In this ever-changing crazy world of internet marketing, fresh, high quality content is king.
Whether you’re on a mission to build up content on your own site or developing a client site, the 50 great ideas in this article will give you inspiration for content development, together with guidelines on creating and maintaining quality, and ideas on how to get your newly created content out there in the wake of Google’s recent content-savvy changes.
Defining ‘quality’ content
Not so long ago, the web was dominated by content super-sites, ram packed with articles on every topic under the sun stuffed with keywords which dominated the ‘long tail’ of search – around 70% of queries which were specific enough for these low value pages to give an exact match. Life was easy. But search results were poor.
Then Google released some very harsh updates. The “Panda” updates first appeared in February 2011, aimed at downranking websites that provided poor user experience. To identify such websites, a machine-learning algorithm by Navneet Panda was utilised. The algorithm follows the logic by which Google’s human quality raters determine a website’s quality. Then in January 2012, a page layout algorithm update was released, targetting websites with little content above the fold. Finally the “Penguin” updates, first announced on April 24, 2012, were aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines with nasty tricks such as keyword stuffing and deliberate creation of duplicate content. Together these updates were aimed at displaying higher quality websites at the top of Google’s search results. Sadly, some perfectly good sites got downranked as the result of these updates and SEOs everywhere cried and tore their hair out.
“One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content.
However, some webmasters attempt to improve their page’s ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content. Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other auto-generated pages that don’t add any value to users. Examples include thin affiliate sites, doorway pages, auto generated content and scraped content”.
Source: Google Webmaster Content Guidelines (page updated 23rd July 2011)
Back in May 2011 (again post-PANDA), Google Fellow Amit Singhal on Google’s Webmaster Blog told us exactly what quality content looked like in Google’s eyes.
- People would trust the information presented in the content
- The content contains insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious
- The content does not have excessive advertising that distracts from or interfere with the main message
- The content is edited well
- The content is free from spelling, stylistic, or factual errors
- The content is not mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites
- The content is of a good length, substantial and contains helpful specifics
- The content is produced with great care and attention to detail
- The content is the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend
- The content is written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well
- The content passes a high level of quality control
- The content provides a complete or comprehensive description of the topic
- The content provides original material or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis
- The content provides substantial value when compared to other content in the search results
- The site is a recognised authority on its topic
- The site is recognisable as an authoritative source when mentioned by name
- The site looks trustworthy enough for users to hand over their credit card information
- The topic of the content is driven by genuine interests of readers of the site
- There are not other duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations
- Users would complain when they see the content as a match for their search query
- Where appropriate, the content describes both sides of a story
- Where health related, the information presented appears trustworthy
- You might expect to see the content in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book
Source (paraphrased from): More Guidance on Building High Quality Sites, May 6th 2011, Amit Singhal
The above is makes for a comprehensive checklist but and naturally, not every piece of content you create is going to tick every box. Ultimately one principle prevails: the content should provide a quality user experience. Google is looking to rank content that is original, relevant and trustworthy because this provides the best user experience.
50 ideas for new content creation
Here’s a huge list of ideas for new content that you could develop. Remember to keep your content topical to the type of search queries you’re trying to rank for – bear in mind that Google does analyse the frequency of keywords on your site (see Google’s Webmaster Tools > Optimisation > Content Keywords) so don’t dilute your content with too much irrelevant material.
- ’10 ways to…’, ‘top 10…’ tips / lists: These easy to develop guides are ever popular and often shared. Whilst it’s valuable to pull together a bunch of tips from different places, do try and include some originals to give your list value.
- ‘101’ guides: These are really comprehensive pages of information telling you everything you need to know about a topic from start to finish – for example, the 101 guide to building a social media following on Twitter.
- Articles: Just like this one, these will cover a particular topic in some depth. They’ll probably be somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 words, and should include some original ideas to give your article value.
- Ask questions: Most sites try to provide all the answers to their visitors – why not instead ask a question? Set out the key issues, arguments for and against different stand points – and then contact influencers and ask them if they’d give their opinion – all content for your site.
- Audio music and / or podcasts: You can provide guides, interviews, transcripts of articles, training and much more through audio. Google ‘creating a podcast’, there are plenty of good guides out there already. These can be distributed on podcast sites and directories too.
- Awards: Create an awards page and decide on the best of certain aspects of your industry, be it products, companies or people. If you’re feeling creative, you could mock up actual graphic awards to put next to each one in the hope that the recipients may use them on their website.
- Best articles on…: Create an article reviewing all the best guides and articles on a particular topic on the web, linking to them, ranking them in terms of how helpful they are and giving a couple of highlights from each.
- Blog posts: Shorter articles (about 300-500 words) usually covering recent events. They are a good place to encourage discussions (which gives you more fresh and free content). You can have a blog on-site or maintain a separate off-site blog – see my link building article for a list of sites that offer free hosted blogs.
- Brand pages: If you’re working for a company that offers a number of brands, create pages describing the brands, the companies behind them and why they are special/unique. You can link to these from product pages.
