“What Is” Powerful Content? You Just Answered Your Own Question

This week, the Content Marketing Institute published a great article by Carl Friesen on “The Types of Content That Grab Attention.” It’s a good read that breaks down some of the best content formats to take advantage of, with details on why they work.

One of the formats Carl recommends (and one of the most popular types of content marketing posts out there) is the “how to”. As he astutely points out, “a good how-to can embody the best spirit of content marketing – providing information that helps people accomplish their goals — and positions you as someone who cares about achieving a good outcome for your clients.”

Whether it’s a written as a straight-up tip (“How To Do X”) or targeted list (“6 Great Way to Do Y Better”), I love me a good how-to article. But it also reminds me of another great content format to consider: the “What Is”.

“What is” articles (or videos, or podcasts, or whatever else they might be) can be incredibly powerful assets for a content strategy. For example, our most popular video on YouTube (by a mile) is a short clip titled “What is Market Segmentation? ”, and I even once worked at a company that owned a site with “WhatIs” in the domain simply to leverage the traffic gained from having lots of that type of content.

“What is” content is great for a few reasons:

  • Along with “how to”, it’s one of the most common phrases punched in to search fields about a given topic. In other words, you’ve already got half of your longtail keyword phrase just by writing a “what is” article (in some cases).
  • Posts like these provide a basic foundation of information for your content site and your audience. As a result, you’ll end up with more internal linking opportunities from within your own network without always having to direct people to, say, Wikipedia.
  • It serves as a basic gateway to informing your target audience and potential customers of what you’re all about.

That last point is particularly important. As you’ve probably noticed, the Web is packed with encyclopedia-type information with explanations of basic and not-so-basic terms. As a result, a post on “What Is Software?” is probably not something the world needs you to create. That’s why it’s important to look for opportunities for niche topics related to your company’s product or technology that people need to know about, but that also won’t be dwarfed by the avalanche of competition being spewed out of Google.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the encyclopedia box either. Not all “what is” content has to read like a topical definition. As I wrote last week, simple posts on “What Is the Price of X” allow you to get more granular while still working from the same, general archetype.

So “what is” your favorite content format to use? Are you a slave to a good how to? Are lists always the best way to go? Sound off below and share your thoughts.

Brendan Cournoyer
Brendan Cournoyer
Content Strategist

Brendan worked at OpenView from 2011 until 2012, where he was an editor, content manager and marketer. Currently Brendan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Brainshark where he leads all corporate marketing initiatives related to content, creative, branding, events, press and analyst relations, and customer marketing.
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