I’ve struggled to hire writers for the past several years, and it wasn’t because the writers submitted posts with grammatical errors or included false information.
In fact, many of them included examples, screenshots, and supported their points with data. In fact, the content they submitted would probably rank on Google just as well as anything that I wrote.
But I refused to submit it to my clients for one simple reason:
The advice in the articles wouldn’t help the readers achieve outstanding results. It was too generic.
Let me be clear; the advice wasn’t bad. In fact, the content usually mentioned the same best practice advice as the top-ranking posts in the SERPs.
However, I feel that there’s a lot of best practice advice that isn’t actually that effective at solving the searcher’s problem.
Best practice advice, by definition, will lead to average results because everyone is doing it.
So if the searcher is looking to achieve above average results, they need different ideas that are more effective than best practice advice.
The difference between good and great content is that good content provides best practice advice, while great content gives the reader significantly better results than any other advice.
In this post, I’ll show you a few examples of the differences between good and great content.
Then, I’ll dive into how to create great content consistently.
Creating great content is challenging, but I’ve discovered a framework that allows me (who certainly isn’t an expert on every topic under the sun) to consistently produce content that delivers above average results for readers.
I’ll also discuss whether or not I believe it’s necessary to create great content (or if good content is good enough).
Examples of Good vs. Great Content
I was recently editing a blog post targeting the keyword “how to find freelance writing jobs.”
One of the common “best practices” for finding freelance writing jobs is reaching out to potential clients individually on LinkedIn. The writer included all the best practice tips, like sending a
personalized message, highlighting your relevant experience, etc.
The only problem is that this strategy produces really low response rates. I pointed this out to the writer:
My LinkedIn inbox is full of “personalized” messages following this best practice advice… and I’ve never responded to a single one. In fact, even when I’m hiring writers, I never respond to these messages:
However, LinkedIn outreach is a common method to land a freelance writing job, and it can work if you take a different approach from the generic best practice advice. In addition, because LinkedIn outreach is such a common piece of advice for landing a freelance writing job, search engines will look for it in your content.
So I rewrote this section by discussing why traditional LinkedIn outreach doesn’t work and then introduced my 2.0 strategy (reaching out to companies you’ve already provided value to).
Again, the 2.0 advice will help the reader achieve better results than the first writer’s edition, which outlines practice advice.
In my opinion, the 2.0 version could have bad grammar and lack screenshots, and it would still be better content than the first example because it will help the reader achieve better results.
In the scenario above, the tip itself (cold outreach on LinkedIn) just wasn’t that strong, and I strengthened it by tweaking it.
However, sometimes the entire approach needs a reframe.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that the keyword you’re targeting is “how to improve your friend group.” Here, you see that the article ranking at the top of Google is grammatically correct and provides specific action tasks to carry out best practice advice.
For example, “going to live events” is a decent tip and they even tell you what events to go to (conferences, workshops, etc.):
The advice isn’t bad. It’s decent “best practice” advice, and you might meet some higher quality friends if you follow it.
However, I then saw this post on Twitter by Alex Lieberman discussing the same topic.
Instead of just telling you how to meet people, he takes a completely different approach to solving the problem of leveling up your friend group. He says it’s best to first set the intention of who you want to be, then identify the gaps, and then strategically meet specific people (and find specific content) to fill those gaps.
I encourage you to read the entire thread, but here’s the summary of it.
First, write out the 10-20 people you’re closest to, your role models, your communities, and your content sources.
Then on a separate sheet of paper, write the values you want to embody and connect the people, role models, communities, and content sources you wrote on the first sheet of paper.
Finally (and most importantly), find the gaps where you don’t have any influences connected to the values you want to embody.
This content is great because the advice will help the reader achieve better results (level up their friend group more effectively) than just attending random networking events and hoping to meet interesting people.I’ll drive this point home again:
Pro tip: Frameworks tend to yield great content because they’re repeatable processes that readers can apply to multiple scenarios. So if you can create frameworks for any advice, that’s usually a bonus.
A Framework To Consistently Turn Good Content Into Great Content
Coming up with great content ideas might seem difficult, but I’ve found a solid framework that consistently helps me turn good content into great content. Here’s how it works:
1. Identify the best practice advice: What’s the best practice advice for this topic/how do most searchers currently approach this problem?
2. Identify the problem: What’s the problem with the best practice advice/how searchers currently approach the problem?
3. How can you solve that problem? Can you tweak the scenario or take a different approach to solve it? Use critical thinking or ask an expert how they navigate this challenge.
Let’s walk through an example of this.
