The Complete Guide to Content Creation

For many people, the first instinct when a burning question arises is an online search. Any topic that has been discussed or studied has carved a place for itself online. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that so and so many people search for almost everything online.

Every second, Google processes 40,000 searches. How do you make sure one of those searches ends with a potential customer on your page? Content creation plays an important part in the answer. As a branded content method, it’s less invasive than paid options. Content creation can be a key part of a successful long-term strategy. So, let’s go over how it works, from start to finish and beyond.

What is content creation?

Content creation is the process of creating the digestible content that internet users consume. Content creation is useful for any kind of institution. Businesses, individuals, non-profits, government agencies, hobby groups, associations, and many more types of institutions engage in content creation. The purpose of content creation can vary according to the type of content creator. But the final goals are similar in at least a few ways:

  • Gathering attention by engaging with online audiences and providing them with the information they are looking for
  • Appealing to interested individuals, whether they be shoppers, business owners, enthusiasts, or anyone else
  • Making information accessible to a wider audience

Businesses use content creation to educate their audiences on their industry and products. Of course, they will normally use the opportunity to present their solutions in detail. In terms of business use, content creation is a process of creating topics and the content for [things] that appeal to potential customers. For that purpose, they will cover all the relevant topics that their customers would be interested in. Businesses employ industry-standard practices for content creation, including:

  • Market research before drafting topic ideas
  • Creating buyer personas to whom the content speaks more directly
  • Drafting content to be easily scannable and engaging
  • Strategically inserting calls to action

Written or visual content is essentially about engagement. With the right content strategy, businesses can have a cost-effective, impactful, and long-lasting method for communicating with their markets.

Businesses aren’t the only source of online content. Many individuals take advantage of the same resources for similar purposes. There is a lot of overlap because, for many self-employed individuals, their practice is essentially a business (the main functional differences being related to taxation). A lot of service providers use content in much the same way as businesses. For example, an accountant would engage in a similar content strategy as a small business, with differences in scale.

Why is content creation important?

There is a well-understood long-term trend of many of the day-to-day activities we all engage in moving online. As more people find solutions to their day-to-day issues online, the providers of those solutions are also moving online. It’s as simple as that.

Modern content creation must be research-based to be efficient. Regardless of the type of business or other institution engaging in it, the best content creation practices are essentially the same. So, let’s start with some numbers that explain why content creation is essential.  

Massive online audiences are looking for your content

The customer comes first, and the research is in. Customers appreciate content more than any other form of direct or indirect marketing. 60% of consumers enjoy reading relevant content from brands, while 82% report feeling more positive about a brand after reading their content. It also makes the majority feel closer to the brand. This is fairly intuitive, as inbound marketing is less intrusive and has an inherent selection bias that favours the content creator. Unlike paid ads like those YouTube ads that interrupt the viewer’s joyful experience, content creation attracts the people who intend to enjoy the content created by the brand. Your video content is the YouTube video itself, instead of the video interrupting it. 

Content consumers are looking for the content that creators are putting out and the audience is massive. 85% of all consumers use content as a part of their decision-making process leading up to their purchase. 81% go online before going out to a brick-and-mortar location as well. So, content marketing is about online shopping as well as in-person shopping.

Your competition is already doing it

For a business to remain competitive, it must understand the content creation process. The simple fact is that as customers move online, the competition for attention and ultimately for buyers has also moved online. If a business forgoes content creation entirely, it is choosing to hand over customers to businesses that chose to master the craft.

Besides losing out to competition, content creation is a powerful inbound marketing practice. You’re providing free information to a wide online audience. After creating content professionally, you just sit back as visitors come to your site. It’s an ongoing process to attract the maximum possible amount of readers and turn them into customers. However, it’s increasingly become the main way by which online shoppers make buying decisions. Even before going into a store, 83% of people search online first.

Efficiency 

Did we already mention efficiency? Well, content marketing, when conducted professionally, is great for your ROI and has great synergy with other forms of marketing, including more direct methods. It’s more cost-efficient, costing 62% less than traditional marketing.

The content creation process

To reach marketing goals and successfully engage in content creation, content creators follow a tested process. The thorough content creation process makes success simpler and more repeatable. It also enables scalability while also functioning as a quality control method.

Content goals 

First, you need quantifiable goals. In this case, your goals are marketing goals, as content creation is a part of a greater marketing process. So, content strategy is centred around marketing goals.

