—I researched keywords, and studied search intent and information that users look for. But even after packaging everything so nicely into this beautifully written and keyword-optimised article, I’m still not getting the clicks, links, and leads I expected.
What went wrong?
SEO content writing isn’t an exact science.
You can do everything SEO books and guides tell you to do and that still won’t guarantee a good ranking. It’s normal to want to pull your hair out. We know a few good people who have.
But before you begin tugging at your hair, we’ll let you in on something—with writing good SEO content, it’s not so much what needs to be done but how to do it better.
And this is exactly what Rand Fishkin’s 10x content theory speaks of. To rank well for a keyword, instead of replicating and emulating what those in the top 10 are doing, create something that’s 10 times better.
But ‘better’? What do you mean by ‘better’?
Rand has a list of criteria deemed necessary to produce 10x content. These go from having a great UI and UX and an emotional connection to your audience to a unique and pleasant delivery.
Upon closer look at his criteria, we realise that many of them boil down to what’s seldom spoken of in the world of content writing—the story angle.
To qualify for the league of the top 10, there are infinite angles you can experiment with. And these may just be the key to achieving your content marketing goals.
In this article, we’ll build on Rand’s criteria for 10x and discuss the importance of your story’s angle to generate traffic, links, and to outrank your competitors.With good SEO content, it’s not so much what needs to be done but how to do it better. Click To Tweet
What is a story angle?
Imagine yourself as a journalist in a newsroom. A line flashes in: SpaceX has been attacked by ransomware—all its systems have been taken offline.
The next day, you decide to do a wrap package on the story. Here’s what you know:
- SpaceX’s company statement says its systems remain offline and its engineers are working around the clock to resolve the issue.
- There are uncorroborated reports of a similar attack on NASA.
- This is the second such attack on aerospace companies in three months.
- SpaceX may suffer up to $5 billion in damages and losses.
- Two SpaceX employees had previously warned of a possible security breach but their concerns were dismissed.
- A hacker’s group has claimed responsibility for the attack via Snapchat.
All of the above will need to be reported. But what’s your story’s angle?
An angle in a story is simply a specific focus of a larger topic.
When applied to the world of SEO content, the keyword can frame your angle.
For example, an English tutor who wants to position for the keyword ‘job interview in English’ would have these (and more) to choose from:
- Psychological preparation for a job interview in English
- Commonly asked questions asked during a job interview in English
- Online resources and tools to help prepare for your job interview in English
- What not to say during a job interview in English
All of the above topics are completely valid points in an overarching article. But each of them can also be easily developed into an individual piece.
The link between story angle and SEO content writing
Of the six criteria Rand establishes in his original article, three are directly related to the story’s angle. And we’re going to break them down one by one.
Criteria #1: Scope and detail
In Rand’s own words,
“It’s got to be considerably different in scope and in detail from other works that are serving the same visitor or user intent.”
How it relates to your story’s angle: In each possible story lies a variety of tales pieced together that make it whole. When choosing the angle of your story, you’re deciding on the tale(s) you want to present.
The amount of information on this particular aspect of the topic is what defines the scope and detail of the SEO content.
A good example is HubSpot’s list of marketing statistics. It’s a comprehensive list of statistics compiled from many different sources and broken down into different categories such as SEO, CRO, content marketing, etc.
This is a fantastic go-to reference for marketers in distress and in it lies its value—any marketer searching for a statistic to beef up its presentation, blog post, or report now has a great resource to turn to.
By widening its scope and at the same time going down into detail, HubSpot has differentiated itself with this list.
Criteria #2: Quality of information
In Rand’s own words,
“It has to solve a problem or answer a question by providing that comprehensive, accurate, exceptional information or resources.”
How it relates to your story’s angle: An angle is a point of view determined by the information you include in your SEO content.
You want to solve a specific reader’s pain points and you decide you want to structure the information in a certain way. But if 40 of your competitors have already done the same thing, you’ll need to approach it from a whole new angle to differentiate yourself. And this is where the quality of information comes into play.
“Content today is a commodity.”
At Dear Content, we get about two new pimples pop out every time we hear this. (We suspect our beauty salon is putting people up to this.)
