Creating amazing content is one of what I call The Building Blocks of Content Marketing, and a necessary component to your business’s content marketing success.
In this article, I’m going to give you a simple, easy to follow, step-by-step process to create amazing content worthy of a bookmark. Simple as that.
Why would you want to do that? Because bookmark-worthy content means:
Be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back to it for a refresher every time you’re ready to write an article.
This is a fairly lengthy post, so here’s a quick index for you to jump around if you’d like:
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Characteristics of Bookmark-Worthy Content
Hold up! Before I give you the steps, you have to understand what makes content bookmark-worthy.
“To get bookmarked you must ensure two attributes: 1. Your content is better than anything else out there on your chosen topic. 2. Your content is highly actionable and/or powerfully emotional.”
So, if you want people to bookmark your content, it must:
Be highly actionable with a clear outcome - Your reader should know exactly what they’re going to get and how to get it if they follow your post. Notice in the beginning of this article I told you exactly what your outcome would be: Bookmark-worthy content. Focus on why.
Give a ton of value - I’m sure you hear this one all the time, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. Value is critical to success.
But let’s get serious. If your content doesn’t provide value to your readers, why bother creating it at all? In fact, please don’t add to the noise. No one needs more noise.
Quick Story: I asked JLD from EOfire his advice when I felt like I needed to constantly be doing more and creating more, and here are his exact words:
“Adding more noise to a noisy world is not progress… adding incredible value to a specific niche is.”
So please, I beg of you - focus on adding that value, not on creating without purpose.
Have you ever read something and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe this is free!”? That’s what you want your readers to think.
Quickly engage the reader. You want your opening to catch their attention so they’ll keep reading. That means an enticing headline, opening with a shocking statement or relevant question, and using great images.
Hold that attention. Getting their eyeballs to the second paragraph isn’t enough. You must continually engage them throughout the article with compelling images, quotes, and snippets.
Be easily skim-able. People supposedly have the attention span of a goldfish. I don’t know if the research is quite right on that one, but either way, people's’ attention spans are decreasing every year. You probably already know this, but use bullet points, headings, subheadings, and short paragraphs.
Be shareable. This is a no-brainer. Use a plugin like SumoMe to add sharing buttons for free.
Be easy on the eyes. Use a readable font (like Helvetica) and a big font size (I like size 14). Include breaks using images, blockquotes, etc. And please, for the love of content everywhere, don’t make your blog posts look like Wikipedia. Only Wikipedia can be Wikipedia.
To hammer home my point, I’ll leave you with an image from Brian Dean over at Backlinko. Which of these posts would you rather read?
(Don't worry, it's supposed to be blurry!)
Tell people to bookmark it - If telling people to share, subscribe, or comment increases the chances they’ll take action, telling people to bookmark will do the same.
“People bookmark pages, save emails and click the Evernote button when they plan to come back. The piece is practical, but the timing isn't right.
A short how-to post will get read on the spot, but if you want to get bookmarked, try this:
• Write long, detailed step-by-step processes. The kind that takes more than 5 minutes to perform.
• Cover topics that they don't need everyday, like how to set up a tool, how to perform specific research or how to use an advanced technique.
• Publish benchmarks that the reader may need to reference later.
These pieces are memorable. They're the tabs that stay open, the emails that get saved and the pages that get bookmarked!”
A quick example of bookmark-worthy content
In case you’re wondering what all this looks like, I wanted to give you an example.
The last page I bookmarked was this awesome guide to SEO copywriting by Robbie Richards. It hit upon every criteria above except for asking for a bookmark.
All that just in the opening! Can you see why I decided to bookmark it? Definitely go read it (when you’re done reading my post, of course). It will help you create bookmark-worthy content in its own right.
What’s the last page you bookmarked? I bet it had similar characteristics.
Now then, on to the meat of the article - let’s get into the steps of great content creation!
6 Steps to Create Amazing Content
I’m about to give you an over-the-shoulder view of how I create my best content. What I care about, more than anything, is that you understand the exact steps and put them into action. People pay me to show them what I’m about to show you, and you’re getting it for free. Don’t squander that!
Step 1: Brainstorm your content topics.
The key here is to create, not to compete. Of course, you should see what your competitors are doing and what’s working well. But, the world doesn’t need another article that’s already been written five times.
When brainstorming ideas, I like to start with Google. Come up with a few common phrases in your industry - let’s say you’re writing about content marketing. I would type that in Google, then see what comes up in Google’s autosuggest:
Great! Now we see common phrases people are searching for. I’ll add those four ideas to my topic idea list.
