We think marketers have become too focused on length being the key factor to “great content”, which has produced too many long posts that have nothing original to say.
How many “epic” 3000+ word blog posts have you read that haven’t really taught you anything new? For me, too many.
So, in our opinion, length is not a sufficient definition for great content.
How, then, is great content defined?
We define it as driving business results:
- It drives traffic.
- A decent fraction of that traffic is qualified.
- It drives leads or sales.
We’ve already developed a few frameworks to help understand how to produce great content more often.
First, we defined Mirage Content as the rampant problem in our industry: content that looks and feels like it should work (e.g. it’s long) but when you measure its impact, it’s not helping the business.
Then, we introduced The Specificity Strategy as a way to fix the Mirage Content problem. It argues that you need specificity to really impress a target customer, and including that will produce better content.
In this post we want to introduce another framework you can use to produce better content.
We call this framework: Originality Nuggets.
Below, we cover:
- Why we created this framework
- How it’s distinct from the Specificity Strategy
- A Range of Examples of Originality Nuggets
- Litmus test: How to know if a post has originality in it
- Actionable Conclusion: How to put this to use
And for the advanced reader, at the end, we also included this section:
- How Originality Nuggets are different from other well known content frameworks
Why Originality Nuggets?
It’s a fair question to ask why we are coming up with another framework to define great content.
We have already come up with:
Others have also come up with famous frameworks:
- “10X content” by Rand Fishkin (discussed below)
- “Skyscraper Technique” by Brian Dean (discussed below)
So why Originality Nuggets?
The reason is that recently we’ve been able to produce content that does drive business results without checking the boxes of these other frameworks.
In other words, content that was not 10X, was not a taller skyscraper, and was not specific still drove results (ranking for intended keywords, getting traffic, converting).
So the other frameworks felt incomplete.
Meanwhile, we noticed a pattern in these content pieces that were working: they all seemed to have some nuggets of originality in them, defined as:
Little bits of originality that make a piece of content unique from others, and thus worthy of being shared or linked to.
How are Originality Nuggets distinct from The Specificity Strategy?
Because sometimes you need to rank for a term that requires generality.
Let’s look at an example to explore this. Let’s take this keyword:
The intent behind this keyword is pretty obvious: people are looking for lists of tools.
We provided that with this post for our client Leadfeeder:
It ranks #2 at the time of writing, for that term. It also drives leads because Leadfeeder can be considered a lead generation tool.
So this is a successful piece by our standards.
But strict adherence to The Specificity Strategy would probably lead you to take a different angle than listing 41 lead generation tools. You might instead do a deep dive into a couple of tools, tell a story about how one company created a lead generation tool, or something along those lines.
But clearly you didn’t need to, and frankly, if you did, I think you’d be straying from what most searchers’ intent is here.
Hence, the Specificity Strategy feels incomplete in this case.
However, you do need something to make the post stand out. Not just to rank but also to impress a target customer when they land on the piece.
We’ve found that this “something” doesn’t have to be much. It just needs to be a nugget of originality, a nugget of uniqueness.
In this case, the nugget is described in the introduction:
“The tools you need…will depend on your specific goal” we said, so in this post the tools are “arranged by categories”, which we think gives the post a better user experience.
That’s it, that the originality. You can check the other 10 results in the SERP to confirm this claim. No one else has it arranged like this, so it is unique.
So although this post is not that specific, it is original.
Benefits of the Originality Nuggets Framework
What we like most about thinking about content in terms of Originality Nuggets is the versatility.
As we outline in the next section of examples, this framework let’s you think of content pieces in tiers of difficulty.
You can add just a little originality (what we call “Light Originality”) and still have something that stands out if a situation calls for it. For example, if you’re going after a niche term and you know a massive endeavor isn’t necessary (nor do you have the time for it), you can still ask yourself:
“How can I add some light originality?”
…and produce a piece quickly that still stands out as better than everyone else. So if you’re going after terms like YourCompany vs. Competitor and you aren’t a household brand, you don’t need to set off on a 6 month endeavor to produce some 15,000 word analysis, with data and professional graphic design. A good angle and some light originality will likely suffice.
On the other hand, for really competitive terms, you can comb through the first 10 results and ask:
“Ok, what is a really original, insightful angle that we can provide?”
Examples of these are below in the “Heavy Originality” section.
This versatility makes Originality Nuggets stand out versus other frameworks. If you’re curious, you can skip to the advanced section below where we discuss how this concept of a range or originality is unique versus frameworks like Skyscraper Technique and 10X content.
