Content Development: 5 Steps to Crafting Engaging & Effective Content

by | Aug 7, 2023 | Blog

If you’re an avid book enthusiast on a tight budget, you understand the feeling of being irresistibly drawn into the first page of a book, only to realize you’re about to spend money you don’t have. 

We may be referring to a Stephen King novel here, but the allure and seduction of any good content is universal; it pulls you in and keeps you there until you’re done immersing yourself in it. 

Brands always have intriguing stories to tell; ones that unfold through their exceptional products, unwavering beliefs, and the transformative experiences they offer to consumers.

How they tell these stories matters.

At OnDigitalMarketing, we believe that creativity, consistency, and intentional content development enable businesses to grow their brands, engage their audiences and ultimately increase conversions.

To achieve that, we are going to take you through how to: 

    • Identify, research, and engage with your target audience
    • Utilize strategies and techniques for generating and structuring content
    • Measure and analyze the performance of your content for optimization

Let’s get started. 

Step 1 – Understanding Your Target Audience

And I think that the way you’re going to get what you want or cause the change that you want to change to happen is to figure out a way to get your ideas to spread… The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, and what gets built, is: “Is it remarkable?

Those were the exact words of Seth Godin sixteen years ago in a TED Talk and, it’s amazing how his ideas transcend time to remain relevant until now.

For every product in the market, there are probably ten others like it. So, what will make a product or service stand out?

It’s by first determining who the target is and what makes them tick. 

If we use the traditional approach for target audience research and analysis, let’s say for a business selling premium athletic apparel, we end up with something like this:

Fitness-conscious individuals, predominantly males, aged 18–35, with a higher disposable income, who value performance and style in their athletic wear choices.

However, this data is insufficient for crafting content that truly resonates with the digital consumer. 

Conducting Audience Research and Analysis

When Google announced it would do away with third-party cookies in 2020, marketers were in a panic. 

Why? Because demographic data alone is insufficient for targeting. Browser history, items on cart, and log-in information give a better overview of the interests and preferences of your target audience. 

These tools provide far more insight when researching to understand your target audience: 

  • Google Analytics: Where you can get valuable insights about website visitors, including demographics, interests, and behavior.
  • Social Media Analytics: Platforms such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Instagram Insights offer data on audience demographics, engagement levels, and content performance.
  • Keyword Research Tools: Tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, and Ahrefs help identify popular search terms related to your industry, allowing you to create content that aligns with user intent.
  • Customer Surveys and Feedback: Feedback-based Q&As enable businesses to meet their target audience where they are by understanding their preferences, pain points, and content expectations.

Creating Buyer Personas and User Profiles

They might seem similar, but buyer personas and user personas are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. 

  • A buyer persona is an individual or group of individuals who make purchasing decisions. It is created to understand the factors that influence the buyer’s decision-making process, including their preferences, motivations, buying habits, and pain points.
  • A user persona is an individual who interacts with a specific product or service. It is created to understand how the individual relates to a product or service depending on their goals, motivations, and behaviors.

Learn More: How a User Persona Shapes Digital Strategy

Here is a table showing the key differences between a user persona and a buyer persona.

Characteristics User Persona Buyer Persona
Definition An individual who interacts with a specific product or service An individual or group of individuals who make purchasing decisions
Purpose To understand how the individual relates to a product or service based on their goals, motivations, and behaviors To understand the factors that influence the buyer’s decision-making process
Creation method
  • Observation of product usage
  • User testing
  • Surveys
  • Customer feedback
  • Conducting interviews
  • Social listening
  • Analyzing website data
  • Consulting with sales and customer support teams
Applications Primarily used in product design and development to create a more user-friendly experience Mainly used in marketing strategies to tailor content and product offerings to meet the specific needs of different consumer segments

Developing accurate buyer personas allows businesses to tailor their marketing strategies, content, and product offerings to meet the specific needs of different consumer segments.

They can use information from various sources, such as: 

  • One-on-one interviews with their existing customers or intended target audience by asking questions like, “When you’re selecting athletic apparel for high-intensity workouts or competitive sports, what do you consider most important? And why?”
  • Social listening on different social media platforms by observing discussions, analyzing comments, and identifying trends.
  • Analyzing website data, such as page views, bounce rates, and user behavior, helps them identify patterns and trends that contribute to developing accurate buyer personas.
  • Consulting with the sales team and customer support team who have first-hand knowledge about the audience’s concerns, suggestions, and questions.

