The word epic is overused.
It’s become watered down over the years, and most people don’t seem to appreciate what it means.
Which is a problem.
Why? Because the first rule of content marketing is:
Create epic content.
I’ve written about creating great content many times before, but epic is a level above that.
According to the dictionary, epic describes something that is:
- heroic; majestic; impressively great
- of unusually great size or extent
In plain English, it refers to something that’s so much better than any other thing out there that you can’t help but to be impressed with it.
And although you can’t always hit the epic level with your content, it’s something you should strive to reach at least a few times a year.
That’s when you’ll start getting hundreds of links to your content and tens of thousands of views.
But here’s the problem: You can’t create a guide to making epic content because it comes in many different forms.
Great content is fairly predictable, but epic content often requires creativity and a hefty investment.
So although I can’t tell you exactly how to make epic content for your specific business, I can show you what epic content looks like.
I’ve put together 14 examples of epic content across many different niches so we can study them together and you can start to piece together what makes epic content epic.
If you want to be successful, do this: Many of these ideas aren’t that complicated. I’m sure you’ll think many times throughout this post, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”
That’s a good thing!
Try to take the concepts and ideas in these examples and apply them to your niche.
We’re starting off with a guide written by Ramit Sethi, someone I mention in my articles often.
He has a lot of content that I consider epic, but I chose to single out his ultimate guide to making money here.
Right away, you can tell that it’s not the standard content you see on blogs. He went to the trouble of having it professionally designed and formatted:
On the left, it has a table of contents—how many blog posts have that?
As you can see by the number of social shares, this guide is incredibly popular.
Epic content can produce epic conversions too: One mistake that I see many content marketers make is producing great content but not wanting to collect email signups right away.
They figure that if the content is good enough, the visitors will eventually think of it again and come back to read other content on the site. But it doesn’t usually work like that.
If you’ve blown away a visitor with your content: capitalize on it right away.
After consuming a useful guide or some other piece of content, most visitors will be happy to sign up for your email list. They aren’t going to get annoyed—you did just provide a ton of value to them after all.
If you take a close look at this guide, you’ll realize that it’s set up as a highly optimized lead generation source.
At the bottom of every single section, it has an opt-in form along with a brief pitch for signing up.
Despite that, it still got thousands of shares, and I’m sure it’s had hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The two main reasons this is epic: The first I already touched on—the formatting. When you make content look amazing, it stands out from ordinary blog posts. People value it more, just like they do paid content.
The second reason is the incredible value in the guide.
Ramit includes his techniques in the article (through text, images, and video), and he also includes multiple detailed case studies:
Case studies make anything more actionable because they help the reader think of the advice in practical terms.
What do you think of when you hear content?
Most marketers and business owners think of written content, mainly blog posts.
That’s completely natural, and obviously I am a big fan of blogging for business.
However, what you can’t afford to forget is that writing is only one form of content.
And although it’s great for certain topics, other topics are better presented in other forms of content.
NomadList is not a blog post. It actually has barely any text at all. If anything, it’s more of a tool or database of information.
But it’s still content. Content is really anything that you can consume or learn from.
Like all great content, NomadList solves a problem. It just does it better than any other tool.
Digital nomads are people who work remotely and who love to travel the world.
One of their biggest problems is finding great destinations that are both good for work and fun and safe for travel.
NomadList is essentially a directory of popular destinations for digital nomads:
The top bar is a beautiful collection of filters for the user to apply to narrow down the results, and the results are ranked and shown below.
There’s a lot of other great content out there on this particular problem. However, most of that consists of a few pictures and usually long lists in no particular order.
Not only does NomadList rank the destinations, but it also makes it incredibly easy to quickly compare the results to each other.
You can see the average cost of rent per month, the average Internet speed, and the temperature of each destination all on the card for each place:
This goes to show that the form of your content is just as important as the information you’re presenting.
Coming up with a simple visual way to display important to the users information about possible travel destinations took NomadList from great to epic.
Content can evolve: NomadList also illustrates one other concept that you should never forget.
Epic content doesn’t always start off that way, especially if you have little experience creating it.
That’s why you shouldn’t get discouraged if you put a lot of work into something and it doesn’t catch on quite as well as you hoped.
This was the initial version of Nomad List:
As you can see, it’s nowhere near as useful.
It’s still pretty great, but definitely not epic.
