Break the Surface | How to Create Engaging Content in a Saturated World

June 3, 2014

cliff diving 2


One fairly common concern we receive from writers is, “The editor said that my article contained too much surface-level information that isn’t helpful to the reader. My article is well-written and contains useful information that a reader would have found helpful.”

As an internet writer, you do not have the luxury of being the only or the easiest source of information. Wikipedia, eHow, WebMD, etc., will always outrank you in an online search. And then you have to compete with 100,000 other bloggers who wrote about your topic before you (not to mention everyone who will write about your topic after you). This is why coming up with a topic, clearly defining your audience, proofreading, and otherwise producing a “well-written” and helpful article does not always earn you five—or even three—stars at WritersDomain. If people can find your information elsewhere, they probably already have—and that’s not helpful to anyone.

surface level definition

The Argument

But anything can be found online.

Definitely. Most information can be found somewhere online. This is why ideation is so important. If you come up with a killer topic that is fun and engaging, or come up with a unique angle that someone hasn’t thought of, you now have a much better chance of producing a helpful article. The idea is to gain readership in a very competitive market, not just write something that may help if it were the only article online.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to spend the bulk of your time coming up with an awesome idea. As outlined in the second ideation training, your first idea often is not your best. Take the time to come up with five or even ten ideas. The more time you spend upfront coming up with a fun way to spin the keyword “pest control,” the less time you will spend on surface-level revisions later.

The Game Plan

Here are two strategies that may help when coming up with an idea for an overly-used keyword:

1. Focus

Come up with a new way to put information together. Depending on the niche, the information may be difficult to find. The way you put together your article may pull information from various places in a way that creates a new idea that isn’t overdone online. This involves modifying the angle of your article, often making the focus more specific.

For example, rather than “5 Tips for Getting Stains out of Your Carpet,” try to come up with something more specific that narrows your idea: “5 Tips under $5” or “5 Tricks from 5 Different Cultures.” The information may be online but scattered across multiple websites and not commonly pitched from the particular angle you created. Voilà! New article.

2. Presentation

Come up with a fun or exciting way to talk about your keyword. This sounds similar to the first strategy but deals more specifically with easy-to-find information that may be commonly presented in a very standard and boring manner.

For example, I recently read an article about how to take care of your teeth. The author illustrated healthy principles by writing ironically about how to ruin your teeth. Many online articles talk about strengthening and taking care of teeth, but this author covered her topic in a clever and backward manner. This made the article fun, engaging, and unique, rather than simply informational, potentially boring, and similar to every other article on the subject.

There are many other strategies to writing fun and engaging articles. And the best strategy is to come up with your own idea—that way you don’t have to worry about surface-level information. But when you feel a topic is over-saturated, a unique twist on a common topic is a great way to go.

The Take-away

Online readers have better things to do than search hundreds or thousands of very similar articles—they have Facebook to fill their time. Online readers, especially those searching for dentists, roofers, and lobe pumps, are actively looking for information now. They don’t waste time clicking on generic titles or reading information that they got from the previous fourteen articles they scanned.

Real, pertinent, and even helpful information is not enough to get noticed online. You have to stand out. You have to offer the reader something that no one else does. So be creative and think outside the box!

What strategies do you use to turn a keyword into an engaging topic?

By Jeremy Lindström

Jeremy is the Community Content Manager at WritersDomain and is responsible for writer relations. Outside of WritersDomain, he loves spending time with his wife and new baby. He moonlights as a professional jump roper and is often traveling and performing with his jump rope team.

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  • Nicole Hanson

    June 4, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I often struggle with walking the line between “fun” and “professional”. I would like to ask for a little clarification on the topic you described about how to care for your teeth. I have often had ideas for writing about less interesting topics that included a “fun” spin on it, but scrapped the idea because it was not professional. Am I to understand that humorous slants on some of the more difficult topics is acceptable, so long as they still contain useful information?

    1. Nicole Hanson

      June 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

      *are acceptable*

      Maybe I should proofread my comments too, huh? Lol.

    2. Jeremy Lindström

      June 4, 2014 at 9:58 am

      These articles should be engaging, and humor is one very effective tool in making an article engaging. As you said, the article does need to be pertinent and useful, and there is such thing as too humorous to the point of distraction. However, there is absolutely a level of creativity and humor that you can and should work into your articles at appropriate times.

      1. Nicole Hanson

        June 4, 2014 at 10:33 am

        Thank you! I’ll get to work on that.

  • Donna Hentsch

    June 4, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I try to take the keyword and write down all of the relating things I can think of. For example, dentist. I would write down: teeth, dentures, implants, pain, fear, tongue…

    Then I try to picture a person asking a question about their problem with their tongue, or whatever.

    Then write the article with that specific person and their problem in mind.

    1. Jeremy Lindström

      June 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks for your input! That sounds like a great plan.

    2. Kim Chartres

      July 5, 2014 at 3:27 am

      Donna, I love the idea about picturing someone asking a specific question to a problem, which is related to the keyword. Perfect! What a great tip. Thanks for sharing that.

    3. Jennifer Graham

      July 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Great idea! I am going to use that. This is my first time trying something like this, and I was very nervous with my writing example. I know now I didn’t do very well.

  • Tracey Bodnar Henry

    June 8, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks so much for the information. I’m new to Writer’s Domain and still struggling with finding my voice within the expectations of Writer’s Domain. These articles really help new writers understand those expectations and what the company is really looking for. Please keep writing them!!!

  • Ana Balayon

    June 27, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Thanks for your input. I am totally new and I am STRUGGLING to go from keyword to an article that will go beyond the usual how-to.

  • Rhea D’Souza

    June 30, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for putting up these suggestions. They are especially helpful to us newcomers, when we are trying to find our footing in WritersDomain. Look forward to more posts and suggestions.

  • Angela W.

    July 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for this article! It absolutely clarifies the remedy to the type of editor feedback stated above. Can’t wait to put some of these tips into action. 😀

  • willy Hiati

    July 29, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I am moved and encouraged by your great and well-thought ideas. Being new to writers-domain, I know these tips will go a long way in guiding me to write some great pieces of work. wow! what a great contribution! kudos!

  • Dan

    August 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Also new to WD, I would really like to see a few ‘whole article’ examples that have been accepted.

    I just had an article rejected that contained information I hadn’t seen presented in that way anywhere else in my research. I was pulling from various sources, so I thought.

    I remain unclear on this…without some examples.

    1. WritersDomain

      August 11, 2014 at 9:47 am

      The “Example Articles” category in the right column will take you to articles that have been posted as good examples of what 5-star articles look like.

  • Peter Curtis

    August 15, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for all the information, a great help to a new writer.
    I agree with the research as it is so important but humor is a tricky one.

    1. Jeremy Lindström

      August 18, 2014 at 5:23 am

      Humor is a tricky one–it works for some and not for others and that’s totally fine. Articles aren’t required to be funny.

  • Sonya

    October 4, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for this article. It was very concise and very informative. Can’t wait to get started writing! I also like reading these comments, because it shows a friendly, helpful attitude and support team. These things can be very impersonal, and that sort of dries up creativity, but some encouragement at the right time can help everyone. Writers Domain needs great articles and that requires some investment in building up the writers. Thanks for demonstrating Writers Domain cares enough to provide very helpful info.

  • Anthony

    March 18, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Hi. may you help me get through to WritersDomain contents. Am very new to writersDomain writing style.

    1. WritersDomain

      March 18, 2015 at 8:29 am

      As per the instructions on the website, we are only able to hire from countries in which we have clients. We wish you luck with your other endeavors.

  • Rebecca

    April 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I found this information very informative. As you pointed out, humor is indeed tricky. Sometimes when I am writing readers tell me I am very funny, but I wasn’t trying to be. When I try to be, it doesn’t work. It is part of a person’s nature or it isn’t. I did appreciate the friendly tone of your article.

    1. Jeremy Lindström

      April 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Thank you Rebecca! I agree, while there are a few things you can do to influence the humorous nature of an article, humor is often up to the interpretation of the reader despite our efforts or lack thereof. Choosing a strong idea and lighthearted tone helps, but the readers have to be in the right mindset.

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