Originality Nugget Examples
Let’s go through some examples of originality nuggets from light (just a sprinkle of originality) to heavy (lots of work).
These examples don’t require much work to pull off, just a dash of creativity and a willingness to not be a me-too marketer.
Light Example 1: 41 Lead Generation Tools
We mentioned this above. It ranks #2 for “lead generation tools” and simply organizes the tools by use case which we feel gives a better user experience and could create a small “aha” for the reader who was used to just thinking of all lead gen tools as the same.
Light Example 2: Why Marketing Has Become the Hardest Position to Hire for
Another easy way to add originality is to take an opposing viewpoint to what everyone else is writing about.
A couple of years ago, Benji wrote a post about what’s challenging about hiring marketers and some solutions to solve those challenges. Most of the posts about hiring marketers share things to think about before hiring marketers, they compare and contrast the different options you have available to solve those challenges, and share tips on how to hire.
But no one had taken the angle that said “hiring marketers isn’t easy and here are the reasons why.” By taking a contrarian viewpoint to what everyone else is talking about in the search results, it can be an effective way to show your expertise on a subject and we’ve seen this type of framework can help you rank in the search results as well.
This is not that hard, as most topics have easily identifiable contrarian viewpoints, so we’re classifying this in the “Light” category.
We currently rank #4 for the term “hiring marketing” and various other long-tail keywords around hiring marketers.
These are examples that require a little more effort or creativity than the light examples.
Medium Example 1: How to Get a Marketing Job
This ranks #2 for “How to get a marketing job” and frankly is symbolic of Grow and Convert’s entire content strategy. We think of content ideas on topics that we know our customers are struggling with and we write up an honest, original take on how we deal with it.
We’re classifying these in “medium” because unlike the contrarian viewpoint in light originality, these require some solid, original ideas.
On the surface, this “How to get a marketing job” post covers a lot of the topics and suggestions of other posts: be clear on what job you want, show value, etc.
But it has many great originality nuggets:
1. Book List: Benji included a list of books he recommends all marketers read that helped shape his career and perspective on marketing. This is awesome. Scroll through the other Page 1 results for this keyword. Look at how stale and “produced” they feel. This is a great human, original feel to it. It’s been downloaded 251 times to date, for a 1.4% conversion rate, which is not bad considering the topic of the post has nothing to do with a list of books!
2. First Person: It speaks from 1st person experience. Most of the other articles are a stale 3rd person list of advice. It also includes personal stories from Benji’s real life:
3. Original Takes: It includes a section on why you’re not getting marketing jobs. None of the other 1st page results from what I could tell had that take:
It also has an honest take on bullshitting your way through interviews. Again, no one else is that honest, or that human, in their post:
Medium Example 2: Customer Content Fit
Here is another medium originality post from our site itself, since, as I mentioned above, this is largely our entire content strategy.
Just like the post you’re reading now, we realized we had stumbled upon a way of thinking about content marketing that was original (that was the hard part). Then we just wrote it up clearly (easier part).
It’s not that long (2442 words). No fancy design (mostly text).
But the originality is what’s gotten it great praise:
Darn near #ContentMarketing 🏛 classic 🏛 status IMHO (hell, IT IS!) … Customer-Content Fit: A Framework for Producing #Content That Attracts #Customers by @deveshkhanal @growandconvert @benjihyam 👉👉👉 https://t.co/WLK6gTbwgK pic.twitter.com/FvNG9h3zK4
— Aaron Orendorff (@AaronOrendorff) June 14, 2018
And Benji’s been asked to talk about it:
— Claire Suellentrop (@ClaireSuellen) March 12, 2019
Medium Example 3: Interview-based
I know we’re going to get questions of “What if we don’t have any original ideas?” I’m going to avoid asking the obvious question back: “Then why do you have a blog on this topic?” and move to a tactic to solve it: you have to find someone with original ideas and interview them.
This is a bread and butter technique we use for our client work. Here are 2 examples.
This has brought in over 6,000 visitors to our client, ReportGarden’s blog in the first few months of publishing. We interviewed the Founder/CEO of a multi-million dollar agency and he had awesome insights (Thanks @devbasu).
Think about how much better that article is than one where a freelance writer (who has never scaled an agency before) just “writes something long” on this topic.
Without intentionally SEO optimization for any specific keyword, this seemingly simple post ranks in the top 5 for “best patreon models” (300 searches/m), “patreon models” (300), and “patreon ideas” (200). It gets 6,000 – 7,000 pageviews per month primarily from search (but also aided by Patreon sending this in their welcome series to new patrons).
