5 Steps to Killer Content Analysis

Posted by Rachel Terry

shutterstock_470183429.jpgNo matter how great your writing skills are, there will always be room for improvement in your content marketing efforts. Readers are so unpredictable: sometimes you produce amazing content that you're sure will go viral only to watch it fall flat. At other times, you publish content that seems boring to you but proves to be explosively popular on social media. There are lessons here, but you won't be able to learn them without conscientious content analysis.

What exactly is content analysis? And how can you use it to improve both your writing and your marketing?

Content analysis is simply the examination of your content to determine its effectiveness. A solid analysis will help you to find out what works well and what doesn't. It will help you to discover holes and redundancies as well as reveal themes and relationships. In other words, it helps you to step back and get the big picture. Armed with the big picture, you can move forward confidently, filling old holes and staying on target.

The following is a content analysis plan you can use to evaluate your current content and then create a plan for moving forward.

Step One: Create a Content Inventory

Content marketing has been around long enough now that many companies have years' worth of content, either on their websites or sitting on a hard drive somewhere. Some of this content is no longer relevant to their goals or current products, but some of it is highly usable and waiting for a chance to shine.

If you want to get serious, you can use a content inventory program, but many people just use a spreadsheet to track inventory. You'll find your inventory more useful and usable if you include the following field:

  • Link Name
  • Link
  • Type of Content (product page, press release, blog post, etc.)
  • Topics/Keywords
  • Owner (the person who created the content)
  • ROT (acronym meaning Redundant, Outdated, or Trivial)
  • Rating
  • Notes (broken images, html problems, etc.)

This can be a tedious process, and part of the difficulty is simply finding all of your content. Be as systematic as possible as you go through the website and social media, and try to not miss anything. Don't forget to inventory your FAQs, email newsletters, videos, whitepapers, social media items, and graphics.

Step Two: Weed Out the ROT

As mentioned in Step One, the acronym ROT stands for "Redundant, Outdated, or Trivial." Some of this content no longer applies to the website, and some of it probably shouldn't have been written and published in the first place. Whatever the reason, eliminate the ROT from your site. It can mislead people and give a faulty impression of who you are and what you stand for.

Step Three: Identify the Winners

Using analytics data and social media feedback, identify the content that has been most successful. You may want to develop a numeric rating system to help you keep track of how your content performs. Choose the metrics that mean the most to your organization. For instance, page views might be less important than conversion rate, depending on the nature of the website and the company's goals.

If you're trying to elicit conversations, you may want to factor blog comments into your formula. Posts that receive the most comments but have fewer page views might be more successful than posts with high page views but few comments.

Step Four: Analyze the Winners

With a list of your top-performing pieces of content, you're now in a position to find out what has worked well for you in the past. With this information, you can create new content that capitalizes on past success.

For example, if you find that the tone of your top-performing content is humorous, you'll want to produce more humorous content in the future. If your videos are going viral but your infographics are not, spend more of your resources producing videos in the coming year.

Step Five: Create a Plan

Creating a content marketing plan based on solid information that stems from content analysis is more likely to be successful than a marketing plan based on hunches and outsiders' ideas. When you know exactly what has worked in the past and you know which gaps you need to fill with targeted keywords and content, you can move forward confidently.

Content analysis takes some time and commitment, but the rewards can be impressive and lasting.

Tags: content analysis

How to Make Clients Want More: Setting Yourself Up for Continuing Content Orders

Posted by Tracey Sandilands

shutterstock_535834924.jpgWriting for clients, whether you’re a freelancer or professional marketer, requires a level of dedication and attention to detail that many other types of work don’t need. It also takes a degree of professionalism, if you’re to be successful and generate enough repeat orders to make it worth your while. What exactly is the “secret sauce” that enables you to improve your customer’s experience, leave clients wanting more, and deliver ongoing content orders that keep you in business? We believe it’s a combination of several factors:

Easy Contact and Order Process

Clients love a writer who is easy to get hold of. It’s even better if they can place their content orders online or use a methodology that doesn’t require tracking you down and having a personal conversation. You’re likely to get more assignments this way than someone whose only form of communication is a telephone.

Make it happen: Create an automated process for clients to request work. It doesn’t need to be a fancy e-commerce system; a list of standard questions or a form on your website that can be emailed to you could help clients submit their request along with all the supporting information.