But the creator got good feedback from the users of the initial version. They gave encouragement and suggestions, and after a few refinements, the creator took NomadList to what it is today.
If you already have good, or even great, content that solves an important problem, you don’t necessarily need to start from scratch.
Instead, re-evaluate the way you could make it even more valuable to visitors, and create a new iteration.
There’s no rule that says you can’t update or republish old content and promote it again.
While epic content doesn’t have to be written content, it certainly can be if it’s telling a story.
Jon Morrow, founder of BoostBlogTraffic.com wrote this guestpost on ProBlogger. It exploded.
There are a few key reasons why this post is epic, so let’s break them down one by one.
Reason #1 – It makes a lofty claim…but it delivers: Who hasn’t thought about quitting a job and moving to a tropic paradise at one time or another in their life?
We’d all love to do it, but we get scared or find other reasons not to.
So when you read the title of Jon’s post, you automatically think:
Holy crap, someone actually did it.
But this isn’t an article saying how awesome Jon is.
Instead, it’s a set of blueprints of how he did it. He backed up his claim and gave actionable advice to anyone considering a big change in their life.
Reason #2 – It inspires: People are full of excuses. It’s always easy to find a reason not to do something.
So when you read a story about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothes to make money, you say:
Sure, it worked for them, but I can’t do that for reasons X, Y, Z.
People react similarly to any content that makes them think a big accomplishment is possible.
And it’s what readers do when they read about other success stories about quitting jobs and moving across the globe.
But be honest. Jon had some of the worst circumstances possible and still made it work for him. He had a terrible disease, expensive medical bills, and limited resources.
He still did it.
He moved to Mexico on a whim and started on a path to becoming a hugely successful business owner.
Can you still come up with an excuse of why you couldn’t do the same (assuming that’s something you wanted to do)?
Overcoming obstacles is inspiring. Being transparent about overcoming your obstacles with your readers forces them to take action because they can’t make excuses.
Getting people to take action is the only way to impact their lives in a significant way.
Reason #3 – It resonates with people: Jon is an amazing writer, but that’s not something you can learn overnight.
However, if you start paying attention to how guys like Jon write, you’ll start to understand why readers relate to their writing so much.
While most people write about surface topics, Jon isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and say what people aren’t expecting to hear. Another word for it is authenticity.
It would have been easy for Jon to lament about how hard his life was—to be a victim.
Instead, he writes about the “freakin’ bills”. That’s something almost everyone can relate to.
All of a sudden, you’re not feeling bad for Jon—you’re feeling angry with him.
When you can find ways to make a reader stop reading about you and instead feel and read with you, that’s when you can make a real impact in their life.
I’m no master at this. However, I do get better over time by practicing. And that’s what you need to do too.
One major component of epic content is doing something that no one else has done before—that readers actually want to see.
Now, it’s pretty common for site owners to reveal their incomes, but it wasn’t always like that.
Pat Flynn published his first annual income report in 2009 (in addition to monthly reports), where he shared everything:
In the make-money-online niche, secrecy is the norm.
It’s hard for readers to trust bloggers because they could just be making things up.
After many months of revealing his personal online income, Pat convinced his readers he wasn’t making up his income numbers.
He was one of the first online marketers to promote transparency:
The lesson here: Give readers access to something that no one else will.
Showing income reports is more common these days, but not very many successful marketers will share their own processes or tools. That’s how you could stand out if you run a business in the make-money-online niche.
It can apply to any business. If you run an auto garage, for example, let your customers watch a video stream showing the work in progress, or show them pictures of their problems so they don’t feel like they’re getting tricked.
If you run a clothing store, show your customers where the clothes are made (i.e., not in sweatshops).
If you’re interested in SEO, you might have seen this one before.
There are tons of different link building tactics, but they are all very different from each other.
What this means is that only some tactics work for certain situations and businesses.
So, it can be difficult for SEOs (especially beginners) to find the right tactics for their businesses. Plus, they don’t want to miss any good ones.
Instead of just writing an extensive list of 30-50 tactics, which would be very good, Jon Cooper took it a step further.
He compiled all of the link building tactics he could find. The page has at least 100.
But he didn’t just stop there. Someone also helped him create filters for the content.
