Editor’s Note: This post was originally published one year ago, so you’ll see some references to 2014 data. Since then, we’ve found that the method Sean outlines here is as useful as ever, and we wanted to make sure that people who have found us more recently got the chance to try it for themselves. Happy content planning!
“How in the world did that kid know that?” I thought.
I was out for a bike ride last week and came across a neighborhood yard sale. As is contractually obligated with all yard sales, there were no less than 10 lemonade stands manned by some of the most aggressive elementary school entrepreneurs I’ve ever encountered ($1.00 for a Dixie Cup of lemonade is just obscene, Suzie). All in all, pretty standard stuff.
That is, until I got towards the end of the block.
There was a small line forming at one of the stands. “This must be some killer lemonade,” I thought. As I got closer, I realized my assessment was completely wrong.
The kid wasn’t selling lemonade. He was selling sno-cones.
Naturally, being a northerner and having an affinity for snow in all forms, I waited in line until I could purchase this delicious frozen treat. I put my $.50 in the cup but, before I left, the marketer in me took over and I asked the kid why he was selling sno-cones. That’s when Jared the 4th grader shrugged and proceeded to drop some big-boy knowledge on me:
“I knew everyone else would sell lemonade, so if I did too then not as many people would come over here. But if I sold something different, I thought more people would come buy stuff.“
Give us a call in a couple years, Jared. He just demonstrated one of the most crucial aspects of marketing: the power of being unique.
It is vital to be unique, especially in content marketing, which is why I’m going to show you how to create content that no one else has ever written.
Why Unique Content Is So Important
Unique content is like your brain: you’re aware of its importance, but few people actually understand the inner workings of what makes it important.
Really, you want to craft unique content for two reasons:
- The search engine optimization (SEO) payoff is enormous.
- The value your current and future readers will receive gives your site an aura of authority.
From the SEO standpoint, unique content is key to your site’s overall quality. Content is one of the three pillars of SEO, which means search engines highly value quality offerings.
At the end of the day, you want visibility on a search engine. To get there, a lot of factors come into play — factors unique content can lend itself to. Ranking in select keywords is one way to gain that visibility. Weaving important keywords into a popular piece of content in strategic spots will signal to search engine crawlers that you want your content to be known for those select keywords (more on that later).
Search engines will also shoot you up the rankings if your piece of content is seen as “authority.” This is generally a combination of a few things:
- Link equity via other sites linking to your content
- A steady, large number of visits over a long period of time
- Time visitors spend on page
- Existing domain-level URL authority on a certain topic
Nailing a combination of these attributes (not necessarily in that order) will help search engines see your content as an authentic and helpful “authority” piece.
But it’s not just search engines that will see you as an authority — your readers will too when you create unique content.
Case in point: take a look at your bookmarked sites. How many of those did you bookmark because you read something from a third party and followed that content back to the source?
I bet you’ve got a couple examples that fit the bill. Heck, I bookmarked some of my favorite websites that I now read daily all because of a single piece of valuable, unique content. Once you create something unique, you plant the seed of curiosity in a reader’s mind — which transitions to long-term repeat readership.
Unfortunately, many people don’t do the research required to create unique content. That’s when you get into serious trouble.
What Happens When You Aren’t Unique
Run-of-the-mill articles are already fighting an uphill battle from the moment you write your first word.
Let’s look at a concrete example. Say you’re in the business of marketing consultation. You want to write a post on a topic that could demonstrate your knowledge in a specific communication vehicle.
Hey! What if you wrote a post on how to make a podcast? That’s a highly-searched phrase AND it’s something people would find helpful.
Not so fast. Take a look at what comes up when you search for “how to make a podcast”:
It seems like everyone thought it would be a good idea to write on that topic, too. One of the main problems with generic content is the competition it will immediately face. Take a look at the websites on that search result:
- Smart Passive Income
These are all big-time heavy hitters. It’s so competitive on that first page that Microsoft is the last result.
Bigger companies can get away with publishing this general, overarching content because their link authority will more often than not push any content to the top of a search result. So if that’s the case, how do you compete?
You don’t. Well, not in the head-to-head sense. You can’t go tit-for-tat with these established sites on identical content because their generic content will trump anything of equivalent value.