Availability

The immediacy of the Internet has made fast action essential to avoid missing the boat. That translates into clients wanting content within a couple of days at the most, not having to wait months for you to deliver.

Make it happen: Determine a reasonable turnaround time for each assignment, and allow for an extra 24-hour contingency period. Ensure that you always have some spare capacity in the week, if not every day. That way, if a loyal client comes in with an unexpected order, you won’t have to turn them away and risk losing them to the writer or company that can help them in a jam.

High Quality Work

Naturally, the quality of your content carries the highest priority when it comes to retaining clients, but it’s not only about how you write. Quality also depends on accuracy of your facts and careful editing of your work, as well as a professional layout and attractive appearance. And there are few things worse than submitting a piece of writing that doesn’t follow the subject matter requested by the client.

Make it happen: Proofread your work thoroughly and check that you have fulfilled the requested assignment fully. Even if you know the document is only for draft purposes and the copy will be published online manually, presenting it attractively and with suitable formatting can make a world of difference to the client’s opinion of you. Follow the client’s instructions carefully, questioning any that don’t seem to make sense.

Appropriate Rates

Few serious clients honestly want the cheapest work they can get. Most would rather pay a little more for quality work, and if you undervalue yourself and your product it’s possible the client will do so too.

Make it happen: Research the going rates for the writing work you do, then compare these to the hourly rate you’d ideally like to earn. Consider the value to the client of the work you deliver, and choose a rate that aligns favorably with all three variables.

Adherence to Deadlines

Few breakdowns in business are as annoying and potentially damaging as not adhering to deadlines. Whether these are for the delivery of content for the website, products for sale or raw materials for manufacturing, the outcome is the same: delays cost money.

Make it happen: Don’t agree to a deadline that you might not be able to keep. If you have any doubts whatsoever, rather request longer for delivery than running late. If you’re finished ahead of the deadline, great. In an emergency, most clients will be prepared to give you extra time if you don’t make a habit of asking for it.

Going the Extra Mile

As with everything in business, a writing career is more likely to be successful if you always look for opportunities to go the extra mile. Spend five minutes longer on the work to check your accuracy. Ask clarification questions if there are contradictory instructions. Add a link to a suitable suggested image so your client doesn’t have to search for one. Run your work through Copyscape and paste the results at the foot so the client knows you have checked for duplication. Cite your sources, whether it’s required or not. Focus on delivering your very best work every day, and you’ll never have to look for new clients or work.

4 Tips to Improve Your Writing in 2017

Posted by Chloe West

shutterstock_500017438.jpgIt's the end of the year, which means it's the perfect time to reflect on 2016 and look at the areas of your life in which you want to improve. Most of us tend to have resolutions that have something to do with our careers, and since most of us frequenting the Zerys writers blog are writers, we're covering a few big tips for improving your writing in the coming year. After all, who doesn't have at least one writing weakness that they want to work on?

1. Keep it simple.

Studies show that long form content tends to perform better than short form content. Do you know what the exception to that is?

?Long form content that goes on and on and uses way too many words to get to the point.

If you have enough information to create a 1,000 word blog post, then do it. If you have enough information to only fill a 300-500 word blog post, then keep it at 300-500 words. Don't fluff your sentences and paragraphs in order to increase your length.

Instead, keep your content simple and to the point, and don't lengthen your sentences for the sole purpose of doubling your word count.

2. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

We really can't say it enough times. (If we hadn't proofread this blog post, that sentence would have ended with the word "time" instead of "times".)

The first time anyone writes something, it's always a rough draft. Even the best writer in the world produces a rough draft the first time around. This is why it's so important to leave your rough draft, allow your brain to focus on something else, and then revisit your work at a later time to proofread.

It's difficult for us to catch some of our own mistakes when we've been looking at the same content all day. But we don't want to send a blog post over to editorial without rereading it to ensure we haven't made any stupid typos.

3. Shut down distractions.

In this day and age, most of us are writing on computers. Do you know what else is on computers? Social media, Netflix, Google, email, even text messages and other instant messaging services! There are so many notifications constantly coming through that it is so easy to get distracted from your work.

When you get distracted, it's incredibly easy to lose your train of thought in your writing. A great idea that you may have been fleshing out can easily disappear with the alert of a new email or a Facebook notification.

