creating content for a topic you don’t understand

The difference between having an excellent content creator and a poor one is huge — and the good ones are few and far between. If you are in an industry that is highly technical, or there is a strong need for accurate, in-depth information, the challenge of building digital content without using up your staff’s (expensive) time can be daunting.

In cases like this, the first step to growing a digital property is examining the content you do have, to see if you’re making the most of it. Often, a website’s content can easily be more than doubled – – all while better aligning your site with what’s best for both SEO and your visitors. These common-sense techniques make high-level content creation manageable, so that all that’s required from your technical staff is a quick review.

landing pages

One common thread found across most technical and/or fact-sensitive industries… the major players will value their role as thought leaders. Because of this, they’re prolific in their publication of articles, videos, white papers, case studies, and other resources that help them lead and inform their industry. Those resources usually end up on a page that looks something like this:

Break out videos, white papers, articles,and others into separate pages.

While the page is packed with value, it has two important shortcomings:

  • Context: The content pieces are listed but not explained. Often, users only have an article title to go by when browsing.
  • Focus: This page covers a variety of topics over a plethora of media types (PDF, HTML, video, etc). It’s challenging — and sometimes impossible — to describe the full range of resources in microdata built for search engines and social websites.

With over 30 different resources here, there’s room to break this page out into smaller, more organized sections — possibly by core topic area or medium. As part of the process, a savvy content writer can take the opportunity to create a 2-5 sentence summary of each content piece to accompany it, nicely building out your content as they go.

The resulting pages will better serve the user’s understanding of what they’re browsing, while also adding a wealth of indexable pages to help with search rankings. And the best part? You don’t need to hire someone with an intimate knowledge of immigration and employment laws (or any other highly technical industry) to make it happen.

downloadable content

Once a site has its resources broken out into landing pages, make sure that all downloadable content pieces have their own individual landing page. Content such as word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets can be difficult or impossible for search engines to understand. And while search engines can crawl PDF’s, their ability to do so is limited at best. Case in point: compare this PDF listing to its corresponding HTML landing page, and the difference is obvious:

How a PDF appears in search results

A listing for a PDF in search results

A landing page for a white paper, as it appears in search results.

An HTML landing page for the same resource

Chances are that the HTML version will be much more informative for the user, building the case relevance to encourage them to click through. Additionally, that little [PDF] warning is going to discourage click-through users of mobile devices, who will not be able to easily view the content.

Along with additional traffic, there’s also an opportunity to build up an industry-specific contact list. Take, for example, the “Technical Articles/White Papers” landing page for Klöckner Pentaplast, creator of “rigid plastic film solutions:”

The company is offering 16 resources to the public, ranging from 3-10 pages in length. But users who navigate directly to the PDF do not get the benefit of the site’s navigation, a way to click through to the website, or any path to conversion. A more digital-savvy approach might look something like this:

  • Build a landing page for each PDF that includes a summary of the content, a thumbnail image view of the cover page, and bullets about what’s inside.
  • Add a download button that’s easy for mobile users to press.
  • If the content is new and valuable, put it behind a form that requires the user to share their name and e-mail address before downloading it. Add a checkbox inviting them to sign up for the newsletter.
  • Align the content with your SEO strategy, so you target new groups of keywords

The result? More traffic from better-served users, better results from the users who find your content, and a stronger contact list for your e-mail marketing. And because it was written by someone who is not coming from a highly technical place, it will better appeal to a general audience.


For many companies, videos are their most overlooked asset. They represent rich, engaging media that users love – and one that often required a significant amount of the company’s time and budget to produce. And with 100 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, and video viewing growing rapidly for mobile users, search engine users are beginning to prefer and expect videos in search results.

That being said, if your site’s video page looks like this, you may be giving yourself an unnecessary disadvantage:

To date, and for much of the foreseeable future, Google’s ability to read video is going to be extremely limited. Video files are extremely large when compared to plain text, and it’s just not within the ability of the computers that run search algorithms to process that much data across the web. As a result, if you want a search engine like Google to understand what your video content is about,  you’ll need to put content around it that gives your video context. Follow these steps:

  • Dedicate a landing page for each video, with appropriate metadata, social schema, URL structure, and video schema applied.
  • Write an engaging summary of the video to accompany it. Consider also expanding on the summary with details or commentary that add value to the content.
  • Include a detailed transcript of the video. This will be useful to search engines. It’s also valuable for users who are interested in the video’s content but are in a social setting where the sounds of a playing video are disruptive.
  • Include any videos that are currently hosted off-site but are not present on your core digital property.

From a content strategist perspective, you may not know the first thing about hydroponics, but you can easily create 19 pages of valuable, indexable content from the videos listed above.

office and locations pages

Whether your company has a storefront or just local branches around the country, locations can be valuable for branded search. It’s a well-documented best practice that’s key to building your local SEO strategy and is not seen as spammy by Google. What’s more, it has the potential to bring in a lot of traffic for your site. When working with clients in the past, I’ve seen cases where local office pages were added, and a year later, 7 of the site’s top 25 pages, by traffic, were local office pages.

In the case below, this oil refinery company already has content in place about their local refineries, and could easily flesh these out into pages if desired.

The key challenge to building out a local office page is adding unique relevance and value to each one. When brainstorming to populate your own, consider this checklist:

  • Embed a Google Map on each page.
  • Add location page schema.
  • Add links to any office-specific social media accounts.
  • Add links to location-specific review sites like Yelp.
  • Feature members of the local office leadership team.
  • Add an office-specific contact form.
  • Consider allowing users to leave feedback and ratings for your local office. It’s easier to manage and respond to them on your website than someone else’s!

The more content you can add, the richer the page will be. Take a creative approach to making the pages as substantial as possible.

in the news pages

The Internet is a social, interactive place; if you treat your site like an isolated entity, that does not necessarily mean it will be protected from conversations about your brand “in the wild”. Therefore, it’s always important to be aware of all opportunities and issues created around your brand and to proactively seek them out.

Terminix has a Press Releases page, but there is no page on the core website that celebrates external stories about the brand. However, a quick search in Google News shows that many conversations are taking place around the brand:

The good news for Terminix is that, by and large, these mentions are all positive. If I was the SEO for Terminix, I’d recommend that they embrace this wealth of great PR by creating an “In The News” section on their site, to accompany their Press Releases section. Any content writer could easily add a short summary of each news story as they linked to it. When the page gets too long, they can break the content up by year, or perhaps by 10 results per page, and you have an ongoing content development project in place.

what happens when the work is done?

For the most part, some of the projects above are ongoing ones — you should never stop building videos, white papers, and other rich content on your site, and a good company will always be surrounded by positive conversations online. Of course, as the initial backlog dwindles, bandwidth will be freed for your content team.

What happens next is up to you. My fellow Dragon, Jason White, often recommends having the content team conduct interviews with your experts, and process their feedback into great content afterward. The interview process can also be applied externally, with your content team asking key questions to experts around the field, and then compiling their answers into a blog post. An informed content writer can also seek out industry experts to be featured in guest blog posts, or a group could hold a video conference that’s recorded and shared with your site visitors afterward. Opportunities abound.

No matter what direction you choose to take as you evolve your strategy, you’ll know that you’re moving forward with a content team that’s reviewed your videos, white papers, and other rich content, and has the basics and your brand voice in their toolkit. They’ve worked with the local offices, researched and read news stories about the company, and are familiar with both the company culture and industry. They may not quite be industry experts, but you can rest assured that there is a far stronger level of competency than you began with, and also that they’re a better and more efficient team than almost any you could find at the initial time of hire.

What are some tactics you use to create content you are unfamiliar with? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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