In the first half of a two-part series, today I’m going to be looking at some content ideas that you may want to include in your content strategy. I know there are a fair few posts already out there that offer content ideas, so my version will also offer some concrete examples of each content type done well. Here’s part one, in no particular order apart from the first one – part two to follow next week with another 25 ideas (so don’t worry if you think there are any major ideas missing!)…
Update – part two now available here.
1. Refresh your existing content
This is my first suggestion because it makes sense to ensure your existing content is up to scratch before you bother starting to create new stuff. Conduct a content audit or get us to do one for you! This will identify content that’s working well for you already, as well as content that could do with improving. You may well find that with a bit of work, you can get your existing content working much harder for you by refreshing the copy, revamping the layout or presenting the same information in a new and more exciting way.
Deloitte did this with the annual Football Money League report on the wealthiest football clubs. Previously presented only as a lengthy report each year, it had great success with reaching a bigger audience when the key facts and figures from the report were presented as an infographic. More on infographics below…
2. Start a blog
If your site doesn’t already have a blog, it should do. I’ve already explained why in my post on how to create a successful business blog, and it’s certainly proved very successful in growing our business. It helps you rank better in search engines, too – it ensures a steady stream of fresh new content on a variety of relevant topics and naturally optimises your site for a whole load of long-tail keywords. Here’s a nice example from Trafalgar:
3. Go image crazy
Let’s face it, people browsing the web are often pushed for time, and may not want to commit to reading an in-depth post. Make life easy for them by giving them something image-based. This sort of content is highly shareable, easily digestible and easy to put together. There’s no better example of it than Buzzfeed, a recent post on 33 Things Brits Do Better Than Everyone Else being just one of many brilliant image-based bits of content.
Done well, infographics are still a great way of presenting information in an engaging format, and we’ve found great success with getting them widely published (both online and offline). They’re great for building brand awareness, driving traffic and gaining links and social mentions. Here’s a snippet from a nice example from EasyJet:
The checklist is a piece of content you can create as a useful resource that people can download/print and tick things off. An example would be a holiday checklist, that a travel site might provide to holidaymakers, such as this one from TheHolidayLet.com:
If you ask the right questions, interviews can be interesting and engaging. You get the added benefit of the fact that the subject of the interview will probably promote the content to their own following, widening its reach and hopefully raising your brand awareness. Luckily yours don’t have to be quite as high profile as this week’s Guardian piece in which Daniel Craig interviewed Thom Yorke; here’s one Copify did with Reviews.co.uk’s Callum McKeefery on user generated content.
As any pub quiz enthusiast or TV quiz show addict will tell you, quizzes are lots of fun. And you can use them to your advantage by creating one that highlights an issue in your area. Knowthenet.org.uk does this to good effect with quizzes designed to educate and raise awareness of internet issues, such as inadvertently breaking the law online. The best quizzes have a competitive element that makes people want to show off their score (for example, how many countries can you name in 5 minutes), or an amusing result that makes people want to share for a laugh (such as Oatmeal’s how many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight). Perhaps the best ever example of this kind of content, though, is FreeRice.com, a site from the United Nations World Food Programme that allows users to test their general vocabulary while donating grains of rice to the third world (paid for by ads) for every correct answer. Genius.
8. White papers
These are lengthier articles designed to convey knowledge and expertise, as well as being a useful resource that people can share online. These are generally quite specialist and will have a smaller audience than, say, your average infographic. Here’s one we did on business blogging:
Videos are a great way of adding multimedia content to your site and should ideally include a transcript so that Google can understand the content of the video (this also means that your video content can double up as a blog post or static page). Airbnb uses video as part of its content strategy, as highlighted by this excellent post on The Bureau.
Not quite the Facebook variety. As most of us probably found in history classes at school, timelines are a great way of presenting the progression of something through time. You can use this to create an interesting bit of content on something related to your industry, just like Thomson did with this history of aviation timeline, used to help publicise its addition of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner to its fleet.
The word probably conjures up the wrong sort of image in the minds of seasoned SEOs, who’ll know about the ways in which black hats have exploited the widget to create thousands of easily manipulated links. But done legitimately, widgets can be a great content idea, raising brand awareness and helping drive specific goals. In no sector is the widget more valuable than for charities, which can use widgets to add ‘donate’ badges to supporters’ sites, allowing readers to make charitable donations directly from external sites. Here’s an example from War Child –the actual thing has a series of images, with the final one containing a ‘donate now’ call to action.
12. Industry event round-up
Great as a recap for people who were there, or as a way for people who couldn’t make it to catch up on what they missed, industry event round-ups get lots of shares and links in the days following the event. As a business, they also show visitors to your site that you’re actively involved in your industry, developing your knowledge and expertise by learning from others. Here’s an example from our blog, with takeaways from SMX London 2013.