Yes, it has an advantage because it’s published on patreon.com so it’s supposed to rank for branded terms like that. But note the quality of the post. Each idea has a specific story attached to it, like this one:
Where did we get these stories? By interviewing someone inside Patreon and getting examples from specific creators on Patreon. The team inside Patreon thinks about their business models a lot — helping creators succeed is one of their biggest (if not the biggest) goal — so this is the same as interviewing an expert. Again, this requires a little more work and is definitely harder to reproduce than the “light” examples, so we’ve put this in the “medium originality” section.
Finally, these are my some of my favorite posts: those with serious levels of originality. These take effort and are hard to reproduce. Often they take a bunch of work that needs to be done beforehand and the actual “writing” of the post itself is just the last step, like a scientist writing a research paper after 2 years of lab work.
Heavy Example 1: Mobile Checkout Best Practices
My team at Growth Rock worked on this for months. We wanted to produce something really high quality that would be valuable to ecommerce executives looking for a CRO (conversion rate optimization) agency, our target customer.
We could have just written some top 10 list of our tips on mobile checkout. But we wanted something more lasting and impressive.
So we found 40 ecommerce sites that had the most traffic according to Alexa. Then we analyzed, page by page, exactly what features they had in mobile checkout, and assembled this data in a giant spreadsheet:
We then created graphs of what percentage of these top 40 ecommerce sites used each feature:
And we cited AB test results we had done that applied to certain features were discussing:
This is hard to reproduce!
It literally took us months to do the work, forget just writing the piece. And the work is genuinely original. I don’t know of another resource with this data: what percentage of ecommerce sites are using certain features in their mobile checkout flow.
Fortunately, our hard work paid off. This ranks #1 for “mobile checkout best practices” and #1 for “mobile checkout trends”:
Finally, as per our pain point seo principle, mobile ecommerce and mobile checkout in particular are known pain points of our ideal clients (ecommerce executives looking to increase their site’s conversion rate).
Heavy Example #2: Burn Rate Calculator
For our client Pilot, we learned through user research (have we mentioned that user research is critical to our entire content marketing process?) that their customers were really into figuring out their burn rate.
“Burn rate calculator” was a popular search term on that topic, so we designed and coded a burn rate calculator, complete with graphs and definitions for them. It was published several weeks before I’m writing this post and is currently ranked #2 for me at the time of publishing.
Litmus Test: The Introduction Tells You If You Have Originality
As writers on the Grow and Convert team know, I’m obsessed with blog introductions. In fact, I wrote an entire post on it with teardowns of examples of good and bad blog introductions.
I also think the intro is a tell-tale sign of whether or not an article has originality.
Reason: if you have originality in it, you should sell that hard in your introduction.
The blog introduction is like a little ad for your post. It tells the reader why they should keep reading. In search, it tells them why your result is the one that satisfies their query — why it’s better than the other 14,000,000 results Google has said it has ready and waiting.
So the opposite is also true: if you’re having trouble writing the intro, you may not have any originality in your post. In that case, let me be harsh: your piece is likely not worth writing.
Also: If your intro sounds like every other blog intro on your topic, you also may not have any originality. For example, you’re writing on [topic], and your intro starts with “When it comes to [topic]…” Let me be harsh again: You’re writing that line (along with 400 other bloggers who wrote that line today) because you have no idea what unique or original thing you have to add to this topic.
123 million times, someone sat at a computer and wrote the exact phrase “when it comes to content”. That’s crazy to think about. How many of those articles do you think will teach you something genuinely insightful?
In contrast, look at snippets of introductions of some of the examples above.
The mobile checkout study mentions this is not a post but a report on an extensive study, right out of the gate:
How to scale a digital agency starts with a key original concept and then sells the fact that it was formulated by the owner of a large agency (credibility):
Finally, in a different style, Customer Content Fit starts with a story. Stories like this immediately tell the reader there are authentic, original lessons taught in first person in this article:
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Actionable Conclusions: How to Start Integrating Originality Nuggets Into Your Work
I want to recap a few takeaways of what originality nuggets are, and why they will help you.
- Originality nuggets are chunks of uniqueness in a blog article
- They can be original information, presentation, UX, or some other component but they are typically unique information.
- This framework is distinct from 10X content and Skyscraper Technique in that it allows for small nuggets or originality in situations that don’t need massive posts
So, as per the last bullet, I suggest you start small. The heavy originality examples I ended up with are hard to produce. And the point of originality nuggets framework is to have a technique that is versatile enough to produce better content regardless of the magnitude of the endeavor — i.e. producing good content without always resorting to some massive, 6 month project.
