Content is everywhere – and with the increase in content marketing, we can be sure that it’s not going anywhere. Of course, written content like this blog post is just a fraction of the content out there, but because it’s one of the most accessible things out there, it’s what many people turn to.
After all, the vast majority of people on the planet know how to read and write – whereas not many people understand graphic design or videography. Even still, that doesn’t mean those who write content for themselves or others know how to do it well.
Want to make sure you can write engaging content that people will actually read? Start with these tips.
Know Your Audience
Before you ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, know who your target audience is. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, how do you know the way you’re writing it will resonate with them? Even if you know your basic subjects or niche, if your audience is beginners, you’ll write entirely different content for them than if you were dealing with an experienced audience. Intermediate level content will be over the beginner’s heads, and yet bore the experts. Whatever you write needs to have value
Write in a Conversational Tone
Unless you’re dealing with an audience you know won’t respond well to a conversational tone – this is one of the best ways you can connect with your audience. I always try to write my content as if I were speaking to my friends. It’s much easier to relate to the writer when the reader feels like they’re being spoken to directly.
Plus, it lets who you are as a person shine through in your writing – adding to your authenticity, which is critical to building trust and relationships with your readers – who will hopefully become your customers if they haven’t already. Even if you’re not using your blog to promote a business where you sell products or services – you’re likely monetizing it with affiliate links and ads. People won’t click those things if they don’t trust you.
Look for Unique Angles on Popular Topics
There’s nothing wrong with covering the same topics as your competition, if you have something different to add to it. Even if it’s just your personal experience, that’s enough. But where possible, look for a unique approach to the same information that everyone else is sharing, so you stand out. This approach will build trust and credibility with your audience, too.
Keep Each Post on Topic
I know you’re thinking that’s easy – but it can be harder than you’d think. When you sit down to write, it’s easy to write whatever comes to your head… and those things aren’t necessarily always in line with the vision you have for the post.
Don’t write about what you had for breakfast unless you’re reviewing a restaurant, or a component of the breakfast. Don’t veer away from your story to tell the readers about something cute your dog did – unless of course you are a pet blogger and it makes sense to do it.
Shy away from writing about whatever comes into your head – and focus on whatever the topic. If you can’t explain how a paragraph directly relates to the post you’re writing – scrap it.
Format it for Easy Scanning
Reading on a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen is a completely different experience than reading on an e-reader or a book. The bottom line is few people are going to read every single word, and if they’re presented with huge blocks of text on the screen, they’re definitely not going to.
Use short paragraphs, subheadings, bulleted lists, and plenty of line breaks to keep the words easy to scan. That way when someone does want to read every word, it’s easier on their eyes.
Take Time to Proofread and Edit
When you begin writing a first draft, there’s nothing wrong with just writing. It’s okay not to take the time to correct typos and just keep moving. But when you’re ready to get the piece ready for publishing, it’s important to go back and polish everything. This means correcting typos, but also grammar and issues with sentence structure. Remove all unnecessary information. Get rid of any run-on sentences. Write with short sentences and paragraphs.
To keep your eyes from getting tired, it’s a good idea to focus on something else for a little while before coming back to proofread and edit. If you’re not confident in your skills, you can always hire someone else to handle that part for you.
The more you read, the better you’ll write. Why? Easy – you’ll build your vocabulary and a better understanding of language in general. Reading helps you connect to your own experiences, making you a better communicator.
Check for and Eliminate Wordiness
If you’re not an experienced writer, you may find yourself using more words than necessary. Word count isn’t everything, so instead of focusing on hitting a certain number, focus on saying what you have to say. For instance, “In order to…” can be shortened to just, “To….”Many instances of the word “that” can be completely eliminated. Read your work, and see if there are any words you can get rid of without affecting the material. This tightens up your writing and improves quality.
Take Time to Learn Grammar Rules
You don’t have to become an English major, but you should at least consider learning a few of the grammar rules that trip you up. Common issues are when to use which vs. that, affect vs. effect, and who vs. whom. (Here’s a tip: the song, “Who do you love?” is grammatically incorrect. When you’re asking about the object – the target of love – it’s whom. When you’re asking about the subject, it’s who. Thanks Grammar Girl! If you’re still confused, that’s okay. You’ll get the hang of it.) If you’re not sure of something, look it up. Each time, you’ll learn something new to make your future writing better.
Don’t Stop at the Headline
One thing that really bothers me as a reader is when I get drawn in by an awesome headline, and the rest of the content just doesn’t hold up. Of course, you should draw in attention with a killer headline, but make sure you follow through on whatever is that headline promises. If you’re writing the headline just to get the click, but don’t deliver, you’re just going to get a high bounce rate – which isn’t doing your ranking any favors.
If you stress too much about the content, you’ll find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis. Naturally, certain pieces of content will resonate with your audience better than others. And a lot of it has to do with how well you promote the content. If you’re just writing and publishing, and not sharing it on social media or including it in niche forums and social bookmarking sites, you can’t expect it to do as well as a piece you’ve marketed the heck out of.
What other tips can you add to this list? Tell me in the comments.