There are different types of content you can create for your website, but the three main categories are always the same:
- written content
- visual content
- audio content
Each of these appeals more to a certain audience, so if you’re not sure what to post more often, the best strategy is to create 10-15 different pieces of content (5 for each category for example) and see which of them generates more engagement. Based on these results you can adjust or develop your content calendar if you don’t have one already.
But let’s get back to content. In their guide to creating a content marketing plan, the amazing team from HubSpot mentions 44 types of content that can be posted on a website. The graph is below and as you can see it’s quite comprehensive, however I think it may be useful to explain each of these content formats, for those of you who are just starting to get familiar with content marketing.
1. How to’s articles are pieces of content that explain a process, how to do something or what steps to take to achieve a goal. Thus, these posts can be written as step-by-step articles that guide the reader through a process, or as tips and recommendations that can help one achieve a certain goal.
An excellent How to type of article is this one written by Carl Friesen for the Content Marketing Institute. He did a wonderful job explaining How to create how to’s articles that serve the market and business!
2. Content curation – Probably the hottest content format these days, content curation refers to gathering information or pieces of content from other websites and putting them all together into an article that answers 5 “W”s: who did what, when did the action happen, why did they do it and what were the consequences.
Curated articles are excellent for keeping your audience engaged, as they are funny and easy to read. A lot of these posts use visuals and memes, and are great for generating traffic as they get shared a lot. If you want one of your post to go viral, curate some shared images or videos and create something memorable, like this article curated by Leonora Epstein and Erin La Rosa from BuzzFeed. I bet you didn’t know the 19 reasons why every office should have a cat!
3. Case studies – Simply put, case studies are in-depth studies that analyze the successful (or unsuccessful) story of a person, company, product, campaign or theory, in the attempt to find causes for specific results or behaviors, and to identify patterns that can be generalized. Aaron Saint from Writtent has a great compilation of 28 case studies for small businesses, the “brightest and most-inspiring research reports and case studies to hit the web in recent months”.
4. Charts / graphs – Charts and graphs are excellent in industries where data needs to be visualized or illustrated in a more accessible form, before it can be used in complex analyses. Here’s a comprehensive article from Skills you need that explains the main types of Graphs and charts, and their use.
5. E-books – E-books are books distributed in electronic format, created with the purpose to educate or entertain readers. You can offer e-books to your audience in exchange of their emails and generate leads, or you can sell your e-books online if the main business goal of your website is to generate immediate income. Here’s an e-book I love from Marketo: The state of content marketing and social media in the medical and fitness industries (free download).
6. Email newsletters / autoresponders – Autoresponders are sequences of email marketing messages that are sent to subscribers in a specific order, on specific dates, with the purpose of answering common questions, solving problems your readers might have and educating your public before asking them to buy something. Autoresponders are like lunch casseroles you prepare in advance for when hunger will strike: they’re there, tasty, healthy and ready to satisfy your cravings and all you have to do is get them out of the fridge.
While it’s true that this type of content has a great potential to generate leads and sales, it’s also true that creating effective autoresponders may take more than talent. Sonia Simone from Copyblogger explains what autoresponders are and what they include in this comprehensive article.
Email newsletters are used mostly for letting potential clients know about new promotions, updates, offers, or about articles recently posted on your website if you’re a blogger. Neil Patel from QuickSprout explains how he built his first business using email marketing. This is an excellent article that provides tips you can apply right away for improving your online visibility and content marketing strategy.
So the difference between these two is that autoresponders are set to go out automatically, while newsletters are created for specific campaigns and sent manually to selected contacts.
7. Book summaries – If you’re an author and plan to sell your books or e-books online, you can engage your readers by publishing a summary of the book and allowing your audience to pre-order. Wiki has a library of free book summaries anyone can contribute to.
8. Cartoons / illustrations – These two dogs explain it all.
9. Tool reviews – Articles like these review certain software and or online tools, highlighting their good parts and mentioning in a honest way the bad parts as well. Take a look at Angela Noble‘s 6 email marketing software reviews: software for every budget, written for CrazyEgg.
