Every marketer has heard that “content is king.”
We know that it’s critical for SEO, brand elevation, and lead gen.
But small marketing teams often struggle with creating high quality content. This is often because there are too many demands on their time.
However, even if you can only spare a few hours each week, it’s possible to create content that will:
- Generate as many as 67% more leads than if you didn’t post regular content
- Build brand authority and improve search engine results
- Improve customer retention by continually providing value to them after the sale
This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to create high quality content with limited time and resources.
What is High Quality Content?
Creating high quality content enables you to attract visitors, leads, and ultimately bring in more business.
But if you have poor quality content, it not only doesn’t help, but it can actually hurt your marketing results.
So the million dollar question is, literally:
What is high quality content?
At the end of the day, the end user determines whether your content is high quality.
Every user comes to your content with a certain set of expectations.
They may have clicked on a Google search result page. Perhaps they came across your post on social media. Maybe they found out through a referral.
However they found you, each of your users expects to get something out of your content.
If you don’t provide them with value, they’re just going to click away.
This is why optimizing for intent is just as important as optimizing for a particular topic or keyword.
Generally, there are three kinds of user intent:
- Informational intent. Users are primarily interested in content that educates them on a certain topic.
- Navigational intent. Users are primarily interested in finding a specific page on your website (for instance, the “About” or “Contact Us” page).
- Transactional intent. Users come to your site with the express intent to make a purchase.
Of course, sometimes a user’s intent is a mix of the above. In those cases, you’ll want to look at similar content to gauge what their expectations might be:
- Read key publications in your industry
- Check out your competitors’ websites
- Search some of the terms your audience is looking for
- Talk to customers and ask them about the content they consume
Once you know what your audience is interested in, you can tailor content specifically to their intent.
In addition to matching user intent, high quality content should be:
- Readable and engaging. If the user has to work too hard to read your content, you won’t get your message across. Use short sentences and paragraphs, and only use highly technical language when necessary.
- Authentic & trustworthy. Many users won’t be familiar with your website or your brand. As a result, it’s important to be clear and authentic, not super “corporate” or obtuse.
- Up to date. By refreshing & updating your content post-publication, you’ll end up building even more trust with your audience. Plus, it’s important to maintain your SEO rankings.
- Comprehensive & well-researched. You want the user to walk away with something they didn’t know before. In the best cases, your content will be so valuable that it’ll leave a brand impression in their mind.
- Relevant to user interests. Keyword and topic research can help focus your writing on a topic that interests your audience. That way, you’re not just writing about whatever strikes your fancy.
- Unique & differentiated. Don’t just copy what everyone else is doing. Write from your perspective, and leverage your business’ unique expertise and background. If you have first-party data or case studies, that’s even better.
- Clean, polished, and edited. Make sure your copy is clean, free of typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, broken links, etc.
Creating high quality content is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of SEO and content marketing. But when you pull it off, you’re going to both attract and retain a relevant audience.
10 Steps to Creating High Quality Content
Now that we’ve walked through what high quality looks like, here are some practical tips for you to create it.
1. Craft a catchy, compelling headline.
When most people visit a blog, all they read is the headline, and maybe the introduction.
So if you want them to read the rest of your post, your headline must be catchy and compelling.
A strong headline should do the following:
- Tell the reader why they should read your content (i.e. the content’s value prop)
- Explain what they can expect inside
- Provide a “hook” that compels them to dig deeper
That’s a pretty tall order for just a few words.
When BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million headlines, they found 65 characters (11 words) to be the optimal headline length.
Keeping in mind the “Big 5” content types, here are some ways to spice up your headline:
- “how to [solve a problem they have]”
- “here’s how [another company solved their problem]”
- “[option A] vs. [option B]”
- “best of…” OR “top reasons…” OR “smartest tips…”
- “how much does [subject] cost” OR “X surprising hidden costs”
Headlines shouldn’t come across as click-baity or gimmicky. As long as you communicate your value clearly, your ideal customer will click through.
2. Hook the reader with a compelling intro.
According to data from Nielsen Norman Group, users spend 57 percent of their time above the fold.
As a result, your intro should do three things:
- Be short enough that they can read it without scrolling
- Provide a bite-sized piece of value to whet their appetite
- Create a compelling call-to-action (in this case, to scroll on)
You could have all sorts of exciting, juicy bits within your content.
But if the reader never gets past the intro, then they’re never going to see them.
3. Always write toward your value prop.
Readers consume content not because of the information it contains, but because of the value that information will bring them.
No matter your content length, it’s important to periodically remind the user why they’re reading, and why they should continue on.
If you want your value prop to stick, you need to write for a very specific user.
Niching down to a specific persona allows you to get very specific about your value prop. That makes you more likely to hit the mark.
4. Narrow each piece of content’s focus.
Jumping off from the previous section, the narrower your content’s focus, the better it will perform.
It’s easier to target long-tail, highly specific keywords through SEO. Especially when you’re just starting out, these are likely the only pages where you’ll have any success.
However, narrowing your article focus also helps you maximize the value you’re giving your persona.
Instead of going broad, go deep into one specific topic. The deeper you go, the more value you’ll provide.
5. Write like a human.
You’re not a robot. Your customers aren’t robots.
So your content shouldn’t sound like a robot wrote it.
Whether you’re in a B2B or B2C lane, you’re still marketing to a human being. And humans want to hear from other humans.
Let yourself be…well…yourself.
This will build authenticity and trust with your audience, which only increases your content’s performance.
6. Stay true to your brand.
While it’s important to be helpful and human, don’t forget that you’re representing a business.
So the way you write should reflect that business.
