Understanding how to create content that actually works is vital to your success. If you have the most beautiful website in the world covering the best idea, it won’t matter if you don’t know what – and why – content works.
Imagine a stranger approaches you to tell you all about a life-changing pizza he just ate. He then proceeds to incoherently speak for 5 minutes, then offers you a donut coupon. You then learn he didn’t even really eat the pizza at all – someone else did and he just watched like a creep.
Sounds ridiculous, but when you create bad content for your website, that’s the frustration you’re causing. Incoherent writing, intrusive advertisements, lack of authenticity… these are just some of the reasons content won’t work.
By approaching content correctly from the ground up, you’ll ensure your site gets the eyeballs it deserves not only now but for years to come. Building a profitable website is as much having a psychological understanding of content as it is a technical understanding.
This is the 3rd guide in my series on how to build a profitable website, so be sure to check out the first two in the Guides section if you haven’t already.
Let’s get into creating great content.
Table of Contents
- What Makes Up A Great Piece Of Content?
- Before Creating Your Content
- Creating Your Content In 6 Steps
- After Creating Your Content
- Publishing Your Content
- Examples Of Great Content Websites
What Makes Up A Great Piece Of Content?
I remember in high school, there were three types of students when it came to studying: those who tried to memorize everything, those who didn’t try at all, and those who actually understood the subject matter at its core.
Everything comes easier when you’re in that third bucket (I was in the first). So when it comes to content, I want you to get out of trying to memorize all of the tips and tricks you’ve read. Instead, put on your psychologist hat and take a journey with me. We’re going to look at not only what content works… but why it works. Understanding why content works is more important than seeing what content works.
I’ll get into the technical aspect of physically creating content in a minute, but it’s vital that you know what makes content great – both to a reader and to the platforms (i.e., Google, Facebook) that you’ll get traffic from. Try not to just skim this next section and think it’s obvious. It’s possibly the most important thing you’ll read for your future success.
Be Original And Add Value
Go into your business with the idea you’re going to legitimately add real value to the world. Whether it’s something everybody already knows or something hardly anybody knows, your specific approach is going to bring a new perspective that legitimately helps people. Add your value to this planet no matter what it is! You can’t expect to receive something special (financial freedom, flexibility) if you don’t give something special.
Be Thorough And Clear
It’s really, painfully easy to write as little as possible. Unfortunately, this won’t be good enough in 2022 with so much content competition. The article you’re on right now has been a work in progress for days because I know I need to be thorough and clear. Otherwise, I’m completely missing the point which is to help you create great content. If I take the easy way out, you gain nothing and this article will never see more than a few disappointed eyeballs.
Be Trustworthy And Factual
Why should anybody listen to you? Why are you, right now, reading this article? You must trust me or at least have heard from somebody else that you should trust me. Never underestimate your reader’s perception. They’re not simply statistics… they’re real people reading what you’ve written, and they’re relying on you to provide them with information they’re seeking.
So, create an About Me page and tout your skills, achievements, interests, and knowledge related to your topic. Incorporate real life experiences into all of your articles. When you’re providing real information and real value, you’ll be trusted if you aren’t already.
And, please, always be factual. Nothing will destroy your business faster than not being factual. Some topics, such as health and news, require a much stricter definition of truth than something like how to play the guitar or how to learn pottery. But always strive for truth, particularly if you’re covering a controversial topic.
Later in this guide – and particularly in guide number 4 on getting traffic – I’ll go into deeper strategies and thoughts on how to take this to another level. For now, be sure that the three points above are absolute non-negotiable pillars of your content before you even go on to the next part.
Before Creating Your Content
There are 3 clear things you’ll want to do before diving into writing an article. The first one, you only need to do once but the latter two should be an ongoing way of thinking.
It’s a no brainer that you need to understand how to create a new post, add images, and otherwise format your article so it looks great. I’ve already covered the clearest path to getting everything set up, but actually using WordPress requires a bit of understanding. It’s extremely easy, and WordPress’s own Get Published Guide has everything you need.
Know Your Audience (Spoiler: It’s You)
Seriously, it’s actually you. I’ve read other guides on knowing your audience, and they always made me feel like we’re supposed to be trying to figure out some mythical beast. With my strategy, you can throw that out because you already know yourself. This is why in my first guide on nailing the perfect website idea, it was vital to choose something you’re passionate about. When you’re passionate about your subject, you’re always learning, and when you’re always learning, you’re already a member of your own audience. It’s a win-win situation.
Repeatedly, when I talk to aspiring web entrepreneurs, they’re stuck on the question, “What can I post that people will want to read?” or “What should my site be about?”
Sounds like a legitimate question, but it’s backwards. Ask yourself what you want to see. Be part of the audience for a second, drop the notion you have to already know everything about your topic, and ask what you’d absolutely love to read, watch, or otherwise learn. Reverse engineer the process, channel that inner passion, and tell yourself what you want to see.
