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advanced content

You’re reading blog posts and improving your content marketing skills, but the results aren’t coming quite as fast as you had hoped for.

Why?

There are many reasons, but one very likely possibility is that you’re learning the wrong things.

I see many marketing blogs preaching high quality content but producing low quality content of their own.

If you’re a reader of those, it’s easy to see how you might get confused as to what high quality content actually is.

You see, quality is relative.

Only a small portion of it is truly high quality. That’s the content that stands out among all the rest and actually makes an impact on the lives of readers:

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Years ago, the standards for content quality were much lower.

If you created then the content you are creating now, it likely would have easily fallen in that upper tier.

But content marketing has become much more competitive: 91% of companies have some sort of content marketing strategy, and that’s not declining any time soon.

If you want to see real results, the kind that produce huge volumes of consistent sales, you need to up your game.

Now, you can create high quality content just by being a great writer, but there are alternatives.

I want to walk you through 5 forms of advanced content that virtually guarantee that your content will stand out and you’ll attract the traffic and subscribers you desire. 

1. Big data is HOT

Terms like big data and machine learning are thrown around a lot these days.

Technically, big data refers to collecting and analyzing ridiculously large sets of data.

But for the average person (or marketer), I think it’s fair to say that analyzing hundreds of thousands, or millions, of data points could fall under the “big data” umbrella.

The reason why analyzing large sets of data is so interesting is because it can reveal new and interesting findings.

Anyone can make simple connections.

Writing about SEO? Writers should include their target keywords in their content.

By now, that’s obvious to 99.9% of the SEO community.

Most of the simple observations have been made in any niche because anyone can make them.

But some observations and findings can only be made by analyzing a larger set of data. This means that you need some programming skills (or the budget to pay a developer).

In other words, very few marketers can produce these findings.

This, of course, makes them even more valuable.

An example: Let me show you a great example of using big data to create incredible content effectively.

In 2014, OkDork published a post that revealed the results of their analysis of 100 million articles.

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They wanted to find out why content goes viral using data.

They were able to observe some really interesting correlations such as:

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Needless to say, this was a breath of fresh air compared to all the other information on creating viral content that simply suggested that all you need is to create curiosity.

And the community response was as expected. After being published, it attracted hundreds of comments and thousands of social shares:

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Analyzing such a large set of data lets you draw data-driven conclusions and use them to give advice.

This gives your content much more credibility than it would have otherwise.

How to use big data in your content: I understand that this type of content can be intimidating. Analyzing big data is something that is completely foreign to most marketers and business owners.

But everything is scary to most of us at one time or another.

Even basic link building was once thought of as something complicated and abstract. It’s those who are willing to put in the work to learn how to use what scares them that get a leg up on everyone else.

You can wait a few years when there’s a more accessible way to study big data, but that’s when everyone else will hop on the trend too.

Or you can get on it now and get huge results.

If you’re willing to put in a bit of extra effort and overcome a few obstacles, it will pay off.

Assuming you can’t do the analysis yourself, there are two ways you can put together content like this.

Way #1 – Hire a developer/programmer: You can’t analyze hundreds of thousands of data points by hand, no matter how smart or hardworking you are.

Instead, you need to create a program that can do the analysis for you.

Depending on the difficulty of the analysis you’re trying to do, as well as how easy it is to find the data you’re looking for, this can take anywhere from 5 hours to 100 in most cases for a typical programmer.

Where can you hire one for this type of job? Try any of the main freelancing boards:

Elance
Guru
Upwork
Toptal

You can typically create a job posting with all the details of the job, and then freelancers will apply (and give you a quote).

Alternatively, you can seek out a developer with previous big data experience on those platforms.

You should include the following details in your job posting:

(optional) budget – if you specify your budget, the applications will come from programmers who charge around that amount
the project goal – describe what data you want to analyze and what you’re trying to determine from it
anything you have to help – if you’ve already located a data source, it’ll make their job a lot easier (no need to scrape sites for data)

If you don’t have a technical background, just do your best with the details. If you hire a good developer, they will work with you to figure out what needs to be done.

When I say a data source, I’m talking about an existing database of information.

In the OkDork example, they were able to get the data from BuzzSumo—they didn’t have to hunt for it themselves.

In most cases, search for something like “(content topic) + database api”.

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An API provides an easy way to access the collected data, reducing the project time.

Way #2 – Partner up with someone who can: If you have no budget or you have a decent size audience, you may not have to pay a programmer.