- Careers guides: Whatever industry you’re working for, you should be able to produce a set of careers guides for typical roles within that industry. These can make great linkbait. Don’t forget to link to them when posting up job adverts.
- Case studies: Case studies can be past examples of where products or services have helped customers – or they can be examples of how your typical visitor has encountered an issue relevant to your industry and dealt with it.
- Community page: If you’re working with a company, create a community page listing all the causes they support, charity work they have done or events they have participated in. You could get the staff to contribute ‘comments’ about why particular causes are important to them. This is all good for the brand and PR generally.
- Company history: For company sites, ensure there’s a good company history page detailing how the Company came about and what its unique selling points were that led it to where it is today. This is usually separate from the standard ‘about us’ page which tends to detail why a customer would choose you and what your current values are.
- E newsletters: What’s happening on your site or at your company? E newsletters give all the latest news and sometimes promotions. A quick simple way to build an e newsletter is a round up of the latest (best) additions to the site. You could also include a round up of really good articles on other websites that are industry related. Check out the ‘Moz top 10‘ as a great example.
- Ebook: A really good ebook is great link bait. It’s also a good way to build a mailing list as you can ask people to give their email address to be able to download it. Try promoting your ebook through a guest post on another industry relevant site. You might also consider writing an exceptional ebook and offering it as content (along with a guest post) on a very high ranking industry relevant site – it’s good for them (as linkbait) and you’ll be able to include a valuable link back to your own website. Another idea is to require a tweet as ‘payment’ for downloading your ebook (see Pay with a Tweet). It is thought that there is at least some correlation between social signals and rankings so these Tweets are valuable to you.
- Education section for kids: How well this works depends on your industry but for example, a solar panel provider could offer an education section to school children on solar energies, or a electrician could provide an education section on electricity, circuits etc. These are not only good content but also great link bait.
- Egobait: This might come in the form of blog posts or articles, reviews etc but the concept is to flatters influencers to try and gain a link back. Of course, the content itself should be of value to users.
- FAQs: Developing or expanding an FAQ section is a great way to create a lot of on-topic content for your site. For example, a telephone systems specialist might create FAQs detailing popular features of systems, advice on how to choose the right system, terminology explained, and so on.
- Featured product: This might be something your company are willing to offer a deal on, or it might be a new product or service that’s just come out – either way, give it some special attention with a new featured page, outlining benefits, features, and a big call to action.
- Forum: Forums allow you to create topics relevant to your industry and discuss them with users. You can kick start the process with your own posts from several accounts, until users catch on – this is a great way to generate fresh and free user content.
- Freebies: Give people freebies to keep them coming back – tools, website templates, document templates, snippets of code, graphics etc.
- Guest posts: Allow other people to create content for you! Create a page on your site explaining that you allow guest posts and create your own guidelines for quality. BloggerLinkUp is a good way to advertise that you accept guest posts.
- Guides: How to use, how to choose, etc.
- Images: Graphics, photography, amusing cartoons or viral pictures. Make it easy for them to be shared, and mark them with your website URL / brand in case they get shared.
- Industry related data: Either collect your own or amalgamate others’ data in an accessible way, providing commentary and adding value to what already exists.
- Infographics: These are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly. Create a smart infographic covering a recent topic within your industry and submit it to infographic sites. Here’s a huge list of infographic sites to try. As always, check when you register to see if you can also add a profile link. If you’re not great with graphics, go to Shutterstock and search for ‘infographic’. You’ll find loads of pre-made bits and bobs you can use to make yours pretty, mostly in vector format.
- Interviews with influencers: If you can bag an interview with an influencer in your industry, this makes great content. Make sure you offer a video (if you can film it), audio (e.g. podcast) and a transcript to get full value out of the content. Do a good job and you’ll find that they link to your interview.
- Lesson plans: These make great link bait and there are plenty of home schooling websites out there looking for lesson plans who are happy to link to these. If you create a plan that meets organisation standards, you may be able to get a link from the organisation’s site too, which I have done successfully (for example, McREL).
- List of gurus/experts: Create a who’s who of the big names and players in your industry. Do a good job and you may find they link to you.
- Polls and surveys: Create polls / surveys on your site, specific to your industry – then publish the results as further content.
- Presentations: There are plenty of tools now for creating presentations online. Cut up your reports, guides, infographics etc and turn them into powerpoint presentations – not only can you use these on your site but through sites like Slideshare you can upload them elsewhere too.
- Press releases: For breaking company news. If you don’t have any, jump on the back of any news outbreaks in your industry and create a press release where you (or your company spokesperson) offers commentary on that news. Link back to their profile on your website. Check out my list of places to put out press releases on my link building guide.
- Product pages: You’d be surprised how many companies miss this really obvious one, instead describing everything they offer under umbrella pages. Every product and every service can have its own page – just make sure that the content is original and useful to the user, and you create a minimum of around 300 words.
- Product/service comparisons: So you’ve set up all your product pages but which should a user pick? A whole new page or set of pages can be created that just contrast the different products and services, through tables of features etc.