So try this exact step by step approach:
- Use pain point SEO, and our sister content ideation guide to think of topics that are likely high converting but not particular competitive from an SEO standpoint
- Then, think of a piece you can produce in days or weeks, not months
- Now, think of how you can add originality nuggets. Don’t just think of one thing, think of multiple angles. You can use one or more.
What topics will you use? Let us know in the comments and we’ll answer any comments and give feedback.
Advanced: How is this different from other content frameworks
We’d be remiss to not acknowledge great marketers that have outlined useful content frameworks for all of us. So for more advanced readers, this section highlights how Originality Nuggets contrasts with Rand Fishkin’s “10X content” and Brian Dean’s “Skyscraper Technique”, as frameworks by which to evaluate great content.
How Originality Nuggets are different from 10X content
First, chronologically, was “10X Content” coined by Rand Fishkin. From what I can tell, one of the first videos of Rand talking about this is in 2015:
The difference between “Originality Nuggets” and “10X content” is stark: the central thesis of Rand’s 10X content argument in that video is that “good unique content” is not enough!
That seems like a big disagreement.
Are we fundamentally disagreeing with Rand’s assertion that “good unique content” isn’t enough? That to compete for keywords and it actually needs to be “10X”?
I’d answer: kind of.
First, our definition of “originality nugget” is much stricter than Rand’s definition of “good unique content”. In the video he seems to use that phrase to define what I’d call basic, me-too content. For example, he says it should “be good enough to not vomit”.
That’s not how I’m defining originality nuggets. I think they should be genuinely original, which means it makes the reader think “oh, that’s interesting” or perhaps more.
Second, our work over the last few years suggests that you don’t always need 10X content to rank. In particular for less competitive terms.
Specifically, our Pain Point SEO framework shows evidence of us driving leads via ranking for really low volume keywords. Yes, to rank #1 for “SEO” (as Rand’s seminal guide for Moz does), a few originality nuggets isn’t enough, you need 10X, but not to rank for terms like “yourbrand vs. yourcompetitor vs. anothercompetitor”, which is a keyword framework that has worked for us time and again.
It’s this versatility that has drawn us to teaching our agency’s writers the Originality Nuggets framework. If a post is big, it’ll need a lot or originality (and should become indistinguishable from 10X content) but if a post is “small”, we want to still emphasize that it needs some nuggets of originality, it’s not an excuse to produce bland, me-too content. But sprinkling in nuggets of originality is a lot less nerve racking than trying to produce a game changing piece every time.
How is this different from Skyscraper Technique?
The difference with the Skyscraper Technique is similar to the difference with 10X content. Step 2 of this Backlinko technique is the key part: “Make something better”:
Later he defines a few ways to accomplish “better”:
- More up-to-date
- More thorough
He also says he recommends doing all of those:
So similar to “10X Content”, if you stop at a keyword and think “Ok, I want to think rank for this”, the Skyscraper Technique can quickly make you feel like you have a grueling journey ahead of you.
“Ok, I have to make it longer than every results on page 1. Then more up to date. Then more thorough. Then I have to get this designed.”
That’s a tall task!
Again, this is likely necessary when competing for tough terms. And Brian does this masterfully. Backlinko ranks in the top 5 for ridiculously hard terms like “link building”, “backlinks”, “keyword research”, and more.
But we’ve found that for many (dare I say, most) businesses, you don’t need to rank for head terms to generate qualified traffic and leads from content.
So for lower volume, highly intent keywords, it doesn’t make sense to move heaven and earth to create huge guides or research studies when something far quicker will do.
Lastly, I think originality is missing from the Skyscraper Technique definition.
As we said at the beginning, we feel like marketers have begun over-focusing on length, thinking “taller” skyscraper in Brian’s analogy exclusively means “longer”, even if they don’t have anything original to add.
That’s not “great” by any means. Regardless of how long, thorough, up to date, or well designed your content is, if you have nothing original to add, we think it has a likelihood of suffering from not impressing your target customer when they land on it.
Originality Nuggets Balance Effort and Quality
So, you don’t want your brand to be known for fluffy, unoriginal, me too, content.
You also don’t want to spend months creating a single piece if you don’t need to.
And you want a prospective customer who lands on your pieces to feel like they genuinely read something interesting, original, or thought provoking.
Thus we feel that originality nuggets delivers a healthy balance between these competing goals: quality and effort, and therefore is a useful framework to use when crafting an angle for a piece.