Content marketing can be engaged in to reach a few kinds of goals:

  • Attracting more visitors to a business’s website/online store
  • Educating current customers
  • Customer retention
  • Brand awareness

For maximum effect, content creation is undertaken with “SMART” goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. These aspects of goals make them meaningful and actionable, with the constraint of time as a control.

An example of a smart content creation goal is “increasing monthly organic traffic to the company website by 50% by the end of Q4.” Assuming the company that made this goal is capable of it, it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. 

Many desired outcomes can be achieved through content creation. Content creation efforts are focused on such specific goals. Other examples could be:

  • Increasing customer retention
  • Reducing bounce rates
  • Increasing sales of specific products

After establishing smart goals, it’s time to follow up with adequate preparation.

Content research 

Content research is intended to make it possible to reach content goals. It enables content creators to back up their content with meaningful information, reinforcing the point of each content piece and allowing it to stand to scrutiny.

Content research is centred upon two crucial facets:

  • The products or services you offer and their real-world benefits
  • The way in which customers interact with your brand and industry

Most content research is centred around the “buyer journey”. Buyers embark on a predictable path before making any purchase. Content creation, when completed successfully, makes their journey easier, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. Your goal is to find a potential buyer who is embarking on the buyer journey, and hold their hand as you take them along for the adventure.

The way that content creation enables you to be the trusted guide for the buyer’s journey starts with the potential buyer finding your content. This normally starts with a simple search engine search. Sometimes, it can be the result of social media sharing, email marketing, or other methods. 

For those searching for your kinds of products and services on search engines, content research starts with SEO.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your content more visible through searches. Each individual piece of content is centred around a single keyword. When people search for that keyword, your goal is to be the first result they find.

SEO, in the simplest sense, involved simply inserting the key phrase users search for inside content pieces. However, SEO has become more complicated over time. Spamming keywords and using other outdated processes is now punished by the larger search engines, particularly Google.

Successful SEO is now completed with a mix of normal customer research and SEO research using professional tools. There are now a great many SEO tools that help content creators make their content more visible and competitive. Modern SEO is completely centred on the customer’s interests. Content creators speak to the issues customers are concerned about and speak their language.

What this looks like in practice starts with keyword research. SEO tools can inform content creators of the most important information:

  • Which searches people are making
  • The number of times that people are making those searches
  • The competition over a given keyword
  • Minor SEO phrases organized from title to heading to main content

Other content creation tools follow up this information with other useful information. For example, tools like Frase will compare similar content and come up with a list of questions the same customers ask. Knowing which questions customers ask is important to content creation in a few ways. It helps SEO by providing topics to cover related to real customer searches. But it also helps you with something more important: giving the customer the information they are looking for. 

Making content meaningful goes beyond simple SEO phrases. It means also giving informative and meaningful answers to the many questions in potential customers’ minds. This is also part of why content marketing professionals create buyer personas to speak to.

Buyer personas

If your business has one typical, universal customer that is the average of all customers put together, what would that typical customer look like? That person would be your ideal buyer persona.  

Content marketing teams typically have several buyer personas for the team to work with when creating content. Each buyer persona serves as the average of a segment of the company’s market. This may seem complex at first, but it makes perfect sense from a marketing perspective. Different businesses serve large numbers of people with similar problems and concerns. These people, while all unique individuals with unique problems, all end up searching for a similar solution.

Buyer personas are another important part of mapping the customer journey. Each persona must include:

  • The daily problems the person experiences
  • The person’s (specific) objectives
  • The main challenges stopping the person from meeting those objectives
  • The person’s work-life balance (hours worked, job/business, marriage status and children, etc.)
  • The main questions and concerns the person has
  • The kind of content the person consumes
  • SEO (what is this person searching for?)
  • The person’s buyer journey 

The number of buyer personas and each personas’ complexity will vary by business. Content marketing needs vary according to the complexity of the market a business exists in.

Content formats 

Your choice in content format, like all content choices, is based on research. Normally, content format choices are based on the buyer persona. In that persona’s absence, the choice can be made with the help of other reliable research.

The idea here is simple: You’re creating content for the customer, so you need to place the content where the customer will want to consume it.

So, which type of content customers most likely find and enjoy? There are quite a few possibilities:

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Graphics/images
  • Videos
  • Slide shows
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • White papers
  • Paperback books
  • Newspapers
  • Press releases
  • Any combination of the above and possibly more!

