“Good” is just not good enough anymore! A modern content writer must be capable of discerning what not to do and building a strategy to keep him from falling in the numerous pitfalls which will prevent his writing from ever being read.
Content writing is not a new concept. A Leader of the content marketing movement, author and founder of Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, backs up this statement when he says: “From the days of cave men writing on the walls, brands have been creating stories to sell their product and form a connection.” But technology has really opened the door for content writing, it succeeded in laying the foundations for content to evolve, making it more approachable and acceptable to audiences.
On the other hand, this evolution has managed to attract new talent to the business, bringing in journalists that would have previously worked as editors or writers for major publications into the brand side, making it more difficult to stand out and be heard.
This factor has made it imperative for writers not to settle with good content. “Good” just doesn’t make the cut anymore and content writers are obliged to aim towards creating great content that adds true value to their audience or be destined to walk the path that many have wondered into, that only leads nowhere, resulting in nothing but wasted time, energy and valuable resources.
So, in an effort to help you steer yourself away from the rest and really get out there with the best possible content, let’s expose what NOT to do to create outstanding content, along with some always useful advise and examples to guide you to success.
# 1. Don’t Forget to Know and Understand your Audience (Relevance and Substance)
“Knowing your audience is the starting point for any successful content marketing initiative.” according to top influencer, marketer and entrepreneur, Neil Patel.
The fact of it being the first step makes it a key factor in the whole process. This is due to the fact that you’ll want to know where you’re aiming at or you might as well be shooting blanks. That’s why it’s so important “to identify who you are targeting with your content, and create content that will resonate with them.” If you fail to understand this, “your content won’t get read, won’t get shared, and nobody will even care. That’s a sad place to be.”
Understanding your audience will let you give information that is actually relevant to them, information with the purpose to answer questions, solve problems, entertain or simply generate interest. It will also give you a clear perspective on the type of reader you are writing for, letting you use the appropriate vocabulary and approach to fulfill their expectations. Remember you’re not writing for everyone!
One way to provide valuable information to your audience is making it actionable. Try showing your readers how to do things instead of just telling them what to do. This can be done by giving examples and breaking things down into simple step-by-step procedures so the reader can actually apply the information. Another method, is adding something new, whether it’s a key fact, finding or a tactic, through which the reader expands and learns something new about the subject.
# 2. Don’t Fail to Establish Credibility
“To establish your brand as an industry leader and a great source of information, it is essential that you do thorough research for every piece of content.” says Laura Holton, on an article for zerys.com.
When it comes to content, readers are looking for facts, so it’s no secret most of them need to be convinced that what you’re claiming is correct and that your way is the best way. But with tons of content available online nowadays, it becomes a sizable task to gain the trust and credibility necessary to be preferred over the vast competition.
That is why content writers must rely on the following methods to backup their claims and opinions and ultimately be convincing:
Method # 1. Adding Accurate research: Look up the subject, adding statistics and quoting reputable sources.
Method # 2. Adding Expert’s opinions: Ask or look up the opinions of experts and quote them.
Method # 3. Having a solid stance on the subject: Pick a side which ever side you’re inclined towards and stick to it. You might loose part of the audience, but you’ll gain credibility with your target.
# 3. Don’t Overcomplicate your Content
“Once your reader decides to spend some time with your post, he’s going to want to get through it without too much work. The key to that: simplicity.” Darren Rowse tells us in his article for ptmgroups.com.
Writers commonly tend to overcomplicate their articles by expanding their ideas into huge blocks of undifferentiated text, using filler and repeating the same information over and over again. Other mistakes include cramming multiple ideas per paragraph and overusing bold or cap locks, that like the aforementioned, make reading through it more difficult.
Keep in mind, readers who actually look for this information are seeking true and valuable information presented in the simplest and most straightforward manner. Therefore, try to avoid making your reader “dig through paragraph after paragraph to know what your post has to offer.” Most won’t do it and will quickly move on to another article that they can scan effortlessly and determine if it’s worth their time reading it thoroughly.
# 4. Don’t Fail to Make an Impact
“A recent study of 7,500 New York Times articles completed by the Wharton Business School tried to identify factors that made content viral. Guess what they discovered? A strong relationship between virality and emotion. The study’s most-shared content garnered a strong connection in the reader, igniting one of six key emotions: surprise, fear, joy, sadness, anger, or disgust.” states Janet Aronica, head of marketing for Shareaholic.
The important thing to learn about the aforementioned study, is that content has the ability to market itself when it “provokes a strong emotional reaction in the reader.” This is due to the fact, that “after they consume your content”, they’ll feel the urge to share it so others have the “opportunity to feel that same emotion”. When “that emotion is evoked in the title, they just have to click it!”
So a good tactic to consider when trying to come up with outstanding content, is to search for an idea or topic that provokes emotion, don’t be afraid to stir things around a little and build an article that really touches people and gets them thinking.
# 5. Don’t Loose your Personality
“People will love you much more if you have your own voice and style” and “The best bloggers are the ones who are comfortable using words like “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.”” are only 2 statements Neil Patel has made, that we can relate to personality in content writing.
When referring to personality in content writing, we have to think about being ourselves and always remaining authentic.
A big mistake in content writing is copying from someone else in an effort to emulate that other person’s success. It’s OK to have role models and examples, to try to learn from great content creators out there, and admire their style and approach, but keep it authentic! You must create your own style, lay down your own material and opinions or you’ll risk losing the trust and respect of your peers and readers.
Another important piece in the puzzle to outstanding content, is that your audience can actually relate it. The way successful bloggers have seemed to achieve this has been by forming a personal connection between them and their readers by constantly referring to themselves and their opinions as if they were in a conversation with a friend. This approach is better received by most audiences opposed to leaving emotions out of the equation and sounding robotic or writing in the third person.
An easy way to elude falling into these mistakes, is simply, as Rowse puts it, to “Pretend that you’re having a conversation with a friend, and write like that. Then go back and edit out sentences and words that are unnecessary, and revise sentences that aren’t clear.” This method will let you relate to your audience and maintain your own style just by being yourself.
# 6. Don’t Neglect the Headline
“The most important single element of any blog article is the headline. Why? More people read headlines than any other part of your copy.” Neil Patel.
Headlines “are the first thing people read, and they are the basis those people use to decide if they want to read your article or not.” Zach Bulygo and Sean Work.
Most, if not all experts on content marketing agree on the importance of the headline when creating an article. No content is capable to sucessfully stand out alone without the help of a proper headline. This is because the title is the only thing readers will see before making a decision about whether to read the post or not, therefore making the few words that give it shape, as important as the article itself.
To back this claim, according to Zach Bulygo and Sean Work from KISSmetrics, the statistics they reaseach at Copyblogger show that “80% of people will read your headline, but only 20% of those people will read the rest of your content!”
That’s why experts like Patel recommend improving your ability to create titles to instanly improve your writting, due to the fact that, by outlining your article’s main topic in your headline, you manage to keep the post’s focus and know exactly the direction where your post should head.
Here are some some quick tips and examples on how to improve your headlines:
Example # 1. Tell readers what they are going to learn in your article.“The Ultimate Guide to Learning Anything Faster”
Example # 2. Use headlines that people still seem to enjoy. “How To Successfully Manage Your Remote Teams In 6 Simple Steps” (“How To”) and “11 Ways To Increase Your Productivity While Working From Home” (“List” oriented)
Example # 3. Use stats opposed to opinions (When applicable). “62 people have as much wealth as world’s 3.6 billion poorest”
Example # 4. Create a sense of urgency.“3 Things to Know Now About Your New Chip Credit Cards”
Example # 5. People prefer the easy way.“The Lazy Man’s Guide to Wealth”
Example # 6. Provoke emotions. “10 Reasons Civilization May Collapse Because Of Organic Foods”
Example # 7. Capitalize on mistakes. “10 Mistakes Content Creators Need to Avoid”
Example # 8. Evoke curiosity. “Six Types Of Investors – Which Group Are You In?” Example # 9. Combine multiple elements. “Humanely slaughtering idleness – How to motivate and engage your employees” (Combines the “How to” with emotions and curiosity)
One thing to have in mind when finally choosing your headline, is to always deliver what you are promising. “Nothing is more disappointing than reading an exciting article title that fails to deliver” according to Lance Harrell. That is why you must avoid at all costs presenting deceptive content to your readers, because you’re only succeeding in building distrust that could add to readers never returning again.
