Creating good content is both an art and a science. Writers, designers and vloggers need to strike a delicate balance between content that is well-optimised for search engines, and copy that will not only attract readers’ attention but keep them coming back for more.
The world of online content is also becoming increasingly competitive. The Internet is flooded with new articles, videos and images every day, and readers are bombarded with more content than ever before. That means their attention spans are growing shorter and their standards are getting higher. Content needs to be well-crafted in order to capture their attention. At the same time, we need to consider search engine algorithms to ensure our content shows up in readers’ search results in the first place.
Content is Competitive
The Internet is a crowded place! How much content is out there exactly? These statistics will give you an idea of just how competitive the online content arena is.
- According to blogging statistics from 2018, there are around 504 million blogs online!
- Every month: 70 million blog posts are published on WordPress alone.
- Every day: more than 27 million pieces of content are shared on social media.
- Every day: around 3.2 billion images are shared on social media.
- Every day: the production of infographics increases by 1%.
- Every minute: 300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube.
- Every second: 6,000 Tweets are published.
How has this never-ending influx of content affected user behaviour online?
How Online Users Consume Content
How much time are users dedicating to which types of content? How much are they consuming, and how often? These statistics indicate a rising trend towards visual content like video.
- Online user attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds since 2000.
- 55% of users spend an average of 15 seconds on a page.
- The average user reads only about 20% of the content on a page.
- 60% of users will skim content rather than reading it in-depth.
- More than 87% of visitors are more likely to read text that is placed on an infographic.
- Consumers now spend over 5 hours every day consuming content their smartphones.
- 78% of users watch online video content every week.
- 55% of users watch online video content every day.
- The average user consumes around 40 minutes of YouTube video content a day.
- The average Facebook user spends 35 minutes a day browsing the social media platform.
It’s no wonder so many business owners feel like they need to “shout to be heard”. But despite the intensely competitive online environment, it is still possible to create content that speaks to the users you’re looking to reach. Here’s some advice to help you make your content stand out from the competition.
1. Set Goals for Your Content
Before you create your content, you should have a clear idea of what you want the content to achieve. Do you want to attract more visitors to your website, or generate more sales? Whatever your content marketing goals are, make sure they are “SMART”. That means:
- S: Specific, clearly defined goals.
- M: Measurable goals with specific criteria that help you to track your progress.
- A: Achievable or Attainable goals that you can realistically achieve. It’s fine to be ambitious with your goals, but don’t make them impossible.
- R: Results-oriented and Relevant to the path your business is on.
- T: Time-bound with a clearly defined starting date and deadline (target date).
Example of a SMART goal: “I want this content to boost traffic to my website by 20% between now and the end of the quarter.”
Once you have determined your goals, you can focus on creating content that aligns with these goals and helps you to work towards the outcome you want.
2. Understand Who You’re Creating Content For
Know your audience. Good content creation isn’t just about the content itself, it’s about who will be consuming and sharing that content. Clearly define who you want to speak to, and what you want to say to them.
It’s helpful to create a “buyer persona” – a representation of the customers you want to reach, based on what you know about the existing target audience and market research. This buyer persona should include demographics, motivations, pain points and behavioural patterns. Add as much detail as possible. This will help you to focus your content and cultivate a “voice” that speaks directly to your desired target audience.
3. Write What You Know
A more fitting title for this tip would be “create what you know”, because this applies to visual and audiovisual content too, not just written content like blog posts. The topics you focus on when creating your content should be those that you have a very solid understanding of. This will allow you to educate your audience and answer their search queries successfully. Think of the search query as a “problem” and your content as the “solution”.
When choosing a topic, ask yourself (and your team) the following questions:
- What are the most frequently asked questions you hear in your day-to-day operations?
- What do your existing customers and prospective customers need help with?
- Is there anything you wish more people knew about your industry or your business?
- What are other bloggers and content creators in your industry talking about, and how are consumers responding to them?
4. Do Your Research
Thorough research is important, even when you’re tackling a topic you have plenty of experience with. You can never know too much, and there’s always something new for an old hand to learn.
Don’t limit your research to a simple Google search. Use resources like industry case studies, Google Scholar, JSTOR, and academic papers. Be sure to cite your sources in your content.
Tip: Create Google Alerts for the topics you’re most interested in talking about. This will notify you when there is a relevant new development around these topics. Citing up-to-date studies and statistics will give your content more credibility.
5. Choose Your Keywords
Researching keywords will give you an idea of how many people are searching for the topic you want to cover. This lets you know whether spending time crafting content around this topic is a worthwhile investment, or if you should focus on something a little different.
