Originally published in 2013, I’ve updated this blog post to reflect new information and remove outdated references.
We’ve set aside time to plan out the content we are going to use to market our business and the blank page stymies us. We’ve diligently read the blogs, newsletters, and trade press associated with our industry and we still don’t have any idea what to write. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time staring at blank pages hoping to fill the void with brilliant words. Hoping rarely leads to a written blog post.
I’ve learned with experience and guidance from others a set of content creation strategies to overcome the blank page doldrums. I’ve reformulated these strategies into three broad topics so I could use a title I thought was clever.
A Cheesy Example
I personally like examples to break away from the abstracts. I’m going to pretend I own a cheese shop (I spell it shoppe because it makes it feel old timey).
At Sean’s Cheese Shoppe we have a very active social media presence sharing tips on how to buy cheese, how to store cheese, and how to eat cheese. My staff and I write blog posts about trends in cheese, sharing our opinions on different types of cheese, and joining in the latest cheese memes (so many cheese memes!). We don’t have an aggressive content calendar – just putting up one to two blog posts a week, creating one significant graphic a week which gets altered to fit the platform it is being published on: Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. We send out a monthly email newsletter with snippets from the 3 best performing blog posts, information about in store events, and of course a coupon to drive readers into buyers.
A year of doing this, I can tell you that sometimes that well of ideas looks pretty dry. I’ve already weighed in on the White Cheddar Debate, the Fondue Fiasco, and even dabbled in discussions about mold. I have interviews with cheesemakers regarding cheesemaking. I have interviews with sommeliers about which wines pair well with different cheeses. Now I have another month of content to create and the blank spots in the calendar are mocking me. My staff are proposing blog posts on Velveeta, nachos, and pizza cheese mixes — again.
It’s time to implement the Respond, Reuse, and Recycle content creation strategies.
Content Creation Strategies
Take a look at your email inbox. Look at forums related to your industry. Go on Reddit, Yahoo! Answers, Quora, your own blog comments section and take a look at the questions people are asking about your industry, about products related to your industry, and about your company specifically.
Email and Customer Questions
The first stop on this journey is the Sean’s Cheese Shoppe customer service desk, email inbox, and blog. What have our customers been asking? Since this is pretend I get to make up some stuff here but I’m going to base it on my own questions. It is summer and people are going to picnics, cookouts, and other special events that require traveling distances in the summer heat. A common question relates to “traveling with cheese” and the kinds of artisanal cheeses which can take a bit of summer heat. Nobody wants to arrive at a friend’s house with a plate of cheese that is oozing oily liquids. This type of question offers the opportunity to highlight the hard cheeses my store carries which make perfect cheeses to take out in the summer heat and still impress friends.
Now onto Reddit.com. Reddit.com/r/askreddit where people ask all sorts of odd and absurd questions. I type in ‘cheese’ to see what kinds of questions people are asking about my favorite dairy product.
Not all the questions ask relate directly to cheese, but there are a few. There seems to be a lot of interest in three key cheese related foods: grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, and pizza. It’s a start and it has given me an idea to create cheese blends to sell relating to these specific products. One question in particular caught my eye, though. “What is a less common cheese that ore people need to know about?” I think there is potential there but I’m not done.
Now I pop over to Yahoo! Answers and see what people there are asking about cheese.
Not a wide variety but there are a few opportunities. “How is cheese made?” seems like a great informational article where I could pull in YouTube videos and other resources.
From these three locations, I have come up with at least four ideas of blog content. If I do the “less common cheese” post, I can take pictures, add text identifying the types of cheese, and post those on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to keep those channels humming with content. I’ll make sure to ask my followers for their contributions and acknowledge them.
One of the best sources of new content is old content. Insert the sound of a record being scratched here (what is the 2020 equivalent of the record scratch?). I am not saying go back to your old content, copy it, and post it as new content. Doing that will create all sorts of issues with duplicate content and all that headache a cheesemonger doesn’t want to think about. No, what I am saying is I’m going to go back through all the blog posts I’ve written and group them by theme. I have several blog posts related to cheddar cheeses. I can pull them all together into one post. The many blog posts I’ve written on cheese debates (Emmentaler vs. Schabziger, Blue vs. Rouquefort, Sheep Milk Cheeses vs. Goat Milk Cheeses) and create one large post reusing the points made in those posts to create a new one.
Reusing content does take finesse. Curating my own content is not an easy task. Some of the content will need to be rewritten and updated. I won’t be able to lift the whole post and will need to clearly identify the parts I am reusing, write the proper paragraphs to bridge between the different sections, and write an opening closing framework. Reusing content doesn’t mean giving up on the work, it just means the time isn’t spent on research.
Wait, isn’t recycling the same as reusing? Sort of. In the strictest sense it would be taking content used one way and making something brand new and different with it. This analogy isn’t easily applied to content and it isn’t what I was thinking. The thought I had under this category was to take the trash of others and use it for your own purpose.
What is the trash of others in this context? I’m going to go to Google and search for the keywords I’ve set as vital to my store. Cheese making being one of them, obviously. I specifically am going to search for blog posts about cheese. This used to be easy to do because Google had a “Blog” category you could search. Without that we need to do a little bit more digging and be a bit more creative in a search queries. A good example is US cheese trends blog. Using the Tools, I change the date range to all of 2017. I figure any trend post from 2017 can be updated in 2020 with new information.
Using Google Search Tools
What I’m looking for are topics that can be revisited, revised, and redone. Like these two:
These are research starting points. I will make sure I identify the original inspiration and link back to it. This is really great for articles about trends, or even reviews of newly released items. I can provide an update of the trend, its current status, and anything new that has developed. If the post was on something like “human cheese”, I would take a completely different approach on it, revisiting the topic and seeing what new developments have occurred.
I would never suggest someone copy the words someone else has written. I would, however, strongly suggest to someone to find inspiration in the work of others. Find new angles on old topics. Building on what other’s have done is exactly how we expand our knowledge. Revisiting what others have written is part of creating an ongoing dialogue and is the difference between a throwaway blog post and something that is more significant.
Yes, I’m harping on this following point a lot but I want to make sure it is clear – don’t copy the work of others. We still have to do the work or else we aren’t creating the quality content our customers expect from us.
Turning Content Creation Strategies Into Content
Once I’ve gone through all the steps I should have several solid ideas for new blog posts. I can write them or I can farm them out to my staff (or hired professional writers if the budget is available). Once written, I will make sure to avoid common blogging mistakes and keep the momentum going. Blogs are an important part of a viable web presence. It is really easy to launch a website with minimum information, but will that be compelling in a year? A blog with well-written content, updated consistently shows customers there is energy behind the website. Think of it like the difference between a bustling store with a lot of activity and an empty store with cobwebs and dust. A blog is a tool that allows you to speak directly to potential customers and loyal customers alike.
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