# 7. Don’ t Bury your Conclusion at the End
“Journalists have been using this approach (giving away your conclusion in the first paragraph) to “hook” readers’ attention for decades.” according to experienced content marketer Jasmine Henry.
As we’ve already learned thorough this article, readers need to be engaged from the get-go in order to read the rest of your content. That means, contrary to what we’ve all learned, that leaving your content buried at the end of your article is “simply not optimized for the way we consume information today.”
So, in the light of this evidence, apply what is known as the “inverted pyramid”, where you present your thesis statement immediately. It will most likely help persuade your reader to listen to what you have to say.
# 8. Don’t Rely Solely on Text (be Visual)
“The more visually appealing your content, the more people will be engaged with that content… The brain loves images.” says Neil Patel.
Great content needs high quality images to help it shine. Patel adds that “keeping the image count high means that you’ll keep readership high, too.” This is because a variety of images can manage to keep the reader interested in what you’re writing, while also serving as a visual aid for the them to better understand the point you’re trying to make.
If you’re not particularly talented when it comes to designing great visuals to accompany your content, you can always ask for some help from a trusted graphic designer to get a “pro” look to it. But if money is an issue, you can always rely on plenty of free visual tools available online, that are very user-friendly and can really help you give that needed boost to your article.
# 9. Don’t Let Typos and Errors Slip Through the Cracks
“I get it. Mistakes happen. Typos creep into your content.” Patel admits.
Everybody makes mistakes, even the most renowned writers fall victim to typos and errors. The problem becomes unacceptable when you let it turn from a one-time mistake into a constant habit by not proofreading your writing. Keeping an eye out for typos could ultimately be the difference between outstanding content and “just another article”. Because, if you didn’t know already, readers tend to judge based on grammar and spelling, so no matter how appealing your writing may be, they might get immediately turned off due to something as simple as a typo or error.
If you’re one of those writers who are prone to miss the details and those typos and errors always seem to slip through the cracks, then try out these 3 simple tips:
Tip # 1. Proofread your writing at least 3 times before you publish it.
Tip # 2. Use software and other tools to check your spelling and grammar
Tip # 3. Look for an editor or proofreader to review your articles.
Trust me! The fewer mistakes you make, the more respect you’ll gain.
# 10. Don’t be Like the Rest (Aim to be the best)
“Learn from those trends so you can work smart, not hard.” Janet Aronica
Surely when you think about writing great content the first idea that comes to mind is writing something completely new. But nowadays there’s an article or post about pretty much every subject out there, so trying to reinvent the wheel will most likely end up giving you a headache.
For this reason, Aronica adds, that “there’s no reason why you’d need to start from scratch with a completely new approach every time you blog”. Focus on trends and what people enjoy reading and give it your touch, that something extra that makes your content stand out from the rest.
Once you’ve chosen the topic you want to work on, ensure that your content is the best by making it as strong as possible. One way to do this, is to follow Patel’s simple 4-step process:
Step # 1. “Use search engines and tools to find the most popular content for a topic.”
Step # 2. “Write down the strengths and weaknesses of all your competition.”
Step # 3. If your competition “did something really well, try to match or exceed them in those areas.”
Step # 4. “Your biggest opportunity to stand out is to improve on weaknesses your competition has.”
Remember what I wrote in the beginning: “Good” is just not good enough anymore! Let this phrase serve as real a eye opener. Put in good use the valuable information that has been laid out for you today and be way ahead of the game by preventing yourself from ever falling in the numerous pitfalls which will keep writing from ever being read. So, all that’s left is for you to take a big breath and have a go at creating your next outstanding article. Good luck and enjoy!
Meta description: Learn how to steer yourself away from the rest and really get out there with the best possible content, as I expose what NOT to do to create outstanding content, along with some always useful advise and examples to guide you to success.