Creating content for the web is almost a practical necessity for any business or independent professional with ambition. It allows you to promote what you do to a massive prospective audience, showcase your expertise, build networking connections, drive traffic, and even earn some affiliate revenue (if that’s something you want to pursue).
It isn’t surprising, then, that it’s hard to find people who don’t frequently post to their social media profiles and/or blogs. The online world is flooded with content — and the quality is decidedly mixed. From a practical standpoint, so much of it serves little purpose: it either isn’t noticed at all, or it serves as a brief diversion without returning any value to the producer
If you’re creating online content, then, you need to think carefully about how you approach it. Get it right, and you can stand out for positive reasons. Get it wrong, and you’ll achieve nothing — or worse, you’ll get a negative return on your investment (content can be so bad that it actually damages the reputation of the producer). Here are 5 ways to make your content better:
Ease up on the formality
Plenty of businesses — particularly those that have been around for many years — still produce online content that’s oddly (even uncomfortably) formal. They perpetuate the notion that being professional demands the exact and dispassionate phrasing of comments aimed solely at directly-relevant topics, tactics, or events. This produces boring content.
Even if you’re an expert in your field, you can get your expertise across without limiting yourself to old-fashioned content formatting. Use some emojis from time to time. Throw in the occasional slang term. Try an animated GIF if you feel particularly daring. Don’t force it, because that inevitably produces cringe-worthy content, but feel free to write in a more relaxed style. You’ll find it easier, and the readers will prefer it.
Aim for quality, not quantity
Does your strategy call for the production and release of numerous posts every month, or even every week? For a small business, that’s a rough schedule to manage. Even when you’re writing a basic piece, it takes time to get through drafting and editing, and it’s often time that you should really be spending on other things.
You should still be investing in content, of course — just in a more selective way. Instead of going for quantity, you should focus on quality. Conduct some competitive analysis to see what your competitors are doing, then pick out their best-performing pieces and look for opportunities to use the skyscraper technique. If you can create just one exceptional piece of content, it can return more value than a hundred generic throwaway pieces.
Focus on evergreen content
When you write a piece like “10 Ways to Market Your Business in August”, then it’ll have limited usefulness, and you shouldn’t put much effort into it. Since you’re concentrating on high-quality content, you should limit your titles to evergreen concepts. An evergreen piece of content has significant value at any time of the year, and will ideally still be useful a decade from now.
Here’s an example of an evergreen title: “How to Prepare for a Job Interview”. It doesn’t matter how the jobs market changes, or how AI gets involved, or how business standards shift — there will always be people searching for help getting ready for a job interview. If you make a phenomenal piece on the topic, it’ll retain value for many years to come. Don’t try too hard to be creative with your topics: there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.
Provide actionable tips
Notice that I used a “How to” title just now. There’s a simple reason for that, which is that people are always looking for useful suggestions. They like being entertained and learning new things, but it’s advice that presents the most value to your followers — consider that a piece all about what job interviews typically involve might be interesting but wouldn’t be as potent as the guide.
Keep this in mind when you’re writing your posts. Each one should have some actionable takeaways: they could be built into the format (as they are in this piece), or they could be highlighted as part of the conclusion. The more directly useful you make your content, the more positively people will respond to it.
Ask for value in return
Are you giving your readers ample opportunities to return some value? I ask this because it’s surprisingly common for companies to release content that just offers value without directly requesting any in return. This is a huge waste of time and effort. If you’re done something good for someone, it’s only fair to ask them to do something for you.
Every post should contain at least one prominent and vibrant CTA. You could ask for your readers to subscribe to your newsletter, or follow one or more of your social media accounts, or even buy your products (there’s no reason why you can’t directly promote your own products in your blog — just don’t be too pushy about it). If you’re not getting ROI from your content, then it’s pointless, so stop being coy and be straightforward about what you want.