If you’ve been online lately, you’ve likely felt overwhelmed… like a tourist standing in the middle of New York City surrounded by blazing billboards with their flashing lights and constantly rotating advertisements. But if you were to stand in Times Square and look around, you would see native New Yorkers briskly walking to their various destinations completely oblivious to all the chaos coming from the skyscrapers overhead.
Why? They’re used to it.
The same way New Yorkers can tune out to billboard advertisements, your online audience can quickly tune out to content when it’s just like what they’ve seen again and again.
So, how do you create original content that captures attention and engages readers?
That is the question. But first, we have another question…
What is original content?
As search engines have gotten smarter, so have audiences. Copied content, spun content, and saying what everyone else is saying the same way everyone else is saying will no longer pass.
Original content is content (whether in video, audio, written, or another form) that hasn’t been published online before. And when we say that it hasn’t been published online before, we don’t mean that it passes a Copyscape test. Rather, we mean that the information and ideas in it are new.
It’s fresh, informative, reliable, and clean. It’s well-produced and strategic.
Creating original content requires studying and researching to see what content has already been shared online and what that content is missing. Think of your content in a competitive landscape – what can you do to create content that either offers something new or better than what’s out there?
If you can do this, your content will drive traffic, reaching the right people while building authority. It stays true to your brand and voice rather than trying to imitate someone else’s.
What types of content can you create?
There are many types of original content you can create to engage your audience online.
Here are some ideas:
- Blog posts
- Website Copy
- Social media posts
- User-generated content
While you can’t copy content exactly and use it in different formats, you can spend some time repurposing digital content to reach your audience in multiple formats.
For example, your podcast episode could be written and formatted into a blog post for those that would rather read. You could also take the main points from the episode and create an accompanying infograph.
Another example – your blog post could be turned into a video to provide examples and engage visual viewers. You can share it on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to reach your audience there. Embedding your video in the original post could also help boost engagement for the post.
There really are countless ways to reach your audience and stand out online.
It might prove challenging to create many types of content, so consider choosing three types of original content you can create reliably and focus on quality. If this proves easy to do, you might look at expanding to other content types.
Original content is critical for SEO
Creating original content is important for SEO because search engines’ algorithms want what your potential readers and customers want: value. Unique content delivers that value and is one of Google’s largest ranking factors.
Google and other search engines want searchers to find useful information that adds to, not copies, what is already online. If you aren’t in it to add value, people can read that insincerity from a mile away.
Would you go to a carpenter to repair your tooth fracture?
Of course not! You’d go to a dentist. Maybe even one specializing in fractures. Sure, both a carpenter and dentist repair things and use tools. But they aren’t the same tools.
In the same way, your audience wants to know that you know what you are talking about. They want to know that you are a credible resource for information online by creating content that they care about and that improves their lives. When readers are happy and find what they are looking for, the search engines are happy, too.
As technology continues to improve, search engines can look deeper into how relevant your content is to the keyword you have chosen, the search intent behind it, how readers interact with that content, and how much they share it.
Your original content needs to satisfy that search intent with a comprehensive on-topic piece that shows good user engagement.
When readers and search engines are happy, your content becomes more valuable and cost-effective. You will spend less time and money to reach more people. Loyal customers will return again and again and tell their friends.
Links are another super important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, and good original content helps you gain quality backlinks organically.
Organic backlinks are earned when someone thought your content was valuable enough to their audience that they wanted to share it as a link on their site without any outreach on your part.
Backlinks not only help improve rankings and drive traffic back to your website, they can also help build relationships by connecting your content to influencers while helping you reach a new audience.
Most SEOs know that link building can be tough. Earning links naturally is a huge boost to any SEO program, and truly original content is one of the best ways to earn organic backlinks.
Drive Social Signals
The real low down on Google algorithms are kept pretty secret and Google officially says that social media is not a ranking factor. But, not so fast! That does not mean it should be neglected. There is a correlation between brand websites that have strong social profiles and top positions with Google.
And as Helen Pollitt points out in an article for Search Engine Land, Google is not the only search engine and not the only traffic source. In her article, Pollitt shares that the search engine Bing is a bit more clear about favoring social:
“Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence.” Search Engine Land, SEO in 2020: Going Beyond Google.
Similar to helping you earn organic backlinks, strong original content earns you organic social shares. And, that helps your SEO.
The Sharing and Engagement Factor
While social signals are important for SEO, they’re also intrinsically important.
When social media users are engaged with your content they will visit your site, share with their friends, and return for more. Greater exposure, greater traffic, and more influence. When people share, you reach potential customers that would not have seen you otherwise.
Original content gets shared more often providing free and highly-effective marketing.
Social media isn’t just about promoting your content though. Your original content should start a discussion and give you a chance to engage with your audience.
You might even use social media to help you decide what content to create next. Watch for things your audience are frequently talking about, ask them when interacting with them, or even set up a poll.
