10 Tips for Crafting Helpful Content
by Kristin Savage
Content consumers are a savvy and demanding bunch. Here are 10 tips to craft content that provides the help and value they want.
As entertainers often say after a gig, “That audience was tough.” It means that they had a hard time engaging them and getting the response they wanted.
And so it goes with content writers. There are oceans of content out there and being the one that an audience engages with – digesting and sharing their content – is tough. Your content has to be entertaining; it has to educate; and it often has to inspire. And it has to be targeted to your specific audience.
How do you do this? There is no magic formula. But there are some tips for writing content that your audience will find helpful, and that’s a start. Here are 10 of them.
1. Keep the Topic “Tight”
One mistake that many content writers make (in their enthusiasm to provide a lot of valuable information) is to choose topics that are too broad.
You can find topic ideas in any number of places – Buzzsumo, Feedly, Google trends, etc. With just a few keywords related to your niche, you can pull up posts (and other articles) that have most recently been trending and that are the most popular. From these, you will get ideas, of course. But your job is to study those posts and articles and figure out how to write content that is better, that is tighter, that gives some new perspective.
See if you can divide the topics of those trending articles/posts into smaller digestible pieces for an audience that really prefers simplicity. And when you do, take each of those sub-topics and dig deeper into them, giving more than the original articles did.
2. Do the Research
You can’t skimp on this. Without enough research, you will have nothing new or unique to write about. Otherwise, you are just re-writing what others have already said.
Unfortunately, this is the longest and most tedious part of creating content. But, according toConvince and Convert, 49% of bloggers state that they achieve much better results if they spend about six hours in research for the articles they write. When is the last time you spent that much time for a single post/article?
Research also includes digging down on information and data about your target audience. You already have a persona that includes a lot of demographic information about your ideal customer. You may even have done enough research to understand their needs and pain points.
Now, go a few steps further. Do they prefer video, memes, gifs? What type of humor do they appreciate? Are you accessing a sampling of your customers’ social media pages? You can gain a lot of insight related to tone and style they prefer.
3. Compelling Headlines and Sub-Headings
A headline will often determine whether a reader will move forward. And engaging sub-headings will serve two purposes – keep the reader going as well as allow the reader to “snack” on your content. People do like to scan for what interests them most.
There are plenty of headline generator tools that can give you great ideas. Check them out.
Take a look at the headlines used by Upworthy and the “play” they get. According to Business2Community, the content staff spends as much time brainstorming for titles as it does on its videos. Here are some of their most viral headlines:
Chances are, you would be thrilled with just a fraction of the pageviews this online news journal gets.
4. Visuals – Don’t Craft Any Article Without Them
Consumers are busy these days. And they do not want to spend time pouring through a lot of text, at least without some type of “break.” Visuals and other media give them that break. If you can say something through a photo, a graphic, a drawing, an infographic, or, better, a video, then your chances of attracting and keeping readers/viewers increases exponentially.
Consider Dollar Shave Club. The founder identified a problem – men had the inconvenience of remembering to stop at the tor and pick up more razors, or, worse, using a bad, dirty razor because they had forgotten to do just that. And so, the founder created an explainer video, identifying the problem and then providing a solution – a subscription-based razor service that delivers those blades to a user’s doorstep.
The video itself is hilarious and fully engaging. And yet, through all of the humor, the value is clearly described. The result? The video went viral (over 22 million views and counting), the company took off. And the cost of that initial video? A mere $2500.
5. Tell Stories
Stories can provide a lot of help to consumers. Companies can tell their own stories of their history, the founder, the team that is working for those consumers, and, of course, the value of the products and services they provide, along with the problems they solve.
This is the perfect way to leverage user-generated content. Satisfied customers can share their stories and demonstrate how a product or service solved a problem for them. This of course gives the company credibility, but it also gives consumers valuable information that will be helpful and also trusted.
6. Re-Visit Old Articles
Some of your old articles are “evergreen.” This means that the advice and education you gave back then is just as true today. Look specifically for those posts that got a good response. Add new or more visuals, and anything new that relates to that topic, and re-post it. It’s a guarantee that many of your readers did not see it when first published. And they will find your content helpful now.
Another way to re-purpose old content is to convert it to a new medium. Turn a post into a video, for example, by providing “how to” or visual explanations.
7. Offer Tailored Advice
At the end of each piece of content, it is common to place a call to action, usually encouraging your readers to make a conversion – sign up for your email newsletter, or perhaps make a purchase, etc.
One of the things you can do that will demonstrate your interest in being helpful is to offer tailored advice or help. Let your readers know how to contact you and ask additional questions. This can also be done through conversation and discussion right then and there. Solicit comments and questions. Be certain that you have a monitoring tool so that you are informed of any new comment/question that comes up. You want to respond quickly.
8. Offer More Value in Your Piece
If you have an e-book or a white paper that expands upon the content of an article, provide a link to it, so that it can be downloaded.
If there is important content of an influencer in your niche, point your readers to it through links to those articles.
9. Add Interactivity
One of the ways for readers/viewers to engage with and remember you and your content is to involve them in it.
Present quizzes and surveys – people love to participate in these, and the chances of them sharing your content increases – more people receive the value you provide, and your brand is spread.
10. Honor Your Foreign-Speaking Audiences
If you have a global reach, or even if there are multi-language speakers within your own country, translating your content into the languages of those audiences increases your helpfulness and garners greater popularity with those audiences.
Your first step is to look for established translation sites with solid reputations and natives to the target languages. And it’s not just a matter of translation – it’s a matter of cultural awareness in those translations.
That’s a Wrap
Cyberspace is over-stuffed with content. And consumers are have become savvy and impatient. They want to see clear value in content they consume. If you cannot provide that content in an exciting and engaging way, and do it consistently, you will simply be another common fish in this huge ocean. Take these 10 tips to heart – you can grow an audience that sees you as valuable.