This idea stems from any Tom, Dick, or Harry being able to produce content by putting together information obtained from online articles and even Wikipedia (eeks!), and mixing it up with their own words. This is content marketing at its most superficial and the results are by no means of a good standard.
In-depth topic and keyword research, exhaustive data analysis, and the presentation of these findings in a unique way is time-consuming, requires effort, and isn’t easily done by just anyone.
In fact, there are few great content writers who do it and even fewer who do it well.If your competitors have already structured a piece of content a certain way, approach it from a new angle to differentiate yourself. This is where the quality of information comes into play.Click To Tweet
Story angle ideas: Leverage internal data
One of the best ways to produce quality information and ensure it’s unique is to make use of your own internal data. This is data collected from your company’s activities in the industry and presented as market intelligence.
Price aggregators and marketplaces certainly know how to get the most out of this resource by creating reports and price trends from their own database.
From B2B to B2C, this works across all industries. One good example is the housing market updates published by Idealista—Spain’s online real estate classified.
Plus, being data that’s unique and comprehensive, there’s a chance the media will also cover it. And this means extra points for SEO content and brand awareness.
“Average prices fell 35 per cent in Las Palmas province between the 2007 peak and the subsequent low point; those in Santa Cruz de Tenerife lost 41 per cent (the average drop across Spain’s largest 50 cities was 37 per cent), according to Idealista.”
Story angle ideas: Leverage personal and professional expertise
For those without pools of data to leverage, worry not.
Another great resource—one that’s within your reach—is your personal and professional expertise.
Take for example this article on “How to successfully pitch The New York Times“.
Countless articles have been written on how to pitch stories to the media. Some were written by journalists themselves, which is an added plus.
But what makes this particular article stand out is that it’s written by an editor of one of the most prestigious and reputable publications—the New York Times.
Few hold this special position. And that’s exactly what makes his article special. On the receiving end of sometimes up to 200 pitches a day and the decision-maker, Tim’s experience is the value-add.
Criteria #3: Emotional response
In Rand’s own words,
“It’s got to create an emotional response. I want to feel awe. I want to feel surprise. I want to feel joy, anticipation, or admiration for that piece of content in order for it to be considered 10x.”
How it relates to your story’s angle: Humanising a story and telling it from the eyes of the beholder creates a more emotional connection between content and audience.
The idea of creating an emotional bond with the audience hits the very core of content marketing.
You not only want to solve a problem by providing practical information, but you also want to do so by sparking an emotional response. That will eventually facilitate the development of a relationship with your audience.
To achieve this, the story’s angle is everything. Of all the available approaches, one that allows you to speak to your audience’s hearts while transcending informative and educational level is the one that will hit home.
With data, you offer quality information. But by framing and humanising this information within a story, you enhance its value and offer your audience a more personal experience with your content.
To find a human angle to your story, you need to find out what emotions are at play. Ask yourself:
- What’s at stake?
- What value does your story have and what do you risk not telling it?
- What emotions do the problem or the solution trigger?
The power of an emotive introduction
Copyblogger’s editor-in-chief, Stefanie Flaxman, knows all too well the power of a strong and emotive introduction.
Here’s how she begins her article In Search of Better Introductions.
Stefanie’s angle comes from her own personal experience. It’s beautifully illustrated with details and also describes a common problem faced by content marketers: he who does not start strong to hook the reader loses the reader.
Her being on board the plane isn’t what makes the article human. It’s the little details that matter.
“…I couldn’t watch another minute of the movie.”
“…to see if it would get my boyfriend’s attention.”
“…eating our last airplane meal with a spork.”
The boredom, wanting her boyfriend’s attention, readjusting to work mode after a vacation—hardly anyone’s a stranger to these feelings.
In seven short sentences, she’s hooked us in. We’re not only visualising Stefanie fidgeting and her boyfriend using a spork while keeping his eyes on Alicia Vikander, but we’re also feeling her emotions.
Having established that, she dives into the practical.
The angle you choose is crucial to meeting the objective of each content your produce. It determines the quality, differentiation, and the emotional bond you form with your audience.
Ideas alone do not help meet objectives.
But the angle and execution sure do.
Want to learn more about content writing? Don’t forget to hop on over to our blog!
Lin’s an ex-journalist who’s found her new love in content marketing. In her spare time, she’s on a secret conquest to find a solution to never having to cut her nails again.