Content: Where Does It Come From?

We keep hearing all the SEO guru's saying that content is king. They tell you to get content out on the web that somehow points back to you. But where to you get all this content? Most companies have a brochure or two with some content. They may have written a press release about a new product or a twist on an old product. But content has to come from somewhere. And it has to be meaningful, relevant content (a.k.a. content that someone wants to read, that factually relates to the product or service behind the story). So where do you find this content?

Most companies start by going to their marketers and begging them to write more stuff about the product. They write another brochure, a blog, a white paper (that's a popular one) - in short, anything that can add to the word count about their product. Is this stuff meaningful? Usually in the first one or two rounds, then it starts to turn into the same old stuff. You can only say "use this peg to fit that hole" so many times before people start to yawn and go back to their face book. Is it relevant? It's exhaustively relevant. Please, throw in a tangent to move the reader out of the deepening furrow in their brain. The goal is good, to get the word count up, but you want to get the word count up in a way that gets read. Remember, the search engines of the world may look at key words, but the customers of the world look at interesting thoughts.

Interesting thoughts from within a company, though they exist, have two inherent problems. First, they are finite. The number of thoughts at any given time within a company is limited to the finite group of people within the company. Second, thoughts that are bestowed with the title "interesting" within a company, may be hum-drum and lack-luster to those outside a company. The only truly interesting thoughts that should be bandied about by the writers in PR and marketing are those that are interesting to customers.

So how do you find out what article, info-brochure, white paper, or sidebar tidbit is of interest to customers? This is straight from marketing communications 101: Ask them. Before you say, "Ugh! Another marketing research initiative." Realize that what we're discussing here - content of interest to customers - is a moving target. This isn't to be answered in some three-day focus-group road trip. This has to be integrated, on-going questioning that feeds an integrated, on-going flow of content.

Your customers need to be asked what they think at trade shows, at points of purchase, online, during customer service calls, and yes, in focus groups (or more preferably in one-on-one interviews). You need to find out the activities that interest them, what they use your product and service to do, what it allows them to do that they couldn't do before, what they aspire to become that somehow utilizes your product or service. All of these questions from all the various sources need to funnel into articles about people, places, and ideas that are interesting and relevant. And for the sake of your readers, if you can't be relevant, at least be interesting.