10 Ways to Create Content That Will Engage with Your Readers
The internet is a vast landscape that grows bigger every day. According to MarketingProfs.com, an astounding two million blog posts are published every day. How can you make your own content stand out among all that noise?
Long gone are the days of being able to write a 500-word blog post, fill it with keywords, and watch the traffic flock to to your site. Today, content must provide real value in order to generate traffic. It must be high quality and trustworthy, and it should help your site visitors solve a problem or answer a question. Ideally, as an expert in your field, you’ll be able to provide unique insights into the issue at hand.
A good content strategy these days needs to accomplish several things. It needs to be well optimized for search engines in order to attract visitors to your site. It needs to demonstrate that you are a reliable resource in your industry. It should entice users to take action—whether that means subscribing to your blog, downloading a lead magnet, or booking a consultation. And it should be valuable enough that readers feel inspired to share it on their own social media channels.
How do you create content that accomplishes all this? It isn’t enough to recycle the blogs that everyone else is posting. You must create something new. While there are some online resources that can help you determine what your target audience is looking for (which we’ll look at below), the best way to do this is to go straight to the source: your customers or potential customers. Here are 10 ways to find out what they want from you.
1. Connect with Your Audience Face to Face
Naturally, the best way to find out what your customers want is to ask them. If you’re in a role where you already have face-to-face contact with your customers, this is easy. But often, the people writing content are not the same people who regularly talk to customers. If you don’t have direct customer contact, look for ways to connect with them. Maybe your company offers open house events, seminars, or online webinars. You’re likely to hear questions and comments during these types of events that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred to you.
You can also ask your staff for a list of trusted customers and reach out to them directly to solicit feedback. Find out what’s important to them. How did customers hear about you, what made them make the decision to work with you, and why did they choose you over a competitor? All of these questions can provide you with important insights into which parts of your content strategy are working, which may lend themselves to further exploration, and which need to be revisited.
2. Get Your Customer-Facing Staff Involved
If you have staff members who regularly interact with customers, such as sales reps or front-office staff, make good use of their insights. Get these people involved in regularly soliciting customer feedback. Find out if there are questions or comments they commonly hear from customers or patients. Not only can this provide you with fresh ideas for your content, it can help you determine if there’s a disconnect in your current marketing messaging.
Talk to your staff about how to work key questions, such as those above into your new patient or new client onboarding process. Not only will this improve your customer service processes, but it also provides insights you can use in your content strategy.
3. Join Facebook Groups
If you haven’t already, seek out and join Facebook groups managed by other people in your industry. These groups are often full of new members asking questions. For example, if you run a medical weight-loss clinic, monitoring questions posted by other group members can provide you with insight into common areas of confusion regarding fitness and nutrition. You can then create content around those areas for your own website.
Post answers to these questions if you feel inclined, but be sure to do so in a helpful way rather than promoting your own services. Most groups have guidelines that prohibit self promotion except on designated threads. If you violate these guidelines, you could be removed from the group. But by providing useful and valuable information in a friendly way, you can establish yourself as a trusted member of the group, which can draw people to learn more about you and your business.
4. Monitor Social Media
Your audience’s own social media channels can provide you with a wealth of information about them as well. What’s important to them? What sort of content are they sharing? What influencers are they listening to? What other websites do they trust as reliable sources of information? Your social media strategy should include listening and drawing on these insights as much as content creation.
5. Look at Negative Reviews
Negative reviews are no fun, but you can use them to your advantage if you are open to examining the ways in which you have failed your customers. Use negative reviews to learn what customers are expecting from you specifically and your industry in general. Many negative reviews are the result of a misunderstanding of the nature of a product or service. Did you misrepresent your services in your marketing materials? Are there ways you can modify your content strategy to make it clear what customers can expect from you?
Don’t just read your own negative reviews—look at competitors’ reviews as well. Are there areas in which they didn’t deliver that you can highlight in your own content? For example, complaints about a commercial weight-loss program may reveal that they don’t provide enough nutritional education or personalized support. Use these insights to create content about how your weight-loss program includes extensive education and compassionate support staff to help patients through their journeys.
6. Understand Your Customers’ Buyer’s Journey
Every industry has a buyer’s journey, or a sales cycle, in which a lead transitions into a customer. The length of this process depends on several factors, including the cost of your products or services, the customer’s urgency, and more.
Do you understand the hurdles that your customers face during each stage of this journey? Develop content that addresses their needs and possible roadblocks at every step. For example, B2B customers may need to get approval from other decision-makers before they can commit. Provide them with content that outlines answers to the most common questions posed by stakeholders to make the buying process easier for them.
7. Dig Deeper Into Your Own Data
Your Google Analytics and email metrics—such as open rates and unsubscribes—can provide you with key insights into what your customers expect from you. If your website bounce rate is high, you might be optimizing your content for the wrong keywords. A jump in unsubscribes could mean your email content is missing the mark. Try split-testing different elements in your emails or on your website to see how your audience responds.
8. Be Your Own Customer
If you haven’t already, walk through the process of buying your own product or service to see what the experience is like from the other side. Try to put yourself in the mind of your customer. Are all your questions answered? Is anything about the process confusing? Ask friends or family members to do the same. You may think you’ve covered all necessary components of a workflow, but often when you’re too close to the subject matter, you can miss something.
9. Monitor Google Trends
Google Trends is an interesting and helpful tool that can show you which search queries are increasing in popularity. While these queries aren’t always popular enough (yet) to drive traffic to your website, they can help you stay on top of emerging trends and start developing content around a topic—ideally before your competitors do.
As these queries continue to increase in popularity, your content will be well positioned to attract more of that traffic. You can also search those queries on a site such as Answer the Public, which will provide additional insight into the types of questions people are asking online.
10. Answer Questions on Quora
Quora is a question-and-answer website for sharing knowledge. If you aren’t on it already, take the time to create a profile and answer a few questions related to your area of expertise. Again, don’t engage in too much self promotion. As you establish yourself as an expert in your field, you’ll likely start receiving more requests from people interested in your answers to their questions. Not only can this provide you with insights for your own content strategy, it can also help build your own EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, and trust), which is a key factor in both your site quality ratings and your search engine optimization (SEO).
Creating valuable content really comes down to understanding your audience and giving them what they want. As you can see, there are many ways you can accomplish this. Depending on your industry, you may have other ways of engaging with your audience. Be creative when it comes to engaging with customers, and above all, be flexible if and when you discover that your content strategy needs adjusting to meet your audience’s needs.
She is the Director of Content for a medical marketing agency, and is certified in inbound marketing, content marketing, email marketing, site structure, and keyword research.