Instead, you can find an existing company that collects the data you want to analyze and reach out to them to see if they’d be interested in creating an epic piece of content together.

That’s what Noah Kagan (founder of OkDork) did.

I’ll quote him to show you how simple it can be:

A few weeks ago someone sent me a link to the BuzzSumo website. It is a gold mine of data regarding what content is the most shared across any topic. Cha-Ching. So I reached out to the company to help understand what the main ingredients for insanely shareable content are.

The end result is that BuzzSumo helps create the content and provides the data (essentially a guest post), but you get to look amazing in front of a large audience.

It’s a win-win.

Companies that already use big sets of data are starting to recognize the potential of content marketing.

BuzzSumo is one business that I’ve seen really hop on it, collaborating to produce similar articles, like this one with Moz where they analyzed 1 million articles in different ways.

This is a perfect opportunity to start connecting with these companies in your industry before it becomes a more common tactic.

2. Become a scientist (at least for a little while…)

Science typically deals with complicated subjects, and there’s always an expectation of rigor—an expectation that quality comes first and that tests should be done as accurately as possible in order to ensure a useful result.

And this relates to great content.

Great content reveals new information that the creator discovered, hopefully while conducting valid tests that will help others do the same in the future.

While you don’t need to put on a white lab coat, consider doing your best impression of a scientist and conducting your own research.

Step #1 – Come up with a hypothesis: All studies start with a hypothesis, a guess about what will happen if you do something.

The general form for one is:

I think (action) will result in (what might happen).

Not every hypothesis turns out to be true, but when one does, you’ll have the data to back it up.

You’ll have to put some thought into this, but I’ll give you a few hypothetical examples of hypotheses to give you an idea of what you’re looking for:

I think guest posting will grow our blog traffic by X%
I think I can eat at McDonald’s and still lose weight (which actually happened!)
I think doing push-ups every morning for a month will allow me to do 100 push-ups per day (by the end)
I think you can grow a tomato plant in 60 days by using Procedure XYZ

There’s no “wrong” way of creating a hypothesis, but ideally it will be something that you can turn into a great piece of content if you find it to be true (e.g., “I conducted research to find the quickest way to do 100 push-ups per day. Here’s what I found…”).

Step #2 – Create a valid experimental setup: Let’s take our example of eating at McDonald’s every day.

You need to include a few things in your experimental setup:

how you will track results (e.g., daily weigh-ins)
specifically, what you will eat (the procedure)
any other rules that will ensure that no other factors are influencing results (e.g., maintain your usual level of exercise)

I should also mention that in some cases, you might find that the data you are trying to gather from your own experiment already exists, just not put into consumable content. That’s fine as well, even though I think personal experiments are a bit more credible.

Step #3 – Run the experiment and analyze the results: There are no shortcuts here; you need to do the work. Sometimes, it will take months to perform the experiment.

Yes, it’s hard work.

But that’s the reason why very few people can create this kind of content and why it will always stand out from the rest.

Now, running the experiment itself doesn’t help your audience.

What does help them is when you analyze the results and make valuable conclusions that will affect their lives.

Even if your hypothesis is incorrect, you still may learn some useful lessons.

Your first step here is to collect all your data in one place (usually a spreadsheet) and calculate the values you are interested in.

Step #4 – Use those results to make something great for your community: Now that you have your data and can make a conclusion, it’s time to create your content.

Here’s an example of an analysis I did of the performance of my past infographics:

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Instead of just saying “infographics have worked well for me,” I analyzed these results to get a specific number of visitors, backlinks, and social shares for each infographic.

I also had enough past infographics for a valid sample size (that took me two years to collect—that’s a long experiment!).

Sometimes, it’s enough to just state your results, but in most cases, you want to make a conclusion and then explain how your readers can apply those results.

In our push-up example, you could probably outline a simple routine that your readers could follow to develop the strength to do 100 per day as well.

3. Put together an e-book like no other

When e-books first hit the marketing scene, people put a ton of value on them.

A high perceived value means that readers will invest more into consuming and applying the content as well as sharing it.

But as you know, everyone has an e-book these days. They still hold a bit of extra perceived value over blog posts, but not too much.

However, some e-books are truly great, and those still get a lot of attention.

I’d like to show you how to create a special type of e-book that will automatically get thousands of visitors and shares.

The idea:

Create an e-book where one influencer in your niche writes one page. The final book will be a 20-page book written by 20 experts (just using 20 as an example).

Essentially, it’s an expanded expert roundup.

