In a previous article (“The Worst Advice about Content Creation”), I complained that advising people to create “great content” is horrible advice, because it’s never followed up with advice on how to actually do that. Telling people the secret to content marketing is to create great content is like telling a tennis player that the secret to tennis is to hit the ball over the net.
What “experts” are trying to say when they advise you to “create great content” is that the previous tricks of gaming search engines and social media no longer work. What was supposed to be common sense at the beginning, create something people want to consume, is not what content producers often did. Instead, like lemmings, many flocked to experts and articles that offered up tricks to get their content shared and ranked high in search.
Since Google updated their algorithm with Panda, it’s not so easy to trick the search engine. What works now is the same stuff that worked before the Internet and search engines ever existed. We enjoy consuming content that delights and informs.
Two ways to create great content
- Work really hard and do a ton of research.
- Hire experienced, creative, and probably expensive content producers.
If you’re not following one or both of these steps, you’re either an absurdly talented person for whom genius comes to you at a whim or you’re generating crap.
How do you create “great content?”
The Internet is filled with absurdly obvious advice about creating “great content.” Let me save you a ton of time reading it and give you a basic summary.
Great content is original, interesting, and engaging.
That non-advice is the basis of all the other so-called “advice” about generating great content. I get the feeling it’s written as a pathetic content marketing tactic to get you to see their page since so many people are entering “How do I create great content” into Google. Since you’re given so many links on how to create great content, there must be great advice. But dig in and you’ll see they’re all saying the same thing, and there’s no real “trick” to creating great content.
It’s frustrating that there isn’t at least step-by-step directions to guarantee I’m generating great content. There are multiple videos about how to replace a headlight in my Mazda3, there’s got to be at least one effective video about how to create great content.
We know when our content is crappy, so why do we publish it?
If you’ve been producing content for a while, you know when you’ve got something good. You also know when you’ve got crap. Still, when we have crap we think we need to publish it because you spent the time to create it and “just to get something out there.”
You put it out there, and it barely gets any shares or views. Now this crappy content is mixed in with all your good content. It’s also bringing down your good-to-crappy content average.
Recently, I had an experience where I had an idea that I hoped would produce a funny video. I did the shoot and unfortunately I didn’t get the material I wanted. Regardless, I went to my editor’s to drop off the video to have her cut it, and she suggested something I had never thought to do before, and that was to not produce it. If the material was that bad, then I would have wasted time and money generating something that was bad. So I took her advice and we didn’t produce the video.
Two sources of consistent great content
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort into researching and interviewing people, you can create great content. That’s one source of great content.
You’re also generating another source of great content and you probably don’t even realize it. Every day, through our work, we’re engaging with people (interviewing) and doing our work (learning and researching). That information generated from your existing day-to-day experiences could be of great interest to your audience. Why not write them up, record a video, or produce an audio podcast and make that your great content? When you tell a personal story you will connect at a higher emotional level with your audience, plus you probably won’t have to do any additional research and interviewing.
If it interests you, it’ll interest someone else
One simple test to determine whether you’re creating great content is if it interests you. If you were bored writing it, editing it, and weren’t excited about sharing it, you’re probably right that others will probably feel the same way. Trust your instincts and don’t produce it or publish it.
Don’t add to the echo chamber
I wanted to write an article about the subject of “great content” but I didn’t want to produce yet another “How to create great content” article. There were too many of these articles titled almost identically, and they were all saying exactly the same thing. If I wanted to stand out, I would need to offer a different angle.
So I ask you the reader, how did I do?
Don’t be lazy about your content publishing
Early on content producers are eager to just hit the record button and publish. They may record a long interview and put it up, or more often record a presenter at an event and put that video up with zero editing. If the presenter is unbelievably engaging, it will compensate for your horrible and negligent production values. You don’t need to make the video look like a big budget Hollywood film, but you do need to actually craft the information.
The big non-secret of great content is it’s just a lot of hard work
If you were to read through all the “how to create great content” advice it would just boil down to doing a lot of work. Stop trying to find some new trick to getting people to read and watch your content. The “trick” is the same thing every content producer knows and that’s to do it over and over again so you learn how to do it better and faster.