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June 26, 2013

The Art and Science of Online Content Creation

by Tom De Baere
the art and science of online content creation

da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, a diagram of the ideal proportions of a man’s body.

Knowing how to write for the online world is of strategic importance these days. If you know how to write for the web, your content will be found, and it will be read.

Your content might be fantastic, but if it is not written for the online world, you might as well not create that content.

But how do you create online content that actually gets read?

A different approach to content

Splitting content into themes, topics and formats

Splitting content into themes, topics and formats

What is valuable content? I guess we can all think of words that come to mind when we think of great content. Relevant, Authentic, Timed, Unique, Human, Engaging.

But when you think of content, you often think in terms of content formats: a whitepaper, a blog post, a slideshow, etc.…

When you want to use content strategically, a different approach is needed:

  • Select the themes that matter to your customers and which are relevant to your business e.a. Business Challenges in a particular industry.
  • From these themes, derive a number of topics that reflect the angles your can take on this theme in your industry e.a. Demonstrations, Comparisons, Mistakes, Examples, Best practices.
  • Once you have these topics, you can start thinking about your actual content formats e.a. a series of content starting of with a blog post, an interview, a how-to article, all around the topic ‘mistakes’.

How to find ideas for these content topics?

There are many places where you can look for ideas. But start with the obvious: your own people, your own customers, customer services for the most common problems and solutions, etc. They’ll already be able to come up with the most relevant topics for your customers, and your business.

Finding high priority topics can also be done by following important industry blogs, competitor websites, most commented blog articles, or just magazines. Once you uncovered those high priority topics, you need to tie them back to what’s relevant to you and your customers. For example, if the reluctant market acceptance of 3DTV by consumers is important to your customers, write insightful about the effect that might have on your industry. In doing so, you’ll be relevant to your customers for bringing that insight.

An easy way to find ideas

Write down 20 questions you get from your customers, exactly as they would ask them to you. You now have 20 ideas. You even might have 20 titles for your articles.

Another idea is to re-use what you already have today:

  • A blog post about a presentation you presentation you give at events
  • A blog post about a video you shot with you iPhone with an industry expert at a tradeshow
  • A series of blogs posts with content from a whitepaper that you only publish at the end of that series.
  • A blog post about a webinar including the recording of that webinar.

How to write web content that gets “LOVE” from YOUR customers ? 12 tips for content passionata

Hey, this could be a great title for a blog post ;-).

So 12 tips. Here they come:

  • People scan online content these days. And maybe this is an obvious one, but titles really are key to help people find your content. Help them by building a great title.
  • Keep it brief. Keep blog posts under 500 words. Most people have a short attention sp….
  • Understand the secrets of clear writing: use every day words, write as you speak, keep sentence short.
  • Avoid forbidden words like Leading, Revolutionary, Award winning, Disruptive. Usually you are trumping your own horn with those words, and that’s something you want to avoid.
  • Know about typography & whitespace. That might sound boring stuff, but it’s also important.
  • Provide “anchors” to people: Notice how I put words in bold in this text? Notice how I use sub-titles? Notice how I use bullets? That’s all done to guide you find the stuff you need, and to suck you right into this blog post ;-).
  • The anchors “power” check: a final check would be to re-read your text ONLY looking at the text you’ve highlighted. Do you still understand what your article is about?
  • Harness “the power of numbers”: people love bullets. People love numbers. Because it breaks down complex stuff into bit sized information, and it gives them structure.
  • Use a lot of links. These links should point to your own content, but also to external content. Links enhance the ‘browseability’ and time spent on your site.
  • Always use images. The first thing people do when they see a piece of content is look at the image. That should suck people into your article. Don’t be easy on yourself when selecting an image. Search long for the right picture that’s not a stock picture. A good “caption” under the picture is key to that.
  • Always insert a call to action. If you want to drive people through the buying cycle, you need to move them closer to what you have to offer. You do this using call to actions like asking for feedback, asking to share your content, contact you, subscribe to your blog, register to download a document, etc.
  • A final check: is my content really giving something useful to my audience? if not, go that extra mile by still adding that last bit of meaningfulness that makes it near perfect.

Publish everywhere, and promote it like hell!

publish and promote content like hell

Publish and promote content on multiple channels, linking back to your website for further conversion.

You have worked hard on your content. It would be a shame if nobody would read it. That’s why you now need to promote it like hell:

  • Your website it your central content hub. That’s where you want people to go to. That’s the first place where you publish it.
  • Promote your content on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and maybe Facebook and get that inbound traffic going. Don’t forget LinkedIn groups, they can be very powerful.
  • Give your content to magazines. They might publish it on their website, or maybe even in print.
  • Leverage the ad buying power you have at media partners you might have, by asking them to promote your content
  • Include your content in a weekly e-letter to your customers and blog subscribers.

A final word

Don’t try to get it perfect from the start. There’s lots to know and lots to try. As with many things, practice makes master. And that’s also what this takes.

So just start. Today. Not Tomorrow.

Will you?


Warm regards,

Tom De Baere