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How to avoid failing at content writing

How to Avoid These 5 Crappy Content Writing Fails

Powerful content can be an incredible tool for your business but it’s not always easy to create. Mastering the technique of content writing requires skill and expertise, often gained through many years of writing for varied audiences and mixed platforms.

The risk of getting it wrong, of drafting copy that is unappealing and ill-conceived, can mean wasted time and effort on something that won’t produce the desired result.

Instead of engaging hundreds of readers, if not thousands, you’ll end up creating a website of unread pages or a stream of blog posts that have little purpose or relevancy, lack consistency and offer no return on your investment.

Your content must be well-written, it must address your target audience and it must serve a purpose by answering the ‘so what’ before inviting the reader to take action and learn more about you.

This might seem over-the-top but it ensures your written words will be read and people will notice you. Done badly and your content transforms from a good idea to a crappy reality. Here are five crappy content writing fails and what you can do to avoid them.

1. A lack of writing skill

It’s one of the most common fails. Everyone thinks they can write, which means everyone is a skilled and qualified writer. Wrong. Entering your most passionate ideas into a blog template won’t get you the results you’re looking for. If the piece isn’t well-written and doesn’t provide meaningful value to the reader, it won’t get an online reaction, search engines won’t recognise it as being of high quality and you’ll wonder why nobody ever reacts or leaves a comment.

It wastes your time and theirs so spend the money and invest in a quality writer who can add value to your team. Play to your strengths and quit pretending you’re a capable online wordsmith.

2. Not enough time allocated

It takes time and effort to create a single piece of content. Think 2-3 hours to write a post from idea generation to review stage, then up to an hour for edits, then another hour for image sourcing, publishing, social shares and responses. And I’m estimating on the low side.

To reap the results of an effective longer-term content strategy, you need a longer-term content creation plan. A great online reaction won’t happen overnight and thought leadership, influence and authority take time to build. To create success, you need to adopt a consistent approach to writing, develop a content plan or calendar for the way ahead, and allocate time to deliver the work.

3. You forgot your audience

It’s a rookie writing error but we’ve all done it before. You have a fantastic idea for a post and you start writing away. Before you know it, you have the makings of a masterpiece and you hit the ‘publish’ button. Then nothing. Viewer numbers fail to materialise, comments never appear and any hope of significant traffic dies a sad and lonely death. So what went wrong?

The answer is you forgot to consider who you were writing for. Did you think about the reader and what they wanted to learn from you? Did you adapt your writing for the platform’s readership? Did you address the burning issues of your organisation’s demographic? If you ignore your target audience, your content won’t resonate, it will fall flat and nobody will take action. Think about your readers’ pain points, how you intend to fix them and the value your written work will bring.

4. Content was not shared

The best part about creating powerful content is that it can be shared far and wide, and generally for free. People won’t suddenly start reading your work and visiting your site without there being a promotion strategy in place. The worst mistake is to spend hours writing something great and then you simply publish it on your site or LinkedIn profile. You have to do more than that.

On LinkedIn, promote it to your groups, schedule interesting status updates with links to the content, include it on your company page and share it with your colleagues. Publicise it across social media – on your Facebook page, Twitter and Google+ accounts. And come back to it in the future. If the post did well, bring it out of the blogging archives and share it again at a later date or rework it into a new piece with a slightly different angle. The possibilities are almost endless.

5. There never was a purpose

Every piece of content you create must have a clear purpose behind it. Are you trying to fix a client’s problem or address a particular need? Do you want to drive traffic to a new campaign or is there a special offer that you need to draw attention to?

Ask why you’re writing the content or risk creating something that is doomed from the start. Ensure the content fits to a part of your business strategy. Take some time to think about why someone would read this piece of work. Create a plan for matching your content to platforms or publications based on the answers to these questions.

Avoid these content writing fails by understanding why you’re creating content and what you want to achieve in the first place. By thinking about each of the points above, you’ll ensure you add value to the content writing process and place a focus on content that is high quality not crappy.

Newspaper Headlines

4 Ways to Write Powerful Headlines that Make People Click

The headline is the most important element for getting your business content read.

In a world of online noise and distraction, your article or post headline has the power to grab a reader’s attention and entice them into reading more about your business and your work.

With the ability for everyone to now post on LinkedIn, it’s more important than ever to know how to write a headline that makes people click. These readers could become your next customers so you need to create something that makes an unforgettable, irresistible promise to them.

With this in mind, here are 4 ways to write a headline that rocks.

1. Keep it short and snappy

No-one pays attention to long-winded, over-blown headlines. We don’t have the patience and we’ll lose interest. As a rule of thumb, never use more than 100 characters in a headline, tell your readers exactly what you have planned for them, and make the headline punchy, to-the-point and understandable.

Still, feel free to throw in an interesting adjective or two. Consider “unbelievable”, “incredible”, “essential” or even “free”.

2. Show how you can help but don’t be afraid of negativity

Appeal to your target audience by telling them how your article will solve their problem or fix a growing issue. Promise them something valuable or teach them a new skill that they’ve not known before. Try writing ‘How to…’ or ‘Get started by…’, which often draws the reader into wanting to know more.

Play around with the word order and be creative. Ask questions, demand answers and even employ a little negativity. You’d be surprised at how well ‘The Questions You Should Never Ask Your Mother-in-Law’ might do.

3. Appeal directly to the reader

One way of including the reader in your work is to show them that you understand their needs and that your expertise will assist them. Writing headlines using “you” and “we” appeals much more directly.

Example are, ‘What Would You Do if You Lost Your Job Tomorrow?’ or ‘How We Can All Avoid Making Huge Financial Mistakes’. Speaking in this way to the reader is a powerful tool – it can seem as if you’ve written the piece specifically for them or that you’re standing in solidarity with them.

4. List the benefits but try to be unique

Lists are effective because they tell the reader exactly what to expect from your article or post and can grab them from the start. For example, ‘7 Ideas That Will Change Your Life Forever’ or ‘3 Tips For Becoming a Brain Surgeon’.

If you’re going to write a list, don’t rely too heavily on the use of “Things”. Instead, look at using “Tricks”, “Ways”, “Ideas”, “Lessons” and “Facts” as possible alternatives.

Remember that a headline is your first point of contact with the reader. The type of headline depends on who you’re writing for and what you plan to write about.

By keeping a headline short, punchy, relevant and engaging, you’ll get extra attention, more clicks and hopefully lots of keen new customers.

What have I missed? What other ways are there to write a killer headline?

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