Writing blog posts…
Maybe you love the process, maybe not so much. Sometimes you rush through it just to get it done. But, you’re good enough at it that you don’t make many mistakes, right? That’s usually what I think until I go back and look at my writing after I’ve finished. I wonder, “who the hell typed this because it certainly wasn’t me!”
Luckily, I have the best editor ever – my mother. She ran the elementary school newsletter when I was young, so you know she’s got the goods! You couldn’t make errors back then because it was all typed on this diabolical carbon copy paper. Just one little mistake could annihilate entire pages of work.
Writing errors ruined lives in those days.
You have to follow certain guidelines when you’re creating content. Otherwise, you’ll lose readers as errors hurt your credibility and erode your audience’s trust. To some people, seeing errors in print is exactly like listening to you scratch your fingernails horizontally across an entire chalkboard! Okay, maybe not that bad – but close.
Seriously though, don’t underestimate the possible negative impact of the 14 issues I list below. Trying to completely avoid them may seem overwhelming at first, but after a while correcting them should come naturally. So, here comes the list – go forth and be brave…
1. You don’t outline your article before you start writing it.
Outlining an article before you start writing is easy and speeds up the entire process. Why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, I’m not here to pass judgment, today anyway. But if there’s one thing you can do to right now to improve your writing, start outlining your blog posts in advance.
The easiest way to do this is to come up with a working title, write a brief introduction (remember, no wordsmithing, this is a rough outline), make as many bullet points as you need using 7-10 word phrases, and write a short conclusion. Then close up shop and walk away for a while. When you go back to it, you’ll be refreshed and ready to start filling in all the sections. I find it easiest to do my bullet points first, my introduction and conclusion next, and my headline last. But you can, of course, go in any order that works best for you.
2. You decide to (…cough…) skip editing your work.
The sin of all sins – you must not ever skip editing your writing. You may feel like you’ve painted your blog canvas in a way reminiscent of the Mona Lisa, but the reality of first drafts is not a pretty picture.
As I mentioned before, after you write the initial draft of your article, it’s the perfect time to put it down, do something else, and then go back to it.
Take another look at your writing…
You may discover the beauty of your Mona Lisa is more akin to “Lisa From Around the Block.” But don’t worry, this is exactly what a first draft is supposed to be like. It’s simply the time when you flesh out the ideas in your head and transfer them all to print.
You’re risking a lot when you don’t edit your articles. If you don’t publish content that is valuable, engaging, and error-free, you could lower your rank in search engine results and ruin your brand’s reputation.
Search engines like Google use complex algorithms to determine if you have outdated or poorly written content. That’s their job and they do it well, so protect your rank and reputation by editing your work.
3. Then you decide you’re not going to proofread your work – come on, you’re killing me!
Some people think editing and proofreading are interchangeable, but those people would be incorrect. Editing involves the overall quality of your writing. It ensures your ideas are clear, your language is correct, and your arguments are logical.
Proofreading has more to do with spelling, grammar, formatting and punctuation. Proofreading is more of a surface-level document check, but it’s no less important.
Would you trust the information in a blog post that had spelling errors, grammatical problems and strange punctuation? Probably not. Poor writing damages credibility and trust, two of the most important qualities your writing should instill in your readers.
4. You don’t publish enough content to please Google.
You won’t have many visitors to your blog if you don’t publish on a consistent, fairly frequent schedule. People want fresh, spankin’ new articles and no matter how good your writing is, they won’t keep rereading the same posts ad nauseam.
Google also gets cranky about a lack of fresh content and will knock you right on down the ranking ladder. Your blog is not considered relevant and useful if it only has a few sporadic posts with an update posted every so often.
Companies that sell physical products should also be concerned about writing and keywords. Google is pretty darn smart, but it can’t see or appreciate the beautiful and instructive photos of your product. You have to write photo descriptions and product-related posts in order to be relevant to Google. Normally you are writing with the priority of educating your reader. With images, you have to write for technical reasons so Google will get your content in front of the right consumers. (Note: Image captions are also important for people with impaired vision.)
5. Or, maybe you publish too much content!
With the huge importance placed on regular, frequent content, you might think quantity trumps quality. But this is definitely not the way to go.
You don’t want web pages filled with words and random punctuation. You want them filled with quality, thought-provoking, well-researched content. You want to “wow” your readers and leave them excited for your next article. It’s much better to write one fantastic article a week than random piles of words four times a week.If your blog is about cosmetics, you don’t want to write a bunch of articles about soft tacos. Click To Tweet
You also have to think about relevance. If your blog is about cosmetics, you don’t want to write a series of articles exploring different recipes for weenies and beans. You want to laser focus your blog on a particular area of expertise, with new ideas, stellar research and interesting topics.
6. You use technical jargon that no one understands.
Not everyone who reads your blog will be an expert in that field. Stay away from technical jargon and unexplained acronyms. If you have to use these terms in your writing, then include brief explanations about the words.
You have to keep this in mind, especially if your target reader is a beginner in the field. If people don’t understand what you’re writing about, they’ll simply move on to another blog that explains it better.
Your readers will appreciate when you explain concepts, use great examples and relate your product or service back to their lives. This is another way of increasing trust and credibility with your reader and hopefully turning them into a customer one day.
7. You write without a personality or distinctive voice.
If you don’t have a unique personality or voice associated with your writing, then your readers may find it difficult to differentiate your blog from all the others out there.
