7 REAL Reasons For Content. And A Free Cheat Sheet!
This post isn’t going to tell you that content is for surface level vanity metrics like links, shares or traffic. You hear that all the time, now that “content marketing” is the new link building. But it’s being framed wrong. And if you let it, it will seep into your psyche and you’ll forget the real reasons content should exist.
Metrics are “what” you get as a result of content, but not “why” you create content to begin with.
But before we get into those reasons, just wanted to step back real quick and share what led up to this post. It’s been more of a personal struggle really.
Phil’s Collins Your Content Creating Conscience
I’ve been stuck lately. Not like an emotional heart aching Chris Brown or Huey Lewis stuck – but more like a Genesis moral dilemma stuck (read the lyrics). Like the kind where you’re torn between two possible actions. In this case it’s to hit publish or to not hit publish.
You see, in the last two years, I’ve racked up about 70 unpublished posts. They’re sitting in my drafts folder right now. Some are nearly complete – I’ve written the text, taken screenshots, come up with graphics. Others are just ideas with some notes or an outline. And they just sit there. These 70 drafts stretch back over two years, and especially lately I’ve struggled to get to a point where I can hit “publish”.
My Three Excuses
What’s the hold up? I generally cycle between three excuses.
“I’m too busy.” Lots of client work. The Holidays. That must be why. It’s no secret I spend just a stupid amount of time crafting a title, never mind the content its self. So there hasn’t been the time I normally like to invest in a post before I feel it’s worth putting out there.
Or, maybe my ideas aren’t good enough. That’s it. I’ve run out of the good ideas. Spent a good solid two year run or so at blogging and creating content. Now I’m done, I’ll never “top” myself.
Or I think there’s just too much content out there. So what’s the point? Why should *I* think that just adding more of it is going to help anything? That’s kind of an egotistical thought. We’re freakin’ drowning in content. It’s just going to add to the noise, repeat so much of what’s been said already and that’s no good. I don’t want to make the web as a whole worse. So just do nothing.
WRONG. All of those are wrong.
For one, I believe the 80/20 principle applies to time. “No time” is an excuse and nothing more. In fact there’s a book which made a profound impact on my use of time this year. I hear NO ONE talking about it, it’s called The ONE Thing which blows the myth of “no time” out of the water (I hope to write about this book more soon). If you think about it people who publish more often for example, it’s not like their days are 32 hours long, and I’m stuck here in a 24 hours day.
Two, I am SUPER self critical. I almost never think the ideas I have are worth talking about, or will hit people. But then, someone writes a post based upon my presentation at SMX East and the reaction is phenomenal with comments like this;
<ego>errrrr … you mean … my ideas… right? RIGHT?</ego>
OK that feels better 🙂
No honestly, I was super flattered Jessica wrote this post and there was no hard feelings – she did give me credit. (It was very well done, and I love how she didn’t even pull a Carly Rae on me – I didn’t even realize she wrote the post til like weeks after. Love that.) It did reassure me that people might find my ideas useful though 🙂
Excuse Three. There’s a LOT of content out there. And I’m afraid to clutter of the interwebs with more noise. But then someone like Jason Acidre writes this remarkable post after seeing my 80/20 post, and then tells me he thinks the success of many of his posts from early 2013 were a result of adopting that mindset of what I teach about with 80/20.
That’s content actually changing someone’s life. That’s content I’m proud and humbled to create.
In summary, it’s felt arduous publishing lately – and I have plenty of excuses. But we’ve got to get beyond that.
Why Create Content At All?
That’s the point of this post. To create a collection of compelling reasons WHY it is important to continue publishing. So that I, or maybe you, can refer to them when we’re feeling “stuck” and need to remind ourselves why content should exist to begin with.
You’re NOT going to hear surface level vanity metrics like “traffic” or “links” or “an ego boost from social shares”. But actual REAL reasons to go deeper than SEO or even marketing.
These are actual business or personal benefits that I have experienced from publishing content – beyond metrics.
1. To Exemplify The Quality You Expect From Your Clients – All day long, I’m preaching to my clients stuff about how they should create their content. I’m trying to sell ideas on topics, style, promotion, approach. It feels like being an armchair critic half the time. And I hate that. I don’t want to be that person just talk talk talking, giving my opinion, but what’s an opinion worth without results to back it up? So I publish my own content to exemplify the quality I am asking of my clients.
This post has nothing to do with SEO, but I’ve been telling clients to tell their story. Give us perspective – put your business into context for us. That was one post in which I wanted to exemplify such process.
This is what my CLIENTS can be doing with THEIR content. Even if it’s not the exact scenario. You can use your content to set an exception of the quality of work or customer experience or whatever it is they can expect to receive from you.
2. To Demonstrate Your Knowledge – You might be thinking this is the same as number one. But I believe quality and knowledge is two different things. Quality is showing things like effort, depth, beliefs, dedication. Values. To show your knowledge is demonstrating your specific understanding of your skill. Your content should do this!
I often forget, living in a bubble, that “everyone” must know about this tool, or that technique. The fact is, even if you’ve written about something nineteen times before. Someone missed it. Or they forgot. Or you have a new perspective on it.
People aren’t mind readers. They don’t know what is in your head. It’s one of the biggest mistakes in all of humanity to assume other people know what you know. Feel what you feel. “Get” you. They don’t, not by default. Not without empathetically compelling them into it.
3. To Converse, Not Broadcast – The second I’m in that mindset of “content is broadcasting” like a one way channel, it’s dead.
But as soon as I switch to “this is an ongoing conversation” – because the web is a two way street – I’m instantly back in the game.
Content on the web is a conversation. Either your publication is picking up where one conversation left off – or it’s starting a brand new conversation. Either way your working WITH the innate way the web works and not against it.
4. To Teach & Share – If you have never watched Jason Fried’s classic video (I can’t believe I’m calling a video from 2009 “classic”) “Marketing By Sharing” – go ahead and watch it. But do come back. I’ll wait.
This is the concept of giving vs receiving. If you’re sitting there thinking, “what’s this post gonna do for ME?” it’s over. I think that sometimes, and it’s over for me.
So when I get “stuck” creating content, and remind myself to adopt a giving mindset, it all falls back into place.
5. To Stop Repeating Yourself – How many times do you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again. Either from clients, prospects or colleagues. Or how many times do you find yourself saying the same things over and over again?
I did, a lot. In the Moz Q&A for example. Everyone and their damn Grandpa was writing in with WordPress problems. So I wrote this. Not for links. Not for social shares.
I wrote it for an excuse to put “what chu talkin bout!?” in a post. No, just kidding.
I wrote it so I could stop writing out the same thing five times a week in the Q&A and have a resource with all the common answers I could point people to instead. Then I could add more value in the Q&A its self by spending less time on the repetitive answers and more on their specific problem.
6. To Learn – The process of writing out a post, explaining a method for doing something (if you do it well enough) like how to safely no-indexing tag archives – actually makes YOU learn the material better. They say one way to learn something is to teach it.
So when put down my thoughts, break something in to pieces, format it so it’s digestible and hopefully understood by others, that just makes me better at the material.
7. To Make People Feel Like They Know You – The internet can be a very non-human place. Just look at the practice of “trolling”. I’m convinced no one would treat people like that to their faces. But hide behind an avatar, it becomes easy.
When new prospects call – they don’t cite my posts about SEO technique as the one that stick out. I’ve had more people mention either one of two things to me;
– the picture of my dog on our about page (which seems to be broken at the moment)
– having seen some of my videos
In both cases the feeling the convey is “I feel like I know you”. Reminds me of tip #1 by James Altucher in this recent article – he says;
“Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend. People pay for friendship.” – James Altucher
Don’t be an avatar on the ‘net. Show people you’re human.
Print This Free Cheat Sheet
So I feel so strongly about wanting to be more aware of this in the coming year – I made myself a one page PDF cheat sheet – as an easy way to remember the reasons why I create content to begin with.
You can put it in your Lambo Trapper Keeper (guys you know you had one)
(Image linked to source)
Metrics Shouldn’t Obscure Human Reasons
I’m certainly not saying to forget metrics. Don’t forget about traffic, links or shares.
But when you really ask “why” should this content be created? Do it for real reasons. Human reasons. Not just for the vanity metrics alone.
So download and print that cheat sheet to keep yourself in check – I know I will.
December 25, 2013
This is so true. To converse, not to broadcast.
January 6, 2014
Dan, excellent article! We included it in our Monthly Resource Roundup http://www.northcutt.com/blog/2014/01/december-the-best-seo-social-media-content-marketing/
January 6, 2014
Hey Nicky – thanks so much for including it 🙂
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