How To Analyse Your Ideas To Find Killer Content
Finding content that will garner authoritative links at volume is, on paper, an easy task. Simply think of an interesting content idea that is relevant to your client, find the right people to get in contact with, sell them your idea (which shouldn’t be hard because it’s so interesting it sells itself!) and sit back to watch the links come flooding in. Easy!
Unfortunately, in practice getting links from content is a lot more difficult to do. Finding a content idea that can sell itself and stand out from the crowd is in fact an extremely challenging task. So what can you do to find that killer idea?
Content Ideation – The STEPPS to SUCCES
Since finding the right content idea is so difficult I have found it beneficial to bounce ideas off colleagues and friends. A method we have utilised to good effect here at Screaming Frog the 6-3-5 Brainwriting technique; this is a fantastic way to generate a wide variety of ideas and get the ball rolling on the journey to content domination!
What I would like to focus on in this post, however, is not how to think of ideas, but rather how to analyse the ideas you have in order to filter them and choose the best idea of the bunch so you can get maximal success and return for a client, or indeed alter an idea you already have in order to have a greater appeal.
This is where I like to take inspiration from two fantastic books – Contagious by Jonah Berger and Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Whilst the books deal with subtly different ideas, how to make ideas that are shareable and how to make ideas that are memorable respectively, there are overlapping factors and valuable lessons to be learned from both.
Contagious and Made To Stick – terrible traits for diseases, but fantastic for ideas!
The framework the books use rely on several different elements, which combined give us the STEPPS to SUCCES. Whilst I know that these are technically misspelled versions of the “steps to success”, we are going to take more of a phonetic approach to things! These are shown below with a very brief explanation of each element:
S – Social Currency – Sharing the idea must be beneficial to the sharer, improving their reputation by providing valuable information that will be appreciated by their peers.
T – Triggers – The idea must be frequently reminded of in everyday life.
E – Emotion – The idea should evoke emotion, particularly positive emotions such as happiness, hope or humour.
P – Public – The more public an idea is, the more people will see it and be likely to imitate it and share themselves.
P – Practical Value – The idea being of practical, everyday use helps it to be shared.
S – Story – Stories are relatable and timeless. Finding a story behind content can make it extremely shareable.
S – Simple – Being able to instantly recognise the concepts behind an idea are crucial.
U – Unexpected – Unexpected ideas immediately grab attention by changing our routine patterns of thought.
C – Concrete – If your idea can be simply described or detected by human senses it is concrete, if it can be applied to existing schemas it is likely to be a success, like many fables show.
C – Credible – Making your content credible, by using authority, anti-authority, statistics, The Sinatra Test or testable credentials will ensure your content is shared and ultimately, linked to.
E – Emotion – Just as above, if you can elicit strong positive emotions from content it is far more likely to be successful.
S – Story – Fables, myths and legends have survived generation after generation. Stories are powerful things if you can get it right in your content.
I won’t spend too long explaining each point further as I cannot possibly do the books justice – but if you haven’t found the time to read through them and are involved in content marketing to any extent it is something that I would definitely recommend doing. They offer countless marketing examples for each point and push them home to make the ideas clear and actionable in your own work!
I should mention here that while duplication is generally a bad thing in the SEO world, if I were to eliminate the repeated points of “Emotion” and “Story” from the above it would lead to me be discussing the STEPPS to SUCC – which no matter how well argued just doesn’t send the right phonetic message, so I have chosen to keep them in there!
He’s on his way to world of coverage!
Why Are Some Ideas Successful?
Throughout my first year at Screaming Frog it has become clear that there are some themes that tend to see more success than others in the world of SEO, link-building and content marketing. I am going to focus in on a few of these general themes of content that I have found to be particularly good at gathering interest and apply the STEPPS to SUCCES framework to them in an attempt to dissect why they work and to highlight why you too should use this framework to help choose your ideas in the future!
We tend to create a lot of visual content for clients; this type of content is very shareable because it displays information quickly to an audience and is easily digestible – perfect for outreaching to a wide range of different sites. As such, most of the examples I am going to discuss refer primarily to visual content, however, I strongly believe this method can be used to create successful content in any form.
Before we dive in, it should also be mentioned that for a content piece to achieve authoritative backlinks at volume it does not have to fulfill EVERY aspect of the STEPPS to SUCCES checklist – however, generally speaking, if it is ticking many boxes there is a higher chance you are on the right track to gaining coverage!
Many brands are extremely well known and as such providing information about them immediately gives the idea Social Currency – it improves the reputation of the sharer by providing others access to this information. Similarly, if popular brands are discussed this provides Triggers since the brands are seen very frequently, which can remind people of your content and make it relevant.
Depending on what particular aspect of brands you are exploring, this topic can also highlight the Story factor – as each brand has their own unique history – an example of this could be a piece of content looking at how certain brands got their names or logos. People love to hear about ideas in context and that is exactly what providing a Story brings to the table. Furthermore, delving into brands can also uncover Unexpected information that is not previously common knowledge, which can further the interest in the content.
