Have you noticed a trend of people creating more detailed guides? You know, ones similar to my guides on SEO, growth hacking, content marketing, or landing page optimization that I have released on Quick Sprout?
Vero just released a guide on email marketing, and Qualaroo released one on conversion optimization.
What you may not know is that although I was the one to make the creation of detailed guides popular, I wasn’t the first one to come up with the concept. I actually borrowed the idea from Moz, who released the beginner’s guide to SEO a few years ago.
When they released an article talking about the fact that the guide has received over a million visitors to-date, I decided to take that model and streamline it by producing a new guide each month.
When I first started out, some of the guides only received 68,319 visitors, while others received 128,582 visitors, but I quickly learned what to do and what not to do. Since then, all of my guides have been getting at least 361,494 visitors.
If you want to create guides that generate hundreds of thousand of visitors, here is what you have to do:
1. Only write on advanced topics
I noticed that every time I released a guide on a topic that has already been beaten to death or one that is basic, I barely got any visitors. For example, the guide to online marketing for beginners only received 68,319 visitors.
On the flip side, my guide on growth hacking has already received over 414,209 visitors.
Every time I release a guide on an advanced topic, I receive at least a few hundred thousand visitors.
The same trend exists with my blog. Every time I write on an advanced topic and give detailed steps, my traffic goes through the roof. And basic blog posts tend to flop.
If you are going to invest the time and energy into writing a detailed guide, make sure you pick advanced topics that are continually growing in popularity. You can check this by using Google Trends.
All you have to do is enter in a keyword or phrase of the topic you are trying to write about such as “growth hacking.”
As long as the graph is going up and to the right at a rapid pace, like the graph above, there is a good chance that if you write on that topic, you’ll get a good amount of traffic.
Once you have your advanced topic, you are now ready to find a writer.
2. Where do you find writers?
If you are a natural born writer and you have the time to create a detailed guide, that’s great! If you don’t, then you’ll want to search for a writer.
A great place to start finding them is by browsing other blogs in your space. Look for popular writers who get a ton of social shares per post as well as comments. Also look for writers who write in a casual tone as you don’t want a writer who writes as if he or she is drafting an essay.
If that doesn’t work, post a job listing at places such as Upwork and Craigslist.
When looking for writers, you have to be very specific. If you aren’t, you will be wasting your time digging through a pile of applicants.
The tricky part about this is that if your job description is too long, people won’t read it, and we’ll just apply. Your goal should be to balance length with specificity.
Here are the main things you need to cover within your job posting:
- Subject matter – the type of content you want people to produce.
- Length – business-based posts should be anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 words depending on your niche. Consumer-facing posts should be fewer than 2,000 words—ideally, under 1,000 words.
- Tone – do you want your content to sound research-oriented, casual, conversational, etc.? Typically, conversational type of posts perform the best.
- Examples – send two examples of posts within your industry that you like. If you can’t find any in your industry, find some in any related industry.
- Purpose – whether you want your content to be humorous or informative, you have to state this to potential writers.
When posting an ad on Problogger or Craigslist, you should consider using an ad similar to this one:
ABC.com is looking for a writer who can talk about sales / crm / motivation in the workplace, business management, increasing revenue, etc.
- Be able to write in a conversational tone
- Produce informative posts
- Have personable writing style
Here is an example of two articles with the style of writing we are looking for:
We want blog posts written with 1,500-2,000 words.
Please send at least two articles you feel are closest to the writing style we like. If you don’t have any but are certain you can write in that style, send a paragraph within your email using the tone we are looking for
Once your job postings go live, you’ll receive 100 plus applicants. Just make sure you release the posting on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Releasing it on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday will usually result in 15 to 20% fewer applicants.
3. How do you evaluate writers?
Now that you have a list of applicants, you first want to read their emails. If you notice any grammar or spelling errors within the emails, don’t bother reading their examples. Just cross them off your list.
Why? If they weren’t thorough enough to double-check their emails, they won’t be detail-oriented when creating content for your blog.
For the applicants that have a well-written email, read the first few paragraphs of the examples they included. When reading the first few paragraphs, look for:
- Conversational tone – the use of the words “you” and “I.”
- Personality – no one wants to read dry content.
- Fluff – no one wants to read fluff.
- Facts – if the writer is making claims, he or she should be linking to sources that back up what the writer is stating.
- Short paragraphs – ideally, paragraphs should be no longer than 5 or 6 lines.
- Formatting – if their posts aren’t formatted well, people will have a hard time reading the content.
- Pictures – each post should start off with an image.