HubSpot offers buyer persona templates that can make the process a lot easier.

Important Note: Buyer personas and user personas are constantly evolving with changing market conditions. It’s important to frequently source information on the same to have updated profiles.

Step 2 – Formulating Ideas

Back to the elephant in the room: How do you get ideas to spread?

Airbnb has a proven framework that can work for any business. Let’s take a closer look at how they do it.

Identifying a Unique Idea

Airbnb revolutionized the travel and hospitality industry by introducing a unique idea—connecting travelers with local hosts who rent out their homes or spare rooms. 

This concept disrupted the traditional hotel industry and provided travelers with a more authentic and personalized accommodation experience.

By the end of 2022, the number of active listings at Airbnb stood at 6.6 million globally

When a business offers a unique service or product, its content also has a distinctive twist that sets it apart from competitors. It’s therefore important to identify gaps or unmet needs in the market. 

This can be done by: 

  • Conducting thorough market research to understand customer pain points and identify areas where you can provide a novel solution.
  • Looking for opportunities to disrupt existing industries or introduce innovative approaches that can add value to people’s lives.

Emphasizing Remarkable Features

Just a brief overview of Airbnb’s website is enough to take your breath away. 

Their content highlights the platform’s remarkable features, including a diverse range of accommodations, the opportunity to live like a local, and affordability compared to traditional hotels.

It can effectively showcase the unique and memorable experiences that travelers can have by staying in Airbnb listings, promoting the idea of “belonging anywhere.”

To achieve similar results, businesses should emphasize the benefits they offer to customers and communicate how their products or services solve specific problems and enhance the customer experience. 

They can utilize compelling visuals, persuasive copywriting, and engaging storytelling techniques to showcase the unique aspects of the business and captivate the attention of the target audience.

Creating a Sense of Community and Trust

Airbnb’s proactive approach saved them from potential liability issues by establishing a sense of trust and mutual understanding among hosts and guests. 

Their Aircover initiative prioritizes safety and damage control, to protect the hosts against unexpected cleaning expenses and damages caused by disruptive guests.

This dedication to community and trust solidifies Airbnb’s brand identity and fosters a global network of travelers.

To build trust and foster a sense of community, your business can do the following:

  • Establishing clear guidelines, policies, and procedures to ensure the safety and satisfaction of your customers. 
  • Implementing initiatives that prioritize customer support, responsiveness, and transparency.
  • Encouraging feedback, reviews, and testimonials to demonstrate the positive experiences of your customers and build credibility.

Communicating a Strong Brand Identity

Airbnb’s storytelling strategy aligns seamlessly with its brand identity, emphasizing community, diversity, and exploration.

Their enthusiastic fans do most of the online marketing for them through user-generated content that amplifies their online branding and authenticity.

Statistics from Search Logistics reveal that social media campaigns incorporating user-generated content experience a 50% increase in engagement.

To develop a strong brand identity that aligns with your core values and resonates with your target audience, crafting a compelling brand story is essential. 

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Define your brand’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Identify your unique selling proposition (USP).
  • Develop a narrative that emotionally connects with your audience.
  • Utilize authentic and consistent messaging across all channels.

Consistently communicate your brand identity through various marketing channels, including your website, social media, and advertising campaigns. 

Additionally, leverage user-generated content to amplify your brand message and showcase the authentic experiences of your customers.

Here is a breakdown of the different types of user-generated content that contribute to a brand’s identity.

Content Type Description How It Contributes To Branding
Customer reviews Feedback or testimonials from customers about a product or service They boost brand credibility and provide valuable insight into customer satisfaction
Social media posts Posts shared by users on their own social media profiles, tagging or mentioning a brand They extend brand reach, increase visibility, and often lead to higher engagement
Blog comments Comments left by users on a brand’s blog posts

They can stimulate discussions increase time spent on site

Provide an opportunity for direct interaction with the audience

User-submitted photos/videos Visual content shared by users showcasing a brand’s product or service They offer authentic visual proof of product usage and customer satisfaction, often leading to increased trust
User-generated stories These are detailed experiences shared by customers about a brand’s product or service They provide a personal perspective that can emotionally connect with potential customers and showcase the value of the brand

Engaging the Audience and Encouraging Conversation

Airbnb further engages its audience through its own magazine by sharing captivating travel stories, destination guides, and hosting tips. 

