In any material about content marketing or blogging, you’ll find a lot of talk about creating highly valuable content. But what exactly does that mean? How exactly do you make your content highly valuable and avoid creating “fluffy” content?
In this post, you’ll discover an actionable 4-step system to make your content more valuable and more useful for your audience.
The system presented here is based on an important premise, which I already talked about in this video post: it’s not only the value in your post that matters, but also the time investment required for your audience to extract this value. In other words, an important (and often overlooked) factor is the “value density” of your content.
With that in mind, the following steps are as much about adding value to your content as they are about cutting the fat and increasing the value density.
Step 1: Action
There are generally two types of educational content: conceptual and practical.
The above sentence is an example of conceptual content. It’s nice to know, but there’s no indication of what exactly you’re supposed to do with this knowledge. If concepts are “did you know…” statements then practical advice is a “do this” statement.
To make your content more valuable, tie every concept to an action or recommendation. When you’re finished writing your outline or script, go through the text with this point in mind: for every piece of information in your content, check if it leads to an action step. Then, either add action steps throughout your content or summarize a “what to do next” action plan at the end.
Step 2: Examples, Images & Data
Some types of content are naturally more value-dense than others, which makes them a go-to value adding tool:
Whenever possible refer to real-life examples to illustrate the points you’re trying to make. For example, in this post about unique selling propositions, I present my system for evaluating the quality of a USP and then I give examples of this system applied to actual businesses and websites:
Take a look at the post and imagine how much less useful it would be if I had ended it after presenting the concept, without adding any examples. The examples make the theory come to life and increase the usefulness of content immensely.
Using images is also a good way to increase the value-density of your content, but it needs to be done right. Not every picture is worth a thousand words. The best kind of picture to use is one that illustrates and visualizes a process or an idea. The worst kind of image to use is a random stock-photo.
An image like this may not be very pretty, but it enriches the content and helps your reader understand something new…
…and it’s way better than something like this random success dude from a stock photo site.
Finally, use stats and data to validate your points. Data can help illustrate what you’re explaining and it can also make the crucial difference in how your content is perceived by your audience: good data makes the difference between content being viewed as “just some opinion” or it being internalized as “truth”. Here are two examples of how data can be used in content:
In this post about speeding up WordPress sites, I open the post with one simple statistic about page speed and user engagement and then encourage the readers to test their own website. It’s a small thing, but how much better is this than just stating “your website should be fast” and expecting readers to take my word for it?
One of my most popular posts ever, is sadly no longer relevant since some sweeping changes to the Google search engine. The success of this post had a lot to do with the fact that it is almost entirely based on testing and real-world data (note that the post is many years old and the data as well as recommendations no longer apply).
Look through your content and ask yourself: where can you emphasize your points with examples, images or data?
Step 3: Core Message & Saying No
Making your content more value-packed means saying “no” to some things. You’re passionate about the topics you write about and you probably easily go off on a tangent or get lost in details. For the sake of your audience, you have to learn how to cut out parts of your content that aren’t crucial.
To do so requires two things:
First, you need to be clear about the core message of your content. What’s the most important thing you want your readers to walk away with?
Just like you can check your content and for every paragraph, ask yourself “is this actionable?” (see step 1), you can ask yourself “does this serve the core message?” If the answer is “no”, delete the paragraph.
Cutting your content down to the essentials is a matter of skill. It’s simple, albeit it somewhat painful, to practice this process:
Create a piece of content, then set yourself a limit to 50% of its length and create it again. If you wrote 2,000 words, try and get the same point across in just 1,000 words. If you made a 10 minute video, try to get the same value across in 5 minutes.
Check out this video post for some examples of how my skill of “densifying” my video content increased over the years. Here’s another video that I re-published a few years after the original. The original video (linked at the bottom of the post) was around 12 minutes long. The new one clocked in at 7 minutes and if you watch both, I think you’ll agree that it doesn’t contain any less information or less value than the original.
Step 4: Split Your Content
To be clear: long content isn’t a bad thing. Step 3 isn’t only about creating shorter content, it’s about increasing the value-density in your content, no matter the length.
Long content can be very good, but it’s not for everyone and it doesn’t have the same appeal as quick, bite-sized pieces of content. If you do have a lot to say about something, consider splitting the content up into a smaller and a more extensive part.
Here’s an infographic about creating a minimum viable product.
The short and long pieces of content won’t appeal to the same audience. In general, short pieces are better for new visitors who are just getting to know you and longer pieces are great for the fans who already follow and trust you. There’s no reason to only cater to one of the two groups.
Whenever you have a lot to say about a topic, consider creating one very short “just the very basics” piece of content and one long, expansive, epic piece of content for the truly dedicated.
Arm yourself with the steps in this post and go forth and create some truly awesome content!
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