What Makes Great Content? Marketers Respond
What makes great content? And what can marketers do to stand out in this landscape where everybody is creating content? We asked 16 marketing pros to answer these questions, hoping their insight would inspire your own content marketing strategy.
Talented friends from HubSpot, AWeber, Moosend and other companies shared their thoughts on content creation and how we can succeed at it. I thank them all and invite you to sit down and make yourself a cup of coffee – you’ve got a great read ahead of you!
“Original content is great content.”
Christina Perricone, Content Marketing Strategist at HubSpot
Original content is great content.
The internet is full of parroted information and readers are savvy to redundancy. When every article on a topic is saying the same thing, readers become inundated with a sameness that discourages them from going much farther than the top SERP result.
The only way to set yourself apart and beat the competition is by sharing unique content.
Share information where you have first-hand knowledge and command of the subject. Publish results of internal experiments, perform primary research, write about a topic you know in-depth, share a new perspective on an established practice, or interview a subject matter expert.
Original content makes you stand out and positions you as an authority.
Kelsey Mullins, Developer Content Marketer RapidAPI
I think great content is anything that engages and empowers your audience.
Since we work closely with developers, we are always trying to create content that allows them to learn new skills and use RapidAPI (and APIs in general) in creative ways. We want our blog to be a valuable learning resource for our community and a place where they can go to be inspired for their next project.
To stand out in a landscape where everyone is creating content, it is important to take the time to get to know your audience and learn what they actually want to see.
Also, I think people can tell when real effort has been put into creating great content. When people see a genuine effort being put into content creation, it will also help your content stand out.
“Publishing content isn’t enough.”
Sara McGuire, Content Marketing Lead at Venngage
There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of content to compete with. But some people still manage to make their content stand out. Generally, this is because of a few key differentiators:
1. They put in the work to make their content more helpful, better researched, and more engaging.
There’s a lot of fluff content being written. But the people taking the time to say something of value are still seeing results. Valuable content is authoritative, with real data, case studies and examples to back up your points. It provides a clear, direct and detailed answer to a question or problem your target readers are facing.
Part of creating engaging content is also making sure it looks good on the page. Adding ample visuals will help illustrate your points, will clarify complex information, and will help keep readers scrolling.
Plus, if you repurpose content into visuals, you can share those visuals on social, in presentations & webinars, videos, blog posts, and more. Basically, you can hyper-extend the reach of your content.
It’s also a good idea to vary your fonts styling (bolding headers, italicizing key words, highlighting quotes, etc.) to make your content skimmable.
2. They put in the hustle to promote it.
Here’s the elephant in the room: for most sites, especially smaller businesses, publishing content isn’t enough. You need to put in the time to promote it.
The best way to do this is through a combination of gaging interest before you publish a post and promoting your post in the immediate weeks following its release. Brian Dean wrote the bible on this process.
As a rule of thumb, you should be spending at least as much time promoting your content as you do producing it.
Liz Willits, Content Strategist at Aweber
People read, watch, or listen to your content because they want to reach a future state where they’re happier, more knowledgeable, or more successful. They want transformation.
To transform lives, your content must be original. If it’s been heard or seen before, it won’t transform anyone’s life. It’s just a waste of time.
Christin Baumgarten, Marketing Manager at Mailbird
Even though I may be stating the obvious here, many marketers seem to forget the basic rules of creating great content.
- Do your research. Get familiar with the trending topics within your industry. Make sure you are stating updated facts and using information that comes from credible and up-to-date sources.
- Know your readers. When creating content make sure the topic, voice and tone go in line with your target audiences’ interests.
- Write the content for your readers. Not for your sales or to impress search engines. Of course, the end goal will be an increase in sales or downloads or subscribers, depending on your KPIs. Nevertheless, your readers should not feel like they are reading a sales pitch of your product.
- Keep your content updated. Both your readers and your blog benefit from regular updates to your content.
- Add a little bit of humor or human touch to it. No matter how technical or serious the topic, it always reads easier and is more shareable if you can tell it was written by an actual person.
Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend
In a world fueled by words, marketers are called to continuously be alert to the latest trends of content. But the truth is that it’s not the content that evolves but your audience.
In order to create the so coveted “killer content,” writers and marketers should always focus on their audience.
Who are you aiming at? What is it that you want them to do? What is it that they want?
