How to Create Truly Unique Content
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Search marketing firm WordStream recently demonstrated just how powerful a unique piece of content can be. Using a single piece of content about Google’s revenue in 2011, they were able to get links from The Wall Street Journal, Wired, New York Times, INC, and so on. This is just one example of many. Turn to Cracked or OkCupid for more examples of how amazing content can skyrocket your search engine visibility.
We have said before that truly powerful content needs to bring something new to the table, and offered some pretty specific advice about what great content looks like, and what your broad strategy should look like. Now we’d like to take some time to focus specifically on what makes content “unique,” and how you can produce it regularly.
Start With Raw Data
We’ve mentioned before that unique content starts with data from difficult sources. A few examples:
Government and educational archives
Peer reviewed academic papers (Google Scholar is your friend)
Interviews with experts and insiders
On top of that, any kind of proprietary tool or knowledge that you have access to should be used as a source of data whenever it makes sense. (This is the secret to OkCupid’s success).
It’s easy to list these sources and be done with it, less easy to figure out how to use them properly. With that in mind, here are a few ideas.
Reaching the Experts
Start with experts who already have something to promote, and are good at promoting themselves. A Twitter search is a good place to start. These are great people to interview because they already have a reason to interact with you for the exposure, and they are respected authorities and influencers in their sector of the market.
It’s a good idea to bring in experts from a tangential industry as well. Everything is related on some level, so don’t be afraid to stretch a bit and look for unique and novel connections between your subject matter and others. These connections will spice up your content, making it even more novel, and may even help you learn relevant things you weren’t aware of.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to post a direct interview with a single expert. Other times, you can mix things up by asking a wide variety of questions from a larger collection of sources. When you compile all of it together, you have a powerful piece of content, as well as a large number of influencers who have helped you to produce it, and will likely be willing to help promote it.
On top of people who want to promote themselves, it can be a good idea to reach out to “insider sources,” the kind of people who aren’t necessarily eager to promote themselves, but who could be sitting on information that would draw a large audience. Getting information from these people isn’t necessarily as easy, but since you’re not directly asking for links, there’s no harm in bringing financial incentives into the mix. You may even consider working with a Private Investigator. Of course, no matter what you do, you want to stay on the right side of ethics, or risk finding yourself in a legal and PR quagmire.
Mining the Tough Sources
Apart from direct contact with experts, the other sources of raw data mentioned can be difficult to sift through. This, of course, is exactly why they are so valuable, but finding the information you need and turning it into an article isn’t nearly as easy as browsing Twitter for trending stories and rewording the content.
Google Scholar is often the best place to start, but rarely will you be able to find what you are looking for by typing your keyword into the search bar and hitting enter. Instead, you’ll need to do a bit of preliminary research about the keyword, often on Wikipedia, to see what the academic community has to say about the subject, and what’s related.
After you get a good idea of the right words to search for, you can start plugging away and see what comes up. Look for the most surprising pieces of information and save the links in a spreadsheet. At this point you shouldn’t be thinking about article structure. Your goal should simply be to collect surprising and entertaining information. The article abstracts are often enough, but for the most surprising pieces of information you will probably want to get access to the original paper or contact the original author for followup questions.
Afterward, you can start searching for some of the same keywords in Google, after restricting your search to .edu and .gov sites. Sometimes numerical tables are the best things you can get your hands on. Running the data through an Excel spreadsheet can turn up some interesting info if you know what you’re doing. This will be overkill in a lot of cases, but sometimes overkill is the best way to get noticed.
Finally, you can start plugging the keywords into Amazon and looking for some paper books to get your hands on. Often just skimming through a book can give you some insights you would never come across online.
Constructing the Content
Since we’ve discussed how to put this information together before, we won’t go too deep into this. But to sum up:
1. Focus only on the information that is surprising, controversial, funny, sexy, counterintuitive, alarming, cute, or helpful.
2. Use images, bullet points, subheadings, and small paragraphs. Add navigational links if the content gets too long.
3. Transform all the information that can be visually represented into an infographic if it is within your budget.
4. Use anecdotes, don’t be excessively formal, start the article off with a hook that makes it hard to turn away, and don’t waste space on words that will waste people’s time.
So there you have it, a recipe for producing genuinely unique content. As always, this isn’t the only way to accomplish it, and your mileage may vary. Creativity is key here, and always start with a subject you already know people will care about.