5 Ways to Create the Most Valuable Content for Your Audience
When was the last time you clicked on an ad?
When was the last time you engaged with a business (calling, emailing, booking a demo) to ask for further details about their products or services?
If you’re anything like me, the last time was months ago (if ever).
What do I do instead?
Easy. I search online and read content that answers my questions.
I’m likely not alone, given that 81% of adults go online daily, including 28% who say they are online constantly, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey .
At least some of the time, they’re likely reading brand-provided content – content that answers their questions, content that addresses their pain points, content that keeps them updated on their industry, content that engages them with interesting stories and relatable anecdotes.
For those consumers to view that content as trustworthy and engaging, it must be valuable and reliable. How do you do that? Let’s explore.
Must-Have Checklist to Creating Valuable Content
1. Be authoritative
No, adding authority to your content does not mean pretending you’re a middle school principal lecturing a group of unruly adolescents.
Being authoritative in your content means knowing what you’re talking about and showing it. It’s authority in terms of Google’s EAT standards : expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
In case you haven’t heard, Google uses human evaluators to test the quality and accuracy of search results, and it published guidelines for these raters with lots of clues about how Google evaluates search rankings. A main factor that sets apart a high-quality search result from a low-quality one is the amount of expertise , authoritativeness, and trustworthiness present in the content.
To prove your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, you should:
Use what you know – Draw on the years of experience in your industry to create examples that illustrate points and concepts you’re trying to explain.
Show your work – Mention relevant content pieces you published on topics that expand on the subject you’re writing about in this article.
Use research – Include statistics and data from the reading and research you’ve done (because if you truly are an industry authority, you keep up with this type of stuff). Make sure the information is recent and links to the native source.
Maintain up-to-date author bios on your site – The bios should include the authors’ experience, how they earned it, and their credentials. List all (or many) content pieces they’ve created.
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2. Be informative and comprehensive
Chances are your readers are coming to your content because they have questions (especially if they found you on Google). Make sure you provide the answers.
Easier said than done, right? Of course. Here are a few tips to help:
Research the questions your readers are asking – Topic, audience , and keyword research gets you a long way here. They help you understand what your readers are looking for and their biggest queries. Then, you can focus on creating content pieces that answer those questions.
Stay in one-topic wheelhouse – Narrow your content focus . Explore a few key areas of one overarching topic or theme. That way you can go in depth and provide useful information versus skimming the surface and telling your readers what they already know.
Outline a purpose for every piece of content you create – Before you begin drafting , decide what that content piece will do for your audience. In what way will it help them? Once you figure that out, fulfill that purpose in the content. Make the reader walk away thinking they learned something or solved a problem.
Shorter content pieces naturally won’t be as informative as long-form content (generally, anything over 1,500 words is considered long form). That’s why so many marketers and SEOs advocate for lengthier blog posts and articles. Studies support the case too, including one from Backlinko that shows long-form content generates more backlinks .
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3. Be readable
The third way to create valuable content is simple, but many people get it wrong. It’s all about readability. That doesn’t mean just using correct spelling and grammar. It’s also about:
Writing to your audience’s level of understanding
Writing for the medium on which your words will appear (that means electronic screens both big and small)
Writing for clarity and meaning
Formatting the text clearly and logically using readability principles like hierarchy, white space, contrast, and consistency.
Here’s an extreme example of terrible readability in the design sense:
Think of it this way. If your text isn’t readable on a basic level, readers will leave before they reach the end of the first paragraph. They’ll never get a chance to digest your awesome content because they’ll be too put off and annoyed.
TIP: To assess the school grade-level readability of your content, you can use this free tool .
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4. Have a point of view
Does valuable content look, read, and feel like every other piece on the topic? No.
If your content provides nothing new, gives the answers everyone else is giving, and sounds the same as your industry peers, it only adds to the noise.
Instead, differentiate with your content. (I call this your CDF or “content differentiation factor.”)
Give your readers a fresh view of a tired topic – Look at what is already there and strive to be different or better.
Provide the unique spin , angle, or perspective only you can give.
Infuse your content with personality – Some people find this easy to do through writing. Others prefer video or audio, and some find personality comes through better if another writer interviews them. Think outside that same old box or find a way to smash through it.
Do you know who nailed a unique point of view? Seth Godin .
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5. Give satisfaction
Ultimately, valuable content is satisfying content. New knowledge replaces confusion. Readers feel fulfilled.
Satisfaction blends all this earlier advice into well-executed content. For example, if the purpose is to give your newbie readers an introduction to a meaty topic, you use understandable vocabulary , explain terms they haven’t heard, and avoid introducing advanced topics. If the purpose is to differentiate your content, you analyze high-ranking content to assess the answers and identify how you could improve on it.
But satisfaction also draws on a couple more tips:
Cover the topic at hand from front to back – Don’t leave out essential facets. If you write about baking apple pie, you have to cover making the crust and the filling. If you write about SEO, you have to discuss the on-page and off-page factors that influence rankings.
Provide closure – Don’t leave the reader hanging. Wrap up your post with a tidy conclusion that reiterates the main point (or points). If you can, provide a parting thought that nicely sums up what the reader has learned.
The Orbit Media blog does conclusions really well, such as with this parting “key takeaways” section in a post by Andy Crestodina:
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Valuable content matters now more than ever
If you want readers to care about your content AND your brand, you need to add value wherever you can.
If you want trust and attention, creating valuable content is the way to do it.
Ads are annoying. Sales pitches feel slimy.
Content on the other hand? Content has the potential to be that breath of fresh air for the millions online seeking information. Provide value instead of noise and truth instead of misinformation.
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Author: Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers , with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, Julia has been named an industry thought leader in content marketing by Forbes, is the author of two bestselling books, and creator of The Content Hacker , a resource for growth-focused content marketers. Julia's latest book, a nonfiction narrative memoir, Woman Rising , launches in February of 2020. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaEMcCoy .
Other posts by Julia McCoy
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