For example, if you’re marketing toward K-12 education centers, you probably aren’t going to use four-letter words.
However, if you’re going after SaaS startups, then letting out the occasional swear could come across as authentic and relatable.
Once you define your brand voice and guidelines, stick to it throughout your content. That way, every interaction your customers have with your business is consistent.
7. Provide unique knowledge to the reader.
Creating great content isn’t just about drawing the reader in.
It’s about keeping them satisfied once they finish reading.
If you don’t provide your readers with helpful information, odds are they’re not going to return to your site.
This will directly impact your long-term content effectiveness, as well as your brand reputation.
So do your research before you write. That way, you’ll have substantive information to back up your claims.
At the same time, you should always provide something unique — something the reader can’t get anywhere else:
- A unique (or even provocative) take on the topic
- Proprietary first-party data or research
- Unique analysis of third-party data
- Customer case studies or stories
All of these will also serve as trust factors to help build up your reputation in your readers’ eyes. This, in turn, makes them more likely to do business with you.
8. Start with an outline.
A well-written article has less to do with grammar or prose (although both are important) as with its persuasiveness.
Even if you aren’t actively selling your product, you should at least persuade them to adopt the advice you’re presenting.
An outline is a great tool to ensure your content is persuasive and logical.
It can also help you break your main topic into smaller subtopics that you can address in detail.
9. Drive the reader to action.
Ultimately, you aren’t just writing this content for your health.
You’re trying to drive a specific business result: brand elevation, lead generation, sales, etc.
As a result, each piece of content should come with a “next step.”
Some of these calls to action can include:
- Subscribing to the blog or newsletter
- Downloading a valuable eBook
- Registering for a webinar
- Scheduling a consultation or demo
Keep in mind that calls to action are predicated on an exchange of value.
The more value you provide, the more engagement you can ask them for in return.
So if you want to ask for a demo, you have to provide them a lot of value in advance (and this probably won’t happen on the first touch).
10. Always review your data.
Whether you subjectively enjoy a particular piece of content is irrelevant.
What matters is whether that content engages and provides value to your audience.
And the only way you know whether or not that’s happening is by reviewing your data.
Through Google Analytics, you can quickly and easily review the following metrics (and much more):
- Number of pageviews (how many people clicked onto the page)
- Time on page (how long people spent on that page)
- Bounce rate (percentage of people who exited without visiting another page)
- Conversion rates (percentage of people who downloaded a content offer after viewing your content)
If you have lead tracking in your CRM, you can see which segments are engaging with which pieces of content. This allows you to narrow your focus to provide more value.
It also helps you identify particular pieces of content that are underperforming. That way, you can refresh and update them.
How to Create High Quality Content with Limited Resources
Now if any of this seems overwhelming, don’t sweat it.
While having more resources at your disposal certainly helps you create high quality content, it’s not absolutely necessary.
Remember what I said about user expectations? As long as you generate content that meets those expectations, you’re going to be all set.
If you have limited in-house content marketing resources, here are some tips to keep things moving along.
Focus on incremental, daily progress.
If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to content. That’s fine.
In fact, the best way to be successful with content is by taking small, daily actions toward your goals.
That means that you (and your team) need to show up and create content every day.
This doesn’t mean that you have to finish a piece of content every day (that would be insane).
But you should work on it every day.
The more you create, the better you’ll get at it. Your team will be able to create content faster. And the quality of the content will definitely improve.
Keep a backlog of topics.
Sometimes people ask me, “How are you able to write so much?”
The answer: I spend very little time thinking about what to write about.
That’s because I have a backlog for both myself and my clients of the topics we need to cover. I’ve generated them through:
- Listening to customers and their questions
- Competitive analysis
- Keyword research
- Engaging with like-minded professionals on LinkedIn
If you sit down and walk through all of the challenges your customers are facing and how you can help them, I’m convinced you could come up with hundreds of topics.
So write them down. Keep a healthy backlog.
Then chip away, one topic at a time.
Stick to a process.
Creativity thrives under constraints.
English writer G.K. Chesterton said something very similar: “Art consists in limitation.”
That may seem counterintuitive.
But the reason it works is that having constraints eliminates hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions that surround your creative work.
For instance, if you decide that you’re going to write from 6-8 AM every morning, you don’t have to make that decision again. You just follow the process.
Or if you make yourself research and outline before drafting every time, you never have to ask “what should I do next?” because you already know.
This is why if your time and brain space is limited, take thirty minutes and sketch out a writing process.
It doesn’t really matter what the process is. Pick one that works for you.
But whatever you pick, stick to it.
Stay ahead of your deadlines.
Never post a blog at the last minute.
Once you’ve put together a content calendar and have some solid deadlines, you want to stick to them.
But things get in the way, and you may end up scrambling to post something at the last minute.
That’s a bad idea.
When you’re writing your content, you’re almost certain to miss something. Maybe it’s something as innocuous as a typo, or maybe it’s a grave error that will make you (and your brand) look bad.
After drafting your content, you’ll want to give yourself some time to look over it a couple of times. Better yet, you’ll want to get others involved in the review process as well.
This is impossible when you post at the last minute.
So make sure that you plan ahead. Prioritize your content writing time.
It may seem challenging in the moment. But when you’ve had time to let the content breathe, you’ll thank yourself for it.
Final Thoughts: If You Need It, Bring in Help
Ultimately, there are only so many hours in the day.
At some point, if you want to continue scaling your content marketing option & realizing the benefits that come from high frequency content production, you’re going to need to bring in some help.
This could take a number of forms:
- Additional marketing team hires
- Marketing agencies