What you have to do is be unique.
How to Create Unique Content
STOP! At this point, it is highly recommended that you download the free “How To Create Unique Content” Worksheet in order to follow along and create your own unique content. You can click here to download.
Other sites tell you how to come up with ideas, but few actually show you how to research and create that valuable content.
So few, in fact, that I’ll show you how to make a unique piece of content with this very blog post as the example.
Be warned: this is an intensive, multi-step process. A lot of work goes into crafting unique content, and it certainly isn’t easy.
But if you’re ready for some serious results, I’ll show you how to create content that will stand out from the crowd every single time.
Step 1. Idea Generation
What a shocker, right? In order to create unique content, you need to have an idea for said content. Also, the sky is blue and the sun is hot.
Now that we got the obvious out of the way, let me share something a little less obvious: you already know what you want to create.
You have the knowledge to create something masterful in your chosen profession. It’s just about finding the right inspiration to draw out that knowledge in a focused way.
There are countless articles that cover this, but let me share with you the best sources for inspiration from my own experience:
- Blogs – Not just blogs in your profession, but other blogs that have nothing to do with what you would normally write about. You’d be surprised by how seeming unrelated topics can inspire great blog ideas within your profession.
- Social Media – Seeing what’s popular and trending within the conversational constructs of social media can spark a great idea.
- Books – Authors expand greatly upon singular subjects, but even they miss things. If you can find what they miss, you’ve got a guaranteed great piece of content.
- Work Conversations – Some of my best posts have come from listening to coworkers and going off on random tangents.
- Personal Needs – What challenges do you face as a professional in your field? I bet others face that same thing, too. Make something that addresses it.
- Forums – Go to forums where readers in your target audience are talking. Listen. They’ll tell you what they want to hear.
Each week I write a new post for the LeadPages blog. Most people think that means I sit down once a week, read a million blogs and come up with a new idea to write about.
Not the case.
I’m constantly writing down new blog ideas, and I suggest you do the same. I’ve got a list of 51 blog post ideas built up just waiting to be written, and only three of those came from a “designated brainstorming time.”
Confining yourself to one time on one day and hoping the inspiration gods bless you with a wealth of ideas is absolutely crazy. Brainstorming is a 24/7 process and better left to the subconscious mind.
David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, agrees:
“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.”
My biggest advice I can give in this department is to view your world through the lens of your profession. When you do that, even the most mundane trip to a gas station can turn into a content idea (it did for me).
I suggest having a way to jot these ideas down at all times. Personally, I use a combination of Evernote for cell phone-to-computer streaming and Google Drive as a master list. Others prefer the ol’ pen and paper method, which works just as well. In any case, always have a way to record your thoughts in the moment.
For this article, I mentioned in the opening how the sno-cone stand in the midst of lemonade stands sparked my curiosity. In the moment, though, I didn’t know I had an article. I knew there was something interesting, but didn’t know if I could do anything with just a story about kids and their garage sale shenanigans.
So, I opened up my phone, wrote down “sno cone stand with lemonade stands…kid wanted to be different” in Evernote and went about my business.
Step 1.5. Bubble Chart
The next step in this unique content process is optional, but it helps out tremendously if you do end up sitting down to brainstorm.
For this step, you use a bubble chart to create different keywords and expand upon them with like-terms. Imagine a word association exercise, but with the end goal of uncovering a unique content idea.
I sat down and took the term “unique content” and put it in the middle of my main bubble chart circle. Once I did that, I let my brain run wild with possible terms related to unique content:
You can see how things shook up (if you can decipher my terrible writing). Each bubble that branched off the main center bubble represented a potential article idea. You can see five topics, and the circles that branch off those circles represent key points within that specific topic. The more of those circles you see, the stronger I felt that topic would be.
Starred circles represent topics I believe could be stand-alone articles. If you trace the lines, you can see that one of the starred circles actually branched off of another starred circle. What I ended up with were two potential article ideas.
But would they stand the test of uniqueness? That’s what the next step would uncover.
Step 2. Competitive Research
Once you have one to two strong ideas, you’ll then run them through the competitive research step in this process. This is the real breaking point in the whole process — ideas that make their way out of this rigorous step will go on to be truly unique pieces of content.
