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May 1, 2015

Why You Should Create More "Boring" Content

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I started my content journey the same way many other marketers do: Trying to "go viral."

Some of the posts I created were “72 Content Ideas for Fill Your Pipeline” and “50% of Searches Have Never Been Made Before.” Posts like these filled me with false hope -- they got thousands of hits and brought attention to my site, but did absolutely nothing to move the needle on my company’s monthly revenue (which was still $0). 

Then one day, out of sheer exasperation, I tried a different approach. Instead of just trying to get hits I decided to answer a real question that a real potential customer had asked me.

I run a quiz building platform, and the person had asked, “How do I make one of these personality quizzes I see on Facebook?” I thought no one really cared to read a technical guide on how to create a quiz, so I had ignored the request. However, when I hit that point of desperation, I decided to try writing a response “How to Make a Personality Quiz." The result? We landed our first paying customer through that article.

In fact, the week after that article went up, four people signed up and paid for Interact. And since then, more than 500 paying customers have come our way just from articles like the “How to Make a Personality Quiz” article.

The personality quiz article is what I call “boring content” because it won’t be up-voted on any forums or shared on social media -- the general internet reader couldn't care less. But the thing is, to a very specific person who needs to make a quiz for their marketing, that article is extremely valuable, and answers the exact question they need answered. These people also happen to be a great fit for our business.

If you're looking to start creating more "boring" content for your business, keep on reading. I'll show you how you can identify, build, and grow a base of "boring" content that has much better ROI for your business.

How to Create Better "Boring" Content

Find "Boring" Ideas

Just like I had to make the transition from making "click-bait" content to creating "boring" content, you’ll have to go through your own process to start creating helpful (but maybe not that interesting) posts. There are a few methods to make this change easier.

Listen

The reason it took me so long to embrace "boring" content in the first place was because I just wasn’t listening to the questions people were asking. No, I didn’t cut people off when they were talking to me or anything like that, but I didn’t do anything about answering the questions they were asking. Once I started really listening and answering questions through my content, the wheels began to turn.

Now 90% of our really useful content ideas come directly from questions our prospects and customers ask. I no longer disdain questions; I welcome them as opportunities for creating content.

Set Up Interviews

The questions people ask you out of the blue will be helpful for identifying easy wins in "boring" content, but to really dig into the specifics of what people want help with, you need to talk with them for an extended period of time.

To this day I reach out to customers and offer my help. Then, I’ll ask what kinds of questions they have about our product. I have yet to do a phone call and not walk away with a new idea for an article.

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Look in Your Analytics and Keyword Tools

One day I was checking out my analytics (as all marketers do), and I noticed someone had arrived on an article I wrote about embedding quizzes with the hyper-specific term: “Can I embed a quiz on Wix?” In response, I wrote an article called “How to embed a quiz in Wix." Simple, right? To date, that article has over 600 views, and it only took a few minutes to prepare.

I now consistently look at the terms people use to find our existing content to find opportunities for writing more articles.

The other place to look for ideas is the Google Keyword Tool. This one is more useful for validating an idea than finding new ones. If someone asks you a question and you want to know if there’s search volume to back up an article on that question, just type the question into the tool. (Editor's Note: HubSpot customers, you can also use the Keywords App to find suggestions and track your progress on those keywords.) 

Make "Boring" Content Interesting

I call "boring" content boring because it is not traditionally interesting, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable to read. Here’s my method for making "boring" content absolutely fascinating for the right audience.

Start by Going Long

Most marketers have seen the serpIQ graph below showing how top SERP’s are dominated by long-form content. It’s a staple of blog posts advocating long-form content.

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But just because something is recommended for an industry doesn't always mean that it will work for your company. So I wanted to see if the findings of serpIQ could be backed up by my own content. I divided all the posts into various categories by length and checked their SERPs. In general, my long-form content does have higher rankings:

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Now this doesn’t mean that just creating a long article about a random subject will automatically get you a higher ranking, but I do think it points to the fact that Google likes articles that fully explain a topic rather than just brushing over the facts.

This might seem like a difficult thing to do given that “boring” content feels, well, boring. However, you can make your "boring" content fun to read by using some other techniques traditionally preached in the content marketing world.

Use Real Examples

One of the best ways to answer a question is by showing how someone else solved that problem. For example, whenever I need to make a point about how to do something in my articles, I use a real example from a real company that did a good job. That way I can weave their narrative into the post to make it more memorable and instructive.

Add Visual Examples

With "boring" content you are often answering complex questions using words. One great way to simplify your content and make it useful to the reader is by visualizing examples and explanations.

There’s a stat going around that visual information can be processed 60,000 times faster than text. That may or may not be true, but I know that visuals make your articles more fun to read, which is a good thing when you are creating something called “boring” content.

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Use Real Numbers

According to a study by Conductorreaders most prefer headlines with numbers in them -- so that can be a great tactic you can use to engage people in "boring" content. 

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Build a Long-Term "Boring" Content Strategy

Once you begin to create "boring" content, you’ll find that the easy questions to answer will be gone quickly. There has to be a strategy in place for consistently finding new content ideas. Here are three ways to continually find winning ideas.

Keep a List of Questions

Every time someone asks you a question there is an opportunity to create a new "boring" post. I believe in something called the 10X rule, which means that if one person asks a question, there are at least ten others who have the same question -- they just didn’t ask it. Think back to your days in school: How many times did you wait for someone else to ask a question you had?

People still do that in the real world, so keeping a list of questions people ask ensures your idea queue is always full. I put every question in a new Trello card and have a number next to each question that represents the number of times that particular question has been asked.

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Take a Big Question and Break It Down Into More Specific Ideas

Sometimes when you begin to unravel a question it reveals a bunch of other questions that can be answered with content. Below I created a mind map of how I created eight blog posts based on the original “How do I make a personality quiz?” question. Some of the secondary ideas apply to specific industries, some apply to specific parts of personality quizzes (like the questions), and some are compilations of the best personality quizzes. Eight blog posts from one idea? Not too shabby.

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Have a Schedule and Stick to It

"Boring" content is not always viral content. You won’t be able to create one “blockbuster” post and rely on it to drive immediate, massive results. You need to consistently publish "boring" content several times a week to make an impact. VC Tomasz Tunguz calls it the "compounding returns of content." 

I actually mapped out every single blog post I've published on a chart below to show how consistent, helpful content can build traffic over time.

As you can see, most posts get fewer than 10 page views per day, but they are very consistent because that traffic is primarily coming from search for very long-tail terms. However, when you look at how many lines there are, it begins to really add up. That traffic is consistent over time and creates a base of visitors that you can rely on.

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Have a Call-to-Action on Each Post

Every post you create should link to a landing page or product page that's very specific to the topic of the post -- it helps increase conversions. For example, I'd want to have a CTA to “Make a quiz for your Weebly site at Interact” on a post about putting quizzes inside Weebly.

I wanted to see just how big the discrepancy was between my "boring" posts and my “click-bait” posts was when it came to clickthrough, so I installed Crazy Egg and tracked the link clicks. The results were astounding: "Boring" content had a 28% clickthrough rate to the main site, whereas the general interest "click-bait" posts only achieved a 3% clickthrough.

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The reason for this massive difference is just relevance. The "boring" articles are more closely related to what my company does, so the clickthrough to the site is incredibly higher than my general interest articles.

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Now Over to You

If you’re like me and have tried creating fun "click-bait" content with no success, give "boring" content a try. The process is simple enough: Start by answering questions, create articles that are interesting to read for the small group of people who will read them, and then create a long-term strategy for sourcing and building out a "boring" content strategy. 

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Topics: Content Marketing

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