What is content development?
(and how to do it...)
Content development is the active production of a variety of media types for strategic service in marketing mediums and beyond. The core goal of content development is to drive users to your part of the web. I don’t want to dive into the variety of goals for this content, as that can vary wildly depending on the purpose of your reasons for creating it - rather, I’ll focus on the content creation for the purpose of driving opportunity.
I don’t want to limit this discussion to just business, because there are a lot of organizations and individuals that are producing content for a lot of great reasons, but they aren’t driving any opportunity with it.
Non-profits, individuals that are blogging or creating information to educate, entertainment, journalism, and more are all creating content for the purpose of driving opportunity. What is that opportunity? Simple, to be seen and heard amongst the very crowded and overly speciated internet.
I won’t address each specific industry here, but I will make a general set of guidelines and rules around the methodologies users should be following when it comes to content production. I also won’t make any attempts to say what is, or is not, content production. From my point of view, if you are trying to gain users through your work, these methodologies should be applied in any and every instance.
Where to begin your content development research
For me, I always start with trying to understand what people are looking for and how they are searching for it. From there, I use additional research tools to find conversation and share of voice around a topic - whether that is through social media or video content - I’m trying to understand what people are saying and how can I serve the users and how they are looking for those items best.
Personally, I use SEO based research tools and software. I like to review a lot of content before I make a decision about how to approach a topic and draft some unique content to address. The tool I most prominently use is Ahrefs. I believe in this product and the value it provides, even though it has some strong similarities to other tools available to users, this one suits me best (maybe I’ll address it in another blog). From there, I assess the value of the implementation format. A lot of video content, copy oriented, or heavily visual content might be useful to a user, but it still needs to be able to reach those users. For me, I always start with written word and develop a true program for launching other content types as a result of that.
Still, I dig through the data available on the various keywords I am interested in competing for and start to design the content around that - but focusing in on an overarching topic. In this instance, that topic is how to develop content. Starting with research can ensure you aren’t blowing steam and wasting energy in your content production efforts - find out what people are looking for and meet them there, it’s pretty simple.
How to actually create the content
This was a consistent problem during my tenure at my prior organization. We have the content topics we’d like to address, but we lacked certainty on a starting point. From there, I started drafting priority guides. I had seen the concept in a few areas, with UX collective being the most prominent in my mind, but most lacked a lot of the setup I wanted when it came to drafting the placement and layout for the content. Priority guides are useful, especially when you are crafting content for a full web page, but they can be useful when you are creating content of any type - consider it a more robust outline with time and placement for consideration. They are perfect for deciding how your content should be developed.
In my opinion, they can not only help with the visual framework, but ensure that you are considering what the user will take away from that content as they scan the page, since the majority of your users will be doing just that.
Here is an early iteration of one:
Content guides can ensure that you have a focused goal with a specific format in mind. I used one for this, but that methodology is a complete secret...still, try messing with this method and see what it gets you.
Spending time drafting the content is always the mountain creators face. It’s one thing to secure a topic and map out the process, but actually sitting down and doing it, that’s a totally different story.
I like to create a mood. For me, that’s low lights, a bottle of wine and some lo-fi sounds. I mean, maybe that’s a weird process and you’re at work and don’t really get that option. But still, go find a place that helps you enter your creative mind. Engage the work at its best place. To me, this is far better than spinning your wheels on drafting content that really doesn’t offer any substance. I know we consume quickly these days, but you still want to ensure your work actually helps the individuals you are targeting. And really, this applies to any content you are developing.
- For video - you are going to need a script and creative direction (at least should). So set apart time and space to plan. Then execution should follow in a simple manner.
- For podcasts - the process should be similar to video. An outline, a lightly scripted order, and a series of touch-points that can be further supported by creative.
- For visual support, infographs, and cast studies, you’ll really want a clear head. It needs to drive home the process and ensure that you not only have a goal in mind, but an order to the process.
- Evergreen content should be given its own special place. If you envision content working for you long terms, you’ll want to make sure it’s relevancy spans time and motive. Be concerned with the user that will review this content and ensure it helps them achieve a specific set of goals.
Content development is a core part of most businesses these days, especially ones that rely on an online presence to drive their opportunity and development. If you want to succeed in the bloated marketplace of consumer content, you’ll need a special process that contains a litany of solutions that help people.
Publishing your content
Nearly as important, if not moreso, is a publishing system to help deliver that content. Obviously, this can be as basic as a blog, but a blog can be a tool for so much more than just serving up search focused content. It also means having a proper distribution system to your social media channels. Getting content out to the right crowd can be essential to helping develop an audience for future content.
Our setup is fairly simple:
- We publish our content through a Ghost blog
- Our syndication system is done through Zapier
- The content is delivered to three key social channels: Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter
- Our team may reshare content if they believe it has some extended viability for their own network
It doesn’t need to be overly complex, but it can help your content go a lot further if you leverage it in this way.
If you can, where applicable, look for additional syndication methodologies through platforms like Medium. This can give additional audiences an opportunity to see your work and address it on those sites. You can also write up tangential content for industry publications that are interested in the topic and that will link back to your original source. This helps on a myriad of levels, but especially with creating the authority that Google likes to see when it comes to ranking.
Finally, ensure that your content is built in a way that it benefits the overall message and theme of your organization, or fits your industry. If you are writing for an audience, make sure they are finding useful information from other content you’ve created. It keeps your brand at the fore and messaging consistent.
If you are looking for help in content development, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Eightfold. You can email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org