These are the questions that map your marketing landscape and show you the way to effective content.
Finding out what your audience wants is not easy, and an extensive research on topics related to your niche is unavoidable. To make the process a little bit easier, here are a couple of things to consider:
1) ask your current users/customers what they’d like to see from you
2) use sophisticated tools to breakdown what your users are looking for/searching.
For example, if your niche is email marketing, you are 100% sure that your users are interested in email marketing. Although, their interests may also expand to social media marketing, paid advertising, etc.
After finding out what might interest your readers, it’s time to produce that content. A great way to ensure that you create something that will stand out is doing some competitor analysis.
So, take a look at some of your current competitors and check what they did. And if you’ve identified a niche topic where none of your competitors have written about, you’ve just struck gold.
Put your users first and your marketing inspiration will follow!
“If it’s not useful, fun or inspiring, I’m not posting it.”
Emily Ryan – Digital Marketing Specialist, founder of Westfield Creative
When thinking about what makes great content, you should think about what YOU love to look at.
So, when it’s 10 pm on a Sunday night and you’re scrolling your Instagram feed, what are you drawn to? What makes you laugh or think or what makes you want to click on someone’s profile to learn more?
I always try to go back to that — would I like to see this in my own feed?
I also try to make sure my content is ALWAYS one of these three things:
- and/or inspiring.
I recommend choosing two-three words as your sort of “content mission statement” and then live by it. If it’s not useful, fun or inspiring, I’m not posting it.
Every post or email doesn’t have to be amazing, but it should provide something to your follower/subscriber, whether that’s a simple laugh (like a funny GIF) or a free download.
Lastly, take a few minutes and simply scroll down Facebook or Instagram and see what jumps out. I do this with Facebook ads a lot — which ads grab my attention. What colors are you drawn to? What photos do you stop at if you’re scrolling fast? Also,what emails do you actually read? And what subject lines in your Inbox jump out?
Your own eyes will tell you what makes great content. Don’t overthink it. Just think about what you love seeing.
Alexandra Tachalova, Founder of DigitalOlympus.net
It might sound quite obvious, but I strongly recommend writing about topics with which you really have solid experience. Plus, I’ve found that staying on the practical side of things is always a big plus and adds some credits.
Additionally, don’t neglect adding expert quotes in your piece as those quotes always pay off and give your content higher value.
Finally, promotion is what helps your content reach your audience. Always plan it in advance and invest 10 times more time in content promotion than in content production.
Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist & Entrepreneur at Foundation Marketing Inc.
Great content comes from understanding the needs and pains of your audience and going above and beyond the expectation to deliver on them.
Great content is the video you send to a prospect instead of just an email. It is the imagery and interactivity you add to an article instead of just text. It’s the tutorial that didn’t exist until you created it.
Great content is like getting extra Guacamole thrown on a burrito at Chipotle. You expected a little, but are delighted when you get more.
Marketers looking to stand out can do so by going beyond the status quo.
“It’s important to not sound like everybody else.”
Chanteuse Marie, launch copywriter and funnel strategist
Great content is a research-backed, well-thought-out piece that’s tailor-fit to the needs of your audience.
On my blog Behind The Copy, for example, I don’t write about a topic willy-nilly. I make sure that my readers walk away with new insights to improve their copy or funnels. Content that demands to be consumed isn’t a mere regurgitation of what other creators have already said and done.
Yes, it’s likely that certain topics have been discussed aplenty. That’s why it’s important to not sound like everybody else. So you stand a chance of capturing the attention of your audience—and holding on to it for as long as you can.
Aim to bring new perspectives to the table, and be unboring as you do so.
Robb Fahrion, Partner of Flyingvgroup.com
The foundation of great content is an expert understanding of the topic and relevant research. There is no better piece of content than the one that can show you examples of the points the author is trying to make. Some examples might include real-life case studies or experiments that the author has performed to support his narrative.
What also makes for great content is the amount of information it offers and the questions it answers. There is a reason why long-form, or cornerstone content, tends to rank better online and receive more social media shares and impressions.
Long-form content tends to do a better job at answering more questions for more readers. It provides much more detailed information.
Now, as a caution, it wouldn’t be wise to write 1,500 words if the content only requires 1,000. A good content writer will research the topic beforehand and find a question that requires detailed and informative explanations.