Next, I’ll search for content marketing itself and look at the related searches at the bottom of Google:
Woo! Now I have six more ideas. I’ll add them to the list.
Then, I’ll look at the top organic search results for “content marketing”:
This particular search gives us the “People also ask” box, which is great - you won’t always get that. Add ‘em if you got ‘em!
Looks like a general “What is content marketing?” is the top result for that keyword. There’s a potential idea.
However, remember what I said in the very beginning about not adding to the noise? Don’t just copy these articles - instead, ask yourself: “What can I do to make this unique and valuable?”
If you don’t have enough ideas yet, you can continue digging deeper into Google by searching for these related and autosuggest ideas you just found and looking at their related and autosuggest ideas.
Once you’re happy with your list, it’s time to dig a little deeper and see what people care about. Take your list and head over to BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a tool that lets you see what content is getting the most shares and backlinks (and, once you’re ready to develop your influencer marketing strategy, a list of the influencers sharing that content.)
Let’s go ahead and search for “content marketing definition” to see what comes up. Our results showed that people enjoy sharing articles that define it and give you action steps to use it, rather than simply giving a definition.
But, you already knew that - great content is actionable.
The key here is to see what people care about around the keywords you found. Add anything to your list that sticks out to you.
I can’t tell you exactly what you should consider but just look for any topics you feel you can provide tons of unique value around. You’ll know in your gut when you’ve found them.
Another great way to find topics is by using SEMrush. Right now, they have an open beta for anyone to use their awesome “SEO Keyword Magic” tool.
Just pop in a keyword related to your topic and it will magically find you loads of highly searched, related topics along with everything SEO-wise you need to know about them. Magic!
You should have some pretty good ideas at this point. Before moving forward, ask yourself:
Which of these topics do I have a lot of experience with or know a lot about? How can I improve upon them to create industry-leading content and be seen as an authority
And I have to repeat this: Please don’t add to the noise. We live in a world where millions of blog posts are published every day (stop and think about that stat for second). If you’re going to write about something, make it worth reading. That’s the only way to make your content worth sharing, bookmarking, or linking to.
Step 2: Make your title sexy.
A great title for a blog post is like a banana on a banana split - without it, no one would order it (or, in our case, click on it). According to CoSchedule, traffic could vary up to 500% just from your headline!
But, what makes a great title?
Short - Under 70 characters and roughly 8 to 12 words.
Actionable - There is a clear system in place to guide the reader to an outcome.
Makes a promise - And delivers on that promise!
Powerful wording - Try some of these 380 power words to play on emotions a bit.
Optimized for people first - SEO and social optimization are important, but your reader is more important.
What does that look like?
Bad Headline: How to Make Money Online
Better Headline: 7 Proven Methods to Make $500 Per Week Working Online
The first headline is short and sort of makes a promise, but it’s vague and unspectacular. Who’s it for? What will I learn? How much will I make?
The second headline, however, is still short at 10 words, makes a promise (7 proven methods), tells the reader exactly what they’ll learn (how to make $500 per week online), uses powerful language (proven methods), and is optimized for people (speaks to the benefits of the reader).
Unfortunately, most people can’t just pull a viral title out of their you-know-where. Don’t worry, though - I’m about to show you some surefire techniques to writing awesome headlines.
First, start with a working title to guide the direction of your blog post
“Customer service” is a broad topic that could go in any direction. “How to Deal With An Unhappy Customer” is a working title that specifies what the content will be about.
Next, make it sexy. How do you make it sexy? Here are a few ways:
If you make a promise (like “How to Grow Your Email List By 7000% in One Week”), make sure you actually deliver on that promise - with proof! Proof is sexy (and makes people trust you).
Make it controversial. There’s a reason so many people write headlines like “[Insert Trending Marketing Tactic Here] is dead!” People click on them.
Use CoSchedule’s Headline Optimizer. While not a perfect tool, it will score your headline based on things like wording, sentiment, and length. It will also track every headline you put in so you don’t lose them! (Just don’t refresh the page.)
Here are a few extra pointers to help you get your headline right:
Stay away from words like “Simple”, “Easy” and “Free”. HubSpot found these words to have a negative effect on click-thru rates (CTRs). Get a little creative! It doesn’t take much - I replaced “Simple Steps” with “Straightforward Steps” in the title of this post. Genius, I know.
Include the post format in brackets, i.e. 10 Ways to Brush Your Teeth [Infographic]. A study done by HubSpot and Outbrain of over 3.3 million paid links found that this clarification - [Infographic], [Interview], [Video], etc. -increases CTR by 38%.
If you just can’t get it right, pass it off to someone else.
