You've heard the news: content marketing is the next big thing in SEO, and that means you'll need to bring something new to the table in order to get noticed. Unfortunately, when you're talking about the practically infinite space of the web, it seems almost impossible to create something genuinely new. Where can you find original data to stand out from the pack, and what does it take to put it to use?
Bear in mind, this guide is for creating high impact content, and doesn't necessarily apply to everything you put out there. You can borrow bits and pieces of this for your "smaller" content. However, this should give you an idea of what it takes to get a genuine content marketing strategy rolling.
What You'll Need First
Before you start going data-hunting, there are a few things you'll need to have in place:
- A target audience of influencers. Ideally you already have connections with some of them.
- A problem that these influencers need a solution to. No such solution should already exist...at least not in an accessible format.
- A list of keywords that are related to this problem, and not just the high traffic ones. We're talking about a list of obscure, possibly technical keywords for your own research. These keywords should come from Wikipedia, Q&A discussions, Google Correlate, and all sorts of sources other than the AdWords Keyword Tool.
Once you have your list of research keywords, it's time to start data-hunting. This is where the real value creation takes place, because you'll be mining obscure sources for data that hasn't been used for content marketing purposes before. Needless to say, it's not easy work. You'll want to use sources like:
- edu and .gov restricted Google searches
- Google Scholar and Google Books searches
- Amazon book searches, and yes, you should use some of your obscure keywords here. Amazon searches the text of the book for your keywords as well as the title.
You're going to be mining these sources for raw data, and looking for ways to define a narrative that weaves its way through them. Alternatively, you'll be looking for ways to transform the data into a guide or "how-to."
You'll need to keep an open mind in order to accomplish this. It's unlikely you'll come across a specific study or paper on the exact subject you're covering, so you'll need to draw analogies and lessons that carry over between disciplines.
Connecting With Experts
In addition to books and academic papers, you're going to want to reach out directly to experts. Don't hesitate to email the authors of the papers you use in your research. You can use these emails as a source of insider information as well as links from .edu sites and prestigious institutions.
Furthermore, when you speak directly with experts, you'll be able to ask your question more directly: no need to rely on Google's algorithms topoint you to something. You can use quotes from the expert in your content, as well as sources they might refer you to. This gives your content the edge it needs to be a truly original and authoritative piece of work. It also helps you build relationships with influencers and experts who can improve your exposure online.
Organizing The Data
As you sift through your data sources, copy and past the quotes that are most interesting to you into a notepad or spreadsheet, along with a link to the source. Give the longer quotes a subtitle, in your own words, so that they are easier to navigate through. If your problem deals with several different subjects, organize your quotes under main headings, or possibly different files.
If you manage to get your hands on some relevant numerical data, get it into a spreadsheet and turn it into a graph. Any chance you get to represent data visually is going to boost the quality, appeal, and usefulness of your content.
Once you feel you have enough information, create a new file and organize your quotes and graphs in the order you think makes the most sense. Consider this your rough draft.
Now work your way back through the content, putting everything, except for a few quotes, in your own words. Be sure to link to the original source for each fact, and mention the prestigious organization or person behind the data. It's not just ethical, it improves your credibility and gives your content more weight.
Be sure to give background information when it makes sense, and translate the academic-speak into everyday language. Be direct, and use as few words as possible to convey the information accurately.
Let the content sit for a day and come back to it with fresh eyes. Read it over for awkward phrasing, confusing ideas, big words, and cohesion. Absorb the overall lesson from the content and turn it into a conclusion. Be sure to ask a question or encourage sharing at the end.
Now it's time to write a hook at the beginning. A hook should say something that jars the reader out of autopilot, builds suspense, and appeals to the reader's curiosity or ego. Try to avoid being too flashy or sensational. There's a middle ground here.
Get back in touch with the experts you spoke with earlier to see if they'd like to take a look at the content and if they have any advice or corrections to make. Be sure to take their advice to heart and consider it fairly. The more involved the experts feel in the process, and the more credit you give them for their help, the more willing they will be to pass the content along when it goes live.
After you've received feedback, considered it, and made any changes, publish the content. Contact everybody who helped with the content and let them know that it has gone live. Thank them for their help and ask if they would be willing to help pass it along.
Obviously, this strategy can be adapted as you see fit, but the main lesson is clear. Content marketing relies on new material and influential relationships. Often, those relationships are also a good source of new material. The end result takes a lot of work, but it's worth the effort.
Can you think of other ways to find and use original information for content marketing? Make sure to pass this along if you found it useful.
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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.