On the other hand, using a pre-existing platform like Medium, YouTube, and Apple Podcasts for publishing your content means less customization, but easier startup costs (especially when it comes to the time investment if you’ve never used WordPress before). This route also means instant access to an audience that’s already present, and actively looking for content.
How to Create Content that Actually Works: A Content Guide for Beginners
Nowadays, anyone from anywhere in the world can make content, but not everyone can create content that actually works or makes an impact on their target audience. Content is everywhere on the web, and you interact with it regularly. From YouTube videos to blogs, content takes on a lot of forms and can vary greatly from website to website.
With a plethora of content available on the web, it seems easy to jump on the bandwagon and start making your own content. You’ll get to do what you love the most, and people will flock to your website, right? Well, yes and no. There’s more to content creation than just starting a blog or a YouTube channel. While there’s no exact formula when it comes to content creation, there are a number of steps you can follow that will help make your content more effective.
How to Create Content that Actually Works: A Content Creation Guide for Beginners:
What Is Content Creation?
So what exactly is content creation? From an outside perspective, it might seem like an easy task. After all, content creation can essentially be broken down into three simple steps. All content creators have to do is come up with an idea, execute it, and publish it to their preferred platform .
While that may be true to some extent, as those three steps are key aspects of content creation, that’s oversimplifying things. Content creation entails a lot of careful planning, strategic execution, and skill.
Types of Content
As we’ve mentioned before, content can take on a lot of forms. When used optimally, these can drive more traffic to your site. You’re free to stick to just one type or experiment with a combination of different content types. Here are some of the more common ones:
One of the most popular content types, blogs are used by many brands as part of their content marketing strategy. What makes blogs great is that they can easily be discovered on search engine results pages (SERPs), and they’re generally easy to read and share. They’re a great tool for establishing a relationship with your audience, as they’re easily accessible.
If you want to convey information in a way that’s easy to understand, infographics provide you with a welcome alternative. Because they present data or information in a visual format, they tend to be easily shareable by your audience.
Memes are everywhere. They’re hugely popular and can be used in practically anything, from blog posts to serious articles. They provide readers with something humorous. But while they’re easily shareable and adaptable, memes usually offer little to no additional value . When they’re not utilized properly, there’s a risk that your audience might not resonate well with them.
Reviews, whether they’re product, video, or book reviews, are an effective way to convey to your audience that you’re knowledgeable about a certain topic. This, in turn, establishes your authority or expertise in a particular subject.
If you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, one of the things you should look into is publishing case studies. These are in-depth studies of a particular subject or topic and often use your own data from your research.
In a similar vein to case studies, white papers also provide readers with an in-depth look at a specific topic. A typical white paper presents the reader with a problem and then proceeds to provide a solution for it. According to HubSpot’s Lindsay Kolowich Cox , a good white paper has the following characteristics:
One of the reasons why a visitor goes to your site is they want to get something that has value. You can provide them with what they need through downloadable materials, such as eBooks, templates, and digital reports. These act as excellent source materials and are relatively easy to create. To generate leads, you can ask your audience to opt in to your newsletter or email subscription list, so they can get access to your downloadable materials.
Define Your Content Marketing Goal
All content marketing starts with a goal. How are you going to measure the success of your campaign? Is it with traffic? New subscribers? App downloads? Conversions? Social shares and engagement? Video views? Podcast downloads? Sales?
Understanding your goal early on will guide other important decisions as you develop your content marketing strategy. Such as, what are we making? And where are we going to distribute our content? As Godin explains, your strategy is like building a ship. You need to know where it’s going to sail before you can start nailing planks of wood together.
When I’m brought on to build out a content marketing strategy for one of my clients, whether it’s a freelance gig or through my side project, Pro Content Marketer, we always start in the exact same place–with first getting a freelance contract in place, then defining an ultimate goal and backing into smaller mini-wins that ladder up to the bigger picture achievement.
Essentially, attracting new readers to your blog (content), then converting them into email subscribers who can later be warmed into paying customers as the rest of the marketing team works to build relationships with subscribers.
Once you have this larger goal in place, it’s easier to determine–based on your average conversion rates–how many readers or listeners, viewers, users, you need to attract to the content you’re publishing, in order to hit your signup goal.
And in order to bring in enough of the right traffic to hit your conversion rates, you’ll need to promote your content–landing syndications to publications, getting mentions in major industry blogs, having influencers share with their followers, and so on down the line.
It’s not an exact science per say, but the more you execute, build a portfolio of content and promote it, the more you’ll see what your baseline returns on content marketing are and you can make tweaks & experiment moving forward.
Finding the Right Content Creation Tools
This post has broken down pretty much every aspect of content creation, which (hopefully) makes the entire process a little more manageable. Still, it never hurts to make sure you’ve got the right tools in place to make it even easier on yourself. Here are a few free tools any in-house content marketing team can use:
- Make My Persona: This interactive tool from HubSpot is super helpful for putting together and actually using buyer personas.
