Although you just read 900 words of passionate prose you are still left with the feeling that the author had missed the point.
You might have even came to the same conclusion about your content.
Great Content or Great Marketing?
Lately, I’ve been working on a project to quickly evaluate a blog post and calculate a “Great” score. It sounds geeky but I want to finally put some quantitative muscle behind the subjective advice to write “great content”.
I’ve been at this for about 6 months now and have dissected nearly 100 top posts. At first, the evaluation didn’t bear any fruit. It seemed that the key ingredient for writing great content was to already be a popular blogger with a high traffic blog! Soon I realized that my criteria for picking great posts was the culprit. A post made my list of it generated more than 200 retweets, 20 comments, and 100 likes.
Disappointed I realized that I was just analyzing the “best promoted” posts not necessarily the best written posts. Yes there is overlap but I suspect that popular bloggers with well honed marketing strategies could make my list with mediocre posts.
So I went back to square one.
Finally, I settled a measure that Google has been using since 1995, how many other bloggers mention the post in their own blog posts. Good ole’ links to the rescue. Basically, my hypothesis is that great content is used as the basis for posts by other bloggers. While clicking retweet is relatively low risk, giving another blogger real estate on my blog is high risk and prompts me to question the utility of their post.
Like you, I only mention great posts on my blog.
Using this criteria, my mega list of great posts shrank to dozen posts that shared a surprising characteristic.
The Content Ladder…
As a strategist, I’ve learned how to tell the difference between data and insight. Imagine a ladder with 4 rungs.
The bottom rung (1) is data. Data is raw observation. It hasn’t been evaluated or organized. Data is essential but not useful in its raw form.
Example: a list of 100 posts
The next rung (2) is information. Information is categorized data. Categorizing the data allows the reader to begin making a few assumptions about the value of the data.
Example: 50 posts used a “how-to” headline, 25 posts used a number in their headline, 25 posts used a non-templated headline.
Rung 3 is Knowledge.
Knowledge is interpreted information. In this case, the writer has looked at the raw information, categorized it, and drawn some conclusions from the information. Most of us are looking for knowledge. We see the data and information but don’t have the time or skill to draw any helpful conclusions from it.
Example: How to posts specifically offer readers a tangible reward, a new skill. Readers can infer from the “how-to” headline that their will be a return on the attention investment.
Most of us content creators stop there. The rung of knowledge seems to satisfy readers and is a fairly reliable basis for good posts.
But…Great Content goes one step further…
Rung 4, the top of the ladder is Insight.
Insight is a slippery bugger. Insight is the “aha” that springs from studying "knowledge’. Insight usually offers a different way to interpret the connections between each rung of the content ladder. Insight is deep understanding that helps the reader intuitively apply the data, information, and knowledge to their situation.
Example: Readers are asking a question – “is this worth it?” The best bloggers have an intuitive often refined sense of what their readers value and what they are willing to invest to get it.
Great Content Tells an Insight Story
After reading a great post, my first question is “how can I use this?”. Many times that means, I’ll write a post that extends the original post’s concept or write a piece that makes the content applicable to my audience. During that process I always reference the original post with a link. Hundreds will do the same. Sometimes, the insight becomes a meme – reaching a "tipping point.
What is the common thread that describes these popular thinkers?
George Lucas (…think about it)
Martin Luther King
You get a gold star if you said “insight”. We can take this a step further by saying that they found an easily accessible and understood medium for sharing their insight.
I’ve Set the Bar High
Once I had this “aha” moment, I felt myself beginning to tip over into an unrecoverable flat spin. So does this mean that I have to write like Martin Luther King and Malcolm Gladwell!? Kill me now.
The good news is that the real lesson here is to set “insight” as the goal. Commit to moving the conversation forward. You can’t do this by simply re-listing and regurgitating data (the infamous echo chamber).
Instead, ask yourself, what is the “deeper magic” at play here? Do this and the quality of your content will steadily improve.
What do you think?