7 Steps Toward Better Content

Posted: March 12, 2012

Your content is ultimately what drives traffic to your website. It’s why people visit your site in the first place. They want to know what’s going on at your institution, or have a particular question they want answered.  Anybody can type up a quick blog post about what’s happening in your department or institution, but if you’re trying to differentiate yourself from competitors, the trick is to figure out how to make people care about what you’ve produced.

There are whole books that address this sort of thing, but here are just a few tips to consider when trying to spice up your content.

1. Learn how to write great headlines.

Your headline is the first impression you make on your audience. If you don’t do it right, it might be the last you make. That’s why it’s important to create headlines that grab people. There are all different types of ways to write a headline, but here are a couple of tips to consider:

  • Be simple and direct.
  • Give people a reason to care. What do they get out of it?
  • Offer information that matters. You might think the contrary, but most people don’t really want more facts floating around in their brain. Unless your headline promotes information that they’ll find useful, it’s unlikely that article will grab page views.

2. Shape your content appropriately.

Nowadays, more so than ever, simplicity is key with how you organize your article on a page. People read differently on the web, often scanning quickly over information to get a general meaning on an idea as opposed to an in depth one. Therefore, the easier it is to find and process information on your website, the longer your readers will be likely to stick around. Make it easy for a reader to find meaning in your copy.

  • Use the inverted pyramid structure. This format gives the reader the most important information first, with less important details falling toward the bottom of the article.
  • Employ subheads, lists and bullet points to help break down big ideas and make them easier to digest.
  • Link to other pages with supporting content. Not only are you giving your reader the option for more information, you’re also making your page more noticeable to search engines.

3. Don’t be afraid to use infographics.

Numbers can be pretty intimidating, but they can make an impact if presented in the right fashion. Infographics, visual displays of the information you’re trying to present, are a great way to boost the impact of your content. If you aren’t an artist with the ability to make a great infographic, talk to someone who is.

  • Try to tell a story with the data you’re pushing.
  • Make them sharable with a great headline.
  • Aim to condense and simplify complex material.

4. Have an appropriately sized photo when possible.

Photos are a great way to add meaning to your articles. In addition to a catchy headline, it’s a great way to draw a reader’s eye to the content you’ve created.

  • Photos should help tell your story.
  • Find photos with dimensions versatile enough to fit multiple platforms (desktop, tablet, mobile, etc.). Finding photos that work for each will naturally take more time, but the payoff will be noticeable when you make it work.
  • Keep photos proportional if you have to resize them for other platforms. Unfortunately, content managers still make the mistake of allowing photos to be stretched or squeezed beyond their proportional constraints to fit a space on their site. If you can’t find a photo that isn’t proportionally accurate, it’s better not to use one at all.

5. Embed or link to supporting video or audio.

When it comes to getting a feel for a particular academic program, no tool is potentially more useful for prospective students than video. More often than not, we’d all rather watch something than read it. While the goal is to get people to read what you’ve written, it never hurts to link or embed a video that strengthens what you’ve posted. It’s a great way for students to get an idea of the faculty they might be learning from, or what a particular program stands for.

  • Videos don’t have to be shot on $5,000 cameras or edited by Hollywood professionals. It just needs to convey ideas and information simply, just like written content.
  • Keep them short. According to a recent study, more than half of viewers click away from a video after a minute of playtime, so make sure you get to the point quickly.

6. Interact with your readers.

If you’re able to foster a positive and professional relationship with readers, they’re more likely to keep coming back for more.

  • Plug your article on social media platforms. You know the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Make an effort to respond to feedback, positive or negative. If a reader has a question, try your best to answer it for them.

7. Keep SEO in mind.

Great content is useless if people can’t get to it. This is probably an obvious one, but you really do need to apply SEO (search engine optimization) strategy to each step of your content creation process. You have to understand the basics of how search works, and then apply that knowledge toward:

  • How you write headlines.
  • How you link to other websites.
  • How you structure written content.

If SEO strategy isn’t your forte, talk to someone who knows it.