Did you know that the Internet has approximately 3.3 billion indexed pages at the moment–and counting? That translates to a mind-boggling 33 billion links to web content, assuming each page has 10 entries. Let that sink in.
If you’re a reader, that’s way more information than you can consume in a lifetime. If you’re an online content creator, that’s at least a million times larger than the competition you probably had in mind when you first turned to the Internet to make a living — granted, that figure includes every piece of content on every single niche on Earth, but still…
That’s why, as a content creator, it’s no longer enough to be "unique" on the Internet. If that’s the case, then adding a single bullet point to someone else’s blog post, or adding one more tidbit to someone else’s infographic, is all it takes to stand out on the web (because hey, repurposed content is still technically "unique").
No, you must be inimitable. You must:
1. Create Ultimate Guides
Creating an ultimate guide is an almost(!) foolproof way of keeping readers hooked to your content. That’s because the word "ultimate" indicates that your guide is a one-stop article on everything your target readers need to know about your topic.
That said, you must keep a few caveats in mind when you create this type of content. First, make sure your "ultimate guide" lives up to its promise. That means you can’t afford to leave out even a single crucial detail about your topic, lest you end up short-changing your readers.
Second, it won’t hurt to write more creative headlines once in a while. Third, ultimate guides are great for the most part, but as with anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad.
2. Support Your Points With Expert Opinions
To spice up your ultimate guide, or any other type of content for that matter, add a liberal dash of expertise– whether it’s yours, or someone else’s.
If it’s someone else, find a person who’s truly knowledgeable about the topic you have in mind — rather than someone who only has a casual, passing interest — and interview him/her. You can fish out experts-slash-potential-interviewees through friends, family, acquaintances, and even your social media contacts. It’s better if you try to build a good relationship with your interviewee first, but if you’re pressed for time, you can set up the interview as detailed here.
If you are your own expert, on the other hand, you obviously have it much easier. All you have to do is discuss your topic of interest in a clear, informative, and engaging manner for readers who don’t know any better, and you’re good to go.
3. Write Detailed, First-Hand Research
Aside from expert opinions, you can use scientific research to buff up your content. You don’t need a science degree, or even a private laboratory to conduct scientific investigations. If you’re inquisitive, analytical, resourceful, and persistent enough, you can do it just as well as the people who make a living off it. How else do you think early scientists went about their work without modern tools?
In fact, you may be conducting scientific research right now, without even realizing it! If you like generalizing based on personal observation, or you tend to ask "Why?" questions about everything, you can dig deeper than anyone else into your topic of interest, share the details with the rest of the world, and satisfy your (and everyone else’s) curiosity.
For example, let’s say you want to know how much freelancers earn in general. You can uncover this by asking your freelancer friends to answer a survey or posting questions in forums where freelancers usually hang out. Their answers may not necessarily reflect the views of freelancers all over the world, but it’s a good place to start if you want to make solid points in your blog post / infographic / video / podcast about freelancer earnings.
4. Tell Stories
If there’s one form of content that can hold people’s attention better than any other, it’s a story.
Since ancient times, people have used stories to make sense of the world, to pass down knowledge through the generations, and to entertain. Stories are memorable because, while they all follow the same basic pattern (i.e. beginning > conflict > climax > denouement > end), each of them is unique in their own way. That’s why there aren’t really any "good" or "bad" stories; only stories that you can relate to, and stories that you can’t relate to.
Therefore, if you want to present your content as a story, make it unique and relatable at the same time. You can read this article for more details on how to become a better storyteller.
Why Bother with All This?
As you can see, all of these require much more effort than a quick Google search. It would probably be better for your content production levels to not do any of these at all. But if you truly care about your readers, and about transforming the Internet into something more than a cesspool for recycled content, shortcuts aren’t an option.