Now that you have narrowed down your list of potentially qualified writers, go back and read the whole blog posts that they linked you to. You should now look for:
- Subheadings – using them makes content easier to read and skim.
- Italicizing and bolding – doing these two things to certain words throughout a post makes it easier to read.
- External links – posts with dozens of relevant external links tend to get shared more on the social web by the website owners you are linking to.
- Media – pictures, audio, and video are powerful. Not everyone enjoys reading text. If the writer is using media throughout the post, it’s a good sign.
- Conclusion – wrapping up the post makes it easier for people to digest the information provided.
- Question – at the end of the post, there should be a question posed to the readers. This will help increase the number of comments generated by your posts.
Most writers won’t meet all of these requirements. But the ones that meet 80% or so are usually going to do a good job.
4. How much should you pay writers?
If you noticed, I didn’t mention the pay within the job posting. That’s because each writer is willing to work for different amounts.
If your number is too low, you will get little to no applicants. If you price it too high, the quotes you will receive will be too high.
By not including a price, you can ask each writer what they will accept. From there, you can negotiate with them and get their prices down.
Typically, expect to spend $100 to $200 per post. I know that may sound expensive, but good content is. If you are paying less, you’ll see that the quality won’t be as high.
If you are on a budget, consider buying less content until you have a larger budget. But don’t skimp on quality. It’s better to pay for one really good blog post than it is to pay for 10 mediocre posts.
5. Get the right content from your writers
Have your writer submit 5 to 10 headline ideas. From there, you can either adjust the headlines or just pick the one that is most appealing to you.
Once you have decided what you’ll want your writer to write about, have the writer create an outline.
The outline should consist of:
- Introduction – the whole introductory paragraph(s) should be fully written.
- Body – they should put the main points that will be discussed throughout the body into a bulleted list.
- Conclusion – the conclusion should end with a question posed to the readers.
If you don’t like the outline or any specific element of it, give the writer feedback and have him or her continually adjust it until you are happy. Once you are happy, you can then have the writer write the post.
Once your writer finishes writing the post, provide more detailed feedback on what you like and dislike.
The whole purpose of this process is to be so picky with the writer that he or she will learn what you like and don’t like. Eventually, the writer will know what you want without much involvement from you.
6. Get the right images
If the writer has included images, make sure they are screenshots, royalty-free images, or ones that were purchased. In other words, make sure you don’t get sued for using the images.
I’ve been stuck in situations where writers used images that they weren’t supposed to, and we published the content. We later got a legal letter from stock photography sites like Getty Images that not only demanded that we take down the image but pay them for the prior use of the image.
This has cost me thousands of dollars over the years, which is why I am very picky about what images can or can’t be used.
7. Create “cornerstone” guides
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I like going big.
By this I mean that I:
- create long-form guides
- include a lot of visuals
- include statistics
- cover a lot of facts and details that others may not always touch on
In other words, I strive to provide my audience with as much value as possible.
Keep in mind I don’t always drive the ball out of the park with each blog post or guide, but there’s a consistent level of depth I strive to achieve.
And this has been a big part of my success over the years.
This is why I can’t stress enough the importance of creating “cornerstone” guides, and not merely your average, run of the mill posts so common on the Internet.
Here are a few of the benefits of creating comprehensive, long-form content:
- higher rankings in search engines
- increased time on site
- success in social media
- a position of authority
Now, of course, you probably won’t have the time to create five-plus posts like this each week (or even three).
That’s why I suggest at least considering scaling back your content and focusing on creating fewer but higher quality in-depth guides rather than churning out dozens mediocre ones.
8. Longer isn’t always better
I’ve written guides that were anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000 words long. The one thing I’ve learned is that guides that are 20,000 to 30,000 words long tend to do as well as the ones that are 45,000 words long from a traffic perspective.
So, from a cost perspective, you are probably better off paying for a 20,000-word guide than for a 45,000-word guide.
I’ve also learned through testing that the optimal number of chapters per guide is roughly 7. Having 10 or even 14 chapters won’t drive you much more, if any, traffic. And making your guide into one or several long pages, instead of 7 chapters, will typically drive you less search engine traffic in the long run.
For example, the guide on doubling your traffic in 30 days and the one on doubling your conversions in 30 days get on average 313% less search engine traffic than the other guides due to the fact that they were formatted as one long page instead of being broken down into multiple chapters.
9. Don’t forget to include experts
One of the biggest traffic drivers to these guides is Twitter. I quickly learned from a few of my guides that the easiest way to get more Twitter traffic is to include expert interviews.
