Think about your favorite websites, the ones you visit most often. What do they have in common?
It’s probably the content. Regardless of the subject matter, your favorite sites are probably great sources of fresh, interesting content, published on a regular basis. Whether that means a daily cartoon, a weekly blog or a collection of articles published throughout the day—they create better content more frequently than their competitors, and that keeps you coming back time and time again.
Now think about your website. When’s the last time you published something new? Do you have quality content on there to keep people coming back?
Why Content Matters
Good web content has two main benefits to your site. First, it establishes you as an expert in your field. If you sell cookware, for instance, why not have a quality cooking blog to act as a resource for all those home chefs out there?
Second, good content drives traffic. For reference, our Edgar blog regularly pulls 2,000+ views a week. That’s a lot of eyes! With the same example as above, imagine the number of new visitors that could be driven from a well-timed post offering the perfect pumpkin spice recipes for fall.
The most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth, and if you can generate content that has your readers sharing it with their friends, your site will reap the benefits.
Creating Good Content Is Easier Than You Think
Whenever I meet a blogger or copywriter, one of my first questions is always, “How do you keep coming up with new ideas?” Because, seriously—it’s an impressive feat. And while everyone has their own unique spin on things, most of the answers come down to some pretty simple advice. Here are the tricks the top content producers use to keep their creativity flowing.
Brainstorm in Batches
One tip I hear more than almost any other is to brainstorm your ideas in bulk. Outside of moments of true inspiration, it’s a lot easier to get into an idea-generating mode and come up with a bunch of post topics in a single session than it is to come up with one good idea for the post you’re sitting down to write. Then when it’s time to write a post, you can browse through your list of ideas and find one that piques your interest at that point in time.
Think of Your Audience
It’s pretty basic advice, but it bears repeating: Create content that will hold your audience’s attention. What’s not so basic is adding a layer of performance metrics, instead of just trusting your gut instincts.
Do you have Google Analytics or another similar tool at work on your site? Do you have visibility to what posts get the most traffic, and can you discern why? Similarly, can you determine which posts have gotten the most traction on social media?
Figure out what creates the most buzz (whether through marketing automation software or through manual analysis) and you’ll have a clear idea of what topics resonate with your audience—and thus what to write about more frequently.
Don’t Write Well—Just Write
The hardest part of writing anything is getting the first draft down on paper (or screen). That’s especially true if you’re constantly tempted to tinker with the words as you write, trying to get things to sound perfect instead of just trying to get your ideas out. The result? You get trapped toying with the same few lines, and eventually lose your momentum for writing the whole piece. Don’t do that.
Your first draft should be written while hitting the backspace key as little as possible. Make mistakes. Write things that don’t quite make sense. Write things that don’t make any sense at all. You’ll clean up all of that when you start making revisions. The only thing that matters is that you get your ideas down on paper. Or, you know, on an electronic screen that looks like paper.
Edit, Edit & Edit Some More
Once your first draft is sitting there—in all its ugly, lumpy glory—it’s time to edit. I always think of writing as akin to creating pottery. You start with this lump of clay (your first draft) and slowly, steadily shape it into a teapot (or whatever you had in mind from the start).
There are no rules for how many times you can edit something. Walt Whitman made an entire career out of releasing re-edits of his first book. I’m not sure this means Walt would be a very popular blogger, but you get the idea. Edit until you’re happy with the piece you have.
My usual routine is to write a full first draft, following the “just get it all out” method above. Then I’ll do one or two (or three, if it’s a particularly lumpy teapot) rounds of revisions on my own, before asking my peers for their input. Once I hear back from a few people whose opinions I trust, another round or two of revisions is usually all it takes to perfect the piece.
Okay, I Wrote This Great Thing; Now What?
You’ve come up with an idea, you’ve written, you’ve edited, you’ve edited some more. The hard part is over, right? Not entirely.
Publishing is Just the Start
Once you publish your finely crafted final draft, you’ve only taken the first step to leveraging your content to its fullest. Unless your site already has a built-in audience checking in on a regular basis, you’re going to need to get the word out that you have something new and great that’s ready to be read.
Get the Word Out
For the most part, you shouldn’t count on your audience to check in to see what you’ve been publishing. This is where your email list comes in handy. Good old fashioned email is still one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site (it regularly accounts for over 30 percent of the visits we get to Edgar). Don’t be afraid to let your audience know when something new is available on your site, but consider doing a weekly digest instead of one-off emails if you put out a lot of content each week.
Promoting your content on social media is also a simple and effective way to drive traffic. Simply sharing it on social networks is a good first step, but it’s no secret that social media platforms are actively retracting organic reach. Now more than ever, paid media is a mounting need for successful content promotion.
How much of your content has a shelf life? Unless you run a news site, most of your content will probably be as valid in a year as it is now. Repeating content, which is Edgar’s specialty, is a great way to get more mileage out of your content by bringing new eyes to old articles. Evergreen content (the stuff that is always timely) can be shared over and over, and each time it will bring in new readers.
Even seasonal content can count as evergreen. Just think of how that Onion article about Mr. Autumn Man makes the rounds at the start of each September. As long as people still lose their minds about pumpkin-spiced everything, that article will keep driving traffic. Your posts can do the same.
Creating great content is a time-consuming process. What’s more, you’re only half way “done” when you finally publish it for consumption. By practicing a few simple rules (like brainstorming in batches and writing without editing) you’ll find the process of content creation to be more natural and intuitive. And by getting in the habit of actively promoting your content after it’s live, you’ll see better results from its performance overall.