You probably heard, at one point, that you need to create valuable content for your readers.
Because that’s how you get exposure. Because that’s how you drive more targeted traffic to your site. Because that’s how you get readers so hooked on your content, they become click-hungry subscribers.
But creating content that generates those results isn’t easy.
In fact, most content that people believe is valuable, is frighteningly sub par.
But, if you’re serious about improving your craft, and the way you create content, you’re in luck.
Because in today’s post, I’m going to share tips that almost guarantees that every piece of content that you publish is valuable.
But You’re Probably Wondering …
What actually makes content “valuable”?
To get the answer, I asked some pretty big online influencers like:
Sam Hurley from Optim-Eyez:
And Jay Baer from Convince and Convert:
And as good as their answers were, I still wanted the opinions of more marketers.
So, I decided to conduct a survey of 276 bloggers and marketers — and these were the results.
I’ll touch on these points a little later in the post.
But now that you’ve seen the results, it’s time to learn the truth about content.
The Unsavory Truth about Content You Rarely Hear About
Once upon a time, back in the early days of blogging, readers read everything.
Blog posts. Articles. White pages.
Didn’t matter if it was 300 or 3,000 words either. Because blogging was so new and taboo, readers were hungry to consume the information.
Fast forward to today and things are drastically different.
More readers are skimming a large chunk of your content no matter what. And according to a Nielsen study, visitors read an average of 20% of the page they visit.
But think of the blogs you visit regularly. How many of those posts do you read word-for-word? Or even more than 20% of the post?
Chances are you don’t.
The main reason?
You value your time and expect MORE from the content that’s shared. And if something doesn’t grab you attention, you leave.
Now as a marketer is that unfair? You better believe it. Because readers will still leave your site if you don’t share content that’s valuable.
In other words, you lose out on traffic, leads and sales.
Now, remember that survey I conducted of 276 bloggers and marketers that revealed this chart?
It was determined, by the marketers and bloggers surveyed, that the main factors of valuable content are:
- Utility or practicality
- Trustworthiness of the source
- Backed by data
Now let me go deeper and explain the importance of each factor.
1. Relevancy of the content
Back in 2016, when I operated another site called Shade of Info, I was all over the place with my content.
Here’s a few topics that I wrote about:
- Best WordPress plugins
- How to grow your twitter followers
- What happens to your site when you die
- Is Entrepreneurship for you
As you can see, no continuity with those topics. Especially since that blog was supposed to be about content marketing.
That, and other reasons, caused my traffic to drop significantly:
That’s when I decided to shut the whole thing down, start fresh with Content Ranked and be more strategic.
And one of the things I wanted to focus on was writing content that was timely.
For example, before I wrote this post:
I noticed there were a lot of people writing about brand trust and credibility.
Not only that, but it had a decent amount of interest on Google Trends towards the end of the year:
All in all, a significant win for me.
Especially since, as per this study, Google uses content relevance as a ranking factor.
To quote Searchmetrics:
Relevant content is what it’s all about these days.
2. Utility or practicality of the content
Here’s the deal:
Despite what most marketers would have you think, opinionated content is rarely successful.
Because readers don’t want opinions. They want solutions to their problems. And they want it explained to them step-by-step.
Think about it:
Why do you think so many recipe sites are popular?
Because they provide actionable, step-by-step instructions to people who are looking for a specific piece of information.
Your content should be the same.
And I’m not the only one that thinks that either. Ashley Faulkes from Mad Lemmings shared this:
And it works.
3. Trustworthiness of the source actually writing the content
Remember when former head of web spam, Matt Cutts, wrote about guest blogging being dead?
The aftermath of that post prompted over 600 comments in 3 months:
Over 7,000 shares:
And hundreds of marketers (and websites) sharing their own thoughts on whether guest blogging is dead or not:
But here’s the thing:
That post caused a lot of discussion and panic — and caused some marketers to ditch guest posting all together as a sound strategy to build their business.
Because of who wrote the post.
If it was anyone but Matt Cutts, the message probably would have been ignored.
What does that mean?
For your content to be valuable, you need to be a person that’s trustworthy in the eyes of the reader. Be a person that they can always count on for valuable insights. Be a person that shows that you have their best interests at heart.
And when I asked Mari Smith how she gets readers to trust her, here’s what she had to share:
That’s why your branding and image is important.
4. If the content is actually authentic and backed by data
Data plays a major role in content.
In fact, written content that’s data-driven brings some truth to what you’re sharing. More importantly, it proves that you’re not just making things up.
For example, in most of the content Neil Patel writes, he shares some form of data:
And this Backlinko post …
… is certainly MORE valuable based on the data shared.
In short, being more data-driven with your content strategy works.
Jay Acunzo, creator & host of Unthinkable, shared his very interesting insights on it:
See how important all four of these factors are?
Now it’s time to show you exactly how to make your content more valuable.
The 3-Step Process for Writing Valuable Content in 2017 (and Beyond)
As important as those factors are, there are just 3 steps you need to write more valuable content. And here’s a nifty checklist to illustrate that:
Step #1: Write much more simpler
Step #2: Avoid repetition
Step #3: Pique curiosity throughout
And with that, let’s dive into the step-by-step process…
Step #1: Write Simpler and in a way Readers can Understand
Look, I get it.
You figure that you’re an adult and should be able to flex your vocabulary muscles, eh?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong.
Readers don’t want difficult vocabulary and complex words. They want content they can understand.
Let’s say you were employed by Apple as their new content editor.
They just launched the Apple Pencil and you were looking over various copy to determine which one to use on the site.