Creating original content that addresses a topic that your audience is already showing interest in on your chosen platform is a powerful way to drive engagement.
Original Content Builds Thought Leadership
We hinted at this earlier — remember that your potential customers want to work with an expert. Being seen as a thought leader in your industry starts with knowing your target audience and creating that valuable, original content just for them. You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know the right things.
And you can learn what the right things are to your audience with research and strategy. You’re aiming for reliable, educational, and valuable content that sets you up as a trusted resource.
Think about it like putting your audience on your team. You lead but you are all working together.
“The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the great ideas, but to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” Simon Sinek.
How to research what content your audience wants
Your audience will tell you what they want if you pay attention. A great way to explore what your audience needs and wants, where they may need a thought leader, is to look at the questions they ask.
Online groups and forums are an amazing tool for customer research. It’s better to look for real problems your audience has and how you can solve those rather than guessing about what you think they want.
Some places to ask and search:
1. Online forums and groups like Reddit.
2. Q&A websites like Quora.
3. Keyword research tools.
4. Your social media and comments.
5. Survey answers from your audience and team.
A big part of thought leadership is thinking above and looking at the bigger picture. It’s a long-term approach to content marketing.
How to become a thought leader
Thought leadership is a buzzword at this point, but it’s really a simple concept.
You need to be seen as someone who offers new and unique thoughts in your industry. That is incredibly well married with creating original content.
The best thought leadership content relies on your expertise and experience. Some common elements of thought leadership content include:
- Data from your own company
- Primary research
- Surveys and questionnaires
- Expert panels or roundups
- How to guides
- Industry predictions
These things position you as someone with unique value to your industry, and it’s no coincidence they are extremely common in truly original content.
How to create original content – our best tips
We’ll wrap this up with some tips on how you can create original content that delivers results.
Do your research
- Research your audience, your website stats, and what is current in your industry. Ask: What is working and getting you the most engagement already? What needs to be improved? How can you offer more value?
- Post a poll to social media.
- Use a resource like AnswerThePublic.com to find out what people are searching for about any given topic.
- Send out a survey asking for content preferences with an incentive for your audience to complete it.
- Use a keyword research tool to find popular topics in your space.
- Explore online discussion boards and conversations that are happening.
- Ask your sales team what questions they receive again and again.
Experiment with your content
Once you’ve done your research and have some data, try something new. Experiment with new content or the way you deliver your content. Track how your audience or target audience responds. You may just find a new content method that works great. But never stop experimenting even if you find something that works. The online world is always changing.
But, this is key: Experiment with focus.
You don’t have to be everywhere at once, just where your audience is.
“Remember, don’t invest effort into a particular channel just because you feel like you should be using it. It will take a bit of time and experimentation to find the right marketing channel for you. So don’t stress if you don’t get it right from the get-go.” Jonathan Chan, Foundr.
Create some roundups
Put your best social media, articles, or blog posts together to create a roundup of your top information and resources. Think Ultimate Guides.
And, don’t stop at just your information. Some of the best original content collects many industry expert’s opinions on certain topics. These pieces are highly valuable because your readers can get the best advice from many experts in one piece.
Get your fans to help
Genuine user-generated content can go a long way in building your audience. You could hold a contest or give rewards to encourage users to create content about your products or services.
For example, running a contest where your readers make short videos they upload to YouTube or Instagram could get you a lot of exposure with little effort in actual content creation.
If there are supporting companies in your field that aren’t direct competitors, you can work together to create and share content.
This lets you reach each others audiences (email lists, social followers, etc) and can help create more robust and valuable content.
There are many ways to approach this, but consider these:
- Cohost a webinar
- Seek industry peers to contribute to your roundup article
- Write and host guest posts
- Share each other’s social posts
Present secondary research in a new light
You can collect data from legitimate sources, giving credit, but change the format to better connect with your audience.
Ever gone through boring data from government websites presented in tables?
You can take that data and package it in an infograph that your audience will actually engage with.
Look at what is already out there in your industry, what content others are producing, and how you can make it better. When doing this, you’ll likely find gaps where you could create content that would resonate with your audience.
Original content for B2B and B2C
What’s the difference?
Depending on the business, business to business (B2B) content will likely have a different tone than business to consumer (B2C) content. Businesses usually have more than one person involved in their purchasing decisions, maybe even a whole team. The buying decision takes longer and is more intense.
Businesses want to know what their return on investment is going to be, so more data-driven content is in order.
When it comes to content for business to consumer, it’s a good idea to include storytelling, as emotion is a bigger factor in buying decisions. How will your product or service change their lives? Paint them a picture of the before and after. You can also get a little more personal with some behind-the-scenes and what motivates you.
Keeping in mind whether you’re targeting B2B or B2C can help guide the type of original information you need to include to deliver good original content to them.
Creating high-quality original content consistently can be a challenge. That’s where a great team of writers and a great strategy comes in. Hire the perfect content writers and get original content on your site to boost engagement and build authority.