- Product/service reviews and ratings: Review the features and benefits of each product – this can be a page in itself (make sure you interlink with product pages, comparisons etc). You could also encourage visitors to provide ratings and their own reviews, Amazon style.
- Questions and answers: Allow users to ask a question and provide a page or pages of answers to their questions. This could be common questions on what you offer, or help that relates to your industry (for example, a decorator might provide ‘ask the expert’ decorating advice).
- Resource lists: These are lists of resources relating to your industry – they might include websites, addresses, phone numbers, links to helpful tools, helpful articles and so on.
- RSS: Provide a feed on your site of your articles and blog posts that people can use to stay updated using their choice of feed burner.
- Social media: Tweets, statuses, etc. Although these are content on other sites, you can usually include them on your site too through plug ins – and this will encourage people to follow your social media accounts.
- Taboo commentary: In every industry, there’s always stuff that people don’t talk about. For example, in the SEO industry, people are really reluctant to say anything that’s not squeaky clean, such as that automated linked building might sometimes work. In fact, they’ll say exactly the opposite, even though they haven’t tried it themselves. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and talk about taboo subjects. Contact influencers and ask if they would comment on your discussion. This is not only a good source of content but also of links to your site.
- Team profiles: Companies often give a very general background of their departments. People like dealing with people, not faceless companies or websites. Create individual staff profiles detailing experience and job role, tying what as written into your industry as much as possible. If staff aren’t willing, create a general meet the team page (for example, first name and short bio) and then detailed profiles for senior management (who are usually far more willing to allow a full profile).
- Testimonials: Every happy customer that a company has is a potential piece of content for their website. To ensure that you’re getting a decent sized page and giving a good user experience, you might want to group testimonials by the product or service that they had. You can then link to these pages from your various product pages.
- The law says…: If you’re in a position to offer guidance on the law in your industry, typical legal problems etc, this makes great content and linkbait. It’s best to add a disclaimer somewhere at the bottom that your visitors aren’t entitled to rely on the information and must do their own research, or something along those lines.
- Top myths: Create a list of top myths in your industry, or fascinating facts people wouldn’t be aware of.
- Training / free courses in …: Offer free industry related training materials – if you can also tag on a test (basically a quiz) at the end to allow the user to test their knowledge, this will make your course even more valuable.
- User generated content: This is a huge topic in itself but look for ways that users can generate content for you. Aside from the things I’ve mentioned already (comments on your blogs, discussions, guest posts, forum posts, surveys, testimonials, ratings and reviews etc) you can hold contests to generate industry related written content or pictures.
- Videos: Great content for your website – don’t forget to include a transcript and if you can, an audio version, to take full advantage of the value of having a video made. You can also distribute these in a lot of places. Read tip 8 on my article 12 ways for small businesses to get more traffic fast for more videos advice.
- White papers: A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps users understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers tend to lean towards a particular technology, product or method as superior for solving a specific business problem. They may also present research findings, list a set of questions or tips about a certain business issue, or highlight a particular product or service from a vendor.
- Troubleshooting: A slightly different take on help guides, provide info on what to do when things go wrong. This might be anything from legal steps that can be taken or a list of contacts, to practical advice on how to fix the problem, depending on your industry. Create content on frequent problems and how they can be solved.
- Updates: With all the changes you’ve made to your site, how can users keep track of what’s happening? An updates page provides a link and short review of what change you’ve made to entice the user to go visit your new content – and of course the page is fresh, ever-changing content itself.
Putting your content about
Since Google’s ‘caffeine’ algorithm updates, fresh content has never been so important. It has been suggested that Google uses social signals to help it determine what is ‘fresh’. Whilst this is not agreed (and who knows, besides Google themselves!), most people agree that there is at least some correlation between spurts in social activity and rankings. You therefore need to get your newly created content out there in the social sphere so that Google can find it, index and, because it’s fresh and fab, rank it well. Here are some strategies for pushing out your content:
- Number one rule: make sure your content is really easy to share, with Facebook like, Tweet, Google+1 and Pinterest buttons.
- Mark up any content that you can with Rich Snippets. This allows Google to better understand your content and sometimes you’ll find Google displays extra information about your content in the search results. The following types of information on your site can be marked up: reviews, people, products, businesses and organisations, recipes, events and music. Here’s Google’s guide on how to do it.
- Share your new content across all of your current social sites. I recommend you use Onlywire which allows you to easily share across 46 different services. There is a free version that allows up to 300 submissions (each service = 1 submission).
- Build internal links to your new content from existing pages – cross reference your articles where they are relevant.
- Build some external links to your new content (there are plenty of sites on my link building article for special content such as videos, press releases and infographics).
- Promote on StumbleUpon – you can pay for stumbles and these are valuable because stumblers are more likely to be social media users and are more likely to share.
- Email top influencers within your industry and ask them to review your content and share it if they like it.
Keep your content updated
Since online marketing is subject to daily changes, I revisit my old articles as often as possible, adding new tips and editing where I feel content has gone out of date. It’s worth doing the same to ensure your content still gets links and shares, and so that you’re still regarded as an authority on the subject. Don’t forget to push your updated content out so Google re-indexes it.