Monday, 14 September 2020

What Is Quality Content And How Can I Create It?

adventure time sign at sydney airport

I've recently come back to travel writing and decided it is time to take my little adventure blog to the next level. I've been looking properly into monetizing it, which will open up a lot of opportunities in the long-term but beforehand there are a couple of obstacles to overcome. Most affiliate programmes or AD publisher require your website to attract a decent stream of traffic - ideally somewhere in the monthly 10k range. 

More traffic? OMG how do I do that? My stats are shit (fact). Where do even I start? 

Once my panic was over, I pulled out my Gantt-Chart, came up with an improvement plan and drafted a road map for the next three month. If I wanted to grow my blogs' traffic and increase its performance I would have to work harder on my content and its quality. 

Right. Let's go!

Step 1: Work In The Backend to Improve My Travel Content

Some of the ranking factors which Google identifies as "quality" and which will eventually also affect your blogs' DA are SEO, grammar & spelling as well as all outgoing links placed on your blog.  

I haven't done a thorough blog maintenance for a year so there were LOADS of things to tidy up in the backend. I went through all 260 blog posts individually, checked for grammar and spelling with Grammarly, updated pictures and their Alt-Tag and included long-tail keywords in my subheadings. 

I've also removed a couple of posts which no longer reflect my niche, so 30% of my content went back into draft mode. Some of my old content, mainly film reviews, went over to Amazon. I've also got a few book reviews which I could submit as a guest post so if there are any book blogger interested and currently take on guest posts, do let me know!

what is quality content

Next on the list were outgoing links, so I checked every single link placed on my travel blog for its redirect and correct functioning, and if the link would open up in a new window. This is crucial as otherwise, readers will be leaving your blog and Google evaluates session duration as a quality factor for your website. 

I keep my readers for as long as possible on my blog to reduce bounce rate. Any time spend over 3 minutes is a high-quality indicator for Google, too. To achieve the maximum stay for my readers I've included a similar post widget at the end of each post, make sure my outbound links open up in a new window and I also interlink to my own content. 

TIP: Whilst I ran a broken link check, I also noticed that my Google Analytics code went missing in the majority of my posts. This had something to do with changing my template recently which is annoying, as Google Blogger doesn't provide a plugin to automatically pull and insert the code. Do check your HTML from time to time and replace a missing GA code. 

Step 2: Improve On-Site Content & My Travel Writing

Writing is by far my favourite part of blogging, but how do you measure the value of your content? 

Through my work in digital marketing, I've learnt a few things on content production and what makes it high quality. Ingredients to be successful and create quality are relevancy, purpose and engagement. 

Relevancy: Does my content reflect my niche (travel) and is, what I produce, relevant?

This includes new and old content alike, hence why I sieved out and excluded old posts which are no longer relevant for my topic "travel". When I'm planning future articles, I have to keep my niche in mind so I can work closely on producing the right posts. 

Right now a piece on "Fun Things To Do in Australia" would be highly contra-productive and insensitive, but a post on How to Survive a 14 Day Quarantine will spike high interest and demand due to the ongoing Corona pandemic. Therefore, relevancy creates interest and will drive more traffic to my site. 

working on creating quality content

Purpose: Does my content solve a problem and why should anyone care? 

Problem-solving is a huge quality indicator as most readers are drawn into finding a solution to their own issues. People, when they consume travel content, have intent and want to know as much as possible about certain processes. What is the destination I am going to like? What is the best way to travel to said destination? Are there any hidden gems which I can explore? Are locals friendly and so on...

My target group are Millenials, so I'm aware they love to explore locally and prefer affordable accommodation. They are also fond of eating out and keen on "off the beaten track" adventures. 

Identifying your readers' needs and interest to produce relevant content, as a result, is called "Intelligent Content" - content creation based on data, audience profiles and industry insights. The more you know about your audience, their problems and desires, the more targeted you can produce your content, cater to their needs and convert them into sales. 

Sounds a bit creepy and stalkerish? Yeah, it is, but a great deal of my time goes into analytics and insight analysis. My main tools are Google Analytics and Audiense. Other helpful tools which I can recommend are Buzzsumo, a social listening tool, and AnswerThePublic

Whilst I disagree to a certain level of producing content purely for the demand of a readership, I am interested in my target audience and their needs. When are they online? What do they talk about? Is my audience mainly female or male? This is all useful research to spot and maximise opportunities for me rather than creating specific content because my readership demands it. 

jess-bailey planner and pen

I'm pretty sure everyone does research and analysis their audience from time to time, which is a healthy practice to do and vital to determine your blog's future journey. Plus knowing the topics and keywords your travel-hungry audience is talking about opens up many content ideas and inspiration such as How To posts, Where to stay in post, What to do in posts, hotel reviews or even Travel Diaries.  

Engagement: Will my audience react to my travel content and how? 

When I publish my travel content, I automatically ask for a response and call to action from my readers.  I've worked hard to provide quality content, so it is only natural that I want a reaction and some sort of feedback. 

This can be a Like, a comment or even a share on Social Media. Any reaction that shows that my readers have engaged and reacted to my content, is a great achievement. It means my content triggered enough motivation for them to get active. I was able to engage them and they found my content useful and shareable (which is another Google indicator for quality). 

Next question: How to trigger engagement?

I define engagement as the measurement of an individual's willingness to put forth discretionary effort.

One formula which works in Content Marketing is the GRAB - PROVOKE - CONVERT method to generate sales. Basically, my travel posts need to grab my readers attention (engage), provoke an emotional response which will then lead to action (commenting, sharing). 

I'm yet to master the principle of "grabbing" attention, which I'm aiming to achieve through producing better headlines. There are countless headline generators out there which can be consulted for research but the best way to grab my audience' attention has been through question-asking and controversial statements. 

Controversial statements contain subjective views which trigger a variety of emotions as displayed in Plutchik's wheel of emotions.

plutchiks wheel of emotions quality content

An example could be: 

A Complete Guide to Sydney     vs     48h in Sydney, the Most Boring City in The World

In the later headline, I've used "boring" which conveys my subjective, slightly negative views of Sydney. Now, my connotations with Sydney may be dampened, but I'm sure there are readers out there who would disagree with me. Readers, for example, who had a fantastic time in Sydney and share fond memories.

They may be outraged by my statement and, therefore, I've triggered two actions here: first, the disagreement and secondly, I may have stirred my readers' potential memories which they would like to share. In the next step, my reader would skim read through my article out of interest why I dislike the city they adore and then hammer away in the comment section to persuade me of the exciting sides of Sydney. Mission accomplished! 

There's another insight gained from this example, which is "identification". Identification in readers happens, when there are shared similarities and values which can form the basis of relation. This is important because if a reader reads about my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and can identify with any of my challenges, pain and happy moment of accomplishment, that reader is more likely to return and consume another post. After all, reader retention is also a key indicator of quality content. 

annie-spratt-sydney opera house on a clear crisp day

A second method which has worked well in content creation contains the three key elements of INFORM - INSPIRE - ENTERTAIN 

People consume online content for a variety of reasons and their reading habits tend to be rather shallow and short-lived in comparison to reading a book. Most skim-read and have a short attention span, so most online content aims to be informative, entertaining and light-hearted which allows a faster and easier read through the content. 

Think List posts or "17 Things You Should Do When Visiting Brisbane"

"Inspire" is similar to "Provoke" which indicates the trigger function that my travel article needs to have and animates my readership to interact with my piece. Inspire is definitely on the positive spectrum so my readers will be left with a positive impression and call to action. 

An example could be: I Quit My Job, Flew Solo Across The World And Would Totally Do It Again

seeing hte world from a different view with skydive australia

A job is the embodiment of adulthood. Quitting a job is something many of us would LOVE to do, but can't because of commitments, social limitations, no money or God knows what. 

So I've done something completely out of the norm - I refused to follow social convention and quit adulthood. Pretty badass, right? 

I also flew solo to the other side of the world, which some may find inspiring whilst others will be like "so what?". 

Anyway, I'm targeting the first group of people here and hope to inspire them by my boldness to "quit my job" and go against societal expectations. Then, further, I took the plunge to go by myself, alone (!) and travel a significant distance to another continent. Plus I indicate motivation to do it again, hence why I've triggered enough interest in the reader to check out the piece. 

Both examples, the provoke and inspire method, have been excellent strategies for me to create original and fresh content. 

Step 3: Share My Quality Travel Content On Social Media

Right, so my content is fully optimised and packed with useful informative context. Time to share it with the world!

Online promotion is an inevitable key element when blogging and driving traffic. When I share my blog link online, it creates a signal to Google. Though there's been debate on the SEO value of Social Media shares, one can't deny the impact of a regular and consistent promotion. 

However, travel bloggers need to be aware to not "overdo" it as an aggressive promotion online can look spammy and intrusive to your brand. 

A few years ago, work send me to Brighton SEO, a huge industry conference with keynote speakers and the latest developments in the industry. I was lucky to attend a talk by Mel Carson who introduced me to the AURA principle - the winning formula to produce high-quality content on Social Media. 

jamie-street-setting your compass to success

AURA stands for:

A ... Authentic - 60/40 split. Share 60% to promote my travel content and 40% private information
U ... Useful - Think about why someone should care about your content
R ... Relevant - Is the content relevant to my readers? Fashion news are probably not as engaging as travel
A .. Actionable - Does my travel content ask for a call to action

His main objectives for the principle were to create a better branding experience and make a better impression. Any produced content is a reflection of your brand and a creator should aim to produce discoverable, sharable and memorable contributions. 

An example could be my promotion of my latest post What To Expect When You Fly During The Corona Virus Pandemic.

tweet promoting my travel post on flying during the Cornona pandemic

My tweet includes my own personal flight experience (A) during the ongoing Corona Pandemic (U). I'm providing information on what to expect when flying these days (R) and have included RT services and hashtags to animate my readers to share my content (A). 

My tweet has generated 2k impressions, 4 likes and 2 RTs - overall not that much, but the piece attracted the attention of the national press. A few hours later, I was contacted by The Telegraph and provided a short interview on my flight experience and return to the UK. This wouldn't have happened if my content wasn't of high quality. 

Did they share a backlink to my blog? 

No, but that would have been the absolute cherry on top (Bye, Bye backlink juice). 

Small steps at a time...

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time, 

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