How To Create Engaging Content
Content is king, we’ve been told over and over again. And sure, the phrase itself has gotten rather old. However, the truth behind it remains the same: in order to rank, engage, and convert, you need to produce quality content.
Luckily, quality content comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and you can take your pick among dozens of different formats. Whether your content production budget is tiny or money is no object, you can develop something that is likely to spark the attention of your target audience and rival the best of your competitors.
In no particular order, we’ve gathered up eleven of the most lucrative and engaging types of content you can produce. To help you get a better grasp, you’ll also find a successful example or two for each content type.
After reading through this list, you’ll hopefully feel ready to hit the ground running and start mastering your content game.
Let’s start with the rather obvious choice, shall we?
Blog posts are the one type of content businesses are advised to produce. For starters, they give your audience something to read. They can also:
- serve as the backbone of your email marketing and link building campaign
- give you something to share on social media
- help you rank for all sorts of keywords
All these qualities make blog posts that all-around useful content format you really should be investing in – despite the fact that everyone else is doing it too.
Your main blog post production goal should be to find a nice balance between SEO posts centered around keywords you can rank for and blog posts that will be of genuine use to your audience, even if you aren’t able to rank for its main keywords.
Another important point to consider with blog posts is that they need to be written well and valuable to readers. Posts that are merely written for the sake of having something to post can do you more harm than good. Inevitably, your audience will choose to look for useful answers from a more reputable source.
Here is a very easy-to-replicate example from Hello Flamingo. Their post on personal time off is not easily rankable, as it has a keyword difficulty of 26, according to Ahrefs. However, it’s extremely valuable as it covers a topic their audience will certainly be interested in learning more about. Plus, it also goes well with the rest of the posts on their blog.
The headings used in the post are user-focused and actionable, making it easy to read and skim through. The answers themselves are easy to understand and insightful. In a nutshell, this is the kind of blog post you should look to produce.
Reviews (Product and Otherwise)
Then, there are the reviews of products, services, or anything and everything you can think of.
Consumers turn to reviews to help form an opinion about a topic and make purchasing decisions. They are not always written well, though, so customers are sometimes wary of them. You can combat this mistrust by writing excellent and trustworthy reviews.
What you will be reviewing is the main question to consider. You can go for products and services that are your direct competitors, but this is the hardest to do. You will have to be completely honest, but you’re still not likely to be believed, as you have a stake in the game.
Niche-adjacent reviews will work much better. For example, that would be a shoe brand reviewing socks.
You can use these reviews for affiliate marketing as well, of course. This will be especially useful if you are a content-based business and don’t sell a product or a service.
Here’s this post on soup makers from The Confused Nester that can give you a bit of inspiration. Note the introductions that are always very personal and not the typical “here’s a review of these products” type of thing, and the useful formatting and table of contents.
Another great post format to use is the checklist. After all, we all need them, and we very much appreciate it when we can use someone else’s and don’t need to bother with our own. If it’s a checklist template you can also add to, even better.
As always, the important thing to be mindful of is to select a list that can be associated with your brand. Perhaps even a list to which you can add some of your own products.
For instance, Buffer has a checklist for posting on social media, which is perfectly on-brand. You can also check out this checklist from Coschedule on writing blog posts. It’s still on-brand, detailed, and very useful.
Packing and moving checklists can also be useful, as can essentially anything you can break down into steps or a list of items. Make sure that the checklist is also easy to download and that it is formatted and well-designed. That way, you’ll be able to ensure the visual appeal as well.
You can also gate your checklists in order to grow your email list. However, beware that this may backfire, as there will likely be similar checklists on the web that are not gated. So, first consider the value of your content and how useful it will be to your target audience. If it’s worth their email, go right ahead. But if not, provide a free piece of content they can enjoy and come back to.
How-to guides are one of the most searched for types of content, which makes producing them incredibly useful. After all, whenever we don’t know how to do something, we’ll ask Google to lend us a hand. If it’s able to return your guide, you can generate some very useful traffic.
Your main focus when writing how-to guides should be to find a topic that aligns with your services or products. And, of course, you’ll want to make sure it’s a topic your audience would be interested in.
Remember, you’re blogging for business, so your goal is to generate and convert a specific audience. Your posts need to inspire a reader either to:
- keep reading some of your other posts
- subscribe to your newsletter, or
- do business with you
Writing a how-to guide that you are able to rank for but that will not do any of this is a waste of all of your resources.
Tim Soulo of Ahrefs pointed out one such example in one of his courses: Hubspot’s post on creating GIFs. The post is a great guide, but it will not convert anyone. As such, it can be considered a waste.
Ideally, you should be able to mention your own brand in the guide, but this is not a necessity. For instance, you can write posts that detail how to use one of your products or how to achieve a certain result with them. Or, you can write how-to guides on topics that are brand-adjacent. For example, if you’re a shoe brand, you can do a “how to choose socks to go with different shoe styles” type of post.
A good example comes from Inkable Label, which provides a very detailed post on designing in Canva.
It will help their audience create unique designs the brand can then print for them, and it can also drive new traffic. They’ll get visitors that may not have come looking for a label printing company but that will be glad of the find.
Your main takeaway from their example should be:
- the step-by-step format
- the plethora of screenshots
- the clear directions the post provides.
This is the structure you are looking to master yourself.
And Other Guides
Guides, however, don’t have to take on that all-familiar how-to guide format. They can happily exist in other formats, sticking to the same basic principles: value, value, clever formatting, and value.
When you (or a member of your target audience) types something into their search bar, the results Google often returns revolve around “ultimate guides” on the topic. These are in-depth, long-form pieces of content that delve deep into a certain topic. They should be the only resource you ever need to read to get your questions answered. That is, if they are written well, of course.
A good example of this kind of guide is this Aura post on Amazon retail arbitrage. Once you have read it, you will have no questions left unanswered. You can happily take the next required step in accordance with your specific situation.
Notice the headings again. They are both keyword-oriented and masterfully laid out, guiding you through the topic. They are the perfect signposts to the article, allowing a reader to skip the parts they are not interested in. At the same time, they help the article grow into the kind of gigantic posts search engines like to recommend.
The more thorough and information-heavy you can be, the better your post will fare in the eyes of both your readers and robots.
Conducting your own research might not be possible. In fact, maybe you’re not even working in an industry where this makes sense. However, if you can provide data and unique insight into your brand’s area of expertise, you can gain powerful leverage.
You can also rely on data gathered by other, reputable sources. Give them all the due credit and add new layers of meaning to it or interpret it in new ways. This can be the best course of action if you’re unable to handle the data-gathering part yourself.
Surveys (if they are on a large enough scale) conducted among your target audience can also be a great source. Let’s return to our shoe brand example. For instance, let’s say you discover through surveys that most of your shoppers prefer to wear brown shoes in the summer and black shoes in the winter. You can use this knowledge not only to write up a very interesting piece of content but also to improve your stock. It’s the kind of post people like to read, as it gets them thinking and is a great initiation for a discussion.
A brand that does original research marvelously well in our own industry is, of course, Ahrefs. They have the advantage of being able to use their own product to execute the research. For example, here’s their study on the number of keywords a single page can rank for. It’s not only a valuable read for digital marketers but also a demonstration of the power of their software solution.
While this breadth of data may not be at your disposal, don’t fret. Smaller, original pieces can be just as engaging and lucrative, as long as they tap into your audience’s interests.
Now, here’s another engaging and highly beneficial type of content you’ve probably already considered implementing. Or, maybe you’ve even been implementing it for a while already.
Although user-generated content has been around for quite a while, more and more brands have been taking to it recently. Companies big and small have embraced the ease and effectiveness it provides.
In a nutshell, anything can be user-generated content – an image, a video, an article, a blurb. And while social media is the medium for UGC, you can use it on your website as well.
Let’s illustrate that point with a couple of examples. First, there’s Dove, which has based several of its highly successful campaigns on user-generated content. Its most popular one, the Real Beauty campaign, which aims to combat society’s fascination with a certain appearance and body type, uses their customers’ images across all their platforms.
There’s also Glossier, which encourages their customers to share selfies and embrace their vulnerability. As a result, they’ve managed to foster an immense community of followers who view the brand as more than just another beauty corporation.
To make user-generated content work, you need to focus on the customer and their needs. Focus on their community and relationship with your business, as opposed to what you expect to get out of it. It’s a process that takes time, but when you do it right, you’ll enjoy the benefits soon enough. User-generated content can not only save you the headache of coming up with something creative but also turn you into a household name.
Your Brand’s Story
Another story you can tell with content is the story of your brand. Show your audience how you became what you are today.
First, this will allow you to share information with your costumes and clients and inspire some trust in them. You will no longer be just a name, but a company that may share some of their own values.
You will also be able to inspire conversions and engagement as you become more identifiable and easier to do business with. And, if your story is quite something, you can inspire other types of actions as well. Perhaps you’ll even help someone else achieve something in their business or personal life.
Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool. After all, a lot of human endeavor is based around it. We’ve been partial to stories since the beginning of time, and fiction and history alike keep fascinating us. As a brand, leverage this power of words to your own advantage.
A great example of a brand’s personal story told in an inspiring and informative way is the story of Grado Labs. As there is so much time to cover, they use a timeline to weave their story. This visual solution is particularly clever and makes it easier to digest.
It’s completely fine if you don’t have as long a history to recount, too. Even a 300-word piece can share all the emotion and information you need, as long as you tell it in the right way. Find your voice (also considering what might appeal to your audience), and use it throughout all of your future content. It will make you more memorable and unique.
Quizzes are the ultimate piece of interactive content, as the only way to complete them is to interact with them. The only thing you will need to consider is their topic, and the interactivity will come along.
As a business, you want to provide some value through the quiz. You may help your audience select a product or service, give them some insight into their personality, and so on – just as long as you base your advice on actual data.
Keep your questions simple and the answers easy to choose from. If they are all too similar, they may not be as easy to navigate.
Finally, also consider whether to gate your results or not. Doing this will certainly help convert a fair number of quiz takers and steadily grow your email list. Once you have that, you’ll want to make sure that the emails you send these leads are tailored to them (and what you’ve learned about them through the quiz). If they get personalized content from you, they are less likely to unsubscribe.
On the other hand, if you stick the results in with the rest of your leads and send them meaningless emails they are not interested in, they’ll jump ship. And they’ll most likely remember you as an annoying brand. After all, you’ve probably had a similar experience with a business as an email recipient yourself.
On the other hand, if you don’t gate your quizzes, you’ll miss out on a valuable conversion opportunity, but you’ll build a better relationship with your audience (who most likely dislike gated content). The choice will depend on your current marketing and business growth stage.
As for our example, it comes from Dogs Planet, and it’s a straightforward quiz on selecting the right dog breed.
It takes less than five minutes, and the answers make sense. (We’ve done it seven times, so we can confirm this fact.) It’s also simple – no bells and whistles, but it solves an immediate question quickly.
Naturally, there are mediums other than words that you can use to engage your audiences. There’s video, first and foremost.
While it is often hailed as the most popular content format on the internet, video can’t always measure up to blog posts and articles. However, it certainly has an immense power to captivate and convert.
You can use it for all kinds of purposes: to share your brand’s story, how-to guides, interviews, or reviews. You can create videos to show your customers how to use a product, which would be especially useful. The main thing to focus on is to make your videos easy to watch (i.e., high-quality) and to ensure they are loading seamlessly, especially if you feature them on your website. A video that slows an entire landing page down will be doing more harm than good.
That’s it, really. The style, the camera you use, and the content you produce will depend on your brand and overall content strategy.
To give you an example of what you can do, here is Mixam’s homepage video. It tells you what you can expect from working with them and how the process works. It’s simple, elegant, and highly effective.
Or, you can do something completely different. Here’s Jackson Galaxy and his YouTube-style homepage video that also happens to feature some of his cuter clients.
Both formats are equally effective and serve the same purpose. However, they are not at all alike, proving our point that you should care less about the how and more about the what.
Another non-reading-based content format to consider is audio, also known as the podcast.
Podcasts were the rage a couple of years ago. Their popularity has since slowly ebbed, resulting in 68 million people who listen to at least one podcast a week. Now, that’s a huge potential audience.
The key to successful podcasting is finding topics your audience will love to listen to and a host (or hosts) who will be able to deliver them in an engaging manner. A radio voice and some improvisation skills are a must.
As for the content of your podcast, you’ll want it to remain brand-related, naturally. Nonetheless, it can branch out a bit from the usual blog post topics you feature. For instance, Johnson and Johnson ran a podcast that covered a huge variety of topics, but all of them centered around the topic of health, medicine, and innovation.
Or, check out Basecamp’s podcast, the Distance, which tells the stories of businesses that have been operating for 25 years or longer. It’s an immensely interesting and useful resource for anyone looking to start their own company. They now run Rework, a podcast about working better.
There you have it: 16 examples of different content types that will boost your engagement, turn some interested heads, and help you grow your brand. Of course, bear in mind that different ones will make sense for different types of businesses. Study our list with care and select the one that you are best suited to.
Also, don’t forget the basic rules of content marketing: if no one is looking for it, don’t write it. And if you are writing it, make it 10x better than the next best thing.
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