Pretend you’re writing a blog post for “how to earn backlinks.”
1. Identify the best practice advice: One common piece of best practice advice is to send personalized pitches on HARO.
2. Identify the problem: The average HARO response rate is very low – single digit low. So you probably won’t see a great ROI for your time investment.
3. How can you solve that problem? Matt Diggity recorded a video showing that he creates two websites in similar niches. Then, instead of using HARO to pitch a quote to other websites, he submits a request for a quote for one of his websites. Then, when people respond, he mentions that while they’re full on quotes, he’ll give them a link on his other website if they can link to his first website. Sort of a gray-hat tactic, but it works much better than the traditional HARO link-building advice of “send a personalized pitch.”
Okay, but what if I can’t think of a better solution?
Critical thinking is one of my favorite hacks, as you can figure out many problems if you just sit with them for long enough.
However, if you can’t think of a solution, ask a third-party expert how they solve these problems.
The third-party expert could be an in-house team member (I usually interview team members for each piece of content we write) or someone you follow on Twitter.
To be honest, I find that many experts don’t always have the best insightful ideas, so I tend to take what they have to say and apply my own critical thinking to come up with a solution.
You can also ask in Slack or Facebook groups how people solve the problem.
I also find that reading case studies is a great method to find unique ways to solve problems, as the strategy clearly produced excellent results. For example, you could Google “HARO link building case study” and see if there are any unique solutions:
Then, you can include the case studies in your content, which will make the content more actionable and useful.
Finally, your product may be the unique solution.
For example, whenever I target a pain point keyword, I always discuss the searcher’s pain points and then discuss why the traditional method for solving the problem doesn’t work.
Then, I show how the tool solves the problem better/cheaper/faster than their traditional method. For example, when working with the trend discovery tool, Exploding Topics, we targeted the keyword “how to find trends early.”
I discuss in the introduction that the traditional method to find trends is scrolling through social media, digging through industry reports, or using trend spotting websites. Then I discuss the problem with these methods
In the Exploding Topics section, I discuss how the product solves the problem of manually scrolling for trends:
I also address how it’s designed to proactively discover under-the-radar trends:
The only caveat is that the product has to solve these problems significantly better than alternative options.
So to recap, here’s how you can answer that third critical question:
- Critical thinking
- Interview an in-house team member
- Reach out to a third-party expert
- Ask in a Slack group/Facebook group
- Read case studies on the topic
- Look at how your product solves the problem
Playing Devil’s Advocate: Is It Really Necessary To Have Great Content?
The effort required to produce great content is significantly higher than the effort to produce good content.
I’ve also found that good content can often rank just as well as great content, so is great content really worth the investment?
Why not just have ChatGPT write the content and forget about the fact that it’s only moderately helpful? As long as it drives traffic, who cares?
First, I think you can use AI content for factual answers or situations where the best practice advice is sufficient.
An example of a factual answer might be “how many inches are in a foot?” In this case, you don’t need great content.
An example of a scenario where best practice advice is sufficient is “how to tie a tie.” In this case, the best practice advice solves the searcher’s problem, so there isn’t a need to go deeper.
However, creating great content is worthwhile anytime you cover a topic with variable answers.
Here are three reasons why I believe that great content is worth the investment:
- Increase time on page: If you provide truly outstanding advice in your article, people will probably spend more time on your blog post. Search engines see this as a positive user engagement signal and will reward the page with higher rankings.
- Improve brand reputation: If you consistently produce great content that’s more insightful than your competitors, customers will view you as an industry authority and trust you more. For example, I believe Ahrefs consistently produces great content, and as a result, I trust whatever they have to say and use their tool on all of my client websites. In addition, I almost always click on their content whenever I see their brand name in the SERPs – regardless of its ranking. When search engines see that searchers consistently click on your brand’s content, they’ll likely rank your content higher.
- Increase conversions: If you’re targeting a pain point related keyword and pitching your product as the solution, great content is essential for winning conversions. People don’t purchase a product just because they land on your website. They purchase products when they realize it’s the solution to their pain point. So to win that conversion, your content has to build rapport with readers and then show qualified prospects that your product solves their problem.
In short, you don’t need to create great content if your only goal is to drive more traffic.
However, if you want to use content marketing to build a reputable brand and drive conversions, you’ll be able to achieve those goals much more quickly (and produce less content) if you focus exclusively on investing in great content.
Want Met To Do Your Content Marketing For You?
If you want to create great content, reach out to me today and I’d be happy to discuss opportunities for you to level up your content marketing strategy.