Anyone who has a blog or website will be quite familiar with how difficult it is to expand your readership. It takes constant, ongoing effort and there are a variety of strategies out there that offer advice on how to strengthen your web presence and improve your visibility. Some of the most common tips include networking with other individuals who own or manage websites with similar or compatible content, being active in forums and other communities where your readers might congregate, responding to comments on posts and being available to your readers, and so on. However, the most essential component of improving your web presence—or, essentially, increasing traffic to your website—is to create great content in the first place.
Easier said than done though, right? For writers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and others individuals across a number of industries who want to somehow catch the attention of more people, brainstorming, developing, and creating great content is an continuous struggle, but it’s an important one.
Many have wondered whether there isn’t some formula, A + B = C, to creating great content that people will want to read and that will attract additional readers. While there isn’t a mad-lib type formula where you simply fill in the blanks, the process of creating great content can be broken down into a series of very workable steps. The key to creating great content is in the planning, which requires research in order for you to sufficiently know your audience before you can create the content that your audience is looking for. Here is what you should know about planning and creating great web content to increase your readership.
Before we dive right into the writing part, it’s essential to understand the underlying processes involved in attracting people to your website. Think about how you use the internet. Unless you have a specific destination in mind, you will often begin at a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, typing in a keyword, phrase, or question related to a problem you are having. It can be something specific you need to know or something general that you want to know. If you are having a problem with your smartphone, you’ll probably Google the specific issue in order to determine what you should do about that problem. Or if you want to go see a movie tonight, you’ll likely perform a search for local showtimes. Web-browsing is a problem-based behavior because it begins with a problem or question and ends when an answer or solution is found.
So what does that mean for you as a writer, web manager, entrepreneur, etc.? It means that the most successful content will be visible to those whose searches are based on problems and questions, and offer those individuals solutions to problems or valuable information. Therefore, web-browsing is problem-based while content is solution-based.
This is important to know because this will be the jumping-off point for your brainstorming and preparation whenever you create new content. Your content should be something of value to the reader, which will typically mean offering concise information or a solution to their problem. As such, the keywords that you’ll want to incorporate in your content should revolve around the problem-based search engine queries of your readers. Someone who dropped his or her iPhone in water might Google “how to dry an iPhone”, which means that that search phrase and/or variations of that phrase should be one of your content’s core keywords, in the meta information, perhaps in the title, and maybe even in the URL. In this case, your content’s title could be “How to Dry an iPhone After It’s Been Submerged in Water” or “5 Ways to Dry an iPhone After Dropping It in Water”.
Getting to Know the Audience
Another key component of developing great content is to know your target audience. If you’re a tech website that focuses on offering readers little-known tips for customizing the Android smartphone operating system, then you need to be aware of who will want to know that information and optimize your content for that demographic. There are differences in the type of content, even the format of the content, that you should write, which will vary according to the demographics of your audience. For example, younger audiences tend to respond best to visual information like graphics and pictures while more ‘mature’ crowds tend to be easily overwhelmed by too many graphics. Cater to the very specific reading style and preferences of your particular audience.
However, this goes further than just know how to organize and format your content. If possible, you should not only know who your audience is, but also the type of information they want and need. For example, if you are a business that offers contact management software (CMS) to small and large businesses, then be aware of not only the demographic of your readers, but also anticipate the most common problems those individuals have. In the case of the business that sells business software, the typical reader persona might be Business Bob: a middle-aged, college-educated male who owns a small business and is interested in software solutions for streamlining business processes; however, Business Bob tends to be worried that business software wouldn’t be cost-effective for him, meaning that Bob feels he wouldn’t benefit from the business software enough to justify the expense. Content in which a Business Bob would be interested might include “10 Ways Small Businesses Can Benefit from Contact Management Software”. Not only would Business Bob want to read that content, but it might even convert Bob from a site visitor to a customer if the website offers products and services.
The good news is that you likely have all the information that you need to identify your audience right at your fingertips. Use your metrics and analytics to determine who it is that is finding and browsing your website. Most platforms make the anayltic data straightforward and very easy to understand, but if you need help understanding your analytics there are many resources available to help you decipher them.
If you’ve researched content creation before, you might have heard the phrase “buyer personas” to refer to specific demographics who have specific backgrounds and very specific needs. Business Bob above would be considered a buyer persona as he’s not just visiting a website, but visiting a business that sells business software. Business Bob is a prospective customer. If you run a site that doesn’t sell a specific product or service, you might instead use the phrase “reader personas”.
You create reader personas by looking at the demographics of your site’s traffic. Maybe your site is so specialized that most or virtually all of the visitors are of one gender, one ethnicity, and in a rather small age bracket; if this is the case, your reader persona would be someone that gender, that ethnicity, and that age. This becomes even more useful when you not only identify your average reader, but you also use this information to determine their key interests and most common problems, which lets you offer content that will seem to your reader to so perfectly meet their needs as to make them wonder if you’re a psychic. But rather than using a sixth sense, you’re simply using the information that you have at your disposal—your site’s metrics and perhaps Google Analytics—to determine who is finding and reading your content, who wants and needs the content you offer.
Most websites will have at least one reader (or buyer) persona. Niche sites that are very specialized may only have one, while those that cover a wide breadth of topics may have quite a few reader personas. It might take you a little time, but identifying your reader personas is going to make your content that much more successful. The goal is to have a thorough knowledge of your audience so that you can determine what they want to read. This will allow you to meet the needs of your audience by offering them content that’s optimized for their specific interests.