Many marketers talk about creating valuable content.
What does it mean for a piece of content to have value? If your content offers value, is it guaranteed to succeed?
The short answer to the latter question is: No. A lot of factors play into success. But you’re more likely to reach your goals if you first vet your content ideas.
Use this checklist to confirm which ideas are worth pursuing.
1. Is it something your audience wants?
This is the most important criteria. If you spend time and money putting together content no one really asked for, it’s more likely to fall flat. It’s like baking a chocolate cake, then inviting people who are gluten intolerant to enjoy it. Maybe the cake is delicious, but the guests won’t eat it.
How can you make sure a content idea matches an actual want or need of your audience?
First, establish a process to sync with a sales representative and a customer service representative (if applicable) to find what current customers/clients are curious about. Does your idea fall into those curiosities or concerns?
Second, perform question or keyword research on your idea to see if it’s among the questions people are asking or the information they are trying to find.
Many tools can help you do this. Among them:Answer the Public and BuzzSumo collect questions from across the web. Keyword Surfer and Keywords Everywhere are browser extensions that pull keyword volume and other info right in the SERPs. Google’s People Also Ask feature, autocomplete, etc., provide more insight on similar search queries.
When you find keywords that match your content idea, what’s the volume of the keywords? Lower volume is fine if you’re creating bottom-of-the-funnel content, but if you’re trying to reach a more general audience, you might want a content idea with a higher relevant keyword volume.
You also can use this process not only to verify your idea but to improve and strengthen it based on the new angles you discover.
2. Has the idea been done?
You come up with an idea you think is fantastic; it fits the brand, it helps your target audience, and your team can create it with their available time and resources.
But make sure to check that the idea hasn’t been done. Often, this is as simple as a Google search, but you’re not just looking for direct matches.
For example, say the idea is to write a post about favorite Halloween candy across the country. A quick search of “top Halloween candy by state” reveals many websites have published content on this idea:
Now you could argue people love this type of content, which is why so many sites are doing it, and you have a new way to write about which candy is the most popular. But if your content doesn’t typically compete with popular sites like Delish and Better Homes and Gardens, you might not want to throw your version of this idea into the ring. Audiences already have seen the same idea multiple times, and it just won’t have the same appeal as something new.
How to make it original
Even if your idea has been done, you don’t need to immediately give it up. There are often ways to pivot and uncover an even more interesting concept.
Here are some questions to guide that idea pivot:When you look at the published versions of this idea, what new questions and curiosities come to mind? (Example: How many states prefer chocolate vs. gummy candy?) What did people comment or remark on the published content? Do they hint or explicitly identify new angles to explore? (Example: A call out of a flaw in the methodology) Could this same methodology of the published idea be applied to another concept? (Example: What’s the most popular costume, favorite horror movies, etc., by state?) Is there a way to drill down into this idea to gain more specific insights? Is there a need for a bigger picture view? (Example: Evolution of each state’s favorite candy change over the years) Can we use the data or other information to show a new perspective? (Example: Which favorite candies have the most sugar to determine which states have the biggest sweet tooth?)
By taking the time to understand what’s been published related to your idea, you can better hone your concept and ensure it’s fresh and interesting.
3. Does the idea work with a marketing goal?
Rarely does one piece of content fulfill all your content marketing goals. If you try to make it accomplish several tasks, you’re more likely to end up failing across the board.
Every piece of content should have a primary goal and secondary goals, such as:Increase brand awareness by ranking for top-of-the-funnel terms Increase brand awareness by ranking for middle-of-the-funnel terms Increase brand awareness by generating social media buzz Help potential customers/clients understand more about your offering (sales support) Assist visitors in converting through bottom-of-the-funnel content Create a resource to build backlinks and/or brand authority
Your goals can overlap, but each piece of content should have a specific goal to shape the idea so the resulting content and promotion deliver what your organization expects it to.
When building an editorial calendar, include your overall content goals at the top and note the objective for each piece of content so you and your team stay focused on its purpose when planning and creating the content.
4. Will the idea elicit a reaction?
For your audience to care about your content, it should provoke a response or emotion. Will your idea do that? The question is a proxy for determining if your content matters.
I discussed this topic in a recent #CMWorld Twitter chat, in which I explained that even “boring” topics could be emotional.
A5. Even the most “boring” topics impact people.
What about a company that sells roofing materials? It’s not just construction; it’s about families feeling protected — about feeling safe from storms and being proud of the home you have.
— Amanda Milligan (@millanda) November 10, 2020
The reaction doesn’t need to be an “emotional” one. Consider how-to content. It is usually straightforward, but when done well, it leaves the reader with a sense of relief and eventually, accomplishment.
Ask before creating
The value of your content starts before it is created. It begins in the idea phase. By asking – and answering – these four questions, your better-developed idea is more likely to create something your audience and your business wants.
All tools identified in the article come from the author. You can suggest your favorite relevant tools (including your company’s in the comments.)
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute