How many times have you heard someone compare a process or a task to baking?
As an avid baker myself, I love these cliché analogies, so it was only a matter of time before I recognized the similarities between baking a cake and creating valuable, share-worthy content.
Anyone who has followed a homemade cake or cookie recipe knows every recipe starts with the ingredients. If you don't have all the ingredients, you won't get the anticipated result. Baking is concise chemistry, and the ingredients—and the intensity/quantity of each—have a specific purpose in the recipe.
Content strategy: This is your pan. Your content strategy will determine the shape and size of your content cake.
Style guide: This is your egg. It holds everything together and keeps the cake from drying out.
Data and research: This is your sugar. It will make the cake delectable and worth reading.
A skilled writer or writing team: This is your flour. It gives body and structure to the cake.
An efficient editor or editing team: This is the butter of the content cake. The editor makes the cake smooth and eliminates lumps in the batter.
Images (optional): This is your frosting/icing/glaze.
1. Create your content strategy.
Your content should fit inside your content strategy pan—not vice versa. You want to form a solid, well-developed strategy because it will dictate the shape and size of your content cake. A content strategy pan that is full of holes will result in a big mess for you to clean up later.
2. Stick to your style guide.
A style guide is an ingredient you cannot omit. Have you ever tried to make a cake and accidentally forgot to add the eggs? You probably ended up with a very dry, crumbly excuse of a cake. The style guide bonds everything together, and keeps the content from falling apart. Style-guide eggs give the content cake its proper consistency: moist and fluffy. Follow a style guide to ensure you meet all client specifications and follow all guidelines correctly.
3. Measure the flour.
Depending on your scale, workload, and/or company size, you will need to vary the quantity of writers and editors.
Too many writers and not enough editors will produce a heavy, dense cake. Sure, there will be a lot of cake for your readers to chew, but it will be dense, dry, and difficult to swallow. The same situation will occur with too many editors and not enough writers; the cake will be weighed down by the excess, and will not rise properly. This is a waste of your resources.
4. Sprinkle in some sugar.
Sugar is the magic ingredient many people often forget. Accurate data and sufficient research are essential ingredients to grow and retain your audience. If you don't have this ingredient, your content cake will be bitter and pointless. As soon as readers sample your content, they will be disgusted and will not come back for more.
Referrals and natural, organic promotion can do amazing things for your company and blog, so you want to create something sweet and savory—and substantial—for your readers.
5. Attract hungry readers.
As with baked goods, your content cake will need something to lure your readers. Typically the smell of a decadent chocolate cake that's fresh and warm from the oven will draw a crowd. People salivate as soon as they catch a whiff.
For our content cake analogy, the delicious smell of warm cake is synonymous with a well-written headline. Capture your readers' attention with a title that begs them to click.
While it's important to have an interesting, attractive title to draw readers, it's also important to accurately convey your content. The disappointment of smelling a delicious cake only to discover it's dry and salty will quickly turn people away. Once you've made a disgusting cake, it will be difficult to find anyone willing to taste the next one you attempt.
A well-written piece of content cake is what makes readers share it with their friends and social media followers. When you get a taste of something delicious and fresh, you can't help but say, "You've got to try this."
Share your content cake with friends, colleagues, and industry professionals. Encourage feedback. Learn from the feedback. Adjust your ingredients as necessary, and then repeat the process to continue improving your results.
Creating content that allows readers to indulge in a delicious mix of data and fresh perspective will have them coming back for more time and time again.
Nicole Jones works at CopyPress. A version of this article originally appeared on the CopyPress blog.