Instead of just contributing a couple of lines to answer a question (and all experts answer the same question), your experts will each be writing a chapter of the book.

Here’s an example: This is a great example that showcases the power of the technique.

Stoney deGeyter, from Pole Position Marketing, put together an e-book of “link building secrets” for 2014.

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He was able to get 20 different industry professionals to contribute one secret each.

Some of these were also influencers.

Even though they weren’t all influencers, he got some solid results.

He saw that all influencers who contributed to the book shared his other posts (along with the book) with their followers.

On top of that, most of them also linked to the book, which is a nice bump in high quality backlinks for Stoney.

Stoney also mentioned that he saw a spike in traffic, although he didn’t say how big (but probably pretty considerable).

And one final benefit is that he now has relationships with 20 influencers/professionals, which could lead to some great opportunities in the future.

How to put together your own e-book: There are three main parts to producing an e-book like this:

Come up with a good topic
Find influencers willing to contribute
Organize, design, and format the content into a book before publishing

Obviously, not all of those steps are equally difficult.

Coming up with a good topic? That’s not too difficult if you’ve read any of my past posts on finding great content ideas.

Formatting content so that readers are blown away? I can help you with that too with some of my other posts:

9 Formatting Tactics That Will Double Your Readers’ Average Time on Page
5 Advanced Formatting Tips to Maximize Time on Site and Conversions
The Complete Guide to Designing Visually Stunning Content (Even If You’re Not a Graphic Artist)

But the second step is tough.

It’s not difficult for me because I already have relationships with many influencers. I could send out a quick email and get an overwhelmingly positive response rate.

But what if you’re not in that position? What if you want someone to contribute who has never heard of you?

That is difficult.

But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success.

First, build as strong of a relationship with 3-5 influencers as possible.

How do you do this? There are many ways:

leave comments on their blogs
engage with them on social media
send them emails (with questions or comments—get on their email lists first)

It may take a few weeks or months before you have a solid relationship, so be prepared to invest some time here (it will pay off in many ways).

During these first times when you interact with an influencer, your only goals are (1) not to be a pest and (2) to get them to remember your name. Ideally, you want to provide value so that they don’t mind helping you out in the future as well.

Once you have a somewhat strong relationship, you can then ask them to participate in the book. You’ll get at least 1 or 2 who will be happy to.

Wait, don’t you need 20 (or some other large number)?

Yes, but it’s these first few who really unlock your potential to bring other influencers on board.

Ideally, you’d build relationships with 40-50 people before asking them to help you, but that’s not typically possible.

So, you’ll be cold-emailing most influencers.

When you send a cold email pitch, it’s difficult to get a positive response because you don’t have any credibility.

That’s where those first few influencers come in. Here’s what the start of your email should look like…

Hi (name),

I wanted to quickly offer you an exclusive opportunity. I’ve already got (influencer #1) and (influencer #2) to agree to participate.

(book details here…)

That one line gives you instant credibility if those influencers are well known.

If they want to do the project, it’s probably worth at least reading a bit about.

Using their names will boost your response rate by an incredible amount.

Once you’ve done this and you’ve got your target number of participants (expect to email 50-100 of them initially), put together the e-book and publish it.

When you send your contributors a link to the book, most will help you promote it. You should still do your own basic promotional work—expect better than usual results in this case.

4. Take product reviews to the next level

Like I said in the beginning, we’re looking for “next level” content.

I mean content that is so much better than what everyone else is producing that it will be inevitably noticed.

One particular type of content that typically isn’t very impressive is product reviews.

Usually, they’re biased, lack credibility, and aren’t very convincing.

The reason why this is so is because it’s difficult to create a good one.

However, if you actually care about creating great content, that means there is an opportunity here.

Before I get into what an amazing product review is comprised of, I’ll give you a chance to look at an example.

The following video is a review of the best kitchen blenders:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZArusuuQrc&w=560&h=315]

This channel, “America’s test kitchen,” is one of the few that understand what an actual useful review looks like.

They’ve done a great job with the kitchen niche and have several high converting videos with hundreds of thousands of views.

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There’s no reason why you can’t do the same (although it doesn’t necessarily have to be video content).

What’s in a great review? In order to create a review of this level, you’ll have to include things that aren’t normally included:

actual product examples
useful test results
clear comparisons

Let’s break it down into steps.

Step #1 – Pick a specific type of product: This is the easiest step by far. All you need to do is observe which kinds of products in your niche your target audience buys the most.

