When you are writing for the web, you aren't really grinding out a War and Peace. The web doesn't demand good writers; in fact, it demands more researchers, collectors, assemblers, detectives, and content spies. It demands creativity as far as "bringing remarkable things" together is concerned.
That's just how the web evolved. Readers' hunger for content on the web has bought about a few tweaks to the writing game. Generating content isn't so much about pulling inspiration from celestial space; it's more about making good of what's available.
Marshaling resources, managing content assets, and making an impact by asking questions is the new way of developing content.
How does the scene play out? What are some of the easy ways to generate stellar content?
Let's dig in:
The Lists Are Still The Main Staple
People love lists. Paco Underhill puts it better in his book Why We Buy:
Amazon's top books list, Apple iStore's top selling apps, New York Times Best Seller lists, Top Music Albums, Top Movies list on IMDB - and so it goes on. Most blogs have lists, publications live off on lists, and readers dig more lists than ever. You can never satiate the hunger for lists anyway, so it's by far some of the easiest pieces of content you can create.
In fact, even popular eBooks are reports are huge lists: Writer's Market is a popular eBook for freelance writers and magazine writer wannabes and it's a huge list of writer markets. The more modest Engagement from Scratch by Danny Iny is a list of thoughtful writings from some of the web's most prolific bloggers and online business owners. GoodReads has a "listopia" with lists of popular books across genres.
You get the point, don't you? Go on. List it out.
Content Works As People Directory
Mentioning people in your blog posts or other forms of content does what humans like best: getting attention. Nothing soothes ego as much as getting mentioned somewhere, being pointed out to, getting a word on you, or maybe even have someone dedicate an entire blog post about you.
List them out (as this is popular) or stick to the old prose style, but mentioning a person in your content is easy, quick, and quickly noticeable. One link out and the blogger or the person you are talking about gets to know about the mention. Slug it out in social media, and there are more chances of your content getting noticed.
Whether these "influences" reciprocate or not, it's a good habit to mention people, give them credits, thank them for their contribution, or reveal the fact that you've learnt something from them.
It's blogging 101; it's a best practice that never failed for centuries. This is the idea behind social proof, networking, testimonials, and even explains the power of social media.
People need ego boost all the time. Work your content to give them that.
Collect Things Others Can't Find By Themselves
Too much information on the web has led to effective "tuning out" - a self-trained practice most web users have developed to keep out information they don't need. A habit such as this also makes it hard for people to find information they want. Too many publishers with multiple threads and sources of content make it hard to find good information on the web.
As a publisher, that's an opportunity for you to impress, engage, and convert. Collect information to publish it in one place. Stick to your niche, and make it relevant. If you are in the web design business, for instance, pick and note some of the best designs you found in the last few years. Depending on the size of the content, make it a blog post or a mini-report. If it's a lot more than that, go make an eBook.
It's all about content curation; how good are you at finding stuff for others?
Everyone suggests writing something controversial to gain traffic or maybe even earn a press release or two. There's nothing wrong in creating content that picks on someone big or even a company. The story, however, is half-told. You can make controversy only if you can justify it.
Simon Black runs and maintains Sovereign Man where he publishes content on Anti-Americanism with an angle skewing towards second passports, offshore banking, building global businesses, and more so about why you shouldn't trust Uncle Sam with your money.
You might think that he'd rant and rave about how the sluggish U.S economy, about the falling value of the dollar, the depreciating value of the land of dreams, and about the iron fist of the U.S Government, the IRS, or even the U.S Border Security Force.
He does rant, but he justifies it with facts. He has an attitude but he backs that up by knowledge. He convinces, persuades, and even moves people to events just because he publishes content that means a lot for his subscribers/readers and he does it well.
Point made. Can you do something like that with your content?
Providing Consistent Value Over Time
Most people take years to build wealth. Businesses take years to scale and grow. Similarly, authority and reputation don't come overnight. From the time it takes you to make a website to draw in sustainable popularity, it could even be a lifetime.
Also sometimes, you might develop content that's not "jaws-wide-open remarkable". Yet, if you gave it enough of "you", it'd still be noteworthy. People will still respect you for your persistent efforts. Having said that, imagine what you could do if you did make remarkable content and stayed persistent?
Larry Chase of Web Marketer's Digest is one such example of someone who's focused on a tight niche, worked on getting the best of the content, and he has done it for more than 13 years. Guess what? Most of his content - albeit remarkable and valuable - is still curated. He built his authority on the niche over time by persistently sending out emails. Even today, there's no blog or a bunch of reports for you to download. It's still old school - content available only for email subscribers, delivered once a week.
Any Content. Your Voice
Apple makes computers. Other computer manufacturers also make computers. But there's a difference, isn't it? Apple's funky designs and innovations actually set off an industry each time a new product rolls out. Yet, they are not making new products - they just design and create old products, the new way.
Apple products are just different, and they come with a sort of persona, packaging, and style you don't see elsewhere. Starbucks just makes coffee and there's nothing dramatically different about "coffee" - it's just that Starbucks found a way to change the way you experience coffee.
What's that got to do with content, you ask? Follow any of the ways to develop great content here but don't forget to add your own style or personality to your content. Write your content with attitude. Do it with gusto. Bring power to your writing. Make sure that you turn heads with your voice. It's your voice and personality that adds charm to your content. Sure, not everyone might like that voice but those who do turn into customers for life.
How are you developing your content? What works for you?
Pratik Dholakiya is Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M Solutions & OnlyDesign. At E2M Solutions, they focus heavily on content marketing and generate revenue for their clients. And through OnlyDesign they help companies build better web & mobile presence. Get in touch with him on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik to ask for any help.