Ask a friend, colleague, customer or even family member what they think. Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes to help you see things in a new light.
One final tip: Write 25 headline variations.
Upworthy came up with this tactic and it led them to the huge success they see today. This may sound tedious but really doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes. Use it if you’re feeling stuck. When you finally hit the right headline, you’ll know.
If you have a few good potential headlines but can’t decide, it’s always good practice to split test them (and other areas of your content as well).
I’ll leave you with Upworthy’s rules to headline success:
Step 3: Research like a madman (or madwoman).
Research is the glue that keeps great content from falling apart.
Any fool can make insane claims and link to a massive research document no one has the time to read. The last thing you want is for someone to call you out on lying or using false information and ruin your reputation.
Remember that old saying about how trust takes a lifetime to build and seconds to destroy? It’s still as true as the day it was first said.
By the way - blindly following other people’s research isn’t a great idea either.
I took a psychology research methods course in college and my professor drilled one thing into our brains:
Check your sources!
I’ve seen behemoth’s like HubSpot link to outdated and flat-out incorrect resources, so no one is immune. If HubSpot can screw that up, so can the rest of us.
OK, tangent over. Now, how do you go about conducting content research? I think you already know the answer…
Literally, just do a Google search on your topic. While most of the content of this post comes from experience, I did some research by Googling “How to create great content”, “How to write a great headline”, etc.
You’ll end up reading one article that links to another, then another, then another… before you know it, you’ve found tons of great research on it (and probably some weird stuff too, the internet is a strange place...)
Additionally, you can use Google Scholar to find scholarly research to play with. Citing big studies can make you much more credible than citing small surveys a company created (just don’t use that to hide behind, like I mentioned above with the “fool” thing).
Beyond that, just read a lot. I read every single day - books, blogs, whitepapers… whatever you can get your hands on. Become a major consumer of content and develop a passion for learning, and you’ll never have to worry about research.
Pro Tip: Bookmark any great resource you come across to include as research for future articles. (Do I really need to give you another push to bookmark this page?)
One more tip: Use Google alerts to be alerted any time new research comes out. For example, I’m notified once a week when new content marketing research is released by an alert for “research OR study + content marketing”. Just replace “content marketing” with your preferred topic.
Using alerts like this helps me keep my finger on the pulse of my industry and feeds me research and topics to write about.
Finally, use a tool like Feedly to have the best blogs delivered right to you in one place. I LOVE Feedly. I get the latest and greatest posts from CopyBlogger, Buffer, CoSchedule, Content Marketing Institute and more, right to my dashboard.
On we go!
Step 4: Create magnificent content.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. Are you ready to uncover the secret to creating great content?
I’ll give you a hint:
You don’t have to be a great writer to write great content. Er, not entirely.
Writing is only one small part of the beast that is great content. There are many other avenues you can take to create it even if you’re a mediocre writer, which I’ll explain in a moment.
Of course, being a good writer helps - but you can always just hire a great editor to make up for some of your lack of skill in that area. Typically, they aren’t all that expensive - it might cost you $10 to $40 to have an article edited, depending on the skill of the editor and length and complexity of your post.
If you really aren’t much for writing, you can always hire a writer (like me!) to do it for you. This can be a much more expensive route, but will nearly guarantee your content written well as long as you choose carefully and give great instructions.
Besides writing, what goes into creating awesome content?
Glad you asked! Besides writing, great content needs to:
Be based on solid research. The research phase we talked about in the last step can’t be skipped. You need to know your stuff. People can smell bullsh*t a mile away. Remember the Hulk!
Give tons of value. This post is massive. I created it that way for a reason - I wanted to give you as much value as I possibly could, without wasting your time. Your posts should strive to do the same.
Have excellent formatting. If you look at the formatting of this post, you’ll notice it’s broken up into headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists. I also use bold and italics to make important points stand out, and center a few things. This helps skimmers pick out the main points, and makes it easier to follow.
Formatting correctly can improve the SEO of your page tenfold and it's important to ensure H2 and H3 tags are optimized, as well as images, keywords and titles.
In fact, Sujan Patel, a leading expert in digital marketing, had this to say:
"I’ve found two big factors that keep people coming back to my content:
First is tactical/executable advice. When I include tips that people can apply to their website or projects (checklists work even better) viewers bookmark the article and visit over and over again.
The second is the presentation & design, the look, the layout and feel of an article - it’s more important than ever. Formatting not only helps you stand out from the crowd, but it also makes you look more credible."
Include relevant media. Anything you can find that will add value is great; Images, videos, audio, memes, whatever. Bonus points for screenshots!
