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How to Become a Successful Content Creator

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How to Become a Successful Content Creator

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I am a content creator. I create content—mainly blog posts—for the Ahrefs blog, which generates around ~300,000 visits per month (from Google alone).

Site Explorer overview for Ahrefs blog

How did I become a content creator for such a popular blog? Well, I’ll talk about it later in the post. But before you carry on reading, I want you to know there are many paths to becoming a content creator. The path I followed is merely one of them. But since it’s the only one I know, it’s the one I’ll share.

Let’s begin with some fundamentals.

What is a content creator?

A content creator is someone who creates written, audio, video, or visual content for a digital platform like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or a blog.

They can be working in-house for a company (like me) or agency, freelancing, or doing their own thing (e.g., influencers).

What does a content creator do?

They create content. (Duh!) Besides that, they may also:

How much do content creators make?

There is no limit to how much a content creator can make.

But how much you make depends on whether you’re working in-house, freelancing, or doing your own thing. You may also earn more if you:

  • Have subject matter expertise.
  • Have a sizeable following on the platform where you create content.
  • Have a well-known and well-respected brand.

According to Zippia, the median content creator salary is $52,000 annually. However, some content creators have been known to earn up to six figures.

For example, Jon Morrow of SmartBlogger used to charge up to $2.50 per word when he was freelancing. That’s $5,000 for a 2,000-word post. One article per week means Jon’s making six figures a year.

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Writing by Jon stating he charged $2.50 per word

Other examples include:

How to become a successful content creator

Looking back at my own career, I’ve identified some key things that led me to become a content creator.

1. Choose a niche to develop your knowledge and skills

To create content, you need to first have a topic. It can be anything: finance, football, or even Pokemon cards. In fact, I started off writing about breakdancing.

Title of SQ's article about breakdancing

I chose breakdancing because it was something I was already familiar with. I had been doing it for almost eight years at that point and had accumulated a ton of knowledge. I just needed to figure out how to share it.

Content creation is ultimately not about just how beautiful your writing is or how magical your videos are. Of course, they play a part. But the core of content creation is about your ideas. If you don’t have something to share—or you don’t have the required knowledge—it doesn’t matter how much time you spend refining your work. People just won’t care.

As bestselling finance author Morgan Housel puts it:

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. Difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

To become a successful content creator, you need to start with an area where you either have existing knowledge/expertise or an area where you can develop knowledge.

It’s OK if you don’t have expertise right now. On the contrary, it’s a great way to begin. Document your journey and create content around how you’re learning, practicing, and gaining knowledge. People love to follow stories of someone going from zero to one.

In fact, #buildinpublic is a popular hashtag on Twitter, and it has been a rallying point for many people who are creating content and learning in public.

Finally, the niche you choose now is not something you’re limited to forever. You can always change topics as you progress. I no longer create content about breakdancing and, instead, spend most of my time writing about marketing.

But the key point is this: You have to choose something to get started—one that matches your strengths and the niche you’re developing your expertise in.

2. Choose a content creation skill you’d like to develop

Next, you have to choose a content format and then develop skills in that area. Types of content creation skills include:

  • Copywriting/writing
  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Video production
  • Podcasting

And more.

For example, if your niche is taekwondo, then perhaps you may want to consider developing your skills in video production.

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That being said, playing to your strengths is more important. Creating content is a long journey. And creating the type of content you like on a topic you’re passionate about will help you go a long way.

This is why, despite the fact that writing was (likely) a terrible medium for breakdancing, I still chose to go for copywriting in the end. The fact that I was already interested in writing—coupled with me being camera shy—made this decision a no-brainer. In hindsight, writing matched my strengths and has served me well so far.

If you’re like me and want to improve your copywriting skills, I highly recommend these resources:

3. Create a “Do 100” project

There’s no way around it. If you want to learn how to create content, you have to create content.

If you want to improve your content creation skills, the best way is to actually make something and put it out there. Yes, it is scary. Yes, it will hurt to get feedback. But you have to go through this phase to become a successful content creator.

To tackle the above, I recommend creating a “Do 100” project. This is an idea that was popularized by my friend, Visakan Veerasamy. Basically, commit to making 100 of X, where X is the content creation skill you want to improve.

For example, if you’re trying to excel at making short-form videos, then commit to creating 100 TikTok videos. If you’re writing, commit to crafting 100 tweets or writing 100 blog posts. If you’re learning photography, post 100 photos on Instagram.

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The reason why this works is twofold:

  • Commitment – A project is a forcing hand. No more procrastination or constant deliberation. This is the reason why challenges like #tweet100 and #ship30for30 are so popular.
  • Volume – A ceramics teacher split his class into two groups: One was graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, the other on the quality of work. The result: The group graded for quantity produced works of higher quality. Quantity leads to quality. The more you create, the better you become.

My story is similar too. While I didn’t call it a “Do 100” project back then, I committed to sending an email a day, five days a week, to the subscribers of my breakdance blog. I eventually wrote over a hundred emails. Looking back, I now realize this project really skyrocketed my writing skills.

List of emails SQ wrote and sent

4. Get a job as a content creator

After running my breakdance blog and working for an (eventually unsuccessful) startup, I was hired as a content marketing manager at ReferralCandy. At ReferralCandy, a big part of my work was to create blog posts. But it wasn’t simply any blog post. I had to create blog posts that were part of a content marketing strategy.

Because of my work at ReferralCandy, I eventually joined Ahrefs—and this is where I’ve been for the past three years.

You don’t have to get a job to become a successful content creator. But I don’t regret this path. After all, a content creator’s job today is no longer just about content creation. It involves many parts of marketing.

Working at multiple companies has introduced me to important marketing skills like content marketing and SEO. It has also helped me to learn how to plan and create content as part of a coherent marketing strategy. All of these can only serve to better your profile as a content creator.

I highly recommend picking up these skills too. Use this resource to get started or watch this course:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btwC4zmewss&list=PLvJ_dXFSpd2vk6rQ4Rta5MhDIRmakFbp6&index=1

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The most direct way to get a job as a content creator is to look for open job positions. With your “Do 100” project as your portfolio, you’ll be in good standing to get one. Look through these job boards and see if you fit the jobs’ criteria. Expand your horizons a little—positions like “content marketing manager” or “content strategist” could be good matches too.

Networking is important as well. I got my jobs at ReferralCandy and Ahrefs because I had met and befriended both the heads of marketing. Don’t overcomplicate this. If you’re learning from someone right now, reach out and thank them for their content. This is how you can kickstart a relationship with someone you admire.

5. Furthering your career

As you progress along your career path and publish more, you’ll begin to gain a reputation in your niche. You may even build a decent following along the way.

If you’re interested, you can consider branching out and playing with different projects. For example, you may want to freelance for other websites. If that’s the path you’re pursuing, I recommend reading this post by Nick LeRoy. While it’s specifically about SEO freelancing, most of the principles can be applied to any form of freelancing.

There are other monetization opportunities too, besides freelancing. Ideas include:

The world’s your oyster. Play around and see which one matches your circumstance and context.

Final thoughts

As a content creator, you never stop learning.

You need to stay up to date and learn about the changes in your chosen niche, as well as the platforms you’re creating content for. You also need to stay current on what your audience wants to see.

Finally, as you learn more and more, you’ll start to develop tastes and opinions. You’ll begin to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This will be what makes you stand out from the hundreds and thousands of other content creators.

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Did I miss out on anything? Let me know on Twitter.



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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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