The competitive research step is all about getting your piece of content ranked on a search engine’s first page of results for a specific search term. Ignoring this step would be like displaying a beautiful piece of art you’ve created in a pitch dark room. If no one can find it, then it doesn’t matter how unique your content is.
The first thing you have to do is Google your topic to see the types of content you’ll be going up against. To do this, take your main topic and search for it in Google like anyone else would. For example, if your idea was “creating podcasts,” a phrase you could search for is “how to create a podcast.”
Once you do that, you need to take a look at all the search results on the first page. We don’t bother with the second page in this analysis because 1) You’re aiming for first page results and 2) Almost every clicked link from a search result occurs on the first page.
For each of the links that show up on the first page of results for your search term, do the following things:
- Assess the Quality of Content: This is subjective, but you can generally tell after viewing a piece of content if it is strong or not. Overall, look to see if the content is clear, doesn’t contradict itself, is backed up with outside sources and contains real-world application. If it contains most or all of those elements, it should be high-quality content.
- Check the Content Date: The publish date of a piece of content matters to search engines. If the article is old and hasn’t been updated since the original date, it’s a prime target to overtake in rankings. If the article is old and has been updated frequently, it’s going to be extremely difficult to overtake because the search engine will see it as a timeless, authoritative piece of content. Newer content is trickier to judge because you have to factor in traffic to the page. Google likes to reward new content by giving it a shot on the first page, but for the most part a newer piece of content can be easier to overtake than an established older one.
- View the Page Rank: Page rank is an algorithm that counts the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. Linkbacks are massively important in SEO, so this step factors in the strength of a site through the number of linkbacks. The more linkbacks there are, the more challenging it will be to overtake. Stay tuned for the free tool you can use to instantly determine PageRank.
- Analyze the Main Keywords: This applies more to written content than multimedia formats like videos. Still, you can check the title of multimedia content to see the main keyword they’re going after (it should be the one you Googled). Analyzing the keywords on a piece of content helps you two ways. First, you can see the main keywords they’re targeting to get to that first page ranking. Second, looking at their main keyword is an easy way to see what the main idea of their content is (sometimes it isn’t clear after reading/watching). Getting an idea of the common keyword themes of content on the first search result page will help you tremendously in later steps.
For most of these steps, having a tool to analyze keywords, page rank and content date is essential. There are many tools available, but I suggest using SEO Quake. It’s free and integrates seamlessly into Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsers.
If you find yourself facing a first page full of high quality, established, keyword-saturated pieces of content with high page ranks, you might need to revisit steps 1 and 1.5 to come up with a different idea, or try searching for different takes on your idea with different keywords.
Ideally, you want to find yourself in a situation where the first search results page only contains two to three strong pieces of content. This makes it much more likely for your unique piece of content to make it to the first search result page.
Since I had two potential ideas for this post, I decided to do competitive analysis on both of them.
First, I tested out the topic of how to come up with unique ideas. I Googled “unique content ideas,” a phrase that encapsulates and mimics a normal search for the topic.
The results weren’t very pleasing:
As you can see, the first page for this search term is quite competitive. Every article is high-quality and authored by an authoritative URL. This would be a less-than-ideal situation for anyone.
However, because you should always do due diligence, I still analyzed every link on the page.
For the sake of your time, I’ll show you the analysis I go through for just one of the links. Let’s take a look at the first result: “Ideas for Creating Content That’s Actually Unique.”
First, I read through the quality of content:
The quality on this page is solid. She takes a strong, clear stance throughout the article and brings in multiple sources to prove and expand upon her points. The ideas she brings up aren’t conventional by any means, which helps cement the article as unique. Content-wise, this article is strong.
Next, I took a look at the date of creation:
May 23rd of 2014. This is a newer article, which would usually mean it has a better chance of being overtaken. However, this piece of content is the #1 result in a Google search, so clearly there’s some power going on behind the scenes to drive this ranking.