Their social media content sparks conversations by encouraging users to share their own experiences, recommendations, and travel anecdotes.

By leveraging user-generated content, Airbnb fosters trust and authenticity to create a vibrant and interactive community.

interactive community in featured conversation


If we take a chapter from Airbnb’s book, engaging with your audience means creating interactive content that encourages participation and conversation. 

Use social media platforms, blogs, or a dedicated community forum to foster discussions, share valuable information, and respond to customer inquiries. 

You can also incorporate storytelling techniques, user-generated content contests, and interactive features to encourage users to share their own experiences and become brand advocates.

The table below shows some key metrics that can help you improve measure and audience engagement.

Metric Name Importance How To Improve It
Social shares The number of social shares indicates how much your content resonates with your audience
  • Create shareable content
  • Include social sharing buttons on your content
Comments Comments reflect how well you’re engaging with your audience, as they show active participation and feedback
  • Prompt your audience to comment
  • Engage with comments by replying or asking follow-up questions
Time on page This shows how long your audience is engaged with your content Longer time can indicate higher interest
  • Make your content more engaging
  • Use visuals, headers, and short paragraphs to make content easier to digest
Click-through rate (CTR) CTR on emails, ads, or social media posts indicates how enticing your headlines and descriptions are to users
  • Improve your headlines and call-to-action phrases
  • Test different options to see what works best
User-generated content (UGC) UGC indicates a high level of audience engagement and satisfaction, as users are motivated to share their experiences
  • Encourage customers to share their experiences
  • Run UGC contests or feature user content on your platforms

Leveraging Digital Platforms and Social Media

In the digital age, every company is a media company.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Airbnb effectively spreads its idea and engages its audience through social media and digital platforms.

The company maintains a blog, publishes articles, and shares travel inspiration on its website and social media channels. 

Airbnb does social media marketing by encouraging users to share their experiences on social media using designated hashtags to amplify the reach of its ideas.

Your business needs a comprehensive content strategy that includes informative and entertaining blog articles, visually appealing images or videos, and engaging social media posts. 

You can also collaborate with social media influencers or industry experts who align with your brand values to expand your reach and tap into their follower base.

Airbnb’s Twitter post

Step 3 – Structuring Your Content

Now that we’ve gained insight into formulating unique ideas through the lens of Airbnb, let’s shift our focus to effective content structure. 

But first, here is what we already know:

Assuming we have eight seconds to make an impression, the content we put out should be perfectly skimmable and easy to read

We can achieve this by: 

Using a Clear and Logical Outline

An outline is the roadmap that helps you organize your thoughts and allows a coherent flow of ideas. It provides a structure for your content and helps you stay focused on the main topic. 

An outline typically includes an introduction, main points or sections, and a conclusion.

Utilizing Headings, Subheadings, and Bullet Points

Headings and subheadings break down your content into smaller sections and make it easier for readers to scan and understand the main points. 

They also improve the overall readability of your content. Keep in mind that nothing puts off a reader more than vague un-useful statements. Subheadings especially should be descriptive, and concise, and indicate the topic of each section.

A dull subheading sounds like, ‘The Benefits of Premium Athletic Apparel’. You can make it more engaging simply by being intentional with your words, like this: ‘How Premium Athletic Apparel Maximizes Your Athletic Potential’.

Bullet points are also useful for presenting information in a concise and organized manner. They highlight key ideas, create visual separation, and make content more scannable. 

Bullet points are particularly effective when presenting lists, steps, or important details.

Ensuring Readability and Flow

Blocks of text contribute to higher bounce rates on website content. 

You can say more in less and increase the memorability of your content to the reader. 

  • Use clear and concise sentences that are short and straight to the point.
  • Use simple language that appeals to all types of audiences, it is recommended to aim for a grade-eight reading level.

A tool such as the Hemingway App helps to fix readability issues like sentence structure, difficult words, and overly complex sentences.