Start small by simply turning off all push notifications. You can do this on both your smartphone and your desktop/laptop computer. This will keep you from getting alerted each time you receive a notification. Set aside time to check your social networks, but don't let them interrupt you.

Then, when you really need to buckle down and work, you can use a website or app specifically for getting stuff done on a computer without allowing other websites to deter you from your work. FocusWriter and WriteMonkey are two great distraction-free writing tools to check out.

4. Read more.

If you're a writer and you don't read, you're never going to be a truly great writer. The writer who reads is always better than the writer who doesn't, if only because they're constantly helping themselves to improve. By reading more, you're introducing yourself to more writing styles. This can help you to further identify your own writing style.

You're also becoming more acquainted with a larger vocabulary, and the appropriate ways to use that vocabulary. You become more fluent with grammar after seeing correct tenses and ways of saying things repeated. You'll get new inspiration and new ideas that you otherwise never would have thought of.

Read the types of stories, books, and articles that you love, and some that you don't. A well-read writer is a great writer.

Make 2017 the year that you really work to improve your writing skills by utilizing these four tips. No fluff, just write.

It is All in the Cards: The Organized Way to Create Great Blog Content

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_430099885.jpgWant a writing tip that helps you create more engaging blog content for your audience – and do it in less time? On the surface, it seems like an old-fashioned approach, but if you want to write clearer, stronger posts, consider index cards. A ubiquitous sight throughout production offices and in writers’ rooms, the humble index card is a fantastic resource for visually representing the structure of your blog posts. While there are digital versions available, there are good reasons to stick to the real deal.

The Time Dilemma

Every writer knows that creating engaging blog content is a lot harder than it looks. You probably often feel short of time due to the many deadlines you need to meet. What’s more, you may also be producing eBooks, social media content, and the like. Research and distractions like schedule and topic changes also take up a lot of time. So how do you get it all done?

Get More Efficient

Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott is a big proponent of index cards. She carries them with her everywhere she goes, places them all over her home, and recommends jotting down ideas and observations as they occur. Since great content is also great storytelling, why not use the technique for your own blog content? The process is simple and you’ll soon find that it also makes you a better writer. Here’s how to go about it.

Research and Beyond

Yes, index cards are great for jotting down notes and flashes of brilliance, but they also serve to help you tell a coherent story that delivers the audience, leads, and conversions you’re looking for. Much like prepping a research paper, the index card system offers a clear vision to construct great content.

  • Getting Started. Once you pull your topic from your editorial calendar, jot down the main points you want to make on separate cards. Then create a new card for each subtopic. For example, if you’re writing about real estate, main points could be buying, selling, and financing. Subtopics would be lead generation, marketing, and mortgages. Some people like to use different color cards for each level of content, and this can come in handy farther down the road when constructing your “story.”
  • Stay on Point. Each card should represent a point you want to make. Keep it short – 10 words or less is ideal. Most blog posts can be covered in 20 cards or less. Make one card each for your opening and closing points.
  • Plan for Shuffling. Make your points general enough so they can be rearranged if necessary.
  • Choose a Workspace. Some people swear by posting cards on the wall, while others prefer being able to slide them around on a counter or table. Find what works best for you. And if you don’t want to put tacks in the wall, use post-it notes instead.

Putting it Together

Now comes part where the beauty of an index card system really gets to shine. Quickly lay out the cards in the order you think you want to tell your story. Then take a step back and read them in order. Does the post flow? Do you see places where it would make more sense to move a point closer to the beginning or end of the post? Is there a card in there that would work better for another post later on? Take it out. After a few passes, you should have a post that practically writes itself. Keep in mind that it may take doing the process several times before you appreciate its real beauty.

Plan for the Future

The index card method is easy to do, and it’s a lot more appealing than coming up with content under pressure. You can also use the system to do preliminary work for future blog content. Jot each of the next month’s blog topics on its own card and then start collecting data or jotting ideas down on other cards that you stack below it. Repurpose cards for future posts and make a note on them as to where they first appeared. That way, you’ll be able to easily backlink.

The best storytellers have been using index cards for years to help them tell unforgettable stories. With just a little adaptation, you can do the same for your blog content. While there’s no magic way to make a story write itself, it’s often the case that by trying new tools you can improve your own storytelling abilities.

