We’re just weeks into the changes from Google’s Panda update, which changed the search engine results of many content-heavy websites. While these changes have been geared toward ridding the search engine results pages of low-quality content from farms such as ehow.com, it’s forced an awareness on all of us about the need for great quality content.

If you’re wondering what the trick to writing great content is, I’m going to tell you. There is no trick. And that means there are no easy formulas, and no guarantees.

Writing great content that draws a crowd means knowing your subject matter. It also means knowing your audience, what they like and might expect. It also means knowing how and when to push their buttons and ignite controversy.

1) Get an audience

Before you get an audience, you need to figure out who you’re targeting. Look at competing blogs and see who they’re targeting. If your competitors have forums, read through the forums so you can understand more about the people you’re writing for. Make sure you understand their needs and motivations.

For instance, if you’re building an online poker site, you’ll be really disappointed in your traffic if you spend your time writing content on how to play online poker when most of your audience is simply looking for ways to get great bonuses.

2) Cut the fluff

The Elements of Style, co-authored by William Strunk Jr. and famous children’s author E.B. White, says it best, “omit needless words.”

If there’s something you’re saying that can be said with fewer words, figure out a way to cut the fluff. Look at adjectives, adverbs and long sentences as places to start cutting.

3) Draw readers in with your headline

Your headline will help you in two ways. First, it will help bring in readers from the search engines. Second, if it’s good, it will make readers want to click what they see.

Give readers something that’s going to inspire them to learn more. Tease them with something juicy, or totally shock them. Just don’t make them boring.

4) Forget SEO

If you’re writing for the search engines first, and your audience second, your audience is going to be disappointed.

Too many site owners become obsessed with achieving a high position in the search engines. So they focus on titles, keywords, headers, and meta tags, trying to get their site listed first in the search results. But in the rush to get ranked, they neglect their site audience, and this hurts their business more than placing fifth instead of first page of the search engine results page.

To go back to the first tip … be ready to know what your audience needs, and make sure your content is helping them solve their problems, teaching them to do something better, or just getting under their skin.

They might not always thank you for it, but they will come back.

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