The Secret to Winning the Content Creation War

The Secret to Winning in the Content Creation Arms Race

We are in a content creation arms race.

Brands have realised that creating content is now your best weapon of choice to rank high in Google, engage with your customers and be a thought leader in your industry. So writers are the new digital age hired guns and given instructions to crank it out. Blog posts are published, ebooks are written and whitepapers are whipped together.

The problem is that we end up with written drivel that is so bland that I want to to throw up! It has no character, is written for key search engine phrases that dominate the headline and the text. We see posts with no personality or humanity.

Just algorithmic awfulness.

Has Google created a monster?

This content creation strategy threatens to turn our minds to mush, our thoughts to self harm and make us fall asleep at the screen. Part of the reason this is happening is that Google has rolled out changes to its algorithm. It is rewarding unique content above keyword stuffed SEO laden text articles on corporate websites and blogs.

This is driving corporate marketing tactics that are about SEO and not about contagious writing. SEO should be in the mix but it should not dominate.

Will we end up with articles written by robots?

Is this the future?

In a recent article on Wired they reported a news story written by “Narrative Science”. This isn’t a person but a computer that writes news stories. Here is the piece.

Friona fell 10-8 to Boys Ranch in five innings on Monday at Friona despite racking up seven hits and eight runs. Friona was led by a flawless day at the dish by Hunter Sundre, who went 2-2 against Boys Ranch pitching. Sundre singled in the third inning and tripled in the fourth inning … Friona piled up the steals, swiping eight bags in all … 

It doesn’t read like a computer wrote it. Kristian Hammond the co-founder of Narrative science is predicting that within 15 years that more than 90% of news could be written by a robot!

Now the technology behind narrative is cool but it isn’t the future for bloggers and content marketers. The future is the art of creating content that is memorable, creative and contagious…Oh yes, begs to be shared!

How do you do that?

Tips for winning at content creation

Despite that glimpse into what is happening now and what could happen in 15 years, here are some tips to make your articles zing and zang.

#1. Create an opening line that pops

This is easy to say but sometimes hard to do. But have a go. You are not going to do this every time but think hard about that opening line.

Create an opening line that pops

#2. Use facts that surprise

I remember stumbling upon the fact that Snapchat was offered $3 billion in cash by Facebook. Then and there I decided it had to be woven into a blog post.

Sometimes they even get corralled out of the post and tweeted!!

Facts that you haven't heard of

#3. Insert insights that are not obvious

Have you ever read an article and everything seem regurgitated. You thought “nothing new here“..moving on. Insights within and industry or niche come from persistent reading and the blood sweat and tears of creation and expression.

One that dawned upon my consciousness, was that your owned online properties should be treated as assets. Just like a car or a bricks and mortar building.

Here is another one.

Insights that are not obvious

#4. Make up a creative subtitle

We often play safe so that often means boring. Make your sub-titles interesting. Put on your inspiration pants.

If it gets tweeted you know you might be on to something!

A creative subtitle

#5. Use rhythm in your writing

Write long sentences and short. Writing has rhythm and it adds to the interest. Sentences can be two words.

Try it.

#6. Break the rules

Your writing teacher may have told you to get to the point. One of my favourite magazine writers is Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. He breaks this rule in almost every article. I counted the words in his intro before he got to the point. 1,000 words….but it works.

They also may have told you other rules that are often constraining. Formal and proper is what the English teacher taught you. Now people expect a more casual style of writing.

Writing how you speak or “conversational writing” is needed on a social web.

#7. An opening paragraph that mentions a pain point

If you can capture the essence of a pain point in your opening paragraph then you have a great chance of making your reader stay on the page.

#8. Develop a voice that is original

Finding your writing voice is a journey. At first you will copy, then curate and finally you will create and weave your own unique voice. Push your boundaries.

#9. Include visuals in your articles

The age of text, text and more text is over. We live on a visual web that demands multi-media and images.

#10. Use statistics that are mind blowing

Whenever you come across some statistics that grab your attention, think how you could use that in blog posts or articles. If it grabs your attention then it will most likely have a similar impact on your readers.

Put it in the opening paragraph.

statistics that are mind blowing

#11. Write a title that is not ordinary

I remember driving along one day and had an inane idea about a blog post topic. It was “10 Reasons Why Ducks Just Don’t Get Social Media”. I stopped the car and wrote it down with a few relevant points. It took me a few weeks to be brave enough to publish.

