Hey, remember last week how we told you about how you could start off a successful content marketing strategy?
In the third point of my three-point argument, I pointed out that creating some content templates and chosen types for writing would really help your non-writers write content. It's always easier to do something new if you've got an example or a template to work off.
With that in mind, I picked 8 types of content your business can produce easily by developing a template for each. I'm going to discuss how these content types function, what they can be used for, and any limitations you might want to consider when choosing them. Shall we get started?
1 - The 'How To'
The 'How To' is one of my favourites, as it is easy to write and incredibly adaptable. It's also great for addressing common customer issues. You can write long or short 'how-to's'. You can focus them on simple topics or complex ones, too - the very first result that Google autocompletes after you type in 'how to' is 'how to tie a tie'. Since these articles are often practical, it can be helpful to incorporate annotated screen captures or helpful diagrams as you explain a concept, particularly if the thing you're explaining is a complex or technical matter.
To get the most out of your 'How To' articles, talk to your coworkers who regularly interact with your customers. Seek to understand the most common questions that your ideal customers have, and base your articles around those.
2- 'Top X' Lists
These numbered lists are the bread and butter of Buzzfeed, and not for no good reason - a numerically based list sounds efficient, and all the more so if it's the top 5, 10, 20 of that list. When you read a 'top x' list that appeals to you, there are two things you probably want to know - one, whether your existing opinion is going to be on the list, and two, what the most important thing is on that list. 'Top x' lists show that you're aware of the current trends and times, and require minimal writing on the part of your author/editor - an opinion blurb on each point will do fine. These lists are a great way to show current content that you think is useful for your ideal customers, and can draw from your current bank of content, or link to content outside of your website.
3 - Curation
Curated articles are similar in a lot of ways to 'Top X' lists, but instead of collecting your sources for the purpose of ranking them, you collect your sources to help cover a broader issue - looking at different ways to solve a problem, as opposed to finding the most effective way to solve one problem. In this regard, curated articles are helpful for potential buyers who are still looking for a way to solve their problem. Curated articles also require minimal writing, focusing the required effort instead on sourcing authoritative sources of information, and project that your business is at the forefront of your profession, as you are situationally aware and recommending the very best information in your field.
A word of advice here - if you're creating a curated article, make sure you ask permission of the original authors, and correctly reference and link to their external sources. Doing things like reposing without permission or hotlinking directly to someone else's content can get you into some embarrassing situations with the original creator.
4 - FAQ
FAQ articles are similar to your 'How To' pieces, but they'll often cover wider topics and in less detail. They can be good for troubleshooting, and also great for linking to more in-depth 'how to' articles that you've written in the past. These articles are good for your employees who regularly interact with customers all the time to write, since they'll encounter the same questions being asked over and over (e.g. "Do you use MSG in your cooking?"), and will not only know what questions to list in the article, but also the right answer to give.
FAQs give the opportunity to correct and refute customer concerns, however major or mild, and can be used to put the common misconceptions that crop up continually in your industry to rest. ("Wait, so Fortune Cookies aren't Chinese?")
5 - Data And Conclusion
Have you just collected a whole lot of data that might be interesting or relevant to the concerns of your customers? Have one of the thought leaders in your industry just released similarly ground-breaking data? This kind of content can be written as a result of some deep-web research on a complex topic, where you stumble across a motherlode of information. You'll need to keep your ear to the ground for these articles, but they give the opportunity for investigating in an article how this new find is going to impact your industry. These articles can be particularly interesting when you explore their relevance to your customers, and explore ways in which your customers should behave as a result of this newfound data. Sure, the breakthroughs might not be up there with the discovery of penicillin, but if your nutrition and dietetics business has researchers discover the latent powers of coconut oil, then you're going to want to write an article on it.
Because data-based articles naturally have a technical or theoretical application, make sure you define these within the article. It's a waste of time and effort to talk about the new information without also explaining what they should do as a result of the new find.
6 - Excerpted Content
If you have gated offers, and you're looking to showcase them, you can adapt parts of said offer into a short piece of content, or simply lift and republish some of the offer as content. Articles like these are often the easiest, since there is minimal research to do - it's about simplifying and rephrasing a couple points from the offer, and plugging the offer afterwards. Content is iterative by nature, so make the most of that circle of life. It moves us all.
7 - Video Content/Podcast
Is your content creator better at explaining something than writing it down? If this is the case, creating some short videos or an ongoing podcast might be the way to go, particularly if you've got more than one expert on the topic, and they're good conversationalists. Podcasts and videos are good for explaining complex topics, as well as practical or theoretical matters, provided your content creator is good at clearly explaining the topic. Video content in particular carries a much higher engagement rate, and as well as drawing more clicks, is much more shareable over social media.
Your production value on your rich media content should to reflect how seriously you want your clients to take you, because it is the standard they'll use to judge your competency. However, the value your content offers should be of greater importance again than your production value - if you happen to have information that is worth sharing, then share it. Record podcasts using the audio recorders on your phones; film your videos with a cheap tripod and your DSLR. In the end, it's better to be useful than slick, particularly in the area of things-that-are-just-better-to-watch-someone-do-to-understand, like assembling IKEA flatpack furniture, or understanding how to correctly handle fibreglass. Rich media formats can be a little time-heavy to produce, but these are all outlay costs to consider, given the engagement rate of successful content.
8 - Newsjacks
Newsjacking articles are articles that directly respond to current news and revelations - similar to the data and conclusion articles. These, however, are concerned with smaller industry changes, and as a result, should be kept short, given their mayfly lifespan. Ensure when you're writing on these articles that the source you are using is reliable and authoritative, and that you implement your optimisation for search engines well, because these are the articles that people search for straight after the revelation. Keep your focus on the response to the news - 'So what does this mean for us now that X is a thing?'
Things To Consider
Now that you've got a whole list of basic types of content to produce, you can start thinking about templates for each of these things, and to what degree you want each of these templates to function. Will all of your 'Top X' articles be 'Top 10's'? Will your FAQs feature a set number of questions, or a set theme? How old is news allowed to get before you pass it up for a Newsjacking? 24 hours? A week?
I can't really give an objective on 'this is exactly what you should have' because it'll vary according to your industry and the capabilities of your content creators, but here are a few things you want to consider:
Be mindful of your SEO. SEO, or 'search engine optimisation' is about structuring your website pages so that search engines and readers alike find your content to be appropriate, authoritative, and worth reading. You can do this by building a good keyword structure to make your website easy to find, linking only to authoritative and useful sources, and making your interface mobile-friendly. There are also a plethora of other ways that you can optimise your website, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is to use the same words that everyone else seems to be searching on. Embrace the topic's hashtag when you promote it over Twitter and social media, but only if it is positively relevant.
Be visual. Even if your content is text-heavy, an accompanying image will help drive home your point, as well as increase engagement.
Work to the strengths of your content creators. If you've got one writer who can turn even the most complex of topics into a 'How to', then let them at it. If you've got someone who's a terrible writer but a great conversationalist, then work with it. Teaching your content creators to branch out from their base method of creation is a good thing, and can help uncover some hidden talents, but ultimately you want high-quality content, and that's going to happen when your content creators are writing the right content for the right customers in the best way they can.