Ideally, people would be wondering what the best product is, and you would be able to answer that question.

Some examples from different niches are:

Link building tools
Rank tracking tools
Marketing courses
Futons
Dining room tables
Lawn mowers
Cat food

There are obviously thousands of types of products out there, so it shouldn’t be hard to think of a few.

If you’re really struggling, go to Amazon, and type in your niche into the search bar to see what comes up.

Step #2 (Important!) – Actually buy the product: One of the main reasons why most product reviews suck is because they’re obviously written by someone who hasn’t used the product.

People want (and love) genuine reviews.

This could get expensive, but in general, the more you spend on products, the more you will get out of the content later on (more traffic, sales, etc.).

It can also take a few weeks (or months in the case of courses) to thoroughly go through each product. Invest the time now to get the results later on.

Step #3 – Decide what tests would be useful: Once you know how a product works, you want to show your audience whether it does what they’re hoping it does.

To do that, you’ll need tests.

For example, with blenders, you’d want to see how well it blends frozen fruit into a smoothie. You could measure both the completeness of blending and the length of time it took to blend.

But in most cases, you’ll want more than one test.

Again, with the blender, you might want to see how well it handles things like nuts or yogurt (clearly I’m not a blender expert).

Step #4 – Quantify and compare the results: Another shortcoming of most product reviews is that the creator tends to finish the content with a seemingly random conclusion.

They’ll say, “Based on the product specifications, I think we can conclude Product X is the best.”

Even if a review actually tests each product, it’s not always easy to compare the results of each test.

That’s your job.

Put together an overall score that takes into account your test results:

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That way it’s easy for your audience to compare the performance of each product.

And that’s all there is to the next level product review. It will take a lot of hard work, but it’s something that just about anyone can do if they’re determined.

5. One type of content that’s more practical than the rest

The final type of advanced form of content is one that I think every business should try (if applicable) at least once.

And that advanced form of content is a tool (yes, I consider them as content).

If you’ve ever been to the Quick Sprout homepage, you know that I have a tool that analyzes web pages. It gives you a quick SEO, speed, and social score:

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I’ve written about the results in a full writeup before, so I won’t go over them again in detail.

But to sum things up, despite the tool costing much more than I expected, it still brought in a ton of backlinks and business, producing a very solid return on my investment.

You don’t need to create a tool as complex as my analyzer, but even a small tool that can accomplish one useful thing for your audience will get a lot of attention.

Step #1 – Come up with the idea: Tools solve problems, so that’s where you’ll have to start.

Make a list of as many problems or difficulties your readers face on a regular basis as you can.

For me, I noticed that SEOs had a hard time doing a few things:

checking if a site was optimized for search engines
making repeat SEO reports for clients
combining evaluations of multiple areas of their marketing efforts (e.g., SEO, social, etc.)

And then I designed a tool that provided the solution. Now, people can just insert a website URL, give the tool a few seconds to do some work, and voila—a beautiful and simple result.

Step #2 – Create the tool: Creating the tool, of course, will be the hardest part unless you have experience as a developer.

If you don’t, you’ll have to hire one. Again, you’ll want to post a job offer on any of the main freelancing boards:

Elance
Guru
Upwork
Toptal

One aspect you will have to consider here is the cost.

Tools can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a hundred thousand dollars, which is quite a big range.

You likely don’t know how much one would cost, which makes it difficult to set a budget.

What you can do is post the job ad without a budget, asking developers to submit a quote. That will tell you all you need to know about the affordability of your project.

If you can’t afford to create the tool you chose, move on to a problem that can be solved by a simpler tool.

Step #3 – Promote the tool: Promoting regular content is hard, but promoting a tool is really easy.

You can present it to most forums and online communities, and they will be thrilled with it as long as it’s actually useful.

Tools are rare, so they’re not met with the same cynicism as regular blog posts often are.

On top of that, you can now mention your tool in your content and whenever you get introduced to someone. It’s a great point of introduction that can lead to a lot of extra business opportunities.

Conclusion

It is absolutely necessary for your content to stand out if you want to succeed with content marketing.

But producing amazing content that stands out isn’t always easy.

That’s why I put together this list of 5 different advanced forms of content and showed you how to create them step by step.

I encourage you to try just one for now.

When you see the results from that, I’m sure you’ll have the motivation you need to try out other forms as well.

We looked at some fairly complicated concepts and steps, so it’s understandable if you have some questions. I’ll do my best to clear them up if you leave them below in a comment.