I’ll let you in on a little secret. I do not like the word ‘content’. Shocking, I know, considering it’s my livelihood, and I use it pretty often.
Why the beef? The term ‘content’ is simply too catch-all: it makes me think of ‘contents’…you know, like E numbers in baked beans or the contents of Rik Mayall’s underpants.
Sure, I’d sooner we used more specific terms, like blog post, video or infographic. But enough about semantics. And pants.
The back-breaking toil of making great content
When it comes to content creation, there are two types of people – those who know it’s hard, and those who are wrong. Let’s take a standard blog post. Churn out a few hundred words and click post, right?
Spoiler alert: the writing is the easiest part. One (high-quality) blog post requires:
Finding inspiration. Ninety-nine per cent perspiration, Edison? Writers might disagree. This may involve:
On a good day, everything from step two onwards might take you three hours. If we consider research and third-party contributors, it could take days…even weeks.
So, what are the fruits of our painstaking labours?
Allow me to offer you some personal anecdotes to explain. Since starting #Write52, I’ve reaped the rewards of disciplined, regular writing.
We all know that ‘exposure’ is little more than snake oil: a ploy used to target fledgling creatives who may not yet have the confidence to ask for money.
Making your own content puts you behind the wheel. The industry term is ‘owned media’ – something unique to you, accessible on your digital platforms. Rather than working pro bono for somebody else, you control your own promotional channels, enabling genuine discussions and creating new opportunities.
This LinkedIn article was written in November 2019 and it’s still getting reactions to this day. It’s at 120,000 right now, which led to two new clients and 1,174 new connections. (Measure yours here.)
I’m quite a fan of the LinkedIn snowball effect – the more people who interact with you, the better your brand visibility. On a softer note, I had all those warm ‘n’ fuzzy feelings of people telling me how much the piece spoke to them. It’s not always about the bottom lines.
See above – conversions don’t always mean sales! In 2018, I had the ambitious goal of raising £1,500 for Deafblind UK. Marathon fundraising is so dry – I wanted to engage on a different level.
So I set about creating some very…embarrassing…video content. The ‘marketing campaign’, if you will, was called ‘Dares for Donations’. Quite simply, I would perform acts of public humiliation in exchange for donations. The acts were up to the donors. Singing in public. Eating entire chocolate cakes. Wolfing down the world’s hottest chilli.
We had six months and reached the target in six weeks. Videos went viral, including one that had 90,000 views. This attracted the attention of local radio stations, papers and TV channels. Deafblind UK even gave my mum and hubby VIP seats. Worth those 26 miles…
Perhaps this should be higher up in the rankings (bu-dum-bum tssh), but I’ve never personally given SEO too much thought. Until now. Google genuinely rewards fresh content (though it mustn’t be crummy) as it shows crawlers your site is still active.
For the first time ever, what was originally a ‘portfolio site’ is now ranking for terms outside of my brand – and unintentionally! Articles such as the UK’s Best Content Marketing Events for 2020 (lolz thanks ‘rona) are on page one of the SERPs. I’m getting organic queries for proofreading. Result.
It’s not just on-site SEO either. The more high-quality owned media you have, the better your backlinking value. Relevant sites can link to your content and build up your trust/citation flow. My domain authority has increased by 50 per cent this year. Boom!
Of course, it’s not always owned media – you might have contributed content to a specific campaign. Back in 2013, I contributed to Yahoo’s Life of Pi campaign, which won two awards. This boat race was up on the big screen onstage, and I got to meet Miles Jupp. Winning.
Moving on to this century, I used my owned media to apply for awards, including the Digital Women Awards 2020. Those certificates take pride of place on LinkedIn, and in my email signature. More than that, awards increase trust in your brand.
Making new connections
You can’t go to a few award ceremonies without making new friends, right? Content has the power to connect you with so many inspiring people. Educate them, or learn from them – either way, with relevant content, you’ll reach people who add value to your life.
Specifically, they may share content that teaches you a thing or two, or introduce you to your next client. They may even reach out for work, or invite you to events. There goes that snowball.
Without #Write52, I wouldn’t have the solidarity and support of so many wonderful freelance writer chums.
Money money money
Now for the awkward part. We all have to eat. Attributing financial gain to content is notoriously difficult. So I’ll give you the abridged version: these content pieces led directly to money because the new client referenced them.
These numbers might not seem astronomical, but they’re a lot to a single person. What’s more, these are only the ones who enquired directly. I’m sure this #Write52 exercise has led to immeasurable publicity, for example through comments on in-depth pieces, like this Google UX post.
How can I measure the value of my content?
It’s tricky, particularly if you’re not selling anything, but you can drill down to measure your value or influence.
Make educated guesses with Google Analytics.
Share a post and watch your GA dashboard light up in real-time. Look at the locations of your viewers, and track their behaviour to see if they visit any more pages. If you get an enquiry from a specific location, you can make an educated guess.
Add contacts to a CRM/other filing system.
If somebody comments on your content, connect with them. Add their name and role to a CRM, along with the content title. Keep in touch and log any enquiries you receive from them, then refer back to your data.
Use attribution and behavioural flows.
(I’m not going to go any more complicated than GA here, folks.) If you do sell online, you can attribute all sorts to specific users or user groups. You can look at behaviour flows to see how they reached a transactional page, and apply an attribution value to each interaction. Hint: this also works well with pay-per-click.
Consider other valuable metrics.
Likes aren’t always vanity metrics! If you can spot upward trends over time for likes, comments and shares, that’s a measure of your brand awareness. Cross reference this with unique visitors or page views for better insights.
Similarly, use Moz to check your domain authority, or paid tools like SEMRush to see your rankings.
Don’t go off page views alone.
A million people may have landed on a page, but did they stick around? Use metrics like time spent on page to assess if people actually read the content. Likewise, look for patterns in exit pages to identify any turn-offs. If you want to be super-fancy, use a paid tool like VWO to measure clicks and heatmaps.
Ask yourself: are people talking about me?
There’s no marketing quite like word of mouth. If you notice a sudden rise in referrals, or even use features like LinkedIn’s ‘see who’s talking about your page’, you’ll know you’re doing something right. Run a backlink analysis every now and then too.
Use gated content
If your content is so good it needs a guestlist, consider gating it. This involves adding a contact form for users to hand over their details in exchange for a download. It’s great for lead generation, and shows that your content is worth it.
Convinced to make content?
Every industry is different, and we all have different ideas of what constitutes ‘value’. It’s hard work, yes. But consistent, high-quality content is a slow burner. Katie Lingo has grown by 14 per cent in this tax year alone, so once again, for the people at the back: