The Formula for Ridiculously Good Website Content

  •    Tim is a freelance business writer. He writes about the business of innovation, comics and genre entertainment on The Full Bleed.

Just having a website isn't enough to set you apart in a crowded market. Only those who take the time to write and regularly post good content win large audiences, says Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously GoodContent.

"Every single day, 4.7 billion pieces of content are shared, 1.8 billion photos are uploaded, 500 million tweets, 700 million snapchats, and if you are my friend on Facebook -- 400 gajillion of us are crushing it on Candy Crush. It's a very noisy world," Handley says, speaking at Authority Rainmaker 2015, a recent content marketing conference put on by Copyblogger Media.

How can you achieve success with your website or blog? Handley says there are five steps to creating ridiculously good content:

1. You do you.

Your voice is what sets you apart, so don't indulge in corporate speak or borrow phrasing you see elsewhere. Bring personality to the page. "Too often, writers don't make an effort to avoid sounding like everyone else," Handley says. "They speak the language of marketing rather than the language of customers." Ridiculously good content stands out because it sounds as unique as the person writing it. Handley's favorite example comes from Freaker USA, a maker of drink insulators that can't help but show its passion for beverage coolness in every piece of content at its site. "Humans have a special talent of finding connections with inanimate objects. Once upon a time, I knew a girl who was best friends with a toaster oven. That may be an extreme case, but nobody is immune. Did you have a childhood teddy bear? What's your lucky charm? Ever seen a dude fall in love with a motorcycle? The struggle is real," reads the blog post announcing Freaker's latest insulator, the Pizza Cat. Can you imagine any other blog in the world hosting that sort of content?

2. Infuse culture and context.

We all have distinct motivations and beliefs, especially when it comes to our work. What's more, the companies for which we work -- or which we are trying to build -- have distinct cultures and values. Use these details to inform your content. Why do you do what you do? What are you like to work with?

3. Reframe to add empathy for your customer.

Expressing yourself is one thing, using your unique voice to serve the reader is another. In her presentation, Handley highlighted a post from Tufts University's Dean of Admissions that refutes the idea that Facebook history is a factor in the selection process. "That's why it's called creeping, isn't it?," the post reads. (His entire blog is voiced similarly, with a bent towards providing service to incoming and existing students.) Notice the two-process there. First, he named the perceived problem ("a dubious Facebook history may work against me!") and then he pierced it with a dash of humor ("it's called creeping, right?"). Are your readers facing problems that might color the way they see your content? Name them and then address them in a voice that's uniquely you.

4. Do not dilute.

Why even have a website or blog if you aren't going to offer a unique point of view? Don't write because you think you should or because your competitors are. Write because you have something to say, and then dare to take a stand. "If you covered up your blog's logo, would you know it was you writing?," Handley says.

5. Sweat the small stuff.

Handley calls it the rule of "FIWTSBS," or "find interesting ways to stay boring stuff." Use language, voice, or even other platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to elevate the typical to unforgettable. A simple example: Swap out the standard Word document price list with an Instagram account that shows beauty shots of your products and descriptions written in haiku.

The Formula: Creating a Content Multiplier

Pulling it all together is where the magic gets created, Handley says. She even has a formula for it:

(C) x (S) x (E) = (UV)

Let's break this formula down:

  • (C)ulture: Who you are, why you do what you do
  • (S)tory: What you're like to work with
  • (E)mpathy: How you serve your customers/visitors
  • (U)nique (V)oice: The ideal voice for your ridiculously good content!

So Culture multiplied by Story multiplied by Empathy creates a Unique Voice for your content. Make your voice strong enough, and you'll produce the sorts of content that Handley says is "table stakes" -- a must-have for website owners operating in a noisy world.

"You've got to be producing good content as a cornerstone of your marketing because I think that is marketing. It's the only marketing that matters," Handley says.