In order for marketers to stand out in a landscape where everyone is creating content, they need to do three things:
- Create amazing cornerstone content
- Network with others
- Invest in a social media strategy
The content marketing landscape is extremely competitive. So don’t be afraid to ask for help or create relationships with people you might be able to lean on.
Start networking on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn with those in your industry. Comment on their posts, share their articles, and offer to link to their blog post when their work adds value to your post.
Doing so will build relationships and help you to promote your content since you have done the same for others.
“Be exciting and don’t copy other people.”
Rebecca Felker, PR and Branding Manager at Madrivo
Great content is relevant and a value add to the reader. People seek out information that is relevant to them. So, creating content that speaks to a particular question or problem is going to be very attractive to your audience.
Also, provide solid takeaways. There’s a lot of content out there that addresses a problem, but only skimms the solution.
Not only does content need to be relevant and add value, but it also has to be interesting and engaging. This is where marketers can stand out from the crowd.
Maybe add some humor, some great design elements and make it personal.
Krissie Claire, Content Marketing Consultant, founder and CEO at Kollectify
Marketers need to understand their customers so that they can craft captivating and engaging content. So, do your research and learn as much as you can about your audience.
Also, always think of a new angle and make use of other mediums, such as live videos and partner webinars, not just articles.
Be exciting and don’t copy other people – think outside of the box!
“It’s all about them, not about us.”
Ivan Szabo, VP of Marketing at CRMDialer
“Always try to help others.” That’s our motto when we prepare the content of our blogs. Most of the time, visitors start with a question in a search engine. They aren’t happy with the service they are using right now, or they’re simply curious to learn more.
These days we have a lot of competition between niches. Of course, we always try to stand out, so we have to be careful about not selling smoke to our visitors.
It’s all about them, not about us — and only then — once we understand this as marketers, we can help them out and solve any issues they might have.
We always attempt to reach out to our readers and ask them about the business model they run and how we can make our service better and easier to understand. Most of the time, a considerable percentage points out the same things.
The message is clear: most of our visitors think alike. We need to understand what they need and sum that up. That way, we can create content that appeals to them.
John Doherty, Founder of GetCredo.com
Great content is content that stands out above the noise in your industry and gets your ideal client to pay attention to your brand. Depending on the stage in the funnel for which you create the piece of content, success can vary and be anything from qualified traffic to conversions.
Content that stands out from the crowd, especially in saturated industries, is broadly content that people in that industry have not seen before.
We have to move beyond 500-word blog posts as content that can move the needle. Instead, we have to look to bigger pieces of content that may require more work. Ultimately, that’s the kind of content that will move the needle on the business.
So, leave behind the “quantity” mindset. Focus on fewer pieces, such as proprietary data with incredible design. It will be spread via social media, linked to, and ultimately help you turn passing visitors into interested leads and customers.
Dhruv Patel, co-founder of SalesHandy
What makes content great can differ with each targeted search query and its intent. Still, there are a few standard pointers that marketers can follow to ensure their content stands out in search results.
Make it detailed.
Ensuring that the audience gets all the information from your blog/article and spends time on your page is essential for better search visibility. We have observed that articles longer than 1,500 words rank better.
Break the content into sections/steps and add an index.
This practice makes your content both reader and search engine friendly. It also reduces pogo-sticking and improves the search ranking of the content.
Include value-adding takeaways and have a clear call to action.
Within the first few lines, readers should get a clear idea of what they would get out of your content piece. Giving downloadable or readily usable takeaways (such as ready to use templates, checklists, etc.) ensures that readers stay engaged with the piece even after they read it the first time.
Also, have a single and clear call-to-action for each content piece. It is crucial that your readers have a clear idea of what you want them to do after reading your content. It makes your work more results-oriented.
The digital media is going through a content shock. A webpage needs to compete with a million other webpages to stand out for a search query and engage the audience in a meaningful way. It is especially tough when you have a relatively new website.
To create great content, marketers need to be more data-driven.
Conduct a thorough keyword analysis of the competitors in their targeted audience niche and find a relevant content gap. Once you have the right keywords, it’s all about creating a great content piece answering those queries and spreading the word about them.
You may also want to read — Julia McCoy: “Great Content Comes Down to the Time and Talent Involved”