By: Karen Tracey & Natalie Topalian KAREN TRACEY NATALIE TOPALIAN Content Jun 29, 2017 How to Write Useful Content to Increase Web Traffic Hey, there! Karen and Nat here, switchin' it up a bit on the TIS blog this week. That's right, we're collaborating up in this piece! Last week, we were lucky enough to have our good pal and Content & Search Guru, Casey Meehan of Epic Presence, pay us a visit in GR. He sat down with the whole TIS crew for a few hours over sandwiches and brewskis and gave us the low-down on organic traffic, including: How to increase organic traffic to your website, The formula for creating useful and successful content, On-page SEO elements needed to optimize your search rankings, and Some super-handy tools for keyword research and planning. Awesome stuff! And now, we'd like to pass along this wealth of knowledge we obtained over the course of a few hours with Casey. We'll have Karen kick it off for ya with the four-step content creation process as established and followed by the folks over at Epic Presence. Four steps to creating traffic-driving content Things have changed drastically in the branding and marketing world since I first founded Karen Tracey Design (now The Image Shoppe) in the early 2000s. "Content creation" as we know it today was definitely not on the forefront of our minds. Blogging?...what's that? SEO? Seriously... WTF is that? Even websites weren't totally necessary assets to properly market your brand to your target audiences. Pretty wild when you think about it, eh? But of course, we all know that these days are far, far distant memories. Today, it's 100% expected that your brand has a substantial web presence—not just with your own website, but through social media, citations, directories, etc. Even beyond that—it's not just about simply having a presence on the web, it's about having a valuable web presence. There's more than enough junk out there, which means your brand really has to provide some unique and useful content to not only survive, but thrive on the web. What constitutes "useful web content"? Excellent question. It took a lot of experimenting on the TIS blog to find the sweet spot of what sort of content branding, marketing and Grand Rapids folks are interested in reading about. After publishing a few (more like many) blog posts that didn't quite pan out how we thought they would, we turned to Casey and our pals at Epic Presence for some much-needed advice on how and what to write about to provide some solid content to our readers (and gain new ones). Characteristics of successful content include: Utility: How useful is the content? Does it help solve a problem? Multiple Sources: Including many sources builds credibility and increases outreach potential. Readability: Large, legible fonts with distinguishable headings and sections make content more digestible and easy to follow. Shareability: Implement prominent share buttons with a share count that can be hidden. Keep these characteristics in mind when choosing topics to cover in your content. Even go as far as to ask yourself the questions listed above and check off the elements you've included in the piece of content as you go. Does this content help solve a problem? Will readers be able to refer back to this content and learn a valuable lesson or skillset? Does this content include credible sources? How many? Is this content easy to read and understand? Can our readers quickly and conveniently share this content to social media, email, or other communications channels? If your topic checks out with all the questions/elements above, then you're good to get started on writing up that content! But if you want to ensure your content obtains optimal reach and influence, you'll want to do more than just write up a blog post and hit "Publish." I'll turn it over to Nat in this next section, where she'll fill you in on the four-step content creation process we learned and have implemented ourselves at TIS, thanks to the guidance of Epic Presence. Wanna organically grow your search ratings? Follow this four-step content creation process. Thanks for startin' us off, KT! As she discussed, your influence online is dependent on much more than just simply being present; your brand has to be thoughtful and intentional with the content it publishes—and that intentionality begins well before you put pen to paper... or, in most cases, fingertips to keyboard. Before you start typing your little heart out on your well-thought-out, carefully-chosen topic, there're some things you need to take care of to set up your content for optimal success once it's published. The Four-Step Content Creation Process: 1. Research First, find a trending topic that's relevant to your industry, or your audiences'. Then, compose a sizable list of influencers (Epic Presence suggests 30–200, but the number will obviously vary depending on your industry and market!) who have a relevant audience. You'll want to keep these folks in your back pocket for more content ideas and resources down the road. 2. Viral Content Creation Based on what your influencers are posting about and your chosen topic, create your content in such a way that allows you to weave what these influencers are saying into your post as credible resources and references. The more influencers you link to in your post, the more opportunities your content will get shared! Curated content with the highest chance of becoming highly shared usually looks like a long-form blog post, around the 1,200-word mark—but can also be a longer guide (3,000+ words), an infographic, or interactive content. 3. Outreach After your content is written, proofed and published, it's time to reach out to those influencers you spent so much time researching and sourcing! The best way to reach out to these folks is usually by sending a manual email before posting on social media, to give them a proper heads-up so they know to share your post once you post it on your own social media channels. When posting your content on social media, make sure to tag the influencers mentioned in your post so your audience can check 'em out, as well—and so the influencers are notified when you share your content. 4. Repeat! Depending on your content goals and strategy, publish new content on a weekly (or even daily) basis. *Optional: Additional paid outreach If you're super-duper proud of a particular piece of content you've created, you can utilize Facebook ads, retargeting ads, native advertising, or sponsored content to optimize your reach even more! Consistent content creation yields big results over time Just like anything in life (but especially with content/branding/marketing efforts), consistency is key. You won't see real results by creating content that's irrelevant to your industry or your audience(s), or that's not well-thought-out nor intentional. According to Epic Presence, this is the typical pattern you'll recognize if your brand consistently creates and publishes high-quality content: First, you'll notice influencers like, comment and share the content you post on social media. After about three-to-six months, take a look at your Google Analytics, SEMrush and/or ahrefs account(s). You'll probably notice some positive changes in your SEO numbers—more web visitors, longer visits on your posts, higher search rankings in Google, more clicks on your content, etc. Yay! Results! Once you've been consistently creating and sharing content for at least six months, your brand will be considered an influencer. You'll start to notice even more publishers and influencers sharing your content and linking to your website in their content. Booyah! Keep up the awesome work for continued results. I'll turn it back over to KT now to send y'all off. : ) The Image Shoppe can help you create valuable content! As we previously mentioned, we've seen excellent results here at TIS ever since we began implementing Epic Presence's four-step content creation process in our own content strategy. Take a look for yourself! Handy-dandy graph provided by SEMrush—try it! As you can see in the graph above, TIS has seen a significant increase in web traffic since we started creating more consistent and purposeful content for our blog in 2016. We're tellin' ya—this formula works, peeps! As much as we'd all love to dedicate hours every week to creating valuable content, not all of us have the time, resources or bandwidth to do so... but that's what companies like Epic Presence and The Image Shoppe are for! ; ) Looking to up your content game and see real results? Give us a shout at TIS and we'll help create a kickass content marketing strategy tailored to reach your specific goals.