10. Giveaways – When you organize a giveaway, you offer free gifts to your employees, customers or prospective clients, in order to advertise your company, products or services, to build customer loyalty and to attract new clients. Promotional giveaways can come in all shapes and sizes, but they should inspire, be funny or practical, and not boring things you give away because they’re no longer useful. If you’re a blogger, read Julie Neidlinger‘s post Should you have contests and giveaways on your blog? written for todaymade.com.
11. Quotes – Quotes can generate a lot of reactions from your audience, but you have to adapt the content to the channel used. On Twitter you may get more reactions if you share a plain text quote, while on Facebook your friends and followers will engage better if you share a visually attractive image with a touching quote on it.
12. Resources – This content format is perfect for lead generation, as you offer your readers something in exchange of their email addresses. White papers, e-books, guides, case studies, webinars, videos and all other educative materials can be included in Resources sections on your website. Take a look at the Unbounce website to understand this concept better.
As for resource-type articles, they allow you to link to multiple websites and to get inbound links and shares from those you mention in the article. Resource-type articles are also great for showing you’re an expert in your field, who knows what the best tools and resources out there are, and is ready to share them with his readers. Dave Davies from Beanstalk SEO Services has compiled a list of 78 resources for every internet marketer’s toolkit for Search Engine Watch.
13. Helpful application / tool – Software, plugins, apps and other such helpful tools can be offered to readers for free, being excellent for increasing brand awareness and improving customers’ loyalty. Here’s an example from Business2Community: 22 free content marketing tools to drive your content marketing plans.
14. Opinion post – An opinion post is simply an article in which you state your beliefs and thoughts on a certain topic. Here’s a beautiful post by Alex Chediak from Boundless: The fruit of immaturity.
15. White papers – White papers are authoritative reports and guides that are informative in nature and aim to inform and educate readers about complex problems, or to state the company’s opinion on a situation or problem. They’re also used as marketing tools by companies when releasing new products, in this case the white papers being commercial. They can describe the business benefits of a certain product, the technical aspects of the newly released service or product, can present a set of tips or points about a certain business issue, or can recommend a solution to a business problem.
Here’s one useful article by Mitt Ray, written for SocialMouths, on using white papers in content marketing. Also, here is an example of white paper from Spectate: Content strategy: considerations for agile marketers.
16. Vlogs – Webopedia defines vlogs (from video blogs) as blogs that consists of videos, their purpose being to reflect a cause or the author’s personality. I’m not a big fan of vlogs, but some people do like these, otherwise we wouldn’t have a Vlog Nation.
17. Videos – These can go viral quite quickly, if they’re powerful enough to trigger your public’s emotions. One of my favorite videos of all time is this motivational speech from Arnold:
[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyhOmBPtGNM” ]
18. Templates – This content format is greatly appreciated by people who look for informative content, and in the online marketing niche, templates can be extremely effective tools for building your email list. An example is the editorial calendar template created by me, which can be used for planning and organizing your website’s content.
19. Surveys – Surveys are questionnaires done with the purpose of learning about your customers, their familiarity with your company or products, their level of satisfaction, or about other aspects that may impact your business goals. On the Qualtrics blog you can find 5 sample templates of customer satisfaction surveys you can use right away.
20. FAQs – Frequently asked question pages address the most common questions readers have on specific topics. Here’s a nice FAQ from Buffer, on social media: 10 of social media marketing’s most frequently asked questions. Although it’s likely for visitors to have more questions, especially if they’re just starting to get familiar with a niche, it’s good to have a FAQ page on your website, as it shows you know what you’re talking about and you’re willing to help them move along the learning curve faster.
21. Webinars – Webinars are web-based seminars transmitted using video conferencing software. Participants are able not only to listen to the speaker or teacher, but also to ask questions, provide feedback and receive answers in real time. They’re great for marketing and lead generation, as you can teach people and provide useful information on a certain topic without having to spend money on renting a room or printing educational materials.
