F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "You write not because you want to say something, but because you have something to say."
These are two very different approaches and they're relevant to the way we create content for SEO. While the first will create passable but unexciting content, the second has the potential to create something that is powerful and engaging.
Often in SEO, we have to take the first approach. Our clients need content for their site and we have to produce it for them. We write because we want – or need – to say something.
Yet the very best writing comes when we have something to say. Something that is unique, surprising and has an impact on our client's customers. And it is our job to help them create it.
So how do we move from passable to great content?
Let's look at four types of writing:
- Writing based on your own knowledge.
- Writing based on web research.
- Writing based on information clients provide.
- Writing based on what you encourage your client to discover or reveal.
1. Writing Based on Your Own Knowledge
Few of us have knowledge of more than a few topics, nor the authority to write well about them. This approach inevitably creates thin content and is not recommended.
2. Writing Based on Web Research
We have all honed our research skills on the web to become "instant experts" on a whole range of subjects. A few carefully crafted searches, some assiduous scanning and editing, and we can create passable content.
But the danger is that all we are doing is regurgitating what we've found and not creating anything original.
The process allows us to create content quickly but the downside is that we might perpetuate inaccuracies and spread stuff that is wrong. No matter how good our skills, the content we produce is unlikely to be engaging.
3. Writing Based on Information Clients Provide
Now we're moving on much more solid ground where we have good material to work with.
But often the writer works to a brief and doesn't even meet the client. So the resulting content depends on the quality of the brief the writer is given, the background provided and the subsequent editing.
Perhaps this is the most common type of writing in SEO.
But content based on an uninspiring brief is also likely to be uninspiring – and so we have to push the client a little further.
4. Writing Based on What You Encourage Your Client to Discover or Reveal
This is where you can bring real value – you enable your client not just to say something but to them discover something worth saying. That means:
- Really listening:Sometimes the greatest insights come after a formal meeting. Chatting over a coffee or on the way to the car park, a hospitality event, an industry gathering.
- Asking probing questions:Show a natural curiosity, try to understand your client's motivation and the implications of what your client is saying. Asking the right questions is a great consultancy skill.
- Helping your client see things from a different perspective: Introduce new topics, share interesting articles, educate your client, challenge their assumptions.
This leads to perspectives that are fresh and original – and unique to your client. As a result, the content will also be fresh and original