- Blog Ideas Generator: Another fun and free tool from HubSpot, the topic generator is great for helping you think creatively about new ways to approach topics.
- Headline Analyzer: No one is going to read your content if they don’t click on it first, and this tool from CoSchedule can help you write the best, most compelling headlines for each article you write.
- : A knowledge bank is a customizable template you can use to collect and store all kinds of valuable insights for future content.
- Grammarly: This tool is like working with a grammar expert on everything you write, both online and in Microsoft Word, too.
- Canva: High-quality visuals are key to engaging content, and Canva makes it easy for anyone (even non-designers) to create custom designs.
Extra credit: A workflow or project management tool. CMI found that one of the largest tech-related differences between the most and least successful marketers was the use of a tool to manage workflow and content projects. Do you absolutely need to have one to create content? No. But will using a tool to manage all your content projects make the process easier, more transparent, and more efficient? You bet.
Content creation is the process that turns your overall content marketing strategy into actual, tangible assets and results. That’s why developing a system that works for your whole team is so important. With these steps, your content marketing team should be ready to build and use a content creation process that delivers results for your entire organization.
Social media is a chance for you to create and share content that is engaging and part of a conversation. Your website may be more of a broadcasting platform, but your social media channels are a chance for you to listen, engage and chat with your audience.
What is content creation?
Content creation is the process of identifying a new topic you want to write about, deciding which form you want the content to take, formalizing your strategy (keyword or otherwise), and then actually producing it.
Because content can take many forms—blog posts, videos, eBooks, Tweets, infographics, and advertisements to name a few—the content creation process is nuanced and not always as simple as it might seem. But doing it well can truly impact your business. In fact, recent research proves that creating quality educational content makes customers 131% more likely to buy from your business.
Creating great content starts with a well-established process. We’ll walk you through the content creation process from start to finish, and demonstrate how creating great content can help your audiences and customers find solutions and answers to their problems. So where do we start?
What is a content creator?
Before we dive into the content creation process, let’s start with the basics, like the content creator definition. A content creator refers to someone who is responsible for the ideation, creation, and distribution of content that connects a brand to its target audience. The goal of content creators is to create appealing and engaging content that captures the attention of users to drive website traffic, conversions, and interactions with your brand on external platforms like social. It can be informational content, but it doesn’t have to be. It can also serve to entertain in order to increase brand awareness, for example.
Digital content creators produce content across any platform or channel. Having dedicated content creators is a must for any enterprise organization. These are the content marketers that will help bring ideas to life through quality content that provides the highest possibility of ranking in SERP and increasing the number of visitors to your site.
The Guide to Content Creation
Step 1: Set Your Goals
Every strategy needs to begin with a goal. Otherwise, how will you track how effective it is? Before you put finger to keyboard, you have to list the goals you’re hoping to achieve with your content. Some goals could include:
Step 2: Audience Personas
Personas encourage you to think deeply about who your audience is and what might make them motivated to use your services. When you put together your personas, you should try to answer the following questions:
Also, take into consideration demographics, region, company size, etc. By addressing all these areas, you’ll be able to create a profile of the type of person you’re looking to target your content to, which will, in turn, inform the messaging you put together and the types of content you create.
Step 3: Conduct a Content Audit
Content audit refers to taking stock of all your business’s content. The audit process involves content analysis to expose strengths, weaknesses, and how they have impacted your content and marketing strategy.
Step 4: Establish Your Internal Subject Matter Experts
You’ll want to identify your company’s designated subject matter experts. These are the people who will author your content and be the face and name tied to your brand. Most often, it’s a company’s CEO or president. But it can also include sales reps, your marketing team members, or anyone else who has valuable knowledge to share that delivers your strategy.
If you have more than one subject matter expert, make sure you identify the areas they’ll be the experts of. For example, your president or CEO could help push messages centered on the core of your business, but they could also share leadership tips and content on business growth strategies.
Step 5: Designate a Content Creation Team
Having a designated content creation team ensures that the content creation process is not interrupted by business activities or the availability of subject matter experts. Hence, the team keeps the content creation process running for the business.
- Chief Content Officer – lives and breathes the entire content creation for your business. Takes care of coming up with topic suggestions, aligning content topics with business goals, and content prioritization.
- Content Manager/Project Manager – takes care of managing and organizing all content and marketing assets. Manages the team and the process so that each piece stays on track.
- Content Strategist – brainstorms topic ideas and provide research, so topics are on-message
- Content Writer/Freelancer – Conducts research and crafts valuable content pieces that align with your brand guidelines, outlines, and ensure they speak to your business goals.