The Science Behind X
Science is the ultimate buzzword to makes things Credible. Having a background in science myself, it can be frustrating to see the attention that some posts receive despite actually being very unscientific! Whilst I would never suggest spreading false or inaccurate information, the fact that some sub-par content gathers such interest is testament to the power that science can have on an audience.
If the information being shown is Unexpected, this is another huge factor to success and also massively increases the Social Currency of the piece. A science piece will make the sharer look intelligent and interesting – perfect to spread an idea and gather interest for you content. These ideas also often lend themselves to Practical Value, for example, a content piece on what The Science of Sleep, could give indications on how you can fall to sleep quicker or feel less tired in the mornings, giving actionable points to readers.
And that is, in simple terms, how to go viral according to science…
X Around The World
The success of “Around The World” content pieces lies in their Concreteness – they compare features which everybody experiences in their own country but are different depending on where you are in the world. Due to this they often highlight Unexpected information, but also have Practical Value, since the information they provide can be useful when actually travelling to different countries and exploring different cultures.
Furthermore, since lots of people love to travel, they are ideas that are Triggered often. The fact that they are interesting also gives them Social Currency, as sharing can improve the reputation of the sharer by showing their worldliness and interest in other cultures.
Novelty Product Linkbait
I wanted to also include an example of a different type of content that can be very effective and extremely shareable – creating a novelty product. Every time I see an example of a novelty product getting attention online (which is very often!) it immediately grabs my attention. Why is this? The products that work and get significant pick up online all tick several boxes of the STEPPS to SUCCES checklist.
To delve into this a bit further I will use an example of a novelty product release that I was involved in and introduce the Privi-Pee Cape, which can be seen being fashioned below.
The Privi-Pee Cape! Coming to a shop near you…never!
On the back of results from a survey we ran which suggested that 30% of men had experienced stage fright at some point in their lives and that the majority of men would rather use a cubicle than a urinal adjacent to one already in use, the concept of the Privi-Pee was born.
The product, a cape for men to wear at urinals to combat stage fright, is Simple – it is literally just a cape with suckers to stick on to a bathroom wall. It fulfills the Triggers factor since men often have to use public urinals and the ridiculous images used make it humorous – a positive Emotion. It is Unexpected since it is not often you see a man resembling a Jedi in the reserved setting of public toilets. Sharing the content also gives Social Currency because the awkwardness of public urinals is well-known – applying a humorous context to this situation is favourable for the sharer by showing them to be relatable. With all these points considered, it is perhaps no surprise that this idea gathered coverage from outlets such as the Huffington Post, AOL, Metro, The Daily Dot and Maxim and also being featured on US television!
One interesting point to discuss with novelty products is how having Practical Value influences their success. Whilst the cape arguably has some Practical Value, realistically looking ridiculous at a urinal will draw more attention to a person than it will prevent embarrassment. The cape therefore actually accentuates the problem of stage fright – the problem it is supposedly trying to solve.
I have seen some examples of novelty products backfiring because they offered too much Practical Value – they offered a service that consumers actually wanted and when revealed to be just a novelty and not really available left a bad taste, both from the side of consumers who no longer have the opportunity of a service they genuinely feel that they would benefit from, and from the side of the journalists and outlets that shared the story who now feel duped. The key to novelty product linkbait is having something that is seemingly a conceivable product, is funny and relatable, but ultimately of very limited use. So despite my insistence on using the STEPPS to SUCCES to create content that works – this is one interesting exception to the rule. We can call it the exception that proves the rule, if you will!
N.B. Although these are general themes that we have found to be successful – it goes without saying that you still need to find a unique and interesting angle to go with them. The Science Behind Paint Drying isn’t going to be gathering many links, despite the head start that using the science theme gives you!
Creating Content Is Hard
Since reading Contagious and Made To Stick and applying the teachings from these books I have found I have had more success in the content I have created and it has given me a greater understanding of what makes content shareable and interesting. The methods described in the book I find to be an invaluable predictor of whether content has the ability to gather significant pick up and ultimately get the all-important coverage.
However, as I touched upon earlier, creating content is hard! Unfortunately for us – this is something that doesn’t ever change. Even since applying the STEPPS to SUCCES checklist to choose ideas in my work, some pieces did not perform as well as I had hoped. There are many other factors that can influence how a piece does, including finding the relevant websites to target, finding the right person to contact from an outlet, having the right format of content and of course, the often overlooked (or ignored!) factor that plays a massive role – luck to name just a few. There is no automatic route to successful content, but I have found that utilising this checklist has allowed me a much better prediction of how a piece of content will perform.
So next time the pressure is on from a client and you need to ensure your next piece of content gets the views, links and shares that are demanded of it, don’t endure sleepless nights with worry – try running your ideas through the STEPPS to SUCCES checklist to help you make those difficult content decisions and find that killer idea!