No one disagrees that you need “good content” to grow a blog, but there’s plenty of disagreement on what “good content” actually means.Let’s start here: Good writing is simply not enough. There’s a clear correlation between strong writing and successful blogs, but there are plenty of counter-examples too. A threshold exists where writing is good enough, assuming you can nail a few other elements.
As our marketing director Devin Bramhall points out, “good” can only be defined in the context of the medium. A post can be “good” based on proven journalism and reporting principles, but if it appears on a SaaS blog, it could fall flat.
So, “good” has to encompass not just the quality of the writing, but the strength of the ideas, how those are framed, the channels on which the articles are distributed and whether or not demand exists for content on those topics.
You don’t need to hit all four perfectly for every piece. It’s an unrealistic expectation and the main reason that most blogs follow the power law of content marketing—a few pieces account for the bulk of the traffic. You can, however, greatly increase your odds of success by understanding what goes into each of the four parameters.
A quick note on subject matter expertise. The more you know, the better your content will be. The following suggestions are just hacks if they aren’t backed by in-the-trenches experience. If you don’t currently possess subject matter expertise on the topics you’re covering, it’s time to develop some—do tons of research, interview experts and run experiments.
Angle: Every Great Post Starts with a Great Idea
As Animalz writer and content strategist Jan-Erik Asplund wrote on the blog recently, “Framing is what gives insights their power.” Since content marketing can’t rely solely on good writing, topics have to be framed in a way that captures the interest of prospective readers.
You’ll notice that content topics aren’t included in this Venn diagram—and for good reason. Topics are easy to come up with. Very, very few blogs succeed on the back of the team’s ability to come up with good topics. Angles, however, are much more challenging to come up with. A good angle makes any topic interesting, even those that have been covered in great detail and volume elsewhere on the web.
Most content marketing approaches topics in a straightforward manner. If, for example, a keyword list dictates the posts that should be written, writers build post ideas based on those search queries without taking the time to consider the reader on the other end. Content marketers love to talk about writing for people and search engines, but that’s a fallacy until you’ve considered how your posts are framed.
Hiten Shah’s Why Trello Failed to Build a $1 Billion+ Business is a perfect example. A straightforward approach to Trello’s acquisition would have made for a very different post, probably something like “How Trello Turned a Freemium Product into a $425 Million Acquisition.” And while that post may have been interesting, it doesn’t stand out nearly as much as “Why Trello Failed to Build a $1 Billion+ Business.” This title only slightly changed the actual content, but it created a curiosity gap that the article too enticing not to click on.
We covered this concept in detail in How to Ride a Wave of Growth, or Revel in Its Crash, but here’s a quick summary. AdEspresso rode a wave of interest in Facebook advertising to grow a massive blog. Near-perfect execution was still required, but the growing interest in their core topic gave them a leg up over SaaS companies writing about less exciting topics.
The Animalz blog is a good counterexample. We didn’t get on the content marketing trend early, and there are plenty of competitors in the space, so we’re setting ourselves apart by creating new demand. We do this by taking contrarian views on established best practices and writing about content strategy in a way that few others have the necessary experience to do.
If you don’t have the built-in advantage of writing about a trending topic, you need to find other ways to create (and harvest) demand.