At Cave Social, we’ve been creating content for our clients (and ourselves) for close to three years and over time, it’s become somewhat of a science.
During these three years, we’ve learned a lot about content marketing – from brainstorming to publishing and all the steps in between. All-in-all, we’ve produced thousands of pieces of content and millions of page views, so we figured it would be useful for us to share some of the experiences – especially what we have found that works.
You won’t read this anywhere else on the internet because this is about our personal story and the lessons we’ve learned on how to make killer content that people actually want to read.
Some call great content an SEO cheat code while others treat it as an essential form of marketing. No matter what you think it is, here is a helpful look into the secrets behind our content creation process.
10. Tell a Story With Your Content
When we first started our marketing agency, we quickly learned the difference between creating good content and creating great content. The internet is full of duplicated and poorly written articles, so finding readership when it’s something everyone has already read is tough. That’s why it is often better to tell stories when you write. Speaking about your own experiences is not just relatable, it’s clickable. When we made a shift at Cave Social to writing articles that told stories about our experiences and what we had learned from them, we saw a massive spike in views and social shares.
One of the most common sentiments we hear from clients is that “People don’t care about my industry because it’s boring.” The truth is that content is about finding the right angle and making it interesting. This is where interjecting personal anecdotes with direct cause and effect relation has huge potential for taking a seemingly dull topic, and making it interesting for everyone.
9. Write About Things People Are Interested In
Too many times we see people writing about topics no one cares about. As a general rule, there are four things that pique a reader’s interest:
- Aspirational Content: Aspirational content is anything that brings you towards a goal. It can be something that makes you smarter, healthier, or more successful. It can also be content that you aspire to work towards. Look at GQ Magazine who rocks this type of content with grooming tips, expensive products, and beautiful women. Often times, aspirational content will play on your emotions or your intelligence, and if you can get it to play on both then you have a home run.
- Relatable Content: Relatable content can be anything that relates directly to you. Articles about where you’re from or about people like you. This kind of content is often best suited for capturing local attention – think realtors and small businesses.
- Funny Content: Anything that makes you laugh and want to share it. Using humor to point out flaws in recent news stories is a great way to get massive attention.
- Extraordinary Content: This is content that just simply makes you say ‘Wow.’ Things like people doing backflips while catching footballs or lifting up incredible amounts of weight. It isn’t necessarily relatable nor do most of us aspire to do these things, but they are absolutely incredible and shareable.
It’s important to remember that the main goal when writing is to give value to the reader. We measure this by looking at how many social shares our articles get. When shares are high, it means that we have done our jobs properly and have given the reader something that they enjoyed reading enough to pass it on to their friends.
It’s also important to remember that social media has become a place where people like to show how smart, funny, well informed or cool they are; it is up to us as content creators to give this shareable content to the public. If we can combine humor with intelligence and emotion in a piece of content, then our potential audience will double and triple.
8. Put the Time Into It
If you decide to do something, do it right. We find that there is a direct correlation between how much time we spend writing an article and how many people read it. The first article I wrote received very little traffic. It was shared a grand total of 4 times and received about 150 page views. It all came down to effort, so I made sure the next one wouldn’t get away from me. I spent four hours researching my topic, four hours writing it, two hours editing and another hour adding pictures. The difference was remarkable and our client saw it in their Google Analytics report. Taking the time to create a good article is always worth it.
This is called Disproportionate Results according to Ramit Sethi. If you put in limited effort then you will get limited results; however, putting in two times the effort will yield four times the results. As content creators, this is not something we should shy away from because if something is hard to do, it will mean that less people will be willing to do it. It’s one of the key differences between mediocre content and great content.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Controversial
Take this with a large grain of salt. No, don’t become hateful in your writing, that’s a bad way to gain publicity. Instead, try taking a firm stance on your favorite productivity tool to encourage debate in the form of comments. Comments often get posted on Facebook and act as a form of social sharing, so the more comments you receive, the more people will see your article. Just be sure of two things before you do this:
- Make sure you do your homework and there is a logical reason for your argument.