  • Break up paragraphs into smaller chunks that are visually appealing and easier to read; about three or fewer sentences per paragraph.
  • Use transition words and phrases to help connect ideas and improve the flow of your content. Examples include “however,” “in addition,” “on the other hand,” and “therefore.”
  • Maintain a consistent tone and writing style throughout your content to create a smooth reading experience. The tone should align with your target audience and the purpose of your content.

Incorporating Visual Aids

Visual aids in your content add that extra ‘wow’ factor that not only increases your social shares but also memorability. 

They help illustrate concepts, support your written message, evoke emotions, and break up the text. 

Visual content can take many forms: 

  • Images and graphics such as infographics, charts, graphs, and diagrams.
  • Videos for demonstrating processes or telling stories.
  • Screenshots and visual examples are useful when providing step-by-step instructions.
  • Visual branding elements, such as logos, color schemes, and typography, to add a professional and cohesive look to your content.

Step 4 – Writing the Content

With every breakthrough in technology, there is always an aspect of marketing taking the hit.

There was speculation after the release of ChatGPT that blogging was on its way to becoming obsolete. Even so, businesses continue to invest in valuable blog content because it effectively attracts potential customers and retains them.

The hallmarks of valuable content include: 

A Compelling Hook

Remember that we’re dealing with a fleeting attention span. The first line of the introduction is the make or break; you have to quickly grab attention and spark the curiosity of the reader. 

Using storytelling techniques such as vivid imagery, relatable scenarios, and thought-provoking questions captivates and ignites curiosity. 

Persuasive Elements

How persuasive is your content? Does it leverage language and rhetoric to sway the readers’ opinions and actions?

Compelling arguments, evidence, or case studies, support your claims and strengthen your position. 

Also, incorporating social proof, testimonials, or endorsements enhances credibility and fosters trust among your audience. 

Interactivity and Engagement

You can prompt your readers to leave comments, share their thoughts, and participate in discussions. 

Strategically placing calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your content encourages specific actions including subscribing, downloading, or sharing. 

Including interactive elements such as polls, quizzes, or surveys adds an interactive dimension, sparking curiosity and increasing engagement. 

Step 5 – Measuring and Analyzing Performance

The gradual success of content marketing relies heavily on adaptability, optimization, and creativity with the help of analytics tracking, such as:

Tracking KPIs and Performance Metrics

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and relevant metrics are useful in gauging the success of your content marketing. 
KPIs can vary depending on your goals, but common ones include website traffic, page views, bounce rate, time on page, conversion rate, and social media engagement.

Definition: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable values that demonstrate how effectively an organization is achieving key objectives.

Using Analytics Tools to Measure Engagement

Google Analytics for OnDigitalMarketing

With analytics tools such as Google Analytics, you can track metrics such as the number of visitors, their demographics, sources of traffic, and user journey on your website. 

These tools also provide data on content performance, highlighting which pieces are resonating with your audience and driving desired results.

Learn More: Measuring Basic Online Engagement

Making Data-Driven Decisions for Improvement

By analyzing the gathered data, you can make informed decisions about your content strategy. 

Identifying patterns and trends indicates what works and what doesn’t, to enable creative content development. 

For instance, if you find that certain topics or formats perform exceptionally well, you can focus on creating similar content. If certain pages or posts have high bounce rates, you can explore ways to enhance their relevance or user experience.

Remember to subscribe to our exclusive monthly email newsletter as well and stay updated with the latest pro tips, toolkits, and curated news that your audience will love. 

Always Put the Reader First

Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.

— Seth Godin

When consumers already love your product, your content becomes a valuable resource that delivers relevant insights, helpful tips, and engaging stories that enhance their experience with your brand. 

You create a mutually beneficial relationship where your audience actively seeks and appreciates the content you produce. 

By prioritizing the needs and interests of your readers, you cultivate a strong connection that fosters loyalty and drives the success of your content strategy.

Jake Cook


I'm a forever curious entrepreneur that works across ecommerce, analytics, and AI. I've been creating and teaching courses on ecommerce, design thinking, and data science at Montana State University and University of Montana since 2007. Most recently, I've been lecturing and assisting with research and case study development for Harvard Business School.


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