Webinars offer business owners the opportunity to attract their target public, as nobody joints websinars they’re not interested in. They’re perfect for strengthening the brand’s position, building authority and raising awareness. GoToMeeting is a useful tool for organizing webinars.
22. Guides – As their name implies, guide are created for educating the audience and guiding them through a process, or helping them get familiar with a topic, product or service. Moz offers a free guide on social media for beginners, check it out here.
23. Dictionary / glossary – Take a look at the Social media / online marketing glossary created by me. As you can see, the Dictionary / glossary type of article explains a list of terms in a certain industry – online marketing and social media in our case.
This type of post is excellent for educating your readers and helping them to get more familiar with the niche. It is also useful for generating constant traffic, as there will always be beginners in absolutely all industries and niches, and people will always search for definitions online.
24. Q&A sessions – These are videos or articles in which someone who’s an expert in their industry answers questions sent by the public. Here’s a Q&A video from Gabriel Etteson, in which he answers the most common questions about whole body vibration [Disclaimer: I’m a Hypervibe collaborator].
[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA7xgKNDMho” ]
25. “Day in the life of” posts – People will always be fascinated by success stories, so this content format is great for traffic and has all it takes to go viral. Here’s one post from Forbes, on a day in the life of a CEO.
26. Interviews – Good for cross-promotion; you interview someone from your industry, or from a related industry, and both of you win. He gains more exposure and builds authority (nobody interviews anonymous people, right?), you receive fresh traffic from his website’s readers.
27. Mind maps – These are diagrams used for visually organizing information around a central subject. The central subject is like the trunk of a tree, and the branches are subtopics and related ideas, as Melanie Pinola from LifeHacker beautifully says. According to her article, mind maps are useful for solving problems more effectively and becoming more creative. Here’s a mind map from Ken Myers, via creately.com.
28. Predictions – If an important event is coming, you can post your predictions, like Peter Knegt from Indiewire did here with his 2016 Oscar predictions. People will comment as everybody thinks they’re right, so these posts are good for engagement.
29. Online games – Branded games are also used for marketing campaigns,these games combining virtual goods with real-world incentives, and integrating ads meant to boost the popularity of certain products or services. Virtual goods sold in these games are useful for gaining brand recognition and increasing profits.
30. Timelines – To illustrate the progress of your company or of a campaign, or the successful evolution of a product, you can also rely on timelines, which have the advantage of being attractive and informative at the same time.
31. Company news – To keep your audience updated it’s good to post company news from time to time. The big brands out there post regular news, informing readers about their new launches, incomes, number of employees and so on.
32. Infographics – A picture says more than a thousand words, especially when it explains complicated concepts. Take this infographic created by KISSmetrics for example: it makes it easy to understand how colors influence conversions.
33. Lists – Listicles (list articles), as they’re called these days, are popular among millennials, probably because they’re easy to read, or as Steve Denning from Forbes says, because they “let us distill information in a very digestible way”. Batul Kapasi from YopYaps surely knows how to craft a listicle for listicle-crafters: 15 things listicle writers will understand.
Yes, listicles have a huge potential of going viral, this is why marketers use them so frequently these days, but there are also voices who say these list-type articles must die: 6 reasons why listicles must die. I surely agree with Julie Wittes Schlack‘s statement: “Reading should be worthy of more than a 30-second commitment”.
34. User generated content – Abbreviated as UGC, user generated content describes any content format that is created by consumers and end-users and is publically available to other consumers. User generated content is excellent for telling your brand’s story, as it’s not you who highlights all the achievements and great moments in the company’s history: it’s your fans.
UGC can be a powerful tool in marketing campaigns, as Chobani has demonstrated. They asked their fans to show their love for the brand by submitting real stories, and fans overdelivered. Their successful advertising campaign was therefore based on digital storytelling and was a wining one.