That meant I needed to dive in and see what sort of mojo was happening under the hood. Specifically, the page rank or domain authority. I opened up my SEO Quake tool and analyzed the top-level domain:
Then, under “Backlinks,” I clicked on the hyperlinked number next to the LD (or link domain). That let me look at the number of backlinks going to the website and specific page. Once I clicked that, I saw this:
53,000 total backlinks. Wow. That means there are fifty three thousand links on the internet pointing to this domain. That’s quite a bit, which would explain why this page is so high up on the first page of a Google search result. A page garnering that many backlinks in such a short amount of time will be difficult to overtake since Google will see it as an authoritative page.
Finally, I needed to look at the keywords they chose to determine if my keywords would overlap. Scrolling down on the SEO Quake analysis, I see a couple things:
First, I see their top three single-word keywords. “Content,” “marketing” and “ideas” are the top three keywords in this piece of content. “Content” is mentioned 54 times in the copy, equating to 4.33% of the total word count. It is also found in the page title (T), page description (D) and page meta keywords (K). This is clearly the keyword they’re trying to rank highest in.
Interestingly enough, the word “unique” doesn’t rank highly in the article itself:
It’s only mentioned four times. However, it happens to be in the page title, which elevates its prominence in the article. Something else to check is the two-word keyword phrases. This gives more of a defined look at what two words a marketer is trying to group together for an actual phrase as opposed to a one-word spattering:
The first two words in the single-word keyword list show up as a phrase 25 times, which means “content marketing” is the big phrase the author is trying to rank on overall.
“Creating content,” however, is in the page title, description and meta keywords. This, like the single word “unique,” means she’s using these keywords for vanity purposes. They might be in important places, but these keywords aren’t backed by any keyword density. This means a piece of content with a higher density of “creating content” could overtake her in that ranking.
Needless to say, combining all these factors makes this a very competitive page. I performed this analysis for the rest of the links and it confirmed my suspicion that this blog idea and the phrase “unique content ideas” would be difficult to rank well in. Almost every page performed just as well as the first one, and each topic related strongly to the phrase I searched in Google.
Moving that idea to the side, I tried my other topic centering around creating unique content. I Googled “How to create unique content” and this is what I saw:
This…is more promising. After running my analysis, I found three things:
- Overlapping Content: Much of the content from the first blog topic analysis I ran showed up again in this search. That’s interesting to note, because the only constant is “unique content” as a search query between the two. Take away cross-match articles from the result and I really have to compete with the other links for immediate results.
- Better Opportunity: The domain authority and content in this search result isn’t as strong as the last search. Yes, there are still great pieces of content, but not from top to bottom like before. It should be easier to rank on the first page in this scenario.
- Lack of Specificity: The majority of these posts STILL talk about the ideation process for unique content creation. They don’t talk about the entire start-to-finish sequence. I want to write about the full process of content creation, which no one else has done.
Since there’s more opportunity with this topic, I decided to select this as the topic I’d write about.
Eyes a bit glazed from all that? Don’t worry — the next part pulls us back into the actual idea creation for your topic.
Step 3. Determine Content Type
Phew. Ok, the deep statistical nerd dive is out of the way. Now that you have a feel for your competition and the diversity of their content, you can move on to thinking of ways to make something unique from the content perspective (as opposed to the SEO perspective).
By now, you should have a feel for what kind of content you’ll be competing against. Some pages might revolve around a unique twist on played-out content. Some pages might not be that unique at all, but just have high domain authority.
Either way, you need to look at your landscape and determine how you want to position your piece of content. To do that, we turn to formulas.
There’s a science to unique content. Topics and content will vary wildly from person to person, but the construct of the overall idea falls under one of four different archetypes:
These pieces of content aim for a massive burst of traffic for a short period of time. Content in this category is time-sensitive and generally needs an external, independent event to happen in order to exist. Journalistic pieces, commentary on current events or lists based on pop culture fall into this classification. This is a short term play, with no true intent for long-term benefits.
Examples: Manny Machado Injury Analysis
This is a journalistic piece on the injury involving Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. A few weeks from now this story won’t matter, but at the time it generated high traffic for a week. In order for this story to be created, an external, independent event had to occur (Machado injury).
Questions to Ask Before Choosing:
- Did the event happen in the last day? Week?
- Is it an event that merits reporting on?
- Is the event something my audience is talking about or interested in?