When it comes to your content, strive to be your own biggest fan.
When you’re naturally passionate about the topic, this is going to drive you to expand what you already know while simultaneously delivering an answer. If you were seeking it, others were too. And no, this doesn’t mean you can’t cover the same topic as someone else. You absolutely can, and I’ll elaborate on that strategy later.
Spend some time working toward regularly being in “audience mode” so you can better pinpoint the valuable information you already possess and discover the valuable information you want.
Once you identify what your audience wants, how do you actually create it in a way that will resonate and make you money?
Write Down What Matters The Most
Let’s say I have a website dedicated to healthy breakfast options. I’ve decided my first article will be about making delicious avocado toast. I love it, everyone should love it, and, yeah, this example proves I’ve been in California a while now.
In this case, the ingredients and how to prepare said ingredients are by far the most important part. But what else?
- Why eat this? What makes it so delicious?
- Are there any allergy concerns?
- What are the nutritional benefits?
- How much does it cost to make?
- How can I make sure I don’t mess this up?
- What kind of palate would probably enjoy this?
Even when I started writing those questions on the fly just now, I hadn’t even thought of most of them beforehand. This part of content creation is to get your juices flowing. Use what you know and what you’d want to know if you were reading this future article.
Be very liberal with your questions and thoughts. This is just brainstorming. When you finish, kick out anything that you’ve decided on second viewing isn’t worth being included. You basically just created an outline.
Consume Everything About Your Topic
You’ve chosen an article idea based on something you really want to see, written down all the questions that you have about this topic, and considered everything you already know about it. Now, spend some time reading everything else out there. Use Google, Twitter, and YouTube to search for and find similar articles and/or supplemental content. This is the stage where you’re going to accomplish two things:
- Increase your own knowledge signficantly
- See the competition you need to beat
Once you’ve consumed as much as possible, thoroughly answered the questions from above, and added more knowledge to your arsenal, it’s time to actually create the best piece of content on your topic.
Creating Your Content In 6 Steps
While cookie cutter methods aren’t generally my strategy, here are the clearest steps to creating your content. Remember, you have already identified what you’re going to cover in your first article because it’s something you, personally, would love to see.
This part is going to be easiest if I continue using my avocado toast example. Using the questions you came up with during the above exercise, here’s a basic formula to follow. How you approach this will vary depending on your topic, but generally, if you use the format I have always used, you’ll be on the right track. This isn’t an exact science.
- Bullet points
- Get to the actual point.
- Cover less important details.
- FAQ / Summary (optional / use when applicable)
Let’s go through each item so you can begin crafting your actual article.
In a couple of sentences, make it impossible for the reader to click away. This is your split second chance to get them to actually stick around. Tell them what they’re going to learn and why it’s important. And add personality!
Example: I didn’t even like avocado toast until I figured out which ingredients were missing, and now it’s literally the only thing I eat every morning. It tastes divine, my bowel movements are regular, and the recipe is EASY.
The reader, even if skeptical, needs to know why you’re swearing by this recipe and which ingredients are missing. They might even like the promise of a good bowel movement. You’ve included too many promises for anyone to just walk away without feeling like they missed something.
Whether you use bullet points or a table of contents, tell them what’s to come. This way, you can get to the next step (more in a second) while teasing less-important-but-still-relevant information.
In this article:
- How To Make My Avocado Toast Recipe
- A Printable Recipe With Ingredients
- Nutritional Benefits & Allergy Concerns
The first two points are deliberately the absolute most important. Don’t include too many bullet points as that in itself can feel overwhelming.
Something I’ve grown to really love is putting an FAQ at the end. This is the perfect place to just answer any questions your reader might have. And, like I’ve been saying all along, think about which questions you would have… and figure out the answers.
More on this later, but an FAQ can be gold for Google’s robots.
Get To The Point
I don’t care how many articles you read telling you to write exactly 8 paragraphs about the history of avocado toast before getting to why the reader is actually there. Yes, Google loves lengthy content and, yes, we’re going to create lengthy content. But not at the expense of frustration. Get to the point.
In my example, begin telling the reader exactly how to make your avocado toast. When you do this, be clear, concise, and conversational.
- Clear: don’t jump all over the place.
- Concise: don’t use 10 words when you can use 2.
- Conversational: write like you’re talking to someone.
And maybe most importantly, don’t overthink it. You’re not trying to get an A on an exam. You’re telling the world something exclusive to you and your personality. Embrace it and be yourself.
Less Important Details / FAQ
Now you can begin covering everything else worthy of your article topic. Don’t force anything, but start including information someone who just read the main point might be wondering.
