My first foray into content marketing is one that I’m sure many of you can relate to.
I read the popular blogs and soaked up industry information, and then dove into creating list posts and link-bait articles, following Upworthy’s 25-headline rule to maximize the impact of my content.
I didn’t suck at it. I had a couple of posts get thousands of hits, which blew me away at the time, considering I’d never gotten anywhere near that kind of reach before. Only problem was those posts did absolutely nothing in terms of real ROI, by which I mean paid signups for my SAAS product.
When I realized that all my hard work and “cutting edge” writing wasn’t going to do anything for my business, I was disappointed. I didn’t know what else to do.
Almost by accident I stumbled into boring content. There were a handful of people using my product, which helps businesses create quizzes, and those customers would “pester” me with questions. I didn’t like answering these questions and would get frustrated that the same question would get asked over and over again.
Little did I know that those questions would be what finally got my company off the ground.
One day I decided to answer the most common question, “How do I make a personality quiz?” by writing an article — “How to make a personality quiz.” That article is not interesting unless you are a marketing person who is trying to make a personality quiz and doesn’t know how. It’s not necessarily shareable or linkable, but it does answer a real question.
Almost magically, once I wrote that article, we began to get real, paid signups from our content. I continued with the trend, writing more articles like “How to make a multiple choice quiz” and “How to generate leads using a quiz.” Now I've done 200 of these boring articles, which have led to hundreds of paid signups for our product.
These articles target long-tail, low-traffic terms, and none of them has “gone viral” or anything like that. The average article has received only 210 visits. But as they add up over time, the traffic also begins to build.
Boring content means helpful content, and helpful content gets consistent traffic over time. What you end up with is a graph that looks like the one below where a few search visits per day add up to a significant flow of visitors who are highly targeted to your business.
So how do you create good “boring” content?
Let me define what I mean when I say boring content.
Boring content = in-depth responses to questions that your customer base has via blog format. For example, take a question like “How do I make a personality quiz?” and create a complete step-by-step guide that is over 1,000 words. Not that many people search for “How do I make a personality quiz?” but the ones who do are very likely to be interested in a tool that lets them make personality quizzes.
By answering all the questions people have, you can build up a portfolio of content that isn’t spectacular from a generalist standpoint, but is very useful to the people who need it (who happen to be your target customers).
So how do you find ideas for boring content?
- The #1 key to successful boring content is to listen for what your customers want. There is a 10x rule when it comes to questions. This means if one person actually asks you a question, 10 others have the same question but didn’t ask it. If even one person asks you how to do something, it’s worth it to answer via an in-depth blog post because a minimum of 10 others will find it.
- Expand on the core questions. Sometimes one question leads to a bunch of other questions that you won’t even be asked, but are actually key to your customers. So, for example, I started by writing “How to make a personality quiz” and then expanded it to “How to make a quiz for your travel business” and made guides like that for more than 25 specific industries. If you start with a core question and then break it down by industry or type of customer you can create even more specific and targeted content.
Side note here, I always try to see where customers come from, and when Hilton Hotels signed up, I found out that they found our “How to make a quiz for your travel business” article. That article has only been viewed 30 times, but it led to a high-value new client.
- Have your customers answer their own questions. Sometimes one customer will have the answer to another customer’s question. These are opportunities for content. For example, when one of our customers asked how to embed a quiz in Drupal, I asked a client who had successfully embedded a quiz in Drupal to write an article about it.
How do I create readable articles out of answers to questions?
The obvious question when dealing with boring content is, “Why is this different from a help desk?” Many companies have help articles that show how to do things and use features. However, these articles don’t build a connection with a potential customer.
When you create a real article to answer a question, it’s more than just answering the question. These articles not only answer the question, but give industry examples of how things are done. For example, my article about “How to make a personality quiz” includes a full quiz embedded in the post and several examples from real companies who have made personality quizzes.
These articles contain elements of what is preached when it comes to content marketing. There are stories from customers, there are lots of images showing how things are done, and there are videos and rich media. These articles might be boring in subject, but — for the right person — they are exceptionally interesting.
Over to you
If you can relate to my story about creating “fun” content and getting no results, I highly recommend you give boring content a shot. Just listen to your customers and answer their questions with thoughtful and easy-to-follow guides and articles. The ROI will blow you away.
Image credit: Pablo & royalty-free photos