Fine Tune Your Online Marketing with Content Analysis

Posted by Rachel Terry

shutterstock_231869443.jpgThere's no question that quality content drives traffic and improves SEO. As you write for clients and help them to publish a steady stream of quality content, their websites take on a maturity and fullness that gives them credibility and plenty of material for sharing on social media.

Every now and then, however, it's important to do a sort of "audit" of a website's content. This is important because your clients' content needs to include the right keywords for their current marketing goals, and it needs to increase customer engagement. As market conditions, customer needs, and marketing campaigns change, content also needs to change. The best way to find out whether or not changes need to be made is to conduct a content analysis. Here's how:

Find a Content Analysis Tool

Fortunately, there are plenty of content analysis tools out there, so it's easy to find one that fits your budget and your needs. Some content analysis tools, like WooRank, offer both a free version and a paid version. Google Analytics is one of the oldest content analysis tools, and it's still great for getting insights into how visitors find and use websites. Do a simple search for these tools, and you'll find that you have many great choices.

Run an Analysis on the Website

Once you've downloaded your content analysis tool of choice, run an analysis. Make sure that you get information about page titles, page visits, bounce rates, conversion data, how much time users spend on each page, the number of social media shares, and page "scores."

The data you receive from these metrics will help you to know whether or not site content is relevant. If you see a high bounce rate, you may want to make some adjustments. There are many reasons for a high bounce rate, and some of them have nothing to do with your content. For example, if a page takes more than 4 seconds to load, many visitors give up and go find another site to explore. Also, too many advertisements on a page can make people feel bombarded and overwhelmed. But if these issues don't seem to be a problem, you'll want to analyze your content.

Common Problems

One common problem is that the content of a page doesn't match visitors' expectations. For example, if they click on a link promising cooking tips and arrive at a page selling cookware, they're likely to leave right away since they didn't get what they expected.

Too much text on a page can also be a problem. If your paragraphs are long and your word counts are high, some visitors will feel intimidated and leave quickly. You can solve this problem by adding subtitles and increasing the white space around your content.

If the social media share rate is low (or non-existent), it's possible that the content simply doesn't invite engagement. People share links on social media when they perceive the content to be valuable and insightful. What they share is a reflection of themselves, so you want to give them content that follows high standards and offers value. You can also increase social shares by making sharing easier. Add social sharing buttons to content, and don't forget to write catchy headlines. Compelling images also help to encourage sharing.

Create a Plan of Action

After you've analyzed the data, create a plan of action that will help you to overcome the problems you've detected. You may need to rewrite some pages or remove some entirely. You may also need to redirect links to other pages, add video content, change keywords, or update titles.

Remember that content analysis shouldn't be a one-time event. In order to keep a website relevant and dynamic, analyze content on a regular basis, maybe semi-annually or quarterly. Don't forget to frequently test the availability of URLs, and keep up with Google's indexing rules.

Whether you're directly involved with content analysis for a client or you simply write new content after your client has created a plan of action, try to keep the big picture in mind. With the fine tuning that comes with content analysis, you can help your clients to reach their content marketing goals.

5 Tips for Staying Organized and Keeping Your Clients Happy

Posted by Julie Bruns

shutterstock_342979073.jpgKeeping yourself organized is vital to maintain an optimized workflow and best meet your clients' needs. But it's easy to fall into bad habits without a plan and preparation. Here are five steps you can take now to help streamline your working process so you can focus on creating content that thrills clients.

Maintain a Calendar

Keeping track of appointments and deadlines is vital for writers. An online calendar program can be ideal for this, as it is accessible from anywhere, can be synced to your phone and devices, easily edited and color-coded for further organization. With your days laid out in front of you, it can be easier to block off free days when you need them and regulate your workflow to ensure there are fewer spikes and dry spells. Keeping a constant eye on deadlines also helps you to make sure that things are done in time and without rushing and causing quality to suffer.

Make Use of Lists

Whether you use a physical notebook or a note-taking program on your computer, creating lists can help you to think through the steps of your projects, keep track of your progress, and stave off procrastination. By breaking tasks into specific steps, you'll not only prevent feeling intimidated by larger tasks and procrastinating, but it gives you the chance to take a moment to mentally craft a strategy for projects. Keeping track of what you've accomplished on the list can also help you stay on course to hit deadlines and notice when you're spending too much time on certain steps. Crossing items off the list and being able to visualize what you've already done also can be motivating.