We all love it when people say nice things about us, endorse our work, or present us as expert. And a lot of people will share content in which they’re presented in a favourable light. So why not create a bit of content that massages the ego of some prominent people in your industry? They’ll probably share it with their own following, meaning you get extra exposure. It’s the same principle as the way you see brands retweeting nice things people have said about them online. Here’s an example of how it works on Twitter, but a blog post would be even better:
14. Answer people’s questions
Whether you source the questions via social media first, or just tackle some frequently asked questions on a topic you’re knowledgeable about, Q&As are great because they deal with what people want to know, and can help your site rank better for long-tail searches in which people ask specific questions. The BBC does this sort of content to good effect when explaining complex current affairs to people who want to gain an introduction to the subject, such as this helpful Q&A on Egypt in turmoil.
15. Run a Competition
A great way of gathering user details to aid your marketing campaigns, competitions can also be used to create valuable content and of course to raise brand awareness. The Guardian’s travel photography competition is a good example, giving them some gorgeous (free!) photo galleries of readers’ photos that are sure to get links and shares.
16. Create an annotated map
They’re more relevant to some companies/industries than others, but these can be a really useful resource for users. You could plot global or national trends, highlight areas of interest or present information in an interesting and original way. For instance, a travel site could have a map showing the best places to see certain kinds of wildlife, rather than presenting this information in long-winded written form, such as this map of Costa Rica showing where you can see whales and dolphins:
17. Run a badge campaign
This is a form of ego-bait, involving selecting the websites you want links from and acknowledging them as among the best in their industry. You link out to them, they get a badge recognising their achievement that they can put on their blog; so they get kudos, you get a link, and everybody wins. EasyJet did this with their Ultimate Rome Blogger list, providing those listed with a “Local Expert” badge that endorses the blog with the recognisable EasyJet brand, as well as linking back to EasyJet.
18. Learning from topical events
This sort of content capitalises on hot topics and can be great if the link between the event and what you’re writing about isn’t too tenuous (to give a made-up example that’s strongly based on the sort of things you see, ’10 things Nelson Mandela taught me about SEO’). Here’s a better example – a post about 10 things we can learn from Hurricane Sandy.
19. Best posts of the week
With so many great blogs around, not everyone has time to keep up with all the latest posts published, so doing a round-up of the best of the web is valuable because it gives people a single place to find the things they should be reading. Once you become trusted, you’ll find your readership grows. And to take maximum advantage of this, let sites know when you’ve featured them – they’ll help promote your round-up, raising brand awareness and building natural links and social mentions. Search Engine Land’s SearchCap is a great example.
20. Write an ebook
More and more people are reading things in digital formats these days, and producing an ebook eliminates a lot of the expense involved in traditional publishing. Our friend and former colleague Marcus Taylor wrote an ebook called Get Noticed and did a great job of promoting it with its own website, which included loads of related content such as this video and tips on how to start a conversation.
21. Case study
Case studies are typically used to showcase how a company’s product or service has transformed life or business of someone who has bought them, and as such, they’re a great way of convincing others to buy. They’re good content to have on your website, and we’ve found them to be valuable offline as well. Even Microsoft does case studies.
22. Day in the life
It’s always interesting to read what other people get up to in their day-to-day lives, so ‘day in the life’ features have natural human interest. Admittedly some professions (such as this day in the life of an airline pilot) have more scope for an interesting feature than others, but with some thought, you’re sure to find someone in your business or industry who people will be interested in reading about. You could give it a careers slant, showing people who want to work in a particular job what it’s like; as in this example from the job site Bayt International on a day in the life of a management consultant, which has had over 55,000 views.
23. Host a Twitter chat session
Twitter chat sessions work by getting people answering questions and contributing to debates using a Twitter hashtag. As well as being a good way of getting discussion going via social media, you can create on-site content from these discussions by summarising these chats and people’s tweets in a blog post afterwards, just like Dan Barker and James Gurd do over on ecomchat.org.
24. Comparing products
Comparison sites are done to death, but the opinions of real people still count for a lot, with an increasing number of web users reading online reviews before purchasing. How about comparing a few different products that do the same thing and deciding on the best? Just like they do on the Gadget Show.
25. Seasonal advice
As a nation absolutely obsessed by the weather, content based around seasonal advice is sure to go down a storm in the UK, while posts themed around major annual events such as Christmas are almost guaranteed an audience of interested readers. The BBC knows this – every year we see news articles every time it snows, because people are interested in things that directly affect them. At the moment we’re enjoying an unusual heatwave, and lo and behold the BBC has just published advice for coping with the soaring temperatures – Eight low-tech ways to keep cool in a heatwave. MORE TH>N went for the same idea with a Winter Driving Guide.