People can filter the tactics based on the time-frame, effectiveness, and dependency on other sources. This way, readers know that they’re seeing tactics they can actually use:
The list is formatted consistently throughout the page. Each tactic has a description below it:
Epic is a spectrum: If you have some experience with SEO, you’ve probably already noticed that although the number of tactics in the list is amazing, the descriptions could be improved.
Some of the tactics have support links, but the author could add links to tutorials and case studies for each of the tactics to make the page even better.
It could be even epic-er (not a real word).
So although a piece of content could be epic, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved.
This list was created a few years ago, and at the time, it was far better than anything else available on SEO tactics.
However, the standards for content usually rise over time. Although I still think of this page as an example of epic content, it doesn’t stand out quite as much as it used to.
I wouldn’t be surprised if someone created an even better version, updated to match today’s standards.
Here is another one you might be familiar with.
SEOs love to talk, especially about Google and its ranking factors.
Up until recently, SEOs were always discussing whether or not certain factors were included in Google’s algorithm, and if so, how important they were.
Many years ago, Google released a statement saying that there were over 200 ranking factors:
Who knows how many there are today?
It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that SEOs were always wondering about what might and might not be a signal…always searching for more.
Then, Brian Dean put together this epic post.
He dug deep and was able to come up with a list of over 200 ranking factors (which he keeps updated). Most of them link to sources when possible:
Can you emulate this? What do readers in your niche always talk about? What are they curious about?
Once you figure that out, don’t just create a large list of the answers—create the complete list.
Go all out, and put in as much effort as you can in order to make an epic post. The results will be worth it.
How many posts have you read that are about how to promote a blog post?
Probably a lot.
Most of those are trash. They’re simple lists of briefly described tactics. They all sound like a recycled copy of another blog post.
The guys behind Groove are different—in a good way.
The first thing they did was actually test their promotional strategy. They used it themselves and were able to get over 1,000 subscribers from their first blog post.
Not only did they achieve an amazing result, but they also showed that it’s actually possible.
In the post I chose for this list, Alex from Groove broke down that entire promotional process in great detail.
He included everything from the names of people they targeted to his exact outreach email and the reasons behind it:
This post is insanely practical, which is why it stands out among most other posts about this exact topic.
It also shows some behind the scenes details, which is something I mentioned earlier (see a pattern?).
When it comes to this specific problem (promoting a post), readers crave actionable examples, and Alex delivered just about as well as one could:
Let’s get away from the written content for a little bit.
The New York Times published this amazing piece of content to illustrate an important concept: how wealth impacts the chances of children going to college.
Instead of just putting the results in a table, like everyone else, they had a goal: show people that reality is far different from what they imagine.
Near the top of the article is a graph. You can click and draw a line to indicate how you think income corresponds to college attendance:
If you’d like to try it, do so before I spoil it for you.
There are two main factors why this content is amazing.
Factor #1 – It’s entertaining/fun: Do you know what sucks about serious topics? They’re always serious.
Sometimes, it’s good to take a different approach to content. Readers will appreciate it, and your content will stand out.
News articles, in particular, are typically very one-sided. They’re not even conversational like blog posts, which makes them even more boring to read (not that they aren’t important).
A little game like this is always welcomed by most readers.
Factor #2 – It’s surprising: While the end result seems pretty simple, a lot of work went into this content.
Not only did they have to make the interactive graph, but they also had to put a lot of work into researching the actual findings.
These findings were also highly interesting. They were not what most people would expect.
You can read the post if you’re interested in knowing why the results are surprising (a bit off topic here).
Think of an average reader coming to this page.
First they see the interactive graph. They think, “This is pretty cool…maybe I should share it.”
But then, they see the surprising results and think, “People need to know this!”
Great content usually stands out in one area. Epic content often stands out in many. If you can combine multiple things from all of these examples, you’ll be on the right track.
One of the main limitations of written content is that it takes longer for it to get a point across than for other forms of content.
In addition, it’s really hard to compare multiple things.
That’s why people love images.
This content example is composed almost entirely of images.
But not just any images—they are professionally designed, and they communicate meaningful data.
If they had only created that first one, the article still would have been great.
But they went the extra mile.
They created many additional graphs so that they could go into detail on each important social issue:
When you overwhelm your readers with value, they will love it.
I think the results speak for themselves:
10. Which Phone?
Android vs iPhone, which side are you on?
iPhones are great because they’re simple. The average owner just wants a quality phone, and Apple makes it easy to get one because there are very few models.