- Content Editor – reviews content for tone, accuracy, flow, and grammatical errors.
- Designer – creates any visual elements needed for developed content.
- Content Distributor – shares content out so as many people see it as possible
Step 6: Create A Process
Mapping out exactly how you’ll create your content is crucial, and you need to start from ideation to distribution. Your editorial process will keep all your team members accountable, and it ensures you’re on the same page regarding a system.
The easiest way to go about this is to designate someone from your marketing team to oversee the entire process. You’ll also want to determine what tools and roles you’ll need and if you’ll be using freelance writers. Keep in mind that your subject matter experts might not have a ton of room on their plate for writing and creating content.
Step 7: Review the Buyer’s Journey
At each stage of the buyer’s journey, there are opportunities to use content to inch prospects further along and get them closer to a sale. This is why comprehending the three stages helps you identify the type of content you can use at each. And, the more you can tailor your content to a particular stage, the more you can nurture the prospects at that stage.
Leads at this stage have established a problem that needs to be solved, and in their search for a solution, have just become aware of your brand. Since leads at this stage don’t know a ton about you, you’ll want to provide them with content that explains what you do and why you’re a solution.
Some of these pieces will be published on your site, while others should be published on other sites and publications that your audience reads. This will help deepen your lead pool and build awareness through multiple channels at once.
When a lead has made it to this point, they are considering using your company but are weighing you against competitors. Content at this stage will be primarily housed on your site and shared through various other marketing channels, including email and social media. Your content then needs to be geared toward deepening trust and proving that you’re the right solution for their particular needs.
How to develop a content strategy
There are lots of elements to creating a content strategy, and you should adopt those to your own organisation, teams, and clients as needed. All the content you create should be informed by a strategy that strives to achieve the principles of good content, as highlighted in Erin Kissane’s book, The Elements of Content Strategy.
The list of potential tasks you could complete is long, but the above list is a good starting point! There are some key considerations you need to make in order to ensure any content your brand creates is effective.
"One of the most important things you can do for your Content Producers is to help them understand your strategy, from what business goals you’re trying to achieve to what your users want and expect from you to why you decided to create the content you’re asking them to produce."
Creating content with a purpose
All of your content needs to have a purpose, or else why are you spending time creating it? Whether for the business, user, or both, content must be purposeful. Deciding on the purpose will be driven by different goals and needs but if you can’t answer ‘why are we creating this content?’ with a detailed answer then perhaps that content isn’t actually needed or necessary.
Creating content with a measurable goal
"As you plan your production process, be sure to build in a way to establish goals for each piece of content. You can use a template for this or even a simple questionnaire. If you set goals before the research and writing start, the rest of the process will be much faster. Clearly articulated goals help your Writer know what questions to ask and what to write. They give your approvers and Subject Experts a framework for evaluating the content. They even give your Copy Editor a better idea of what changes should be made."
Creating content with your audience in mind
Example: It is one thing to know you have 33,000 newsletter subscribers or 320 attendees to a webinar, but what are their motivations, what content challenges are they facing, where are they in your buyer journey, etc? Try to move from knowing to understanding.
Creating content for specific channels
You need to know what channels your audience is using and create content specifically with those channels in mind, rather than create once and share everywhere (unless that works for your audience!)
How to develop a plan for creating content
These apply to website content creation, all digital content creation, marketing content creation, social content creation, and all other content types, formats, and channels. Wherever you’re serving information to your audience, having a plan in place will help you operationalise your content creation, especially important for the ongoing day-to-day content creation and for scaling content creation efforts.
Creating different content types
When you know what you are saying and who you are saying it to, you can start to make informed decisions around what types of content you need to create. The list here is long, as you’d expect, but some core rules are:
Think about where your customers, prospects, readers, champions, and influencers are. Maybe an interactive piece of content would be better for them than an infographic. Perhaps they prefer consuming video content to sound bites on social. Maybe they spend most of their time on LinkedIn instead of Instagram. A long-form eBook might resonate more with them than a short and snappy cheat sheet.
You’ll want to determine what types of content and content topics resonate with your target audience and which of those will help you reach your marketing goals. Identifying and structuring different content types can help you adapt your content to a multi-device and multi-channel reality.
Creating content for different channels
Deciding what topics to create content for
- Subject Matter Experts:Involve subject matter experts on your team or within the industry.
- Your Audience: Ask your audience what they want to know more about.
- Past Performance: Look at what content is performing well for you.
- Industry Performance: Identify trends and what content is performing well in your industry.
- Competitor Performance: Keep an eye on what content your competitors are creating and succeeding with.
- Thought Leadership: Create content on topics you want to be considered a thought leader in.
- Search Intent & Keywords: Perform an SEO audit and keyword research to determine which keywords and topics your audience is searching for.
- Content Gaps: Perform an audit of existing content to identify gaps in topics you want to cover or areas of opportunity to expand on topics.