As an entrepreneur or company, you need to decide what your voice and writing style will be like throughout your content. There can be no inconsistencies. You want your reader to identify with you as a “real” person they can trust. When you show personality, you show that you’re human. (Or, if you’re a company, “humanish”)
Depending on your industry, you may have to carefully choose your writing voice. If you write for a financial institution, you should probably have an intelligent, no-nonsense voice that exudes expertise and trust. However, if you write for a tee-shirt company, you can be more fun and playful with your voice.
Another tidbit on voice – don’t try to copy another person’s personality. It won’t work and at best it will come off as stilted. Getting inspiration from another writer’s work is fine, just don’t try to make it your own.
8. You only use text – get some color in that post!
You can write outstanding content (and I’m sure you do), but you need more elements on your page than just typography. Photos, graphics, quotes and “click-to-tweets” are some images you can include with your writing to add interest.
As you probably know by now, blocks of text are a no-go when writing online. Besides the joy of white space, images are a great way to keep people on your page.
Make sure the images you choose are related to your blog post. You don’t want pictures of bananas in an article about leadership skills. The images should add value and interest to what you write.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to accomplish this. You can use free design software, like Canva or PicMonkey. For photos you can use free stock images on websites such as Unsplash or Pexels. Even better, add a short video to your post that digs deeper into an aspect of your topic.
9. You use generic or overused phrases (yawn).
Did you ever hear a phrase that makes you cringe because it is so overused it’s painful to your ears? In my field of content marketing, that phrase could be “content is king”. And I have to admit, I used it because at one time it was catchy. But over time, these word ditties grate on everyone’s nerves. Stay far away from them.
Generic phrases fail too. They aren’t specific enough to bring any value to your writing and are easily overlooked by your readers. This is especially true when it comes to social media or photo captions. “Check this out!”, “Gimme!”, or “Loooove It!” can be used anywhere and bring no added benefit or insight to anyone. Take the time to write thoughtful captions (with keywords!) that bring something meaningful to your writing,
10. You skip that little thing called research.
At least a couple of problems result from the lack of research before tackling a subject. The worst case scenario is you may be relying on outdated ideas or data.
A simple Google search with a date restriction is the best guarantee that you’ll be viewing timely articles.
When browsing books for research, don’t forget to check the copyright date. The book could be outdated. If you’re lucky you may discover there’s a newer edition on the market.
Failing to research a topic also keeps you from including new data and interesting studies you can use to add credibility to your work. And who knows, you may even find information that makes you rethink your opinion or change your understanding of a topic. This can lead to creative new ideas that should add to your status as an expert or thought leader.
11. You forget to ask your reader to take action.
You know to add a call to action at the end of your blog post, right? If not, here’s the deal. When readers finish your article, chances are they will just click away to a shiny blog post on another website.
But, many people need to be told what to do, in a nice way of course. It’s much easier when there’s a plan of action right there in front of them.
Don’t end your article without requesting or advising some type of action.
And the best case would be to make it an action that really helps the reader with a pain point (“Try setting up your own social media schedule using the information I provided. I guarantee you’ll feel more organized and productive.”) or further builds your list and/or market reach (“Please join my weekly newsletter so I can give you more great tips and tricks about social media – you’ll love it!”).
12. You don’t understand the needs of your readers.
Never ever write a word until you know who your target reader/customer is. You need to understand their pain points and desires in order to write material that resonates with them.
The only way you’ll ever build a following is if you have a segment of people that feel like you understand them and can help them achieve what they want. The best way to demonstrate this is through your writing.
If you know your target reader agonizes over promoting content, write articles that will help him plan his promotional activity or will make him feel less ambivalent about it.Set a day every month or quarter to review old posts and see if they can or should be updated. Keep your information fresh and relevant. Click To Tweet
Writing an article about your favorite planner stickers is not going to hold any value for him and he’ll go elsewhere to find what he needs.
Get to know your readers. Ask them what they need or want. Publish surveys. You need to constantly keep on top of this information as it may change periodically. Your blog will not survive if you don’t provide people with the things they value.
13. You never refresh your content.
Google does not like old, outdated content. You can be proud of your huge library of blog posts, but you can’t stop there. You have to go back through your content and find ways to update it and make it fresh.
You may find information you posted a couple of years ago that was eventually proven to be incorrect. This is a fantastic opportunity to repurpose content you’ve already created. Update it, add some new information, and republish it on your blog. Google’s happy, your reader’s happy and your traffic increases.
Set a day every month or quarter to review old posts and see if they can or should be updated. Keep your information fresh and relevant.
14. You don’t focus on SEO and keywords
Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with changing SEO algorithms. Keyword research can be complete drudgery. However, it MUST be done. You cannot simply ignore SEO and hope for the best. I’m sure you’re a masterful writer, but that’s not enough to bring in readers.
You need to perform that keyword research, understand how to use it in your content, and know how to optimize the backend of WordPress or whichever content management system you use.
Backlinks, anchor text, secondary keywords – these are all content-related items that can affect your SEO. If you aren’t sure how to implement these tactics, do a little research or toss me an email – I’m always happy to help out.
Trust me, if you stay on top of your writing and avoid these mistakes, it will help your content marketing succeed.
I have to add though, don’t forget to share and promote your writing because that’s essential in gaining an audience. I’ll dig into those topics with you very soon.
In the meantime, print out the attached checklist. It covers all the mistakes I listed, just in case you need a little memory jog. No opt-in necessary – I’m just spreading the content love.
Take care, Kristin