Android phones, on the other hand, are made by many different manufacturers.
Although there is more flexibility, not everyone needs all that flexibility.
What Android did with this piece of content was brilliant.
They created a quiz that allowed users to describe what they wanted in a phone in plain English:
First of all, it’s designed beautifully.
But the reason why it’s so valuable is that it solves a huge problem of being overwhelmed by phone choices:
After you answer a few questions, you get a list of the phones that would suit you best (it’s incredibly easy for a user):
Compare this shopping experience to that on any other site, even Amazon.
You go to the cell phone section and are presented with hundreds or thousands of different phones.
If you want to sort them, you have to do so by factors such as the number of megapixels on the phone camera or the phone’s processor:
The average user doesn’t know anything about these things and doesn’t care. All they want is a phone that does what they want.
Complicated questions have complex answers: If there’s a complicated question in your industry that you always hear customers asking about, answer it.
But instead of trying to answer it in a typical blog post, using language they don’t understand and don’t care about, find a way to simplify the answer in the terms that your customer cares about.
Since it’s a complicated problem, this won’t be easy, which is why no one else has done it before.
However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, your epic content will be talked about for years.
Okay, I’m a little biased, but I had to include a Quick Sprout post on this list.
All of my advanced guides have received hundreds of backlinks (or more).
Like Ramit’s guide that we looked at earlier, these guides are all professionally designed.
It’s clear to any reader that this isn’t ordinary content.
These guides are also incredibly thorough, covering everything on that topic in great detail.
The best thing about these guides is that anyone can make one like them. However, you will have to invest capital or time and effort in order to make them. That’s what epic demands.
Epic content often makes your jaw drop.
This piece of content was also created by The New York Times.
One of the most common misconceptions people have is the number of calories they eat. Most people almost always underestimate that number.
Instead of just telling people that (e.g., “This One Mistake That All Dieters Make…”), they showed people just how wrong they usually are.
They created several high quality pictures of actual meals that people eat at common places:
All of these meals have 2,000 calories, which is the average recommended daily intake for most people.
And people were shocked.
They found out that they regularly consumed their daily calories in just one meal.
The takeaway? Look at a common myth or mistake that your target audience makes. Then look at it from a different angle, and show it to them.
It turns out that I’m not the first person to compile amazing content.
This article in The Atlantic consists of links to 100 top journalism articles:
The reason why this piece of content is epic is two-fold: its quantity and its quality.
A great article usually has one or the other.
Obviously, with 100 articles, the quantity was there.
But what really pushed this piece of content over the edge is that it was compiled by an expert—an expert who read thousands of pieces in order to find the best 100 to include in this article.
Curated content is very popular right now, and it usually produces great results. But if you want to produce epic curated content, make sure that you’re actually picking the best of the best that all readers will find valuable.
Any journalist or journalism student has seen this page or has it bookmarked.
Epic content is possible in any niche.
This final example is about Lionel Messi, who is the greatest soccer (football for non-Americans) player alive right now.
But people like rivalries, and for years he has been compared to another amazing player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
So what do people do? They compare single highlights and certain stats, sharing their opinions on which one is better.
But not Benjamin Morris.
Instead, he created a masterful data-driven post to settle the debate once and for all.
He analyzed thousands of datapoints, players, and different stats in order to get a complete picture of it all.
He created several high quality graphs that showed how Messi and Ronaldo compared to all other players (and to each other):
Note that I said several graphs.
To get a complete picture on a topic, you need to approach it from all possible angles:
His conclusion: Ronaldo is a great player, but Messi is impossible. He stands out so much on these graphs that no one can really make an argument against the conclusion.
Of course, Messi fans loved this article and shared it like crazy. They were excited to share it due to how epic the analysis was.
The takeaway? If you’re going to try to settle a common debate in your industry, be prepared to put in the work and finish it. Put in so much work that readers are left impressed and convinced with your conclusions, unable to argue with the results.
As you’ve seen, epic content can take many forms.
But all these examples have one thing in common:
Readers love it.
Creating epic content is not easy, even if that’s your goal. It’s often not cheap either.
You need to continually practice improving your content creation to give yourself the best chance at regularly creating epic content that readers flock to.
While it may be a ton of work, I promise you that the results are worth it. Just a few epic pieces of content can create or sustain many businesses.