- Am I okay with this not being evergreen?
- Can I create this content quickly?
The content in this category capitalizes on played-out ideas. A content twist takes existing ideas that have pages and pages of search results and puts it in a new light.
This tactic completely circumvents the strong, pre-existing competition in the specific category by going a completely new direction with it.
These articles tend to perform well initially on social media due to their unorthodox presentation, which transitions into higher rankings on search engines in the long term.
Anyone who owns a bike and has a modicum of bike repair knowledge has created a video/article/ about how to change a bike tire. Even though the market is saturated with this information, it doesn’t make it any less helpful.
The example video builds on the idea of changing a tire and adds a new twist with the “1 minute” angle. This slight idea shift changes the whole context of the idea, even though the core element still revolves around changing a bike tire.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing:
- Is my twist viable?
- Does the twist combine two important things?
- Is the twist interesting? Will it inspire curiosity?
- Does the main topic lend itself to a twist?
New content is exactly that: new. This content takes advantage of an unknown need in the market for information on a certain topic. It takes a bit of imagination and research to look for things that don’t exist, but when you find that niche the upside is phenomenal.
You’ll be the first person in that category, which means established link equity and early entry advantages for your content.
Example: Macy’s Glamorama Information
Every year, Macy’s has a Glamorama fashion show around the nation. Macy’s has a page dedicated to all the Glamoramas around the nation. However, the page wasn’t tailored to each specific city.
Minneapolis.org published a press release that was focused specifically on the Minneapolis Glamorama show and, since it was the first content dedicated to the topic, Minneapolis.org saw a massive spike in visitors to their site.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing:
- Did I dig deep enough to see if the content actually does exist?
- Will this content be important?
- In what way will this content be new?
- Once I create this content, what will keep it at the top?
This is the toughest piece of unique content to pull off. Content of this nature takes what everyone else has done and makes it BIGGER.
Much bigger, in fact.
Epic content expands on a given topic to a comprehensive degree, offering a one-stop-shop feel for what visitors searched for. You see this a lot in guides, multi-part videos and anything else that lends itself to an authoritative, long-form format.
This is arguably the most rewarding of the unique content formats due to the evergreen pillar status it receives on your site.
Example: Neil Patel’s Guide to Link Building
A quick Google search on “Link building” brings you to Neil Patel’s massive guide on how to build links. This massive 15-chapter guide is the most detailed look at link building on the internet.
Long-form analysis is complemented by detailed graphical layouts and helpful, real-world examples, making this an authoritative piece of content in the eyes of Google.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing:
- What makes this epic?
- Do I have the resources to do this correctly?
- Can I provide enough content to make it engaging and helpful throughout?
- Am I ready to market this one piece of content?
- What extra value am I adding to existing content?
Once you’ve asked all these questions and imagined your topic in each archetype, you can choose a type to apply to your content.
There was one glaring detail I found in my competitive analysis:
What I wanted to write about didn’t exist.
At least on the first page, anyway. And by non-existent, I mean the scale of what I wanted to share just wasn’t there. Most articles talked about the idea generation aspect, but no one walked you through the whole process — from idea generation to created content.
That’s why I chose to create epic content with a dash of newness to it. I could take the idea of how to create unique content and break it down into a step-by-step walkthrough. This was the sort of content I wanted to be evergreen, which is something the epic archetype is a perfect fit for.
Step 4. Establish Keywords
You’ve seen the importance of keywords throughout the article. Adding words or phrases within your content and meta titles/descriptions can help search engines determine when your content should rank highly.
In order to do that, you need to know which keywords to target. Luckily, this is a pretty simple step with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
First, you’ll need to determine what your main keyword should be. This keyword will be featured in your content title, description and meta-keywords, as well as the actual content itself. The keyword you choose should encapsulate the main theme of the article in two to three words max.
Come up with two to three ideas for a main keyword, then head over to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
Enter the first main keyword idea you have in the “Your product or service” area, then click “Search.” You’ll then be taken to a screen that looks like this:
This is where the magic happens. For your keyword, you’ll be able to see average monthly searches, competition for that keyword (from a paid perspective) and other potential keyword ideas.