Prioritize the Time-Sensitive Tasks

It can be all too easy to shrug off projects until the last minute, however, working under pressure can cause the end product to suffer. Organizing your projects by order of priority is a vital skill in order to continually meet deadlines without feeling the stressful crunch. This becomes even more important when you're working on several articles and projects simultaneously, and need to juggle your time carefully to bring high quality results on each. It can also be tempting to start out your day with checking email, social networks and various blogs and websites, but these can become time vacuums. Identifying the day's priorities can prevent you from falling down the Internet rabbit hole when you have pressing work.

Create a System for Basic Emails, Forms and Invoices

How much time do you spend each day creating invoices and writing basic emails that seem like you've written them dozens of times before? Organize and streamline this menial but necessary process as much as possible to save yourself time. Craft simple boilerplate examples for basic emails and invoices and organize them in your computer, ready to be copied and pasted into an email and quickly adjusted for each client.

Keep Your Work Space Clean

A clean work space lets you flow efficiently through your tasks. Take the time to create a space for your work that contains everything that you need to complete your tasks and designate a place for each of your tools. If you know where everything you need is, and keep it within reach, this prevents your work flow from being interrupted, and procrastination from setting in. Do this for your physical work space, as well as your work computer. A clean desktop with folders clearly labeled and organized will help you keep your focus on the task at hand.

Organization is a habit that can take some work to get into, but once you get established in it, it allows you to do your best work without getting dragged down in petty details. By making a few adjustments now, you'll optimize your efforts in a way that will pay off for years down the road.

Long-Form Content: Preparation is Everything

shutterstock_235790725.jpgLong-form content is an excellent promotional tool that offers an excuse to communicate directly with target audiences, an opportunity to rank higher in the search engines, and the ability increase social media success. But whether creating long-form content for clients or your own business, the process can be stressful and tedious. Here's a four-step plan you can use to make creating long-form content more enjoyable and efficient overall:

Make a List and Check it Twice

The first step that should always be taken before starting a long-form content project is to make a list and go back to it several times so you can flesh it out. At this point, the idea is to list as many topics, ideas, and insights that could be used to develop the content you need. If you're working on an e-Book or white paper that involves business automation, think outside of the box and list ideas about employee retention and customer relations. These points may later provide you with ideas that can be tied into your initial topic to provide additional insight.

Once you've brainstormed a list, put it in a safe spot overnight and go back to it the next day. Spend a minute or two considering each point on your list to decide whether you can further develop them or if they're simply too far off topic and flesh out your list accordingly. Then put the list away for another day and go back to it once more to further refine your ideas until you have a solid base that you feel comfortable working from.

Organize into Sections

Now that you have a base list of ideas to work with, you can start organizing the ideas and information into sections. Start by creating headlines for your sections based on the information you plan to provide to your audience overall. Each new topic that expands on the specific idea of your piece should be given its own section.

For example, if you're writing about marketing options for blog owners you can create a different section for where to find the best marketing services, how to weed the bad ones out, how to use these services effectively, and when to expand on marketing techniques. You can then organize your information underneath these topics, making sure that all of your talking points get covered. If any points aren't assigned to a section by the time you're done organizing, consider creating a miscellaneous section for them at the end of your long-form piece.

Focus on Sections One at a Time

After you have organized your information into sections, it's important to go back to the beginning and go through each section one at a time to create a structure for them. Under each section, list your topics as you'd like them to be utilized within the content when it is created and round out each topic with corresponding points, insight, ideas, statistics, and other pertinent information that shouldn't be overlooked during content production. You'll find that this process makes it really easy to actually write the content overall, and will help ensure that nothing your audience needs or wants to know is left out.

Think About Resources and Visuals

Finally, it's a good idea to think about resources and visuals before you starts writing your content so you can keep those aspects in mind as you write. If you want to provide your audience with statistics and industry specific information, make a running list of links that you can include in the content as you produce it. Think about the kinds of visuals you'd like to add into your content. Will you be sticking with logos and icons, or do you want to include vibrant professional photos throughout? With this question answered you can keep the general size and design in mind when writing to ensure that your paragraphs and visuals complement each other as opposed to distract from one another.

This four step plan is sure to make creating your long-form content easy, and help ensure that you're providing your readers with quality content that will make them want to keep coming back for more.

