Have you ever stumbled upon a website with mediocre content and said “well, this article looks perfectly average; I’ll give it a thorough read.”?
I didn’t think so.
Every day, over 5 million blog posts are published on WordPress alone. Add to that the other platforms, the news articles, and social media content. Your content has serious competition.
This is why no one wants to read mediocre content. There’s plenty of excellent content out there, so the bad articles sieve themselves out naturally.
But what does it take to produce excellent content, the kind that gets read and, more importantly, helps you meet your business goals (read: ROI)?
I run two digital marketing agencies that mainly offer content writing and copywriting services. There are two main ingredients that go into producing a piece of content that’s above the fold.
1. Great Content Takes TIME
As the demand for great content increased, so did the time to produce it:
Within seven years, the time allotted to a single blog post almost doubled. Why?
As someone who had a front-row seat to the evolution of content marketing, I can shed some light on this:
- It’s hard to reinvent the wheel: 99% of what you want to say has already been said. The writer needs to come up with a brand-new angle that’s also in tune with your brand voice and aligned with your business goals. This takes a lot of research, which, in turn, takes time.
- Research itself has become more demanding. You can’t just cite any source, it needs to be an authoritative website. What do you do when you find two research reports that contradict each other? You take more time to decide which of them is the one you should cite.
- When you write a blog post, for instance, you’re not just thinking about how it will look on the client’s website. You also need to think about its potential to go viral on social network, its SEO value, and more depending on the company’s goals with it.
Writing got more complex. You can’t churn out thousands of words per day, stuff them full of keywords and send them on their merry way. They won’t rank and they won’t be read. It will be wasted money.
Which takes us to the next point:
2. Great Content Takes Multidisciplinary Expertise
At the dawn of SEO, keyword stuffing worked. Everyone could write. You didn’t need to know anything about the topic you were writing about; you could simply spin existing content and add a ton of keywords to it.
Heck, you didn’t even need grammar skills. Search engines didn’t care about that too much, as long as you had your precious keywords everywhere.
This is why you could churn out 10 articles per day and charge $10 a piece.
Today, you can’t do that anymore.
Case in point: one of the agencies I run, Copywritech, serves clients in the tech space. We handle complicated topics like networking, cyber security, or software QA. This is why we have engineers on staff. Someone with an English or a marketing major can’t even begin to understand those topics.
It’s incredibly hard to find engineers who know how to write well AND are willing to do it. Of course, their fees are as steep as you’d expect.
But wait – there’s more! Understanding the technology is not enough. The blog posts need to rank and to convert.
So on top of engineering and writing chops, you also need marketing and SEO chops.
Granted, some industries are far easier to tackle. My other agency, Idunn, rarely hires experts with real-life experience in the fields they write about. Still, all the writers we hire have marketing and SEO knowledge.
The writers who can produce content worth reading today have a multidisciplinary approach. They know something about the industry they write about or they are willing to take a crash course in it.
Remember how it takes 4+ hours to write a blog post? The same research report by Orbit Media found another impressive nugget of knowledge:
“Bloggers who invest more time get better results”. Who would have thought?
To sum up, it takes time and expertise to create ROI-producing content. But since I sense an objection coming, let me address it before we wrap this up:
What Can I Do When the Budget Is Tight But I Still Want Great Content?
The quick answer: produce less content. If you have to choose, always (ALWAYS!) go with quality instead of quantity. One excellent blog post per month is far better than four mediocre pieces.
Work with writers you can trust and who have proven results. Explain your budget concerns to them and come with a calendar that meets your goals and your budget.