Media helps in two ways: One, it hammers home your main points in a different format. Two, it breaks up blocks of text to make your post more digestible and easier on the eyes. Be sure to always credit the image source, though! You can get free high-res images from Unsplash or Creative Commons.
Edited to perfection. This is the next step, but I wanted to point it out here as well. Editing is a key part of content creation and there are tons of great tools to help. You should have multiple waves of editing for different purposes, but more on that in the next section.
Speaking of perfection, here’s a great quote by Vince Lombardi:
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
So, get to chasing. Now, here’s an infographic I made to pull it all together:
Once you’ve written the content, you’re not done yet!
Step 5: Edit and add even more value.
Don’t ever publish something without editing it! Typos, grammatical errors, incorrect research, and bad formatting will all hurt your chance for customers to trust you. Editing your content reduces these errors drastically.
As I mentioned above, you can use Fiverr or UpWork to hire an editor. However, you can always do the editing yourself!
As a general rule of thumb, I like to wait 24 hours between writing an article and editing it.
In fact, Kevan Lee of Buffer likes to research one day, write another, and edit another. This allows you to look at your work with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
Another tip? I like to read my articles out loud at least once through. This helps in two ways.
It’s easier to catch errors and judge how well the piece is written.
It helps you see (and fix) the overall flow and feel of the article.
As I said above, I strongly believe you should edit your piece at least twice, preferably more. It’s not uncommon for me to edit my piece 3 to 4 times, depending on the length and complexity.
Your first round of edits should focus on the flow, writing, and spelling/grammar of the article. The second round should focus on double-checking links, research sources, and general correctness of information.
That’s about it! Editing is a pretty straightforward, but necessary step to creating bookmark-worthy content.
But wait; Don't publish yet!
Before pressing publish, ask yourself: Would I bookmark this? Would I share it? Would I link to it? What can I do to make it even better?
Take it a step further and ask your friends or colleagues if they would. Only go to the people you know will be honest, and preferably people in your industry or who write themselves.
Use the feedback you get, as well as your own answers, to add some extra value to the post. That could mean creating an infographic or video to further explain a point or linking to some extra resources to benefit the reader, to name a few.
Once that’s out of the way...
Step 6: Promote, promote, promote.
While this step has nothing to do with creating content, content creation on its own is pointless. Yes, pointless!
Marketing your content is much more important than creating it. If no one sees it, why bother making it in the first place?
Here are a few ways you can market your beautiful new blog post:
Share it on social media (duh).
Link to your content from guest posts (like this one!). Here’s a free step-by-step guide to landing guest posts if you want to follow this path.
Write detailed answers to questions on Quora and similar sites related to your topic, linking back to your article from within your answer.
Join LinkedIn groups and forums and just be helpful - you’ll find opportunities to share your stuff when the time comes.
Of course, I’m barely scratching the surface of internet marketing here, but you get the point. Promote like crazy, but be genuine and helpful.
One last tip: Be sure to measure your results.
Conclusion (What’s Next?)
Phew, 3800 words later we’ve arrived at the end. It’s been a heck of a journey, and I hope you learned a lot along the way (I know I did!).
Now, if you haven’t already realized, there are 5 main points I covered that I really want you to take away from this post:
If you’re going to create content, make it worthy of being read. Don’t add to the noise in an increasingly noisy world.
Be genuine and helpful. People trust those who are transparent. If you want to build your brand using content, you have to take that to heart.
Spend a lot of time with your content. I spend at least 3-4 hours creating a post, but when I first started that process sometimes took days. This post, in particular, took over 8 hours to put together. Great content takes time.
Always check your sources. Take the wisdom of my college professor and The Credible Hulk! The internet is a place full of lies and misunderstandings, so question everything.
Give a ton of value… then give some more. Give your all to improve others, and you’ll see the success you desire. I live by my own quote:
Those who make the world a better place are given a better place in the world.
Once you’ve created your awesome piece, what’s next?
First and foremost, I recommend repurposing your content to get the most out of it. You spent a ton of time on it, why not get some extra mileage from it?
Secondly, spend a few minutes optimizing your post for search engines. Don’t stuff it full of keywords, but sprinkle in a few semantic and related keywords (and use image alt tags).
A parting piece of advice: The best way to continually produce great content is to write every piece better than the last… even if it’s just 1% better. This is one of the best posts I’ve ever written — and I strive to say that after every post I write.
Don’t forget to pick up my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Content Marketing, if you want to get the most from your content!
I sincerely value your feedback, so if you found this post even a little bit helpful (or if you think it sucked), leave me a comment to let me know. Tell me (and other readers) your own advice on creating bookmark-worthy content. I promise to respond to you personally!