Creating Content Doesn't Have to be Difficult
Part one in a series.
Creating online content has a reputation for being difficult and somewhat mysterious. I've seen grown adults flinch at the thought of creating content saying things like: "It's too complicated", "I'll say something stupid" or "You need to add meta information and I have no idea where to start!" Oh dear - the fear is palpable.
If you think about it, creating content is something everybody does any time they use social networks to interact with their friends. Every time you write an email, you are creating content. Anytime you post a comment on a blog, you are creating content. It's not an uncommon task in today's online world and will only increase as the social web evolves.
Some would argue that you need to really know what you are doing in order to find success. I say BS - content is no more difficult than communicating with integrity. Of course if you tend to be a person who doesn't communicate well, then you may have some difficulty creating content. But who really doesn't want to communicate well? Beside, all my years on the couch have shown me that communication skills can be learned - just like creating content skills can be learned.
This is the start of a series of posts about creating good online content. I'm pretty certain it will be helpful to most people just starting out - and the experts may learn a thing or two as well...
Creating a Resource
The most important concept to remember about online content is that you are creating a resource for real people. You are building a place that people will come to, stay on, be engaged with and come back to - every one of these actions is captured in search analytics as: visits, bounce rate, time on site and stickiness (click here for more information about analytics). However, as you create content, it's far more important to think about the intention of helping people find what they are looking for and explaining concepts than to focus on one particular aspect of analytics.
Content Creation Golden Rules
If you follow these rules, you will find success. They aren't difficult. In fact, they are really easy to do. Just think of what you like about helpful content and try to emulate what you like best.
Content Creation Golden Rules
-Use your customer's perspective
-Use simple, conversational language
-Ensure facts are accurate
-Run a spell check
-Use Images/Video reflecting content
-Use humor appropriately
Use your customer's perspective
This is a vital step to create something people will find valuable. The trick here is to remove yourself from the task at hand and look at what you're building from your visitor's perspective. Ask yourself questions like this:
-What do I look for when I go to a website?
-If I were visiting my website for the first time, what would I want to know about the business?
If you can't get out of your own head, ask for help from a trusted friend - or better yet - a client who's a big fan. These people will hopefully be honest with you and help you see what you're missing.
Use simple, conversational language
The most successful websites use a conversational tone that people can relate to. Try really hard not to include technical jargon that only your engineering staff can understand. If you must use terminology that is unique to your industry, include definitions and use the terms sparingly. Conversational language is much more engaging and makes your website a comfortable place to visit - and revisit.
Ensure facts are accurate
Content is your resume to the world. Just like you wouldn't want a prospective employer to find out you lied on your resume, don't let a potential customer find inaccurate statements on your website. I promise you the average website visitor is savvy enough to do a search if they even smell a little bit of deception. You will be called out. All it takes is once and "poof" there goes your online reputation. Always tell the truth and use accurate facts while doing it.
Run a spell check
I know it's a crazy, fast-paced world, but take the minute it takes to run a spell-check. Nothing ruins your credibility faster than a typo in the middle of your text. This is a simple but often overlooked step in the process.
Use Images/Video that contextually reflect the content on the page
That's a mouthful, isn't it? The basic rule here is to use images that are appropriate for the text on the page. For example, don't display an image of a bird when you are writing about dolphins. It's really a no brainer but think of the examples you've seen of images that have little or nothing to do with the text. What did you think of the website/company when you saw it?
Use humor appropriately
Humor can be hugely successful in creating memorable and sharable content. Just remember that everyone has a different sense of humor. Try to avoid sarcasm as it can backfire very easily (besides, sarcasm comes from the Greek word meaning "to tear flesh" - is that what you want to do to your visitors? Rip them to shreds? I didn't think so :-).
Creating content is an ever-increasing expectation for most jobs and for just living online. Using these golden rules you will find the process easier and less threatening. Go forth and create!