In the avocado toast example, tell them the nutritional values, other foods to prepare it with, who might like it, and just about anything else relevant. As mentioned above, I really love FAQs at the end of an article.
Tip: when your website is getting comments, use the questions in the comment section in the FAQ.
Now that you’ve written your article, let’s move onto step 3 and make it prettier than something out of a scientific journal.
Gather Any Relevant Visual Material
In the avocado toast example, this is me cooking it and taking my own photos along the way. If you’re covering something you can’t personally take photos of, there are many, many free sources of photos to use. Be sure to check the legal use of any photo you add to your site. I have an entire article in the future to write on not understanding photo copyrights. It isn’t pretty.
Depending on your content, there are other ways to bring visual media into your content:
- YouTube embeds
- Instagram embeds
- Screenshots (again, when legally used)
- Emojis and icons
And by the way, if nothing visual makes sense for your piece of content, then it’s perfectly fine not using any. It does tend to liven up content that’s very text heavy though, so it’s always worth going out of your way to bring it into the piece when you can.
Write the Headline
I’ll be dedicating an entire article to effective headline writing in the future. It depends which platform you’re writing for, what kind of content you’re covering, the personality of your site, and your end goals. Fortunately, there are tools now to customize your headline for various platforms, so you can properly apply each strategy.
For the sake of getting your first article published, I’ll share the components widely considered to be the most effective. Generally, the more of these you use in your headline, the better it will be.
- A call-to-action word: learn, try, discover, make.
- A descriptive adjective: simple, easy, majestic, mouth-watering.
- Your primary key phrase: avocado toast recipe.
- A promise: to be healthier, faster, smarter.
- Use numbers.
There are proven psychological reasons to each of these, and you shouldn’t force them all and create a headline that doesn’t sound human. When numbers make sense (you’ve covered multiple items in your post), you should definitely use it.
Example: Make Killer Avocado Toast With 3 Surprising Extra Ingredients
Example 2: Use This Little Known Avocado Toast Recipe For A Delicious Morning
Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time on those, but you’ll see that I incorporated the key phrase, enticing adjectives, and subtle promises in both. Remember, you can tease a promise while being clear with the reader. What not to do:
Example: The Shocking Recipe That You Need To Make Every Morning
While this was probably a good headline for Facebook in 2016, it leaves too much information out. You don’t want people to click the link to find out what it’s even about. You want them to know what it’s about and then tease why it’s worth clicking yours.
After Creating Your Content
Here’s where you’re going to separate yourself from your competitors. Most people, at this point, have hit publish and they’re ready to share their article to Facebook and wait for all the Google traffic to pour in. Then it bombs and they don’t know why.
It’s because they didn’t icing the cake. Or add chipotle chili powder to their avocado toast.
Check For Errors
The fastest way to make sure your content looks amateur and unworthy of traffic is for it to be littered with errors. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t have a built-in spellcheck, and all of the plugins are pretty terrible. One thing you can do is copy everything you wrote and paste it into Word or Google Sheets. Check for spelling and even grammatical errors, and be sure to fix them.
A lot of people actually write their first draft outside of the WordPress admin for this reason. Do whichever makes you most comfortable.
Channel Your Perfectionism
When I was building content sites primarily aimed at viral content, I wouldn’t hit publish until I personally found something that blew my mind. As Internet users became more desensitized, this required me to work harder, but it made me stand out more. While I’m not advocating this, I would sometimes fall asleep with my head on the desk, refusing to quit for the day until I uncovered something little known but incredible in some way.
If I can give aspiring website owners any piece of advice, it’s to be your own worst critic. Forget the “love yourself” mantra when it comes to creating content. Be hard on yourself and absolutely refuse to put something out that you aren’t extremely excited to share with the world. Too many people are sharing bland content already – you can stand above the rest with discipline and some degree of expecting perfection.
I’m not trying to ruin your life with impossible standards, but when you treat every single piece of content as something you personally would have been ecstatic to find, then others will read it, love it, and make you money.
When you are going to cover something that’s already out there, that’s totally fine. Just do it way, way, way better. Re-read the articles that are currently covering the same or a similar topic and honestly ask yourself, “Is mine better?” If it isn’t, you’re not finished.
Google, which boasts the most sophisticated algorithm, seeks to surface the best content. In their own documentation, you can find questions they encourage webmasters to ask themselves when creating content:
- Would I share this article with a friend?
- Is it clear who is behind the content and why they should be trusted?
- Is it better than other sites covering the same thing?
They’re giving you the criteria: make amazing content! And by choosing a passionate topic you love, that should come natural with the right mindset this guide has hopefully given you.
Walk Away For A While
Another underrated strategy is to just walk away for a while. I’ve done this several times writing this very guide you’re reading. Much like most of society, I just don’t have the attention span I used to, so taking a breather and coming back with fresh eyes can be very helpful.
