What is authentic content?
This isn’t a question you hear SEOs asking very often. In the world of linkable content, the audience is king. Too often, the audience becomes numbers. Content creators tend to serve the numbers. They want to know how many people are searching for a term and how they can capture a piece of the search pie.
Once content is published, creators and the websites they write for want to amplify reach through social media. Here again, big numbers are the aim. But isn’t this putting the content cart before the organic horse?
One metric that SEO content creators often use to inform topics is keyword search volume. Here’s the problem: just because you create an article based on high-volume keywords doesn’t mean your audience will click on that article, nor does it mean your article is compelling and useful enough to earn backlinks and social media engagement.
To truly capture an audience, your content must sizzle with authenticity and compelling insights on a consistent basis.
Definition of Authentic Content
Authentic content is any type of media that exists because it needs to exist. Think of authentic content like you would arms or legs, or any sort of appendage, for that matter.
Our appendages evolved into their present form for a reason: they serve a certain purpose and allow us to solve problems. Humans have a niche. We live in a world of ideas.
Our arms, hands, and fingers allow us to do the most basic things — eat, drink, use tools to build shelter — so that we can communicate complex ideas. Our arms and hands are also tools for communicating ideas via the written word, videos, memes, you name it.
Authentic content is necessary in your niche. An SEO blog wouldn’t be complete without an article about how Google works and why the search engine displays the results it displays; if you want to do SEO, you have to understand Google. Likewise, a blog about search engines needs an article about search engines you can use instead of Google.
Authentic content allows a website to do what arms and legs do for a human body: get where you need to go. In this case, where you need to go is the first page of a SERP.
Authentic Content vs. Foundational Content
The difference between authentic content and foundational content is that authentic content has more room to roam. Foundational content is by all means authentic, but it only covers the primary building blocks of a business’s specialty.
Authentic content starts with foundational pieces and moves on to encompass any sort of piece in a brand’s arsenal. Authentic content may include:
- Resource articles;
- How-to pieces;
- Informational or even entertaining videos;
- Think pieces;
- Trending topics;
Authenticity is a quality that any article can have, whereas foundational or definitional content is a subset of articles to which future articles will refer when addressing specific queries that have a more narrow focus.
Why Authentic Content?
On the face of it, the reason for creating authentic content is simple: strive to be true to your focus, and your authenticity and passion will impress itself upon your audience.
You’ll probe every nook and cranny of your niche, answering questions before people even ask them. Intense and earnest focus will showcase your expertise and you will easily become a thought leader in your industry.
This is all true, but there’s more to it than that. Think about why you got involved in the business to begin with. Chances are you weren’t excited about the nitty gritty — there was an underlying big picture behind this endeavor.
For every business there’s a “why” with a capital W. You didn’t develop tax software because people need to understand how to get the most out of itemizing their deductions. You developed software because you wanted to make it easy and inexpensive — if not free — for people to do something that the government makes it ridiculously hard and therefore costly to do.
You want to be authentic because the big picture is what motivates you. It’s safe to assume the big picture motivates other people, too.
The big picture is a jigsaw puzzle we’re all looking to solve. Creating authentic content is about providing each piece of the puzzle. Once the puzzle is complete, you can see the big picture.
As the world evolves there may be no end to the puzzle. But at least your authentic efforts help people grasp each piece of the puzzle so they can see something close to the big picture.
Incredible Examples of Authentic Content
The following posts are authentic to their creators’ niches. Through this effort, they achieve a high level of engagement.
- Number of backlinks (Moz): 2,000;
- Number of social media engagements (BuzzSumo): 2,000,000;
- Number of shares: 7,313.
This post, published on March 13, 2020, achieved these metrics in less than a month (18 days to be precise). The website that published it is Kids Activities, a mom blog by Dallas, TX blogger Holly Homer.
The post benefits from timing — it popped up just as many states were shutting down schools due to the coronavirus threat. The article is so simple, and that’s why it works so well: a comprehensive resource post parents can use to keep their kids learning while they’re stuck at home. True to the domain on which it’s published, the post offers educational activities for kids. This is a truly useful resource.
- Number of backlinks: 818;
- Number of social media engagements: 2,000,000;
- Number of shares: 347,042;
- Ranking keywords (Moz): 337.
This Medical News Today article gets at the heart of what the popular health site is all about. Medical News Today publishes fact-checked and peer-reviewed articles written by medical professionals to help readers make informed decisions about their health.
Granted, an article about something as simple as hand washing probably would not have gained this much traction had it been written at a different time. That said, this basic and essential subject is cornerstone content for a site in Medical News Today’s niche, and fulfills MNT’s mission perfectly. It’s an authentic complement to the site’s stable of consistently informative health articles published daily.
- Number of backlinks: 95;
- Number of social media engagements: 58,700;
- Number of shares: 8,143.
This post encapsulates My Modern Met’s mission to “promote a positive culture by spotlighting the best sides of humanity—from the lighthearted and fun to the thought-provoking and enlightening.” Visually stunning images are at the center of the site’s content core, and this post is no exception. Along with the original picture featured in the post, the site commissioned an expert to annotate the halos in the picture.
Authentic and captivating content often comes from a sense of wonder. My Modern Met showcases its sense of wonder with this post, getting you that much closer to heaven in the process.
How to Create Authentic Content
Follow these steps to create authentic content that has a kind of irresistible electricity on the page:
- Think hard about your company’s mission and core values. What problem(s) are you trying to solve for people? What is the human element behind your product or service that everyone can relate to?
- Do a keyword analysis. Which of your target keywords are especially important to your site/company’s mission and core values? Of these essential keywords, which ones are ranking and which ones are falling short? Which ones have higher click-through rates in the SERPs?
- Do an onsite content analysis and a competitor analysis (these are part of the linkable content creation process). Is there any cornerstone or evergreen content your site is missing? How does your content stack up against competitors’?
- Survey the internet atmosphere with an eye on current events and trends, as well as where your niche and business stand in the overall scheme of things. If you were a member of your target audience, what topic(s) would be incredibly useful to see from a site like yours right now? What topic(s) would be evergreen and serve as a great reference point down the road?
- Look at relevant top-ranking articles on major sites that aren’t necessarily niche-specific. What are these articles doing well? Do they have especially compelling titles? Longer or shorter word counts? Which pain-points do they address? What types of formatting do they use? Are they employing video or multimedia approaches? Is the top-performing piece part of a series of articles or does it stand alone? What does the top performer do better than its competitors?
Now put it all together; first and foremost, your ideas for authentic, traffic-grabbing content will be based on what you care about most as a person, not as a business person seeking sales.
Next, you’ll be looking at how your values and the ideas that stem from them connect to your audience’s online activity. The competitive landscape will also play a role. When it comes to successful competitors, chances are authentic content will fill a content gap.
Finally, you’ll be examining the internet at large to gain a better understanding of how to make this top-funnel content sparkle. Your end result should be a stable of authentic content ideas you can be proud of, including evergreen articles and timely pieces.