Creating Authoritative Content Without Client Input

 
 

Client Punching My face

I tend to talk about the importance of content till my clients want to punch me in the face.

I can understand why. Creating “great” content can be hard without client input. After all, you’re an expert in SEO, not warehouse racking (contender for the most boring industry and yes, real client). It usually requires extensive client input to develop anything meaningful, and clients generally don’t have the time. Besides, “what are we paying you for”.

So I’ve been working on ways to develop authoritative content without any substantial input from the client.

The following are some of the stages and processes I use to develop authoritative content for clients.  I’ll also try giving some examples for a plumbing website (because let’s face it, by and large, plumbers aren’t big on creative web content).

Understanding & Researching the Subject

The biggest problem with creating content for an industry you’re not familiar with is lack of knowledge. It’s not efficient to spend hours studying the industry yourself and (in my experience) it’s rare to find a copywriter who is either knowledgeable about the industry or truly capable of doing good research. For this reason, I like to break down this phase as follows:

1. Identify features, benefits and stakeholders

Thinking specifically about the features, benefits and stakeholders can provide you with more diverse and actionable ideas.

Using the plumbing example, if I jumped straight into articles I could write, I’d probably come up with something like “How to fix a dripping tap”. Not bad, but limited in potential and there are already 131,000 results for that query. It’s also unlikely that anyone will link to our article. If I instead look at features and benefits of hiring a plumber, I’d probably come up with the topics and themes of:

  • Improving the appearance of your home – Interior design
  • Saving water or energy – Environmental issues
  • Improving the safety of your home – Family/Safety
  • Supporting local small business – Small Business/Local Commerce
  • Not having to deal with issues yourself – Convenience

Those aren’t article titles, but entire themes you can develop. Let me pause on that for a second. You no longer have to think of an interesting or useful article about plumbing; you can go super broad and write/discuss/engage on anything in those categories.

I’d love to talk about this some more, but I suspect it would put people off reading. If you want to talk about this more, get in touch on Google Plus.

2. Outline the topic with bullet points

This is where you may need some client input, or you can do your own basic research. I find it helps to come up with the broad shape of any content before you contact a researcher or a writer. If you’ve done any level of content creation, you’ll know engaging ‘creators’ without giving a specific brief, can result in 10 hours spent on something quite useless for your purposes.

When outlining the topic, make sure you cover the:

  • Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
  • Initial structure of any content (Consider providing a specific structure of headings)
  • List useful resources and examples of similar content
  • If providing a brief, suggest length, tone, explain the purpose and how it will be used and for whom
Be clear before you start on what you need to know, where you’re going to get the information, what the piece of content is going to look like and how you’re going to structure the information. For maxium SEO value, you should also do some research on who is linking to the kind of content you’re planning to create and have a plan in place for seeding the content.

Sources of Authoritative Information

The next big challenge is finding information that is going to be of substantial interest to people and which adds credibility to your brand. Luckily for us, there are a number of ways you can get information that’s often underutilised and simple to acquire.

  • Census Data
    You mean to tell me that someone is doing a giant consumer survey and publishing the data publicly? No way.
    US: http://www.census.gov/main/www/access.html
    AU: http://www.abs.gov.au
    UK: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/index.html 
     
  • Crime Data
    Crime data is often broken down by type of crime, location and year. This gives numerous permutations for your content development and if you can find the right angle for the right client, it’s almost instantly newsworthy. There also tend to be multiple resources for each country.
    US: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/nibrs/2011/data-tables
    AU: http://data.gov.au/dataset?q=crime (It’s easier to just search Google, the data is broken down between states)
    UK: http://data.police.uk/
     
  • Consumer Surveys
    Having original survey data has great potential for building authoritative content, but it can be painful to collect. Google consumer surveys makes it super easy. It costs about 10c/response. Sadly you can currently only get data for US & the UK.
     
  • Client Data
    Easily overlooked, ask your client for data on sales, customer profiles, site usage, or anything else they can think of. Then look for connections between seasons, international & local events, or anything else you can think of.
     
  • Interviews with authorities
    Interviews with authoritative or influential people are another useful means of generating content with little input from clients. This form also allows for follow up link building and can add a lot of credibility to your site. The form that may take the least client input would be asking a single question which is important to the industry (Think of the many, many, many examples if SEO).

    You can use tools like Followerwonk, BuzzSumo and of course Google to help you find influential people.
     
     
  • Economic, Health & Loads More Data
     
    Basically, you can find data for just about anything if you look for it. Most countries have some kind of Office of Statistics with free access to official records. Finding a connection between the data and your product is the hard part.

Creating the Resource

I don’t want to pretend I could list all the ways you might go about using this information to create content, but I can try and provide a couple of examples of tools and approaches I would try.

  • Blog posts
    You don’t have to go all high tech. You could just write a blog post about the information you find. Of course it helps to include some charts and graphs to illustrate the information. For a great example, checkout the OKCupid Blog which dives into user data and finds interesting relationships. Blog post not sexy enough for you? Their blog has 276,266 inbound links, how’s that tickle your fancy?

