words, let a picture speak for you. Two major sources of free royalty-free images are Pixabay and Unsplash. Flickr is another great source for Creative Commons photos, although you need to remember to read each photo’s attribution license carefully.
Infographics – There has never been a time that data and information is presented in such vivid visuals. Infographics are attractive, easy to share and allow readers to absorb information much faster than text-only articles. No wonder they are very much in vogue right now. If you want to create your own infographics, try out Visualize, Infogr.am or Easel.ly.
Videos – Videos are exploding over the internet. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect with your audience. Tutorials, team introductions, tours, news, information recap, etc. are great video content ideas that you can employ.
Polls – People like to be listened to and get their opinions counted. The results from the polls also make unique research content that is not available anywhere else.
Contests – Depending on your niche, you can create different types of contests, competitions or sweepstakes to engage your readers. Contests can be a powerful way to drive traffic and excite your audience. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be a winner?
Challenges – Either it’s a challenge for your audience or a report on a challenge that you are taking on, it’s worth a shout-out. If you run a weight loss website, a challenge could be “going gluten-free for a month”.
The reason why challenges work is because they are exciting and tend to be limit-pushing. When you do something that is out of your comfort zone, it doesn’t only excite you, it also draws your audience into following your journey to see if you will actually complete it, and motivates like-minded readers.
Case studies – Experiments are fun to carry out and worthy to write about. People love case studies as they are like mini “reality shows”. Case studies are also a wonderful way to substantiate a certain statement or to showcase your products’ effectiveness with real numbers. Examples can be “Can you lose weight on a pea-only diet? – A 2-month experiment” or “How company Z improves sales by 15% by using our software”.
Interviews – Interviews and webinars are invaluable content for any website or blog. Contact a few experts in your field and have them answer frequently asked questions that are useful to your audience. Experts can be a distinguished blogger or a person known for his or her deep knowledge in a certain area.
Giveaways: Sometimes giving is the best way to get what you want. In a blogger’s case, it’s traffic and brand awareness. Find something that your audience values and give it away in exchange for shares or to build up subscribers.
Applications: If you have some technical skills or have the resource to build tools and applications, don’t forget this medium. Find out popular problems that your audience has and build a simple application to solve that problem. Sometimes even a simple Excel template or macro can save your readers hours of frustration.
The above list is no by means exhaustive but is a good place to start your content brainstorming. Remember that there are a million of ways to deliver your message to the audience. Your imagination is the only obstacle you have to overcome.
Bonus tips to help you overcome writer’s block
So you have decided to create a text article together with one or two royalty-free images but are stuck with content ideas. The following idea list will give you a creativity boost:
- The superlative list: Top 10…, 6 Most…, 5 Best…, for example: ‘5 Most beautiful buildings in New York’.
- How-to tutorials, e.g. ‘How to eat 10 hamburgers in 15 minutes’
- The definition article, e.g. ‘What is the difference between a house cat and a lion’
- Tips to solve a problem, for example: ‘5 Tips to stop hair loss right now’
- The explanation article: Why…, Top 5 reasons why…, e.g. ‘5 Reasons why your rose bushes are not growing’
- Your own comments and analysis to a trend, a news story, a statement or a quote, e.g. ‘Are baggy trousers making a comeback?’
- Reviews: Your opinion or comparison between different products or events of interest, for instance: ‘What I concluded after one week of using Dr. House’s facial care kit’
Content – be it a word or an image – is the most fundamental building block of the online world. Your task as a blogger or site owner is to continue laying bricks to build online properties that are richer in substance and more glamorous in design. A person can easily visit 200 websites and see on average 490,000 words on a day, an astonishing fact considering War & Peace was only 460,000 words. It’s already a challenge to squeeze your 500 words (if you decide to write 500 words that day) into the 490,000 words your reader sees every day. It’s an even harder job to make him or her read attentively and share that 500 words.
So don’t be the average Joe. Assess your strengths, pick your unique angle, create your own voice and your content will be the type that grabs readers’ attention and never lets go.