The goal of this step is to find a highly searched keyword that is specific to what your content offers. This keyword should be close to what you searched for originally in your competitive analysis step in order to stay consistent with competitor keywords.
If you find out your main keywords aren’t searched for often, you may need to go back and rethink your content angle. You may have a great idea for unique content, but if no one is searching for the topic then you’ve essentially spent a lot of time creating content for ten people, and that’s not what you’re aiming for here.
Once you find your main keyword, repeat the step 2-3 more times for potential sub-keywords you want to include solely in your content. These don’t have to be as highly searched as your main keyword, but they should have decent traffic numbers to help with your content visibility. These are the keywords you’ll weave into your content as much as possible to rank up in search engines.
Once you’ve picked out your keywords, you’ll be down to one last step (before creating the actual content, of course).
Sticking with my competitive analysis search, I narrowed my main two keyword possibilities to “unique content” and “unique ideas.” Both are viable and convey what my article covers, but my research showed one to be slightly better than the other.
Here’s what came up when I searched for “unique ideas”:
This looks decent at 590 searches per month, but what makes me wary are the relevant keywords. The bulk of “unique ideas” searches come in the form of unrelated topics.
I’d be worried about these related keywords taking search traffic away from me due to the high volume of gift and event themes using the “unique ideas” term. In this case, “unique ideas” might be a better sub-keyword to target.
That left me with “unique content.” Plugging that into the Google AdWords Keyword Planner yielded this result:
That’s more like it. Not only do I get a higher average monthly search on this term, but the related terms aren’t as closely aligned to “unique content.” This would be my main keyword, and you can see it in my article title, description and content.
After a bit more trial and error with keywords, I came up with the following for the article:
Main Keyword – “unique content”
Sub-Keyword – “content creation”
Sub-Keyword – “idea generation”
Search throughout the article and you’ll find a generous placement of all these keywords within the content. The end goal of this is to be able to be on a first page search result whenever anyone types in a combination of these phrases.
With my keywords picked out and my content archetype decided on, I was left with one last thing to do.
5. Find the Hook
To quote Blues Traveler, “It’s the hooooook that brings you baaaaaaAAAAAaack.”
Whatever your unique content idea, it needs to have a hook to keep bringing in visitors. The hook is something that defines your unique idea, making it truly stand out from other similar pieces of content.
Your hook should be simple to convey if you were explaining it to another person. Likewise, it should be closely related to the archetype you chose in step three.
Examples of these statements could be along the lines of:
“I’m going to cover this hot political story first.”
“I’m going to have the most comprehensive link building guide on the internet.”
“I’m going to show people how to cut a watermelon in under one minute.”
Once you have your hook, you need to outline the main points you want to convey in your content. Your content needs focus — especially if you’re going the epic route — so plotting out the exact messages you want to get across in your content will help keep you on track.
Say you took the “How to cut watermelon in under one minute” example. The main points I’d want to get across (in order) would be:
- Show the watermelon being cut in under a minute (to captivate right away and prove my claim).
- Why it’s beneficial to cut a watermelon quicker.
- What you’ll need to do it.
- The technique behind each step.
- Cut the watermelon in under a minute again to show it all come together.
My hook was clear from the moment my competitive research was finished. Not only was I going to show you how to come up with unique content, but I was going to show the entire process behind the creation as well. No one else had done that, which meant it was going to define my article.
Since this was an epic archetype, I decided to supplement my main idea with the sub-ideas I came up with in the Bubble Chart. Those ideas couldn’t stand alone because they weren’t unique in nature. However, in the context of this article, they combine to create a “sum is greater than the parts” effect.
Each one of my main points turned into their own sections and steps, as you’ve read throughout the article. It starts with the importance of unique content, followed by what happens if you aren’t unique, then breaks down into the step-by-step process of how to create unique content. All these were individual ideas on my Bubble Chart, but they came together to form an epic post.
HOW WILL YOU USE THIS?
There you have it — the complete guide to creating unique content. Now all you have to do is actually…you know…create the content! I hope you find value in this and create wonderful content that will make your site an authoritative cornerstone.
Was this guide helpful to you? Would you like me to expand upon any points? Let me know in the comments below!