    (Confession: Admittedly their blog does use some pretty funky interactive charts, but a similarly well written and interesting blog post could still work well. I’m open to other examples.)

  • Infographics
    Honestly, I hate infographics.  I think they’re overused, generally quite boring and for the most part a waste of time. BUT, that’s not to say they can’t be of value if they have some high authority data behind them.

  • Google Charts
    Google charts provide a simple means of adding dynamic charts to your site. This allows you to create charts with live data. For an example, checkout our very own Algoroo (Australian SERP Fluctuation Monitor).

    There are plenty of other tools just like this for SEO. Why not look at creating a dashboard for other industries?
     
  •  Fusion Tables
    Great for finding and displaying Geographical data. Fusion Tables is my new favorite toy. I’ve been combining data from other sources (like the crime data) with the KML data to produce some cool interactive maps with relative ease.


    Here’s a quick example of what can be done. Check out the crime levels around our Melbourne office. Notice it gets worse the closer to the Dejan office you get? Coincidence? I think not.

     


The Big Payoff

What kind of SEO would I be if I didn’t at least mention links. Obviously a huge reason for creating this type of content (apart from building brand authority, user engagement, awareness…) is to get some juicy links that will hopefully help your client rank for their target terms. It’s not the purpose of this post to dive into how you can get links from content, but I would like to make a couple of brief suggestions.

  • Press Coverage
TL;DR: Find journalists who have written about your topic and then contact them with your incredible news.

I strongly recommend you read this post on Custom Dev Labs in which they outline a pretty cool method of building a list of press contacts and even give you a free tool which you can grab off Git Hub.
If you’re going to use this approach, please, for the love of God, make sure you have something interesting and newsworthy to share and don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

  • Existing Discussion

Find out who’s talking about the topic you’re creating content around and then reach out to them. It’s as simple as doing a search on Google. You might then want to get in touch with those sites asking for feedback or opinion. Engaging people in discussion rather than flat out asking for a link is generally much better received.

 

Summary

Creating authoritative content for clients is a challenge. By thinking about products or services more broadly and using freely available data presented in an interesting way we can create content which is authoritative without having to involve clients too heavily in the process, or having to be experts ourselves.

We’d love to get your input on this process and suggestions for other ways we might create authoritative content. Join the conversation on Google Plus.

 

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Chris Butterworth is the Content Marketing Lead working from Dejan's Melbourne office. Get notifications of his posts or give your expert feedback on his writing on Google Plus...

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5 Responses to “Creating Authoritative Content Without Client Input”

  1. Awesome post Chris, I’ve been looking for something like Fusion Tables for a while now.

    Just an FYI for anyone looking to use Google Consumer Surveys there is a free voucher for $75 or $50 if you follow this link: http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/use_cases?example=general&offer=view_survey_offer

    Another source of data which might be useful to your content marketing campaign if UK based is freedom of information requests! A website called What Do They Know make the process of applying and reading other citizens requests very, very easy – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com

     
    • Isaac Bullen
  2. Thanks. Great suggestions.

     
    • Chris Butterworth
  3. I think it’s the first initial steps of creating the content and showing them the ROI will get them more involved.

    I found regardless of the industry or how busy the client is; they will always have time to talk about a topic they are passionate about. Get their opinion on the topic and include them in post.Over time they will see the value and invest more time/effort into creating a proper content strategy.

     
    • Martin Harris
  4. In my experience I’ve been faced with the same problems. Clients are either a) too busy b) too lazy c) both. In many cases, clients just dont care about content at all. I make it very clear before even getting involved with a client that it’s going to be a “joint effort”, in that they need to meet me half way when it comes to creating content.

    Here are a few of my own solutions that have worked well…

    1. Give the client options. It’s pointless trying to tie the client into a content medium that they’re not interested in, or don’t have time for.

    2. Voice overs. This involves recorded discussions over still shots or photos. Upload photos, transcribe discussion – done.

    3. Embrace video. Video can be a little tricky, but it’s a LOT easier than mucking around trying to “learn” a topic. Sit with the client and have a regular discussion. Then upload to YT, embed onsite, then transcribe onpage.

    4. Recorded discussions, or “interviews”. I often sit down with clients with a simple note taker, and ask them questions, much like a podcast. They answer them, then I transcribe that content into blog post entries. It works well and takes just a few minutes.This is one method that is most powerful, because its quick, simple and it works.

    If a client doesn’t have “time” to sit down and have a discussion with you once a week, they should just forget having an online presence and go back to listing in the yellow pages.

    As for all the mucking around mentioned above, I wouldn’t consider any of it unless the client was paying me $5,000 per month.

     
    • John Romaine
  5. Nice post @ChrisButterworth:disqus Anyone can create content for their clients, but then it’s just content for the sake of content. We are trying to get out of that model.

    Cheers.

     
    • Jason Diller

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