Formatting Matters: How to Structure Your Articles for the Highest Reader Impact

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_301366778.jpgThere are two approaches that readers take to online content. The first is skimming, and the second is reading closely to absorb the content. On the web, most people are scanning content for the main points in order to decide whether or not they will save it and read it more closely later. The key question for a writer is how to structure content so that it has the highest impact and makes the reader want to return for a closer look.

Here are a few formatting tips to accomplish this and keep readers coming back:

Use White Space Effectively
The last thing that some want to see when they land on your content is a dense block of text. You may have the best ideas in the world, but they will not have any impact if you just have longs paragraphs with little white space. Your paragraphs should be shorter in order to create more white space on the page. This is much less intimidating for the reader and easier to skim than a long block of text.

Headings Invite the Reader Forward
Just like the purpose of the title is to invite readers to click on the content, good headings invite readers to continue scanning the text for information. Ideally, you should be able to catch the main points of the content by simply scanning the title and headings. Make sure you try this when you check over your content.

Use Bullets and Lists
Bullets and lists allow you to package content in bite-size chunks that are easy to follow and digest. If possible provide a summary of your content using a bulleted list to help people get the point.

Bold Key Sentences
When skimming people are looking quickly for the main ideas. You can help them out by making your main points easy to find. Put your main claims in the first sentence of each paragraph and then provide supporting details. You might also try bolding the text of these important sentences so that they stand out and attract the eye of your reader.

Include Images
Images help break up the text so that people can follow the key points. An image that helps illustrate your main point is also very helpful. If you can provide an infographic, table or flowchart, that can speak volumes to someone skimming your content.

Other Formatting Aides
There are many other ways to format your document for high impact. The first is line length. People have a hard time taking in long lines of text, so make sure that when you post your content the line length is short. Experts suggest that 50-60 characters is optimal for line length.

The font you chose is also important. A sans-serif font, one without the small projections on the type, is easier to read on the screen. You want to pick one font for the body text and one font for the headlines. Too many fonts can be distracting, but having a different font for headings makes them easier to follow. You can contrast a plain easy-to-read sans-serif body font with a creative and stunning heading font.

Color is another important factor. You want a high contrast between your text and background colors. You may also want to change the background and text colors to highlight important parts of your text. You don’t want to have too many colors in your content, but a change in color to highlight a key point can be helpful.

Converting Skimmers to Readers
Obviously, if you’ve done the hard work of creating insightful and valuable content, then you want to make sure that people read it. The problem is that the people you are hoping will read your content will first skim it to see if it worth their time. Using these formatting tips to structure your text for easy skimming will show off your great content. People will save it and return to it later for a more careful examination.

4 Common Mistakes That Even the Best Writers Make

shutterstock_314104490.jpgContent marketing in all its forms – blogs, sales pages, product descriptions, white papers, and email newsletters for example – is so effective that even the most profitable corporations like Coca-Cola implement it on a daily basis. But even with all their success, even the “big guys'” best writers tend to make a few common mistakes that hold them back in one way or another. Here are four common mistakes even the great writers make, and how you can avoid making those mistakes yourself:

Making Assumptions

It's easy to assume what your audience does and doesn't already know when writing a piece, whether for your blog or a sales page. But it's important to keep in mind that your readers likely don't spend as much time as you do learning about the subject matter of your content, so you may need to provide a little background before getting to the meat of the information that you'd like to share. By making sure that your content is written without any assumptions in mind, you'll increase interest among those who are just learning about your industry for one reason or another.

You don't have to dumb-down your content to ensure that it's far reaching – consider including links that provide readers with more in-depth information about a subject, offering quick tips and tricks that readers can apply to their own lives, or simply writing a line or two about the context of your piece.

Underestimating Workloads

Whether working as a freelancers, marketer, or full-time employee, almost all writers have underestimated their workloads at one time or another, which can be a serious problem come publication time. When a deadline is looming, and the workload is backed up, there are typically only a couple of choices you can make:

  • Miss the Deadline – This can cost you readers and future work depending on your field.

  • Gloss over the Subject for a Quick Turnaround– This can affect your ability to maintain an authoritative stance within your industry.

Neither of these scenarios is ideal, so it's best to stay on top of your deadlines and ensure that you never underestimate your workload. To be safe, it's a good idea to add an hour's worth of time commitment to every five hours of work you think you have on your plate.

