Content marketers are always on the lookout for that hot new idea that will catapult traffic into the stratosphere.
Blog posts, videos and infographics need to be new, innovative and, above all, interesting.
That’s to be avoided at all costs.
Fun and interesting content should always be the centrepiece of any marketing strategy.
But that doesn’t mean boring – but useful – content shouldn’t be a strong bench player in your content strategy.
Here’s how boring content can help you better connect with your audience.
What is boring content
Audiences don’t always want to be wowed or amazed.
Sometimes, they just need information.
Say you work in the marketing department for a municipality. Chances are, your audience isn’t looking for inspiration – they’re just looking to know something.
That’s why it makes sense to focus on the sorts of boring but useful content that will give your audience a quick answer to a question they have.
In this case, a user might want to quickly find out when the next garbage collection is, or where they can find the nearest municipal-run gym.
A boring but practical content strategy involves anticipating the types of questions your audience might have and then designing practical content that will provide useful answers to those questions.
It’s not just for the public sector either (though this is the area that likely has the most need for a boring content strategy).
A software as a service company might want to design a strategy that provides its users with answers to common questions about how to use its product.
Why you should create boring content
The goal of boring content is to create a better experience for your audience.
If you can provide an answer to a question your audience has, they’re going to be that much more likely to enjoy your product or service.
That’s going to make them happier customers and increase the likelihood they’ll recommend you to others.
It can also help to create efficiencies elsewhere in the organization.
For example: Many Canadian municipalities have different parking rules depending on the weather. Creating the right content could allow citizens to get a quick answer to a question about overnight parking in winter just by punching it into a search engine.
If a user can get an answer through a platform such as Google, that’s going to decrease the number of calls the municipality is going to receive on your helpline.
That helps create efficiencies throughout the organization and, as a bonus, turn them into happier customers.
What to consider when creating boring content
A visitor to a new city might, for example, grab their phone to quickly find the nearest public washrooms.
And, with the rise of voice search, searching anywhere – from behind the wheel of a car to when a user has their hands in a bowl full of flour in the kitchen – is becoming easier.
By thinking about the situations your audience is going to be in when they’re on the go, you can design the types of content that will provide them with answers.
Provide an answer quickly
Interesting content lends itself to a longer form. A 1,500-word article allows you to keep an audience engaged for one reason: It’s interesting.
That’s not the case with boring content.
Here, the idea is to provide your audience with news you can use.
The sooner you can provide your audience with an answer to their question, the better.
That means you might want to cut down that 3,000-word treatise on when people can park in winter to a more manageable/useful size.
Where do people go when looking for answers these days?
You guessed it: Google.
Wherever possible, you should design your boring content to appear in search results.
That means designing pages that provide a clear answer to a simple question and taking advantage of features such as rich snippets.
Three ideas for a boring content strategy
Looking to put boring content to work? Here are three ways to get started.
Help out existing audiences
No product or service is entirely perfect. Your audience will inevitably have questions when a problem arises.
By considering these questions in advance you can ensure your audience can get a quick answer to something that has them stuck.
This becomes particularly important if you have a product with a steep learning curve.
Provide a simple answer to a prospective audience member
How many tablespoons are in a cup?
What’s the conversion from Great Britain pounds to Canadian dollars?
Are bananas healthy to eat?
These are the sorts of questions people are using search engines to ask.
And your organization, by providing an answer, can help to grow your audience with people who didn’t previously know you existed.
It’s not exactly interesting. But it is the type of content that can help grow your audience.
Create “essential” content
Only a few people would describe calculating a monthly mortgage payment on a prospective house purchase as “fun”.
So why, then, is Google littered with different tools designed to do exactly that?
Because big organizations – like the banks – are anticipating that prospective home buyers will arrive at their site when they’re trying to calculate a mortgage payment. And that, after they do, they will be more likely to purchase a mortgage from them.
A mortgage calculator tool is what’s known as “essential” content. It provides a service to users that’s as essential as tools such as Google Docs or an internet browser.
Tools like these can be interesting (for example: CoSchedule’s headline analyzer). But they aren’t always.
An essential content tool that provides a valuable service to users – and lots of traffic to you – can be a key part of your boring content strategy.
Interesting content will always be king.
But with the right approach you can also find a place for boring content in your marketing strategy – one that helps grow your connection with new and existing audience members.
Mark Brownlee is a digital marketing strategist in Ottawa, Canada.
Article illustration by Ben Marley.