How to Create Content That Stands Out
One of the biggest challenges businesses face when it comes to content marketing is finding a way to stand out. Considering the sheer amount of content being published every single day, it can be incredibly difficult and potentially very frustrating to create content that sets your company apart, is memorable to readers and ultimately ends up helping you achieve your business goals.
Luckily, a thorough content strategy that involves research, planning, trying new things and evaluating your results can lead to creating unique content that truly stands out. Here's how to do it:
Study Your Competitors
It would be nearly impossible to create content that stands out among all content on the internet. Fortunately, you only really need to work on standing out from your competitors. For example, a realty website wouldn't necessarily need to worry about standing out from a cooking website. While your content technically competes with the infinite number of things that can occupy a person's attention at any given time, the most effective and targeted approach is to use your unique content to hook people that are already somewhat interested in your business or services - this means focusing on creating better content than your competition.
Competitor research is the most crucial aspect of creating content that stands out. Spend some time doing the following:
- Identify Your Competition - Who are the most popular businesses in your industry? Which companies rank highest in Google for keywords you're trying to target? Which businesses outperform you in your local area? What companies in your industry get more social engagement? Keep a list of all your competitors so you can continually keep an eye on their content and strategies.
- Study the Elements of Your Competitor's Content - What is it about your competitor's content that makes it popular? Do they provide valuable, actionable information? Do they use humor and levity even in a "boring" industry? How long are their posts? Do they often use video or high-quality, unique images? What does their formatting look like?
- Create Content that Rises Above - Perhaps the most difficult part of this process is determining what to do with your competitor research. But there are basically only two options: beat them at their own game or provide something completely different. In other words, you'll either need to create content that significantly improves upon what your competitors already do, or develop content that takes a different angle, provides different types of information or serves that information in a different way.
Keep records of all your research and use it to brainstorm content ideas and strategies. Don't carry this burden completely alone either - try brainstorming with other members of your team or other employees at your company to come up with interesting, unique content ideas.
Study Your Audience
The other incredibly important research step is to study your audience. Simply put, your content will stand out if readers find it to be valuable. Using Google Analytics or other traffic monitoring services can provide helpful insights into audience demographics, search queries that lead to your site, and the most popular content you've already published. It's also extremely valuable to gather as much customer information as you can whenever anybody makes a purchase on your site.
Use your audience research to inform your content strategy and ideas. For example, if you find that the majority of your customers are between the ages of 18 and 25, you might want to see if creating BuzzFeed-style lists complete with funny gifs is unique enough to stand out from your competition and attract the attention you're looking for.
Other things to consider include:
- Asking your customers directly through email, contact forms and/or social media what kind of content they'd like to see from you.
- Browsing sites like Quora, Yahoo Answers or Reddit AMAs to see what questions people have about businesses in your industry.
- Encouraging questions and comments on your blog posts that you can address in subsequent content.
- Encouraging feedback and comments on all of your marketing channels including your website, print materials and social media.
- Using a service like Lead Forensics to get as much information as you can about the people who visit your website.
Content Elements That Can Be Used to Stand Out
Once you've done your research to start determining how your content can stand out from your competitors, there are many factors that should be taken into consideration when actually creating the content. They include:
This is perhaps the most obvious way to stand out from your competition. If you're in an industry that could possibly be described as "dry," "boring," or "technical," chances are good that much of the content published by your competitors can be described that way as well. Using some humor or presenting your content with a fun, unique voice can set you apart from your competition.
Of course, there's plenty of great, valuable content that can still be considered "dry." Also, your voice, tone and style has to fit in with your company's branding. But as long as your content is presented with a voice that your competitors don't have, it may help your content stand out enough to start getting more traction.
Media elements like images and video can help your content stand out by providing a level of professionalism and detail that your competitors do not. For example, instead of just creating a how-to guide, consider also creating a video or video series that actually shows how to complete the task in question. If your competitors aren't doing this, anyone who needs this information will seriously appreciate your company for creating the visuals they need to help them truly understand how to solve their problem.
Quality is the key here though. Your content won't stand out if you're using the same stock images or poorly shot videos that your competitors are using. Use only high-quality, modern and unique imagery. In other words, if you're going to use photos and video, go all-in and do it right.
Other media elements to consider include interactive content such as quizzes and surveys, as well as the overall design of your website. Simply having nicer-looking content than your competition can help it stand out.
How long are your competitor's blog posts? Do their posts provide every last piece of information a reader could want related to the topic? If not, simply providing more information than your competitors can help you stand out. Blog posts that get the most attention are getting longer all the time, and your business can capitalize on this. Of course, you want to avoid filler content that doesn't serve any purpose, but if you can expand on your competitors' ideas and provide a better version of content that's already out there, you'll stand out as one of the most knowledgeable companies in your industry.
One thing that many of your competitors will not do is conduct and provide their own original research. When it really comes down to it, a huge portion of the written content published by businesses include news stories that are covered by many other outlets, rehashes of other content that already exists, and opinion pieces that may or may not provide much value to a reader.
Your company can stand out by conducting a study and creating content related to your research and findings. New and interesting data in your niche can be used to stir up discussions in your industry and promote your business, while also being a great way to attract backlinks.
Do your competitors create educational content like how-to guides and videos? If not, your content can stand out by answering questions that your customers have and providing clear step-by-step instructions for completing a task. If your competition already does this, simply consider how you can do it better or what topics you can cover that your competitors don't. Even if you're not all that comfortable creating educational content, you should still try to provide at least one takeaway in every piece of content you publish. Potential customers will prefer your content if they consistently find something of value in it.
There's an art to creating a great headline. Top content creators often go through many different versions of a headline before landing on one that's catchy, urgent and piques a reader's curiosity, while also adequately describing the content and fitting in with a company's branding. Your content can stand out simply by having a more interesting title when compared to similar headlines that appear in Google search results. Try using one of the many headline analysis tools available to see how you can improve your titles and craft them so that they're more irresistible than your competition's.
Content doesn't always have to mean blog posts or even video. Stay on top of the latest content trends and continue to brainstorm any possible way that your business could get attention online. For example, a landscaping company may struggle with creating interesting written media, but posting high-quality images of finished landscaping jobs to Instagram or a landscaping subreddit can potentially end up getting them traffic in ways that their competition does not.
Of course, one way for your content to stand out is to actively get it in front of as many people as possible instead of relying completely on organic traffic. Promoting your content though social media, email and a variety of other methods ensures that your content will get more exposure than if you just publish it and forget about it. If your competitors aren't promoting as much as you, your content will stand out from theirs simply because it's more visible.
Overall, it's important to try different things, monitor the results and adjust your content strategy after analyzing what works and what doesn't. It can take months of creating and publishing to determine the best ways for your company to create content that stands out - you have to give it time. However, as long as you're continually striving to improve your content and beat out your competition, you should start seeing some results sooner rather than later.