36. Photos – No need to explain what pictures are and that you’re free to post photos of your products on your website or social media pages. You can also post behind-the-scenes pictures, as these show there are humans behind the brand, and people love such photos.
Not all pictures will generate the same engagement, but some may really benefit your brand. Remember #thedress? A simple picture of a dress colored in black and blue became viral after some people claimed the dress is actually white and gold. The debate took over Twitter and quickly turned into a must-have. Surely, not all photos you share will have the same destiny, but you can incorporate photos in your marketing campaigns.
37. Press releases – A press release is a written or recorded communication that announces something newsworthy, like the launch of a new product, changes in the company’s hierarchy, or an important acquisition. It’s directed at members of the news media and has a specific format. Here’s The Marketing Donut’s guide to writing good press releases.
38. Original research – Even if you don’t create scientific papers, you can still explore interesting topics and problems related to your industry, and publish the results of your research efforts in the form of statistics.
39. Photo collages – Photo collages have a great potential to generate engagement and get your new customers. Just think of Instagram, it’s the perfect proof that you can efficiently use photo collages for advertising purposes.
40. Podcasts – These are digital audio files that are available for users to listen or download. You can create themed podcast series, or weekly podcasts, and invite your audience to contribute by submitting questions or topics they’d love you to talk about.
41. Pinboards – Sephora is one brand that masters the art of promotion through pinboards. Their Pinterest profile has 369k followers, and they use both promotional pins and user generated content for reaching more people and attracting new customers.
42. Polls – Polls are good for finding out what the majority of your readers or customers thinks about a problem, product or situation. They are subject to errors, but can be used before launching a campaign or a product for example.
43. Quizes – Quizes are fun and easy to create, and they can tell you a lot about your audience. Unlike polls, these allow users to choose from multiple answers, contain several questions and aim to unveil some of the users’ personality traits based on their answers. Smartly crafted quizes can be used for lead generation, as Josh Haynam from Econsultancy explains here.
44. Slideshare presentations – Slideshare presentations are good not only for showing you’re an authority in your field, but also for SEO purposes and brand awareness. By properly optimizing your presentations and creating visually attractive slides, you can generate free exposure for your company or products, attract qualified leads and boost sales. FitSmallBusinesses has a nice slide share presentation about the best 25 blogs for small business owners.
These were the content formats from HubSpot, and here are my other 6 suggestions:
45. Tutorials – Tutorials are written or video lessons that teach your audience how to do something. They usually cover beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, and can address any topic of interest for your audience. You can create tutorials for absolutely any niche, from graphic design and online marketing to cooking or engineering.
46. Itineraries – The Overseas Escape recommends 10 amazing itineraries for a one-week trip in Europe. With such beautiful pictures and useful tips, it’s almost impossible not to engage your readers.
47. Product reviews – Preferably from real users, who have tried your products and were impressed with their quality. Posting real and honest reviews and testimonials from your clients is an easy way to gain trust and reach new potential customers. On the other hand, if you’re an individual, you can position yourself as a guru in your industry and make some extra money by reviewing newly launched or popular products. Some young ladies on YouTube are doing a great job with beauty product review videos.
48. Product comparison videos – If you represent a company and want to create a video that demonstrates that your product is better than your competitor’s offer, you should be aware that comparative advertising can be tricky and comes with its risks.
49. This versus that articles – Articles in which you take two strategies or two elements that pertain to the same industry or niche, and compare their advantages and disadvantages. An example is John Leyva‘s Cardio vs. weight training: which is better for weight loss?, written for BuiltLean.
50. Pros and cons articles – Finally, pros and cons articles are pieces of content in which you briefly present a product, tool, service or strategy, and list its pros and cons. Here’s an example from David Cotriss: The pros and cons of outsourcing, written for Small Business Trends.
I’d be glad to hear your thoughts on this topic, so if you have something to add to this article, feel free to comment below!