Content formats are as important for content marketers as any other aspect of marketing. You are meeting the customer’s needs, not the other way around. So, the key is in the research. Find out where your customers are, and go meet them!

Content creation

This is the most obvious part of the process for self-explanatory reasons. It’s the part of the process that everyone understands, in contrast with the rest of the process which only content marketers and creators concern themselves with. 

The content creation process, regardless of its format, will be based on all the preceding research. Content creators complete their work processes with the research open. When deciding what words to use, what to mention, and everything else, the research is in the centre of the screen. 

Drafting content

Content creation requires drafting based on content research. This implies an outline. Outlines can come with a wide range of complexity or length. It all depends on the subject matter and how to meet all the customer’s needs.  

At this point, the content will be created. Whether that implies that content will be written, recorded, designed, or otherwise depends on the content research. Drafting content can imply various processes and levels of complexity depending on the same research and the content format.

The work is seldom complete after the content is drafted. Most of the time, the processes following it will take up far more time. 

Editing

Editing implies taking drafted content and altering it according to your needs. It’s a process of making the content high-quality while enabling it to function according to your original content goals.

Editing processes depend on content formats and standard operating procedures (SOPs). For example, editing written content usually involves at least two people, a content writer and an editor. Likewise, video editing processes can involve even more people.

The purpose of editing is not just to make the content appear professional. It’s also to help make the content perform its task as intended. For example, editing written content for both better readability and for better SEO performance. The point is that no stone is left unturned so that every part of the content creation process reaches its maximum utility to your business. 

Promotions 

Content creation, when done well, can often stand on its own. But because we’re trying to maximise its effect, you will want to promote it wherever possible. After the content has been successfully created and edited, there are a few common places where it would be promoted online:

  • Social media
  • Google
  • Email marketing

Sharing new content on your social media pages is essentially a must these days. Organic sharing is both free and effective. By sharing on all social media platforms, you’re maximizing your content’s organic reach. Many potential customers may be very active on Instagram while never using LinkedIn, for example. 

Email marketing doesn’t just imply paid ads that land in the promotions folder. It makes sense to send new content to everyone on your email list. This is another free way to increase your content’s reach and effectiveness. It’s just important to respect the differences between email and other marketing measures. Emails should be purposeful, engaging, and useful to recipients. They should thus follow email marketing industry standards. 

In many cases, there will be plenty of other online or offline promotions that make sense for your content. It’s up to marketing teams to conduct research and make informed promotion decisions.

Content audits 

Content is immortal when it reaches the internet. However, content can become obsolete surprisingly quickly. To maximize the value of your content, you will need to periodically audit and refresh it.

The audit stage is where you review the content for:

  • Relevance
  • New trends that took place after the original publishing
  • SEO changes
  • Aspects that have become outdated due to changes in your marketing strategy
  • Things as basic as products being removed from your shelves 

In some cases, leaving outdated content published can be decidedly negative for your marketing. Content published long ago based on outdated trends is one example. Content that starts to lag due to SEO changes and heightened competition is another issue, albeit a less harmful one.

When audited content is revealed to be obsolete, counterproductive, or otherwise useless, there are three productive courses of action:

  • Leaving it as it is (when its effect is neutral or still positive)
  • Deleting the content (when it’s completely outdated and not salvageable)
  • A content refresh

Content refresh 

A content refresh takes place when old content is updated to be relevant once again. This process can be incredibly simple in many cases. For example, imagine you have an article titled “Best Compact SUVs 2020”.

Instead of deleting the article, you could just refresh it as “Best Compact SUVs 2021”. Of course, that requires some extra, ongoing work. 

In some other cases, simply changing a few headings is all that’s required for a successful content refresh.

Again, decisions must be based on research to provide meaningful results. For example, imagine you have an old article that performed well for a year after publishing. After the first year, the SEO stats started to show a significant reduction in traffic to your site. In this case, a marketing team could conduct SEO research on the same phrase and/or similar phrases. Based on their observations, they could decide to refresh the page to adjust for SEO changes.

The bottom line

A well-oiled content creation SOP can be amazing for many businesses’ bottom lines. It could become the same for yours as well. However, professional content creation requires thoughtfulness. By following the industry-standard processes we’ve gone over, you can make content creation a friend to your bottom line too.

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