Including industry experts throughout your guide will give you the reason to email them upon releasing it, and they will be much more open to tweeting and promoting it. You’ll also find that other people within your industry will be more open to promoting it because the guide will be considered reputable due to the fact that industry people are talking about it.
My guides that have expert round-ups received at least 3 times more Twitter traffic than the ones that don’t.
If you are going to invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into a guide, you would be foolish not to include expert opinions within it.
10. Pay top dollar for design
The one thing I learned from others is that you can’t take design for granted. Even before Moz, hundreds, if not thousands, of other websites released detailed guides, but Moz was the first to make a detailed guide look pretty. They spent over $20,000 on design just on the beginner’s guide to SEO.
By studying the competition, I quickly saw that the guides that looked pretty tended to get a lot more social shares. This is why I spend so much on design at Quick Sprout.
On sites like Dribbble, you can sift through illustrators and find people who can make your guides look beautiful. On average, you are going to spend $10,000 to $20,000 per guide for an exceptionally good designer, and around $2,500 to $5,000 for a decent designer.
11. File types matter
Once your guide is done, you will have to find someone to code it. You’ll want to create an HTML version that you can place online. This way people can link to it and share it, and your search traffic should increase.
In addition to that, I highly recommend that you create a PDF version that is compatible with mobile devices and tablets. I didn’t do this with my first two guides, and I literally got over 300 emails from people asking to either make the guide compatible with their mobile devices or requesting a PDF version.
12. Make infographics an integral part of your content formula
I feel a little bit like Captain Obvious by pointing out the impact of infographics.
But the bottom line is that this medium is your ticket to massive traffic.
Why? It’s simple. Infographics get shared like crazy.
In fact, “Infographics are Liked and shared on social media 3x more than other content.”
Here are a few more stats that prove the traffic-generating potential of infographics:
They’re visual. They’re easy to follow. And they make it incredibly simple to digest complex information that would be difficult to consume in a traditional, text-based format.
Not to mention they’re fun.
There’s something inherently playful about infographics that makes people “eat ’em up.”
Just check out the number of shares this infographic from Copyblogger has gotten since the day it was published back in 2012:
I realize there are definitely newer, sexier content marketing tactics out there.
I also realize that interest in infographics has waned slightly over the past few years.
But they’re still one of the top forms of content in terms of traffic-generating potential.
That’s why I recommend including infographics as a part of your guides.
13. Get cozy with video
Here are some quick stats from HubSpot regarding the state of live video.
- “Cisco projects that global Internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all Internet traffic by 2019.”
- “4x as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it.”
- “43% of consumers wanted to see more video content in 2016.”
No matter which way you slice it, a steady diet of video content is going to crank up your traffic so adding a video or two to each of your guides is always a smart idea.
14. Don’t forget to promote
Before you release your guide, you’ll want to spend a few days hitting up people within your industry, letting them know about it. This is important because you can get them to promote the guide via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Although it sounds simple, it works well. I just shoot off emails to people within my industry and say:
Hey [insert your contact’s first name],
Hope things are going well for you and [insert your contact’s business name]. I know you are busy, so I’ll keep this email short.
I just wanted to let you know that I am releasing a free guide for our industry, and it is going to teach everyone about [insert the topic of the guide]. I’m doing this because I feel the industry could use more education, and I love helping people.
I would greatly appreciate it if you can tweet it out or share it. You can find the guide here: [insert URL]
[insert your name]
A lot of people will ignore your email. But typically 5% to 10% of the people you email will promote your guide. This will cause a ripple effect as more people will see it and then promote it as well.
Another great way to promote your guide is to email the sites that you link to within your content.
A good rule of thumb is to add external links only when it makes sense for the reader. Ideally, you should be shooting for 25 external links for every 1,000 words of content you are writing.
Because I usually email out each of the sites I linked to with the following email:
Subject: I mentioned [insert their site name] in my latest post
Hey [insert their name],
I just wanted to let you know I am a huge fan of your work. I like it so much that I actually linked to [insert their website] within my latest blog post.
[Insert your blog post URL]
I would be honored if you checked it out. And if you love it, feel free to share it on the social web.
[Insert your name]
By doing this, you’ll gain social shares and eventually build up a large enough audience that can be leveraged to promote future guides.
If you follow the steps above, you’ll start attracting thousands of more visitors to your site, generate more backlinks, and improve the recognition of your brand.
Guides are one of my favorite methods to market a business, and it has been extremely effective for me because I follow the tips above.
You don’t have to spend tons of time or money creating these guides. You can always write them internally or have your in-house designer make them look pretty.
Nonetheless, you should be creating guides on a regular basis. They are so effective that I try to release at least one every month.