OK, I’m just going to say it.
In today’s world, publishing second-rate content is a total waste of time.
There’s no point in contributing to the growing pile of mediocrity. It wastes your time, and, worse, it wastes your audience’s time.
Sometimes I’ll see a marketer complaining that:
“I spent two years doing all of that blogging and email stuff and I never saw anything out of it.”
And every time I’ve taