In last week’s post, we talked about the top 20 mistakes content writers make most often. For this week’s post, we decided to continue the content development theme and highlight the 5 most important best practices for remarkable content development.
1. Know your audience
It’s very difficult to write for a particular audience if you don’t know them. Who are they? What is their demographic? Old or young? Educated or street smart? What do they know already? What do they need to know? Looking at this same issue from the writer’s point of view, what type of an audience are you willing to commit to? You need to “adapt” your writing to meet the needs, interests, and background of the readers who will be reading your writing, and although this sounds obvious, for many writers it is problematic.
2. Establish a unique point of view
You need to bring your audience a fresh perspective – something they either haven’t heard of before, or, something they haven’t considered in the context you are writing about it. Every story has a ‘view’, an angle, an approach, a premise that shapes the content. The unique-point-of-view is what makes one story very different than another story, even when both stories are about the same subject. By “point of view,” I mean demonstrating uncanny insights on a business problem in the world—its impact on companies and people, what’s driving it, why conventional approaches to solving it fall short. Even more important, a point of view must explain how to solve the problem, with real examples that substantiate the solution. Described this way, the challenge of creating a powerful point of view is one of creating a compelling argument—a case supported by irrefutable facts, dynamic examples, and inescapable logic. The argument must also be well–communicated. However, writing isn’t the core skill for point of view development. The ability to make a strong argument is.
3. Develop attention grabbing headlines
In a bookstore, the first thing people are attracted to is the bright cover, the title and the table of contents. The same thing happens with a blog, or website. Readers don’t read all your pages. Instead, they jump from headline to headline, and only if the headline grabs their interest, will they start to read the information below it. You’ve got just a few seconds to catch your prospects’ attention, spark their interest and motivate them to keep reading whether they’re looking at your web site, your blog or report. Headlines are the first thing your prospects read. Four out of five people determine whether they keep reading about your products and services based on the headlines they read. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is to make your headline interesting, compelling, unique, and fresh. Some good ideas are to state a benefit, help the reader visualize something of importance, use numbers & statistics, make a big promise, anticipate their fears, and pique their curiosity.
4. Creating original content
Original content is the most important thing about writing interesting and unique blogs and reports. No one wants to get stuck reading something they’ve already read a million times before (even if it is in a new package). To write something that is original, you have to have a very unique idea, concept, point of view or issue. You can find out how unique your idea really is by doing some research to find out how many other people thought the same topic was original. The easiest way to write REALLY original content is to find out what you want to know (or what others want to know) and then, answer the question. You can search the questions you come up with online and see if anyone has ever answered the questions in a fresh and original way – or better yet, anyway at all! Or, come up with a really intriguing headline and then, write around it.
5. Add eye catching images & illustrations
Research indicates that humans are 400% more able to understand a concept that is presented to them if there are visual elements in the presentation. After all, society is visual – which is why you only have a few minutes to make a first impression. If you are writing about something very technical, you can include charts and graphs which demonstrate the issues in a very profound way. These visuals can deliver your message in a much more compelling manner than plain old copy could ever do. In addition, pictures and other illustrations help to get your message across by bringing an element of emotion to what you are writing.
Despite the fact that writing is a critical marketing skill, many marketers don’t write, don’t want to write, or think writing is a task best left to someone else. However, IT marketing today is so heavily weighted towards writing of one type or another (blogs, white papers, reports for SEO, etc.), that marketers can’t avoid it and need to immediately develop, and/or enhance, their writing skills.
In order to write effective content, a wide variety of skills need to be mastered. Many marketers over look these skills and tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Here are the Top Twenty Mistakes Content Writers Make Most Often:
There is no structure to help the reader easily navigate from point A to point Z. Plus, without a good structure, there is no meaningful takeaway. A good outline with solid objectives will help to resolve this problem.
The piece lacks a backbone or hook. What’s the main idea of the report?
The content is boring. When people read your blog or report, they want something new and fresh, not the same old, same old.
The writing lacks fluidity and is so stiff that it’s difficult, or impossible, to read.
Losing SEO benefits by failing to include the right type and amount of keywords. Incorporating rich keywords and targeting optimum keyword density is one of the most important aspects of effective content marketing.
Paragraphs that are too long to be read comfortably on a web page.
Using too much technical nomenclature.
The content is condescending to the reader, making him or her feel stupid. This positioning will never help you win over the reader nor get them to believe in your message.
Acronyms and abbreviations that are never explained or that have different meanings depending on the specific industry, leaving the reader in the dark.
No call to action or a misleading call to action. Remember, you want the reader to do something…so make it easy for them to do it!
Content that is too long for the format – like a 1,500 word blog post.
Talking about your product or service too much throughout the piece. You need to earn the right to give the reader any information about your product, and even then, you should keep it short and sweet (and near the end).
Plagiarizing content. If the content is obviously borrowed from someone else, you won’t win over any friends or followers.
Content that makes empty promises. If you promise anything, you’d better make sure you can deliver.
Bragging about yourself or your company. Exciting content is about what is exciting to the reader, not what is exciting to you. Don’t spend a lot of content promoting yourself.
No source attribution for statistics. Statistics are important but people want to know that you didn’t just make them up.
Run-on sentences. Sentences that go on forever are much too long to comprehend. Bullet points are a great way to go, or just make sure that your sentences are fairly short and sweet.
Grammatical errors and typos. It’s amazing how much content I read everyday that is still full of misspelled words and typos, despite the computer and spell-check. Of course, there are situations when a spell-check will not identify a misspelled word because it is spelled correctly, but its meaning is not correct (whether vs. weather, for example).
Dated content. Nothing makes you sound more unreliable or untrustworthy than old statistics, old information, old studies and especially old economic figures. Careful planning will make sure your content doesn’t go stale.
Misusing and abusing the thesaurus. The thesaurus is a very helpful tool but there is no need to look up a fancier term for every word you use. Say it simple – if you don’t, you’ll alienate your audience.
Now you know what not to do when developing actionable content. There’s nothing worse than a blog, website, or article written so poorly that the audience is completely uninterested and bored. You can’t promote your business or your products and services effectively that way! Keep these tips in mind and you’ll become a better content marketer.
Be sure to read next week’s blog where we will discuss the 5 most important Best Practices for developing compelling, meaningful and engaging content that people will enjoy reading and will be shared more often.
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