Missing Promotional Opportunities

No matter what kind of writing you do, there are likely promotional opportunities that you're missing out on. You should be promoting your professional writing services, your company's product offerings, or your marketing chops every chance you get, so take the time to find an opportunity every time you sit down to write a piece. Consider one or more of the following options:

  • Create a call-to-action at the end of your article by asking for comments or reminding readers to check out a sale.

  • Include a couple of links to your website throughout the content where it's applicable.

  • Incorporate a logo into your writer's bio so your brand can be instantly recognized.

  • Recommend further reading somewhere within your content that will take readers to other pieces or sales pages you've written.

The idea is to come up with a unique and unobtrusive method for promoting yourself, your products, or other pieces of content that you've previously published.

Complicating Content

While it's important to go in-depth as often as possible when writing any style of content, it's also essential to make sure that your words aren't too complicated for the average reader. If people find themselves having to read a sentence more than once to comprehend it's meaning, it can throw the entire paragraph off course and result in lost reader interest. To make sure that everyone from the novice to the expert can follow your writing, keep things as simple as possible and provide links or references if necessary so readers who are interested in learning more know where to go.

By keeping these basic tips and tricks in mind, you should be able to create comprehensive, intelligent content that is intriguing to readers and makes them want to keep coming back for more.

Is Your Writing Too Formulaic? Breaking Bad Writing Habits

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_392339971.jpgIs your writing becoming a bit predictable? You could be stuck in the rut of formulaic writing. This is when the language conventions and popular writing structures drive your writing process instead of engaging content.

The Problem with Formula
This formulaic writing is worst in what we call clickbait. Someone writes an unoriginal post, usually in the form of a list, then composes a sensational headline to induce people to click through. Headlines that make big promises and then adds something like, “You won’t believe No. 2,” are good examples. Clickbait type articles work to get clicks, but this is not great content writing.

The problem with clickbait is that it relies purely on a formula to drive interest and generate clicks. There is nothing about the content that is ultimately interesting, valuable or even entertaining. The reader’s interest is induced by the formulas that do all the work.

Formulaic writing is essentially a shortcut that allows writers to generate interest without the hard work of writing engaging, informative and valuable content. The answer is to focus on the content and show your audience that you have something of value to offer.

That does not mean to avoid all writing conventions and formulas. These are helpful to organize your content, but you can’t rely on them to drive reader interest. For example, in marketing, it is usually a good idea to start with a pain point that you know your readers struggle with to create an emotional bond with your audience. Conventions like discussing benefits rather than features are important to keep your reader interested. But these formulas cannot substitute for offering valuable content to your audience.

Here are some tips for avoiding formulaic writing:

Do Your Homework
There is no substitute for good old-fashioned research to offer real value to your audience. You have to do your homework to understand your audience’s needs, problems and desires. This will help you to target your writing, so your audience feels like you really get them. When you do this, then you can offer content that your audience will truly be interested in.

Get Specific
Formulaic writing tends to paint with broad strokes. This is why there is so much repetitive and duplicable content out there on the Internet. The more specific you can get with your writing the better it will be. This means using case studies, statistics, expert interviews and testimonials to make your points.

If you are writing about best practices for social media marketing, then you need to do more than offer some generic advice about using social media. You want to offer a case study, testimonial or expert interview that shows how one business implemented best practices to improve their social media marketing. Your audience will find these kinds of content very engaging and informative.

Tell a Good Story
People like stories. They want to see the hero save the day. This is why testimonials are so effective. They want to see how Dan got back into shape with the help of a personal trainer, or how the Jones family improved the quality of their lives with a kitchen remodel. Think about how you could narrate a story about your topic. Even if it is a fictional story, it will still be engaging with your audience.

Offer a Fresh Perspective
People want to get your perspective on the issue you are discussing. You want to inject your writing into a more general discussion of the topic and offer something unique in the context of this discussion. If your audience is following the discussion, then they will be interested in your perspective.

A little while ago, there was a discussion in the content marketing community about whether long blog posts were better than short ones. This was a great opportunity for writers to weigh in one side of the issue and offer their perspective on it. Readers following the conversation were immediately interested in what people had to say.

Using formula and writing conventions can be helpful, but you should not develop an overreliance on them. Make sure you do your homework, tell a good story and offer something valuable to engage your audience. That is what good content writing is about.