Michael O'Neill

Three hours and 16 minutes.

That’s the amount of time the average marketer devoted to writing a single blog post in 2016.

How much of that time could you have saved?

If you’re like most marketers, time can be enemy No. 1, and wasting away at your laptop working on a blog post that simply isn’t working translates to money lost. Over the entirety of a year, you could be inadvertently getting in the way of your marketing goals.

Knowing what to write is step one. Always.

Unless you take action to maximize each minute spent on producing top-tier copy, you may be endlessly stuck in content quicksand.

Needless to say, you’ll miss deadlines, projects will never get off the ground and your strategy will suffer.

Diagnosing analysis paralysis

Asked why content isn’t going out the door, marketers may attribute their frustrations to writer’s block. Common complaints are:

  • “I wasn’t sure what to write.”
  • “I honestly don’t even know where to begin.”
  • “I had a great idea, but I don’t think it’s going to fit with our current efforts.”
  • “I quickly realized I don’t have enough information to deliver on this post.”
  • “This is going to take way longer than I expected.”

These concerns are fair, and should be addressed immediately. But beware of over-analyzing every last detail and shortcoming to the detriment of your core production goals. Remember, every delay on your part holds up other departments and cuts down on the amount of time spent on optimization, distribution and promotion.

Understanding the root causes of inaction

Don’t fret.

There are likely a number of problems simmering just below the surface of your slo-mo writing, so let’s dig a little deeper to identify these barriers:

Lack of clear direction

The path is not always this easy to see.

We’ve all faced this a number of times: There’s a deadline you have to meet, and you’ve received minimal or contradictory direction on what you’re actually supposed to be writing. What typically ends up happening is you attempt to bulldoze right through the content and hope for the best, all for the sake of delivery.

The faultlines running through this approach are glaring.

Writer’s block isn’t necessarily a self-inflicted problem – poor planning on the part of other team members can subvert your work just as much, if not more.

Unfamiliarity with the subject matter

You may have comprehensive notes in front of you, a rough outline of where you’re heading and an overall goal of what you should be achieving with your blog posts. But limited knowledge of the subject matter can stop you dead in your tracks.

This could be caused by a new campaign that requires targeting a different set of readers, or perhaps your market has evolved to the point that your once-solid industry expertise is no longer scaling in line with the latest innovations, jargon and audience expectations.

Simply put: If you don’t know what you’re talking about, your reader is going to pick up on this right away. Do not proceed.

Incomplete information from other stakeholders

Similar to unfamiliarity with subject matter, not having the most up-to-date information from other team members or clients can seriously impede your writing progress.

Say you’re tasked with writing a success story about a client in a niche market and you’ve been promised account collateral from a particular stakeholder at your company. But this assistance never materializes. What then?

Content production is hardly a one-way street. All departments should be involved from start to finish, and anything less only further entrenches inefficiency.

Broken lines of communication

Some of you may be praising the fact that you actually have other team members willing to help out as opposed to running a lonesome (and stressful) one-person content writing operation.

However, willing to help and actually helping are two gravely different things.

Communication or support from others only works if they’re available when you need them. If an email request for a catchy CTA goes unanswered for a week, or a sit-down meeting with your boss keeps getting rescheduled, what are you accomplishing?

Hurdling over your writing woes

It’s not entirely on your shoulders to overcome the many obstacles that can get in your way, but there are a number of simple remedies to your production headaches.

Cultivate a more robust topic generation process

Knowing what to write is step one. Always.

Using tools such as SearchMetrics, Buzzsumo, Answer The Public, Quora and Google’s very own Autosuggestions puts you halfway to your goal right from the start.

Understand what your readers are searching for, the questions they want answered and the long-tail keywords and phrases you can use to match their intent.

Speak with industry experts

A 15-minute phone call with a knowledgeable team member or industry expert can easily prove more fruitful than mindlessly rummaging through the billions of domains on Google.

Spend your time (and theirs!) wisely by asking poignant questions you need the answers to before you can begin writing. More than likely, you’ll learn several key insights you wouldn’t have uncovered elsewhere.

Scan forums and competitors for additional context and trends

Signing up for your competitors’ newsletters and browsing industry forums can reveal what exactly is on the minds of those around you.

You need this info. These are your topics. They’re free. And you can use these insights to identify what to include in your content to ensure you’re adding to the larger conversation.

Study content that works

You don’t have to limit yourself to mimicking only those in your niche. View how popular publications like The New York Times, Forbes and even Buzzfeed create headlines, format media and entice readers.

Convert what’s working into a style that fits your audience.

Know the endgame

Blasting content into the vast unknown of the web achieves little if it serves no purpose. Know your audience, what they want to read and how you intend to inform them.

If the goal is purely top-of-funnel and informational, stick with the facts and don’t try to sell your brand. For a mid-funnel audience, promote eBooks and other downloads that can convert them to leads. If you’re writing to appeal to people ready to make a transaction, include CTAs that push them toward case studies, product landing pages or contact forms. Meet them on their own terms.

Your strategy falls short unless it is continuously updated and enhanced, and it all starts with removing the many snags we regularly pin on slow production.

Now kick away those stumbling blocks and get to work!