Today’s specials: Unique, creative, quality content
I’m a sucker for anything beer-battered.
Usually when I look at a menu, I’m prepared to carefully consider all options, weighing up my favourites against things I’ve never tried before, to make an educated decision.
But as soon as I see “beer-battered”, that all goes out of the window. It doesn’t matter what is hidden beneath the golden goodness – fish, potatoes, pickles – I’m sold.
I’m not entirely sure why, but there’s just something extremely appealing about ale-splattered food that beats all other traditionally crispy options.
So how does this relate to writing content?
It doesn’t really, but I’m going to attempt to make a loose connection:
SEO-circles are shameless in throwing around variations of the phrase ‘unique, creative, quality content,’ which sounds great. But when you try to put it into practice, what’s really hidden beneath the tempting exterior?
How can you beer-batter a piece of content to make it jump off Google’s menu? And do you always need to?
A unique dish
From an SEO perspective, creating ‘unique content’ relates to avoiding duplication. Copying and pasting information across multiple pages, or publishing the exact same content that exists on other domains, can damage a site’s reputation in the eyes of users and Google alike.
Sometimes, repeating yourself is important – having consistent disclaimers or details about company policies can help to establish authority – but, as a rule, Google values originality and punishes needless replication. Duplicate or ‘thin’ content can result in poor ranking and a Panda-related penalty.
It’s also important to consider the wider definition of ‘unique’. When it comes to writing something that is going to be published on the internet, “being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else” isn’t easy.
Whether you’re searching “how to change a tire” or “dancing meerkat”, multiple tempting options emerge. So what makes a piece of content stand out, when there are dozens of articles offering to give readers the information they are looking for?
Catering to taste
It all boils down to the way we approach a topic. Whether you’re helping a new driver navigate jacks and hubcaps, or you’re watching members of the mongoose family re-enact the famous closing scene from Dirty Dancing, in order for content to be unique, it has to offer readers something desirable that they won’t get from the site listed above or below.
Achieving this depends on your audience and their specific intent – chances are, if you’re on the side of the motorway with a crank in one hand and your smartphone in the other, you won’t be in the mood to labour through ultra-technical instructions, just as those seeking comedic meerkat relief don’t typically want to learn about the evolutionary history of carnivoran creatures.
Finding the best way to present your information, so that it’s useful for the reader as well as distinctive from other options, is the key to creating unique content. Depending on what you’re writing this can seem tricky, but it’s not about reinventing the very core structure of a how-to guide or blog post.
Establishing an understanding of who you’re writing for and their requirements gives you the foundation to ask yourself – how can I make this appealing?
Creativity: Do you always have to serve up haute cuisine?
The nature of this blog post allows for flexibility (and perhaps a little bit of self-indulgence) in terms of tone. I can get away with storytelling, adding humour (or at least trying to), and creating (hopefully) a spark of intrigue.
Of course, not all content permits the same room for movement. The mum on the roadside who’s got a toddler in a car-seat and a five-year-old asking why they’ve parked up isn’t going to appreciate cutesy anecdotes.
In some cases, explicit creativity isn’t really an option. When the reader needs information, not inspiration, the aim should be to strive for captivation – how can you say what you need to, within the appropriate context, and keep your audience engaged?
Sometimes, a subject is more suited towards an innovative approach. But ‘creative content’ doesn’t always have to equal ‘creative writing’. You don’t have to paint a linguistic picture or write a haiku to make something memorable – by OED definition, “relating or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something” is enough.
Playing with structure, tone of voice or storytelling techniques are all methods that inject creativity into a simple blog post. Connecting a personal sense of emotion to a piece by adding humour, surprise or shock in an appropriate context will inevitably spark interest.
Delving into visual avenues and using appealing imagery, such as infographics or slide-shares, is a simple way to give an imaginative spin to otherwise ordinary information. If the topic allows for it, going beyond expectations – by, for example, producing video content or designing an asset that encourages user interaction – is an entertaining way to up the creative ante.
If you click on the meerkat, does he move? Can you change the music? Is there a way you can vote for a specific song? Depending on the subject, the options are endless – after all, by definition, creativity knows no bounds.
While dancing meerkats might not be classed as ‘quality’ entertainment, for those who are seeking a droll moment with a diurnal herpestid, this is their only requirement, and it’s unlikely they’re going to sit through two minutes of fuzzy footage if the next link is offering crystal-clear cha-cha-chaing.
It may be that you’ve brainstormed an angle to tackle the topic of changing a car tire in a brilliantly inventive way, but if you stumble over spelling and grammar and neglect to brush up on the relevant terminology and practice, you’re going to run flat (…sorry).
Just like any reader, Google recognises the difference between cheap and quality content. In order to do right by both judges, it’s important to have high expectations about conveying a topic legitimately.
It’s not necessary to write a dissertation-worthy piece – as long as you have a confident understanding of the subject matter, use relevant sources (and credit them when appropriate) and present your information in a manner your audience trusts, establishing authority will come naturally.
Are you content?
At the end of the day, your content must have a purpose – whether it’s to inform a reader, educate them about a specific topic, or provide a little bit of entertainment, by the time they make it to the final full stop they should have taken something away from what you’ve written.
Holding that purpose at the core of your writing, while trying to find a way to make it stand apart from other options, and taking advantage of the places where you can integrate the appropriate level of creativity, will inevitably shape your piece into something worth reading.
And so my strange fascination with ale-infused grub is finally solved:
Beer-battered food is unique (or at least it was until everyone jumped on the trend) and it satisfies my intent (I’m hungry). It’s creative (not your everyday fish n’ chips) and, if it meets my quality expectations, I’ll keep eating it (and recommend it to my friends).
At the end of the meal, I’ll walk away content – and maybe I’ll come back and order the same again.