Whatever topics you commit to, they have to be relevant and useful for your audience and the business. Remember, content is an asset. It should never be a case of churning out ill-considered content and then moving on to the next creation task.
An editorial calendar to keep content creation on track
An editorial calendar is only one part of the content creation plan and toolbox. It’s useful to create a content calendar to schedule content and define the cadence in which you will publish your content.
A style guide for content creation
Your content style guide will help content creators know your organisation’s rules around format, style, voice, and tone. This is important for achieving consistency across all content that is created and is even more important if you use third-party writers or have a decentralized publishing model.
Creating a content brief
One way to start off on the right track, and help others understand what’s needed from them is to write a content brief. This will outline the precise requirements and ensure the content that is created is what’s needed. It’s easier for the creators, there is less time wasted making edits and amends, and it’s always handy to have a reference for what was asked for… just in case.
Buyer personas describe the characteristics of the people who tend to buy your products. They include demographic information such as gender, age and education level. Your buyer personas should also explain why your target demographic is interested in your products and list some questions they tend to ask about your brand. Using buyer personas helps align your sales goals with the audience you need to reach. Writers will use these personas to target content to your potential buyers.
What Exactly Is Scalable Content?
Finding the right content for your enterprise’s website might seem like a challenge. That’s why you need a strong content plan that includes scalable content. At heart, scalable content is flexible content. It can be adjusted on a moment’s notice to include more–or less–content. This content is based on well-written, rich source material that can be used time and again to create new content. A scalable content strategy uses an established workflow to turn the resources and data you already have into the content you need.
Like many marketing strategies, scalable content requires an initial investment of time. If you don’t have an internal writing team, you’ll also need to invest capital in scalable content. Don’t get distracted by the time and money costs, though. Scalable content contributes to the overall success of your online marketing strategy.
- Achieve better search engine rankings
- Drive traffic to your website
- Increase sales conversions
- Create visibility for your brand
- Establish your brand as an expert voice
- Build prestige with existing customers
How to create content
The process of creating content is roughly the same for every channel, and we’ll go through this below. But first, it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t dive into content creation without first creating a solid content strategy.
1. Find proven topics
If you’re creating content for your website or YouTube…
You can publish content about other topics, but you’ll struggle to get eyeballs on it unless you already have a lot of traffic or subscribers, are willing to pay for ads, or have a proven distribution channel like a large email list.
a) Brainstorm topics
b) Use a keyword research tool to expand on your ideas
For example, “best coffee maker” and “how to make whipped coffee” are promising content ideas for our online coffee store. They’re things our target audience is likely to be searching for and have search volume, so we’ll add them to a keyword list.
If you’re looking for content ideas for a new website, it’s often worth filtering for keywords with low Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores. Generally speaking, these will be easier to rank for. To do this, set the KD filter to a low maximum, like 10.
c) Check competitors
If you’re looking for content ideas for your website, you first need to identify your competitors. The easiest way to do this is to head to your keyword list in Keywords Explorer, then go to the Traffic Share by Domains report to see which websites get the most traffic from those keywords.
If you want even more ideas, repeat this process for more competitors. Just go to the Competing Domains report in Site Explorer, look for relevant sites, hit the caret to check estimated search traffic, then plug the site into Site Explorer and check the Top Pages report.
If you’re looking for content ideas for YouTube, you first need to find competing channels. Do this by searching YouTube for a topic you’ve already found. For example, if we search for “how to make coffee in a cafetiere,” we see a few coffee-related channels.
If you’re creating content for other channels like social media or email…
… that’s a different ball game. People on these platforms have already subscribed to your content, so you don’t necessarily need to publish stuff they’re searching for. You just need to publish stuff they’ll find interesting.
You can also use keyword research to find ideas even if you’re not creating content for a search-focused channel. After all, if lots of people are searching for something, it’s clear that lots of people are interested in it. Such topics will often do well on non-search-focused channels like social media and email too.
2. Pick a content type and format
For example, if we wanted to share some SEO tips, a blog post would be the best content type because its purpose is to increase brand awareness and educate potential customers. It wouldn’t make sense as a landing page or interactive tool, and there’s no point hiding it away in a wiki that’s intended for customers.
3. Plan, create and publish
Planning starts with creating an outline. If you’re creating short posts for social media, this might not strictly be necessary. But it’s undoubtedly the best approach for more complex types of content like blog posts and videos.
Step 8. Create a Content Calendar
Options for managing this include productivity and task management tools like Asana (shown below), or a purpose-built editorial calendar tool like CoSchedule. Both of these will allow you to schedule different parts of the content creation process.
Pick a question that seems relevant to your audience, decide on the type of content, such as a blog post, and add a title to your calendar. Repeat the process till you have planned out content for the next few months.