If words and pictures were drugs, Google would be an addict. Writers, photographers, and visual artists are the peddlers in this world.
Search engines are hooked because their customers told them it’s what they want. People have TV for the hard-sell commercials. They want awesome, informative content with entertainment value. That’s the deal or they won’t pay attention to your brand.
That’s why content marketing is all the rage…It’s a high stakes game, and he who dies with the most awesome, high-quality content wins. Blogging is one of the best ways to produce this content. It’s the business owner’s platform to tell the world about them, and their industry.
That can spell trouble for some. You’ll either need to become a better writer, or hire one.
Here are 17 ways for you to become a better writer and content producer:
- Give a “speech” to a friend about something that you are passionate about. Seriously. Talk for 2-3 minutes on a subject, like you’re ad libbing a blog post. Go in with no notes, but lay out your best talk on the subject. In addition to brushing up on your public speaking skills, this will get your mind thinking in a linear fashion. You’ll be making your best argument verbally, and supporting it. That’s a skill set that’s transferrable to paper, with some practice.
- Begin in the middle. When you’re writing your next blog post, begin wherever your mind is at. The beautiful thing about computers is you have the ability to cut and paste, and you also have a cursor that can be placed anywhere on the document. Write the meat and potatoes. When you’re done you can tinker with the perfect headline and perfect lead.
- Break the chains. Change up your writing environment and schedule. I attempted beginning this post at about 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon at Starbucks. It’s now 11 p.m. the same Sunday, at home. Things felt stale. I went home, I ran some errands and did some work around the house. I talked with an old friend. Now my mind is a lot more fresh to create a post on writing. Within the flexibility of the project, find the schedule and location that works best for you.
- They call it a smart phone for a reason. The camera app can help you capture notes, presentation slides, and other forms of information for later use. Evernote can help you take notes on the spot. It’s easy to jot down blogging ideas, or potential headlines as you think of them, and not back at the computer. Whatever your question or issue may be, chances are there’s an app for that.
- Insert passion here:_________. One reason that you’re writing may feel flat is because the blog post you’re writing looks like everyone else’s. Where is your personality? Where is your opinion? If there’s one thing the Internet’s not short on, it’s “experts.” If there’s one thing that is missing, it’s you. Telling your readers what you think of the latest industry news or tip provides them with real value, and distinguishes you from the competition. So don’t be afraid to show your personality when you talk to us.
- Tweak your organizational system. The truth about writing, is that everyone needs to organize their thoughts differently. Some produce great work with little preparation. Some need to do thorough outlines and note taking. It might be time for a change. If you take notes in Evernote, try creating an outline. If you create an outline, try creating a mind map. If your organizational methods are feeling a little overwhelming, see what happens when you free it up a bit. Enhancing or scaling back on your prep work (depending on where you’re at as a writer) may be the missing step in making your content shine.
- Experience power in numbers. Writing by nature is an isolating act. You can join a regular writer’s group to gain some insight from others in the same situation as you. If you’re looking to meet other bloggers, try #blogchat on Twitter, run by Mack Collier (8 p.m. Central Time).
- Create other art. Paint, draw or take pictures. Learn how to play the guitar. Heck, knit if that’s your thing. Creating art in other mediums can make you a better storyteller.
- Write how you talk. Picture yourself telling a friend about whatever idea you’re trying to convey. That’s the language you should use to tell us the story. Your conversational voice is a great way for your readers to get to know you and your personality. Some writers take it to another level by incorporating their accent, or other frequently used casual words into their writing. It’s a great way for readers to feel more comfortable with you. A word of warning: Bad grammar is not part of your personality. It’s still something that will make you look unprofessional.
- Let us breath once in awhile. Read your work out loud to establish rhythm and tone to your work. Vary up sentence lengths to gain a real conversational feel. If you feel yourself gasping when you’re done, chances are the sentence is just too darn long. Remove the commas, and insert periods. It’s time to shorten your sentences.
- Stay productive in your down time. Study supermarket tabloid headlines when you’re in line at the grocery store. How can they help you bring attention to your little corner of the world? When you’re showering, shaving, or taking out the garbage, be thinking about the last thing you read, or how to make your current project better. You never know when inspiration will strike.
- Write a stronger ending. In content marketing, you’re writing for value. The last sentence of a blog post is where the take away happens. Your reader just invested a significant amount of time in your work. Reward them by packing a punch in this location, and it could end up in some extra conversions, comments or shares for you.
- Show, don’t tell. This is a favorite in the journalism world. You’ve got to set the scene as a writer. The best way is to look at two sentence examples: “Ben is tired,” or “Ben stayed up all night with a crying baby, and then drew his coffee from the decaf spigot by accident.” Which gives you a better idea about Ben? Sentence two is far more interesting, despite being a little longer.
- If it doesn’t meet your standards, don’t publish. Like I said in the intro to this piece, a winning content marketing strategy includes awesome content. Mediocre content does nothing for you, and can weigh your whole operation down. Maybe this means a drastic rewrite, or a heavy edit. For some it might mean hiring an editor. Maybe it means walking away from your content and reevaluating it later. I know there’s a constant pressure to produce. But don’t cave into the urge of publishing too quickly. It won’t help you. That being said…
- Find your perfect output level. How often can you produce awesome publishable content? Now, take that awesome content and give some of it away through guest posts. ProBlogger recently did an interesting post on blogging output. Make sure that you’re publishing enough to stay relevant in your readers minds. If it’s too infrequent, no one remembers.
- Write with your readers in mind. Writing is an isolating process, but that doesn’t make it self serving. Good content marketing serves the reader by providing value. So make sure you understand your audience, and write about what they want to know.
- Break the rules. Writing advice is like parenting advice. There’s no shortage of people willing to give it. Writers need to understand when that advice serves them, and when it doesn’t.
Go ahead. Make your content a more desirable drug for Google. Help them by giving your audience what they want. The end result is better if you’re figuring out how to work with them, than if you’re figuring out how to trick them.
What methods have worked in making you a better content producer? I’d like to know.
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