Tip: Use your buyer persona to guide you; think about common questions your target customer will be likely to have, based on their pain points or their goals. Do your keyword research around those queries, to find out if there is a decent volume of people searching for them.
Use the data available to help you determine whether a keyword is worth using. You can use the following data to do this:
Search volume: The number of users searching for the keyword on a monthly basis. Don’t go after broad keywords with huge search volumes, but don’t invest your time in keywords that are getting little to no interest either. Long-tail keywords tend to have lower search volumes, but they are also more targeted and more likely to attract qualified searchers.
Trends: Tools like Google Trends can show you how interest in certain keywords changes and develops over time.
Engagement and social signals: Look at online forums and social media groups in your business niche, and see which topics are attracting the most engagement among your audience. Views, reactions and comments are all signs of user engagement. This can give you valuable insight into a keyword you may otherwise have ignored because of its low search volume.
Link-worthiness: Backlinks are important, so make sure other websites are able to link to your optimised content using your chosen keywords.
6. Use Your Keywords Correctly
This is especially important for those creating written blog posts and web copy. Don’t just throw in a few keywords at random. Once you’ve chosen the keywords you want to focus on, use them wisely.
- Watch your keyword density: Keyword stuffing is a no-go for quality content. Keyword density (the amount of keyword usage in your overall word count) should be pretty low, usually between 1 and 2%.
- Make use of related keywords: Google is getting smarter and better at understanding the connection between related terms, so be sure to include similar or related phrases in your content.
- Find smart ways to use your words: Use your keywords and variants in a natural way throughout the copy – including plurals, synonyms and abbreviations, just as you would when having a natural spoken conversation.
- Include keywords in your titles, headings and subheadings: Keep your target keyword close to the beginning of your meta title and article heading. Include the keyword and variants in some of your subheadings as well.
- Mention your target keyword in the first 100 words of your article: Use the keyword close to the start of your content, in a natural-sounding way.
- Optimise your URL: Make sure the page address or URL is optimised to include your keyword in a natural-sounding and concise way. Remove any unusual characters or unnecessary stopwords (for, in, on, etc) from your URL.
- Include keywords in your images: The titles, alt text and captions of every image should be optimised in a natural-sounding way, using the correct keywords. are strategic places for descriptive language.
7. Ensure Your Content is Correct
If you’re creating written content, make sure it has been checked for spelling mistakes and grammatical issues. Proofread your work and have other members of your team proofread it as well – a fresh pair of eyes might pick up mistakes you’ve overlooked.
Fact-check your content as well. This applies to blog posts, infographics and even videos – if you’re going to mention a specific statistic, make sure you can find the source it came from, and check that it is a reputable source.
Any links you include in the content should be to good, reputable web pages. All images used should be of good quality, optimised for web and credited appropriately.
8. Create Good Readability and Skimmability
This is a great example of where writing for humans will improve your credibility to search engines. If your content readability is good, searchers are likely to spend more time consuming it, which is a good signal to search engines that they are finding it useful.
As we mentioned before, searchers are faced with an endless onslaught of content every day. There is just too much to see and not enough time to pay attention to all of it. Therefore they’ll be very quick in deciding whether your content is worth their time or not.
A study from 2017 showed that most online users follow an “F-shaped” reading pattern when scanning content on the web. They start off by scanning horizontally across the upper part of the content, then move down and read across opening sentences or headlines, and finally then skim vertically down the left-hand side of the content.
For content creators, this behaviour means that special attention should be given to crafting compelling headlines and opening paragraphs. Great content should draw in the reader’s attention in the first few words – but to keep readers engaged and interested, it should be easy to consume and “digest” as well, especially in the case of long-form content.
How can you make your content (especially written content) easier for readers to skim?
- Don’t be afraid of white space: Content that is crowded and cluttered can be very difficult to skim and read. Make smart use of white space and don’t cram a lot of content together. This is especially important for mobile users who are expecting quick on-the-go solutions to their search queries.
- Consider your font size: Copy should be easy to read without taking up too much screen space. Slightly bigger text (usually between 18 and 24pt) can improve comprehension and make it easier to scan copy, especially on mobile.
- Make your headlines amazing: Crafting great headlines is a surefire way to capture the attention of more readers. With users skimming through your headlines and subheadings, you need to be sure you’re guiding them through the topics you’re covering in an informative, creative way.
- Write short, concise sentences and paragraphs: Marketers like Neil Patel have advocated a concise, focused style of writing using shorter paragraphs (no more than two or three sentences) to make content instantly digestible. This makes it easier for readers to comprehend and retain individual points in a shorter amount of time.