Guess what? It worked.

10 Reasons Why Ducks Just Don't Get Social Media

Don’t be afraid to  push your comfort zone.

#12. Ask an unlikely question

Pose a question that is unexpected. Here is one that resonated for me “Are brands out publishing traditional media companies?

If the title gets repurposed you know you hit a home run.

brands outpublish traditional media

#13. Use stories

Don’t forget to include stories. That is what makes us human. Robot writers struggle with that.

#14. Practice, practice, practice

Creating memorable, insightful and contagious content comes from the mundane. The art and graft of just sitting down to do the work. So practice and practice some more.

The inspiration will show up!

So what is the secret?

Be human. We are innately creative. Humanity mixed with technology equals magic!

What other tips can you add to winning in the content creation arms race? Look forward to your insights and stories in the comments below.

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Comments

  • Wil Wodrow

    Thanks Jeff..inspiring!!! cheers Wil

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks….Great to hear I was human!!

  • Don Michael Marinas

    I whole heartedly agree with your writing philosophy! Your advice is strong and worth heeding!

    Cheers

  • Raquel M Ramirez

    Wow! Thank you for these tips. For most of us (new bloggers) it can seem daunting to simply focus on the writing element of writing, but like you said, “We are innately creative. Humanity mixed with technology equals magic!” (by the way a tweetable). Therefore, we have the opportunity to use our creativity to write in a conversational way and apply those tips to motivate and lure more eyes to our post. Thanks Jeff. Now watch me share it.

  • http://brianmittelstadt.wordpress.com/ Brian Mittelstadt

    Great Tips Jeff. I really like the “Break the Rules” point where you said “Writing how you speak or “conversational writing” is needed on a social web”. This is how I’ve been writing for years, I remember my grandmother once telling me how much she enjoys reading my letters because they read just like I speak. Nice to see someone professionally state that it’s ok to bend the ancient rules of proper writing. Thanks!

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    It is aimed at both the new and those bloggers who just want some insights to take it to the next level.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    #7 and #10 are just gold. Too often we want to focus on what we think our audience wants to hear instead of focusing on their pain points. When you address what they’re struggling and actually help, they’ll be fans for life. Using mind blowing stats is something I haven’t tried but numbers don’t lie and people will clearly see that. Great post Jeff.

  • http://searchsimplicity.com/ Gregory Smith

    Fabulous publication Jeff. 2014 is the year of the Content Marketer. Can I get an Amen? How about it?

  • http://www.rparkerconsulting.net/ parkerconsulting

    Internet marketing has transformed everyone into writers. Everyone can be successful with just a few pointers such as the ones you have listed above. If you are not an exceptional writer, there’s help available in many forms

  • http://www.goglobaltoday.com/ Aesta C

    I like the last one. Be human. Be you. This sounds easy but it is quite hard for me to do especially on social media.

  • Andy Crestodina

    Great stuff in here! And an important message about the coming crush of content.

    But you seem to suggest that Google’s recent changes are leading to lower quality because they are focused less on keywords. People have complained for years that Google rewarded low-quality posts stuffed with keyphrases, and now you seem to be complaining that Google is rewarding original content. I guess people will grumble no matter what they do…

    I enjoyed the tips, especially 11 and 12. One way to rise above is to be unexpected. Originality rules!

  • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill @ Workado

    Good advice as usual Jeff! I like that you lead with the headline as that is still the most important piece to actually being read.

  • http://www.dtb.com.au/ dtb! Advertising

    Great insight – definitely some great points for a content creator to live by! You only get better with practice!

  • Elizabeth Walthall

    My takeaway: be as human as possible in your content creation, but remember that you may be replaced by a robot in 15 years. Hm. A frightening juxtaposition. Great blog.

  • http://bloghands.com/ Chris Barber

    I’ve been in the SEO business for 8 years and there have been bots writing content this whole time. That’s what’s lead to Google making the changes they’ve made on content quality. These bots weren’t as intelligent as the one you’re talking about… they just took an existing article and replaced a lot of the words with other similar words.

    On tip I’d give someone now is to focus on creating headlines that will get clicks and social shares first and SEO second.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Yes, create the best contagious headlines and content for viral sharing on social networks, then make sure the SEO basics are covered second. Google then will reward you over time as you build organic inbound links!!

  • http://www.jeromyschall.com Jeromy

    Excellent article!