These days, almost all small business people are content creators in one form or another. Between blogs, social media posts, videos, newsletters and more, creating content is part and parcel of what it means to be in business today.

This is even more true since Covid began. The mass pivot to the internet – for both consumers and businesses – means more eyeballs are available online than ever before. 

If you are not creating content, you need to. And if you are, you better create great content because there is a world of competition.

And that all begs the question: Just what is good content, content that creates clicks?

I have thought a lot about this as I have been creating content online for over 20 years. Between the website I just sold (TheSelfEmployed) and its 5,000 articles, my new one (PlanetSmallBusiness), my books and USA TODAY columns, I have learned, sometimes the hard way, what works and what does not.

Let’s take a look.

What is good content and what is bad?

For starters, good content has to have a good, nay great, headline. This is true whether we talk about social posts, blogs and articles, newsletter posts, or even videos. 

A while ago, I did a series of long-form articles for a website you most certainly have heard of but which I cannot disclose. In any case, the site gets millions of hits a month, mostly from its catchy headlines. 

Here’s what the editors there taught me:

Headlines that work

The best-performing headlines tend to have common themes –

  • Unique takes: Example: Why Quitting My Day Job was a Giant Blunder
  • Immediacy: Use words like Now, Today, and Daily. Example: The 4 Daily Habits of Sales Superheroes
  • Add value. Example: The 3-step, Scientifically-Proven Way to be Far More Productive
  • Celebrity sells. Example: Richard Branson Swears by this Easy Investment Strategy
  • Odd numbersExample: 6.5 Reasons Why E-newsletters are Worthless 

What is good content, actually?

Your headline is just the start. The real question is, what constitutes good content? 

For our purposes here, good content does two things:

  1. It engages the reader, viewer, or listener, and it
  2. Reflects positively on your brand

Let’s take those one at a time.

Engaging the reader does not mean that you have to be a great writer or videographer. Most entrepreneurs are not; that’s not their skill set. That’s OK. What it does mean, however, is that you give people something unique, new, different, interesting, valuable, fun, intelligent, or quirky. Any or all of that will engage the reader, listener, or viewer.

Reflecting positively on your brand. This is key. In the end, the main reason to make content is to create an impression in the mind of your viewer, your customer, or potential customer. This is a branding exercise and you need to treat it as such. For example, your written content should not contain typos or similar errors. Videos need not be perfect in this YouTube era, but they cannot be glitchy.

It is a massive waste of time to create content that people either 1) don’t like, or 2) ignore.

You should strive to create content that encompasses your brand voice and personality. Consider your audience as you create it and ask yourself, ‘what would my people like to know from this?’ Your content could be fun or funny, clever or sophisticated, or cute and silly, but whatever it is, it needs to be in your brand voice. 

What is bad content?

Well, you know it when you see it, right? 

Bad content is the opposite of what we have been talking about. Bad content is challenging to read or watch. It feels like a waste of your time. Bad content does not engage and does not deliver on the headline.

Similarly, we have all seen stale, boring corporate content. We no likely, and your tribe doesn’t like it either. So don’t do that.

Bad content is what we want to avoid.

So, What Do Your People Want?

Whatever your customers need to know, you should create content around that. Again, it could be written, audio, or visual. For Google purposes, the written content is especially nice as Google’s algorithm not only gets it but there are no clunky technical requirements.

One trick to creating content your tribe would like is to type something related to your field into your browser and notice how Google auto-fills the query. That is what people are searching for.

Your Content Strategy

The value of creating this valuable, wanted, good content is that it gives your business numerous benefits:

  • SEO – The more you post, the more Google will find and like your content, and the more it will appear in search results. 
  • Branding – As more people come to your site from search results, the bigger and better your site and brand will become. 
  • Business: As more people learn of you via your content, advertisers want to advertise on your site, companies will want to be associated with you, and people will want to work with you

Lastly, all that only happens if you share it (until your SEO kicks in.) So share your content on your social channels, your site, in e-newsletters, with customers, and on other websites. 

One final pro tip: Don’t share your content only once. Social feeds expire quickly; if people don’t see your content the one time you post it, they won’t see it. So, instead, post the same content several times and on different channels.

Creating good content doesn’t cost; it pays!