Send It To Your Friends
Most of us have a handful of people who we trust. The people who you can ask, “Hey, does this shirt look okay?” and they’ll laugh and make a Where’s Waldo joke. These trusted friends are a huge advantage before you finally publish your final piece.
I will be doing that with this very guide before it ever sees the light of day. I want to use a small sample size of people who will give me honest feedback. A few questions you can ask them:
- Does it flow OK?
- Does it actually help you?
- How does it make you feel?
- Did I lose your attention at any point?
There’s a reason we had teachers grade us in school. It’s so we can do better in the future with a better understanding of where we didn’t excel previously.
Publishing Your Content
It’s time. The hour of truth. You’ve gone into your article with a deep understanding of what will make this article awesome, you’ve followed the 6 steps of creating quality content, and then you’ve quadruple checked that it’s something you’re proud to share with the world.
And that’s your gut check: are you proud to post it? There’s no better feeling than knowing it’s a great piece of work. And the best part? That means you’ve just made the Google, Facebook, and Pinterest algorithms really, really happy because their entire purpose is to surface the best content.
But before we hit Publish, we need to add some final touches.
Search Engine Optimization Via Yoast
Underneath your post, in WordPress, you will see Yoast SEO options. The most important part is to make sure the SEO title, slug, and Meta Description are filled in. In the next guide, we’ll go over this in further detail, but for now just make sure they include your most important key phrases. For example, “avocado toast recipe.”
Add A Featured Thumbnail
If you have photos in your post, choose the one that’s the most appealing for your Featured Thumbnail. You can find this on the right-hand side. If you don’t have any photos in your post, either create one of your own or download one from the many royalty-free photo sites on the Web. This is another step that I’ll go into further detail on down the road as it’s really important to get it right.
While you should continue reading the rest of my guides before actually diving into any of this, at this point you’re ready to go live. Press the Publish button in the top right and then immediately hit View Post. Triple check everything and read it from beginning to end again – as a reader, not the writer.
Examples Of Great Content Websites
I want to end this guide by showing you some websites that I believe are crushing nearly every aspect of what you just read. Sometimes it’s tough to bring it all together without seeing it actually done.
What Kevin Espiritu has accomplished with Epic Gardening should basically be the gold standard of websites. He has turned gardening tutorials into a multi-platform giant, which is worthy of an article on its own. But for the sake of this guide, let’s look at his Fall Garden Guide: Grow The Best Fall Veggies.
Kevin begins this guide with a whole slew of questions you probably have. This is inherently promising you the answer and giving you a heads-up as to what you’re about to read. He has clearly identified all of the important aspects of gardening in the fall based on his own knowledge and his own questions he likely had at one point.
From there, it’s clearly laid out in what’s essentially a giant FAQ format. Additionally, it’s thorough but it’s not full of fluff. He gets to the point and answers what you’re looking for… and that’s great content.
While the ads are a bit on the heavy side in my view, this one-woman-show is doing everything right. Robyn has taken her passion for cooking and turned it into a profitable business. I’m not sure what made me drool more, her chocolate cake recipe or how well she crafted the article.
I like what Robyn has done here because she hypes you up while offering you a personal example of her own experience. She’s realistic and genuine in the beginning, and then she tells you why hers is the one you should make. She takes a ilttle bit of time to get to the recipe, but it’s a fun and easy read. She’s not telling us the history of chocolate cake; she’s just separating herself as one of many “experts” on this topic.
Also, she has a photo of herself with brief explanation of the site. Even if you don’t know Robyn, you can instantly begin to trust her because she’s real.
As an expectant father myself, Father Craft is right up my alley… and they’re doing very well with it. Take a look at Becoming a Father for the First Time.
On PC, I feel like the article header is far too big, but once you get into the content, it checks pretty much all the boxes. It opens with personability and connection, beginning to identify the fears you likely have as an expectant father. This begins to create trust in what you’re reading.
After that, the writer immediately jumps into words of advice. That’s why you’re on the article anyway, right? Read through and you really feel like someone is just talking to you about something personal, something you care about. It’s not robotic and doesn’t feel like some random writer wrote it for a media giant.
The organization of the content is clear, concise, and trustworthy.
There are so many aspects to creating successful content, and the strategy laid out in this guide is just one. Honestly, this guide could be another 5,000 words, but I’m already bordering on losing the “concise” part of my own requirement! In the future, I’ll be covering so much more on content and will continue linking to them in this guide for additional help.
Update: it’s the future! I wrote 11 bulletproof ways to find killer content.
But now that you’re better understanding what makes content truly work, it’s time to discuss getting traffic to it. The greatest content in the world, with zero readers, won’t make any money, so let’s step into my complete guide to diversified website traffic.