Here’s the first piece of copy:
When using iPad Pro, there may be instances when you want even greater exactitude.
So we assiduously designed Apple Pencil to expand on the versatility of Multi-Touch. And while the technology inside is dissimilar to anything we’ve ever engineered, picking up Apple Pencil for the first time feels very commonplace.
It lets you make any number of effects, right down to a single pixel, giving you more creative freedom than ever before.
Seems overly complex, right?
Compare that to this:
When using iPad Pro, there may be moments when you want even greater precision.
So we painstakingly designed Apple Pencil to expand on the versatility of Multi-Touch. And while the technology inside is unlike anything we’ve ever engineered, picking up Apple Pencil for the first time feels instantly familiar.
It lets you make any number of effects, right down to a single pixel, giving you more creative freedom than ever before.
Pay close attention to the words in bold.
A bit smoother, don’t you think?
Even the smallest thing like a word you choose can make a world of difference.
Now, here’s how you can do this:
First, when you finish your first draft, let it sit there for a few days (if possible). The longer you let it sit, the better the editing will be once you view it again with a clear head.
Here’s a timetable I use when creating content:
(Notice the number of times I actually let the content sit before considering it ‘complete.’)
Next, go through and remove all of the fluff. This includes weak words used to increase word count — and sentences that have no business being there.
For example, say I wrote something like this:
There’s a lot of fluff there, right?
Here’s how I would make it more readable …
Simpler words. No redundancy. 100% READABLE!
Remember — the best content is written in the simplest terms.
Step #2: Avoid Content Repetition
I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but …
… most of the content people create is garbage.
Imagine this scene.
You’ve started a blog about blogging — a much ‘overlooked’ topic. Agreed?
You made this decision based on seeing others have success in this space. Now, you plan to follow in their footsteps and, hopefully, be as successful.
Your first few posts were meh — but you hope your next post will strike a cord and connect with readers.
There’s only one problem:
Your next post is doomed for failure because it’s the same content that’s already out there.
Let me explain:
Let’s say you wanted to write content about ‘landing page optimization.’
If you did a search for that keyword, here’s what you would find:
Pages and pages of results.
But here’s the thing: the first few results are ALL that matter.
Most readers only care about the first few results. And once they learned what they needed to from those, no other topic will interest them.
Let alone yours.
Have a unique angle to your content to make it extra valuable and stand out.
For instance, one of the things I love about Moz.com is their Whiteboard Fridays:
Rather than just write a blog post (like everyone else) on a topic, they produce a detailed video explaining, step-by-step, how to overcome common problems marketers face.
Has the topic been talked about before? Yep.
But, other than a different medium to deliver the content, Moz actually teaches you the solution. And that’s a great way to draw interest to content you create.
And hey … they’re not the only ones that makes their content stand out.
The creators of Pinch of Yum do an amazing job of standing out in a sea of sameness.
Not only do they share recipes for delicious food …
But they write their content in a super conversational tone …
And guess how they make their awesome content even more valuable?
They even include a nutritional fact card of each meal:
Can you say AWESOME!?!
Are the recipes they’re sharing something new? Nope.
But they immediately avoid content repetition by sharing content no one else is.
Step #3: Sprinkle Multiple Bits of Curiosity Within Your Content
Imagine you’re on that show ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’
You’re dressed in your ridiculously bright banana costume when you get chosen by the host to play the next game.
Your heart nearly skips a beat when you’re given an envelope and are told you could keep whatever is inside — or get $500 instantly to give it back.
After much thought, you decided to keep the envelope. And in it, you won a brand new home entertainment system.
That’s something you actually needed too.
With your heart still racing like an out of control train, the host ups the ante.
They offer you to give up the home entertainment system for whatever is behind door #1.
What could it be?
A trip? A car? A zonk?
You’re mildly curious as to what it is, right?
In writing, it’s the same thing. It’s called a curiosity gap.
In fact, here’s what Henneke Duistermaat said about it in this post:
That’s the type of curiosity you want your readers to have.
You want their curiosity to be specific things in your writing that draws their interest.
Here’s how you can do this:
First, build up some interest from the very beginning.
Say you were writing a post about being more productive as a business. You can start off with something like this:
Focusing on providing a benefit rather than features will fair better.
(The benefit in this case is the 18 hours the reader will save each month)
Next, deepen their curiosity within your intro:
You always want to make sure your content provides benefits for the reader. The more beneficial information you can include, the more curiosity you’ll generate.
Lastly, connect sentences effortlessly that’s keeps them stuck on your page like glue.
When you do that, you not only make your content very conversational, but it keeps the pace going.
And when each sentence pulls the reader into the next one, you’re closer to getting them to read it all.
By implementing a technique Direct Marketing Copywriter, Maxwell Ross, coined …
If you look throughout this post, you’ll see that I use it all the time. Even in the previous example about the intro:
Now — here’s all you do:
Sprinkle some of these words and phrases throughout your content to keep each sentence moving. Especially parts you think readers will get bored and want to leave.
The good news?
Here’s a few that you can use immediately in your content:
You’re all set.
Are You Ready to Start Creating Valuable Content?
The reason most writers fail with their content isn’t because a lack of knowledge or smarts. It’s blatantly ignoring the ‘ingredients’ that make up content that’s valuable.
They feel that their content, as is, is good enough. So they never put in the work to make it better.
But you’re going to be different, right?
You’re going to commit yourself to creating readers' love? Content readers won’t skim? Content that forces readers to read every single word because they want more?
You bet your bottom dollar you will.