Where do you turn when you want to really make a splash in content marketing? When you want to attract the eyes of your target audience and the good graces of Google’s search algorithms? When you’re picking the perfect format for your best ideas?
A kickass blog post, that’s where.
Before you go back and check the date on this post, this isn’t an article from 2009, or 1999. In 2019, the written word remains a powerful tool your brand can use to convert prospects and influence people. You simply have to make sure you’re maximizing the potential of your words, writing compellingly instead of just … writing to write.
The following are five ideas that have occurred to us at Brafton, little tricks that have made creating written content more effective, rewarding and even fun for us.
- Learn to overcome procrastination
- Break up text to increase ease of reading
- Build credibility by keeping the numbers current
- Use references to make reading your content fun
- Win the SEO battle with effective research
If you work these into your own day-to-day routines, you may find the words are flowing more easily than ever before, and your readers are loving what you’re coming up with.
Even the best idea for a blog post is no good to you if you never put proverbial pen to metaphorical paper.
That’s why perhaps the most important and necessary writing hacks are the ones that get you started and help you focus on the writing process.
When you load up a new document, ready to craft your next opus, looking at that blank screen can be really intimidating, and act as an enticement to go back to wasting time – but there are ways around that feeling.
Try this: plot out all the sections you want your article to have, and paste the headings right into your document.
Now that you’ve got your headings, you’re not starting from nothing, you’re filling in the blanks. If you have to change something later as the piece comes together, that’s fine. You’ll already be in the swing of things by then.
Full disclosure: The very first part of this article I wrote was the table of contents.
While the outline method can’t prevent distractions from popping up, it gives you somewhere to start and a place to pick up if you pause.
One of the most common mistakes in content writing, one that even experienced and knowledgeable people make, is to fill posts with long, chunky sentences and paragraphs. They may be loaded with facts and clearly well-researched, but readers’ eyes just bounce off them!
Short, easy-to-digest paragraphs, frequent subheadings and bulleted lists are a few of the best tools in your kit when it comes to breaking up the text for readers to focus on, dive into and enjoy.
Attention spans are short today, and it pays to avoid any impediment that may make a reader give up on an article, whether that means run-on sentences, overuse of passive voice or any other shortcomings in style or grammar.
“The ways to increase marketing content effectiveness include easily readable sentence structures, up-to-date data and figures, relevant topical references and researched SEO-friendly features.”
“Great marketing content includes:
- Easily readable sentences.
- Up-to-date data.
- Relevant topical references.
- SEO-friendly features.”
This point, suggested by fellow content writer Lexi Goyette, is all about building trust between yourself and the reader.
Basically, you should make sure the data you cite in your articles is as current as possible. Citing relevant studies from five, 10, 15 or more years ago weakens your arguments, especially if the same reports have had more recent editions.
It’s easy to let inertia set in when it comes to supporting research.
When you set out to write, the sources you consult may cite data that’s years out of date. You could just repeat those numbers again, maybe tactfully removing the date of the survey to hide how old it is.
But that doesn’t really help you make your point.
Cite a clearly current study and you’ll make your point clearly and effectively.
“According to a 2008 Accenture study, 25% of customers prefer…”
“The latest edition of Accenture’s customer study, published in October 2018, reveals…”
This suggestion, proposed by senior writer and style specialist Liam Green, is all about making people stick with your articles through a sense of recognition and fun.
When an article feels like it’s getting too dry or academic, there are a few ways to get people paying attention again. A well-placed quotation or pop culture reference could be just the thing the piece needs.
Sports, movies, TV, all are great subjects to go to when you need a creative reference. Giving your audience well-known phrases and pop cultural nods as points to hold onto may help them stay with your article. Every writer will have their own wellspring of trivia and favorite quotes to go back to, and as long as these features are recognizable to the readers, they’ll become fun additions to marketing copy.
References don’t have to be big, extended productions – you can just drop one in to spice up a paragraph. One of Liam’s favorite go-to moves is to add an immortal Cool Hand Luke line.
“When your writing is too academic you may make an insufficient impression on your target audience.”
“What you and your audience have here is … failure to communicate.”
Writing great content is a challenge, but a rewarding one.
Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your article, you’ll have something that your audience will be happy to read, full of shining wit, valuable data and useful insights.
There’s just one more problem – in today’s crowded online landscape, how will anyone find your piece?
There’s a science to search engine optimization, and it’s a worthwhile undertaking for any new piece of content you work on. Getting on Page 1 of Google search results is a way to boost both an individual article and your company’s visibility in general.
When it comes to SEO, guesswork isn’t much of a strategy – it’s time to gather data from tools such as SEMrush, Moz and Ahrefs and see the connections between the current leading posts in your chosen topic. When you have the hard facts on your top posts and competitors’ best offerings, you can iterate over time and get better at drawing eyes to your content.
A better future for your blog
Once you get a handle on these writing and productivity hacks, you’ll be well on the way to creating content that you’re proud to post on your website and Tweet out to the masses.
Whether they’re success stories, research analysis, thought leadership or another type of piece, written articles can be the voice of your brand, explaining in great detail how and why you excel in your industry, and why people should work with you.
Since writing services are our main business here at Brafton, we’ve had plenty of time to come up with writing and editing hacks, and if you’ve put in the time writing and editing marketing content, you’ve probably got some of your own. If you’ve got a surefire writing hack that goes beyond what we’ve described here, leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you, and other aspiring content marketers will welcome the insights.