- Vary your sentence length: Keep your sentences short, but don’t use too many short sentences in a row or your content will sound clipped and unnatural, or boring and unengaging.
- Use bulleted lists: Basic bullet points are easier to skim than lengthy paragraphs. Make use of bulleted lists where possible.
- Use visualisation: Find visually engaging ways to represent the data and statistics you’re covering in your content. A graph, chart or even a full infographic will help you to ensure that these important points jump out at your readers, and prevent them from getting “buried” in the text.
Did You Know? A 2012 study found that articles with high quality, relevant images attracted 94% more views than those without images.
- Include summaries: Many readers will naturally look in the first and last paragraph of each section for a summary of the topic. Summarise each major section, to allow readers to more easily take in the information you’re providing.
9. Include Internal and External Backlinks
Backlinks are important, because one of the ways search engines will rank a piece of content is by how many (reputable) backlinks it gets. External backlinks come from other websites linking to your content – for example, other bloggers in your niche, industry directories, and online forums.
- External backlinks can be gained through:
- Guest blogging
- Reclaiming unlinked mentions
- Crowdsourced content creation
- Broken link building
- Online community building
- Forums and directories
Internal backlinks are links that take the user from one piece of content on your website to another. You can use internal links in new content to drive more traffic to older pieces of content. This is an effective way to help search engines and human users to find your most relevant and useful posts.
Read more from Lilo about smart link building tactics and how quality backlinks can benefit your content.
10. Promote Your Content
Whether it’s through link building or social sharing, it’s important to make sure your content gets seen by as many readers as possible. More shares can lead to more clicks, which leads to more traffic on your website – a definite signal to search engines that your content has value.
Readers want to share good content with their friends and colleagues, so make it easy for them:
- Place social media icons on the page, in a prominent position above the fold.
- Include a call to action encouraging readers to share the content.
- Ask readers to share their thoughts in the comments section.
- Share your own content on bookmarking sites, LinkedIn and other appropriate platforms.
- If you have the budget, promote your content via paid ads on social media.
Content Toolkit: Useful Content Optimisation Tools
If you’re feeling inspired and ready to get started, here are a few handy tools that can make your content creation process easier. Note that some of these tools offer their standard features for free, and require a paid subscription in order to upgrade.
- Ginger: A writing tool that can be integrated with Chrome or Safari to check your copy in emails, Google Docs and social media platforms, allowing you to fix mistakes as you type. Features include a grammar check, dictionary, suggestions for rephrasing, translations and more.
- Grammarly: Another spelling and grammar checker that integrates with Chrome, iOS and Android keyboard apps. Also includes a plagiarism checker.
- Hemingway Editor: This tool will analyse your articles to identify sentences that are difficult for users to read. This will help you to improve your overall readability and optimisation.
- PlagTracker: If you’re using quotes and referencing statistics from other sites, you might be concerned about plagiarism. You can use PlagTracker to find any instances of duplicated content and replace them with rephrased, unique wording.
- Keyword Density Checker: YOu can use this tool to determine how many times you have used each keyword in your content, and make sure it isn’t oversaturated. A very useful tool for long-form pieces.
- Google Charts: Google gives you an easy way to convert data to visuals, by creating charts, graphs, plots and maps that fit the identity of your blog or brand.
- Piktochart: Provides you with customisable infographic templates. You can easily upload your stats and adjust the layout and colour scheme to fit your brand’s identity.
- Visme: You can use Visme to create presentations as well as infographics. The tool includes free fonts, images and icons, as well as options to include video and audio, or animate your content.
- Canva Infographic Tool: Canva also has a great library of images, fonts and icons – free design elements you can use to create an engaging infographic.
- RapidTags: A tool that helps you to quickly and easily generate tags for your video content. You can also apply a language filter, making it easy to tag your video for various different geographic locations.
- vidIQ: Gives you comprehensive data about your YouTube channel and allows you to compare it against competitors’ channels.
Professional Content Creation Services
While these DIY tools are all useful, you can’t beat the services of a professional. A skilled SEO content team will be able to create evergreen pieces of content for your website or blog, while you focus on the day-to-day tasks of running your business.
Lilo’s team of marketers, designers and developers will help you to put a solid content strategy in place, and handle all the optimisation to make sure your content shines. Our services include keyword selection, content creation and marketing, link building and more.
Speak to us about your vision and we’ll help you build a strong online presence with optimised content that readers (and search engines) will love.