- Make sure you don’t become defensive in the comments. People are allowed to have their own opinions and while it is okay for you to encourage debate by commenting yourself, getting in big arguments will only make you look unprofessional.
6. Edit Thoroughly
At Cave Social, our pieces of content go through about 8 rounds of editing before they hit the public. The first draft is first edited by the writer for obvious mistakes, then it is sent to an editor who rigorously points out flawed logic, grammar mistakes and areas for improvement. Then it is sent back to the writer and the process is repeated until it is ready. We put a huge emphasis on this because a typo or grammar mistake is all it takes for people to discredit your article. A fantastic Chrome extension to help with this is called Grammarly – download it into your Chrome extensions and it will help immensely with your writing.
5. Spend Enough Time on the Headline
Your headline is the single most important sentence in the entire piece. No one will read your article if they do not click on it first, so it’s very important to spend time on it. We often spend as much time on the article as we do on the headline itself. There are a few keys to doing this properly.
- Wait until you’ve written the article. Often times, you won’t really know what the article is truly about until it is finished and has been edited. After you are done, it will be much easier to write your headline.
- Collaborate with people who have proofed it. Two heads are better than one, and working with someone else will almost always deliver a better headline. At the end of the day it’s your article so you choose, but a little help from friends is never a bad idea.
- Use an online title scoring tool such as coschedule.com. A tool like this is great for helping you realize where your headline falls short and how you can beef it up for people and search engines alike. It’s super fun to play with and has made a huge difference in the quality of our headlines at Cave.
4. Pick the Right Featured Image
A featured image is the picture that will show up when you share or link to your article. Taking the time to get a proper image will go a long way. You don’t need to be a graphic wiz to find something perfect, but you also don’t want to use Google Images. There are plenty of free tools you can use to help you out, check out this link for amazing (and free) photography for you to use in your blogs.
The second thing you’ll need to do is make the featured image the right dimensions so the essential parts don’t get cut out. One of our favorite tools for this is canva.com which will let you upload photos and create your own from scratch easily. They have hundreds of templates to choose from, leaving you looking like a professional designer in no time.
3. Add Compelling/Related Images
This is a short one, and piggybacks largely off of the featured image links. The most shareable content usually has tons of pictures with screenshots and examples. If you’re talking about an abstract concept or a something that could use a visual reference, then don’t be lazy. Make your point the best you can and use visuals to help.
2. Add Links to Other Blogs You’ve Written
Like this one, or this one. Why am I doing this? Because the goal is to keep you on our page and remember our brand. Chances are that if you like one piece of writing, then you might like another we’ve written on a related topic.
1. Utilize Social Outreach
After you’re done writing your piece of content, putting it up on your Facebook page and your website is not enough to give your article a chance to take off. Placing it on StumbleUpon, Reddit, twitter and on other major social networks are all fantastic places to start. If it’s a business article then you should be sharing it on Medium, GrowthHackers, BizSugar, LinkedIn Pulse and anywhere else it can gain traction.
If you want A+ grades in this category, then you need to reach out to businesses too. For example, if I were to create a blog and write about what a time-saver FreshBooks has been for our business (which they have been) then I would reach out to them and let them know that they were mentioned in an article. Something like “Hey guys, I wrote a blog on the best tools for small businesses to use and I put you on the list! Thought you might be interested in giving it a share on Facebook. Cheers.” It’s that simple.
Don’t leave any room for ambiguity when you reach out. Letting the businesses know exactly what action you would like them to take is very important. Also, if you want them to share it on twitter then you should reach out to them on twitter, if you want them to share it on Facebook then you should reach out to them on Facebook, and so on and so forth.
If You Have Any Questions or Need Any Help
Feel free to reach out to us or email us as firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it’s just a simple strategy question, we’re always happy to lend a hand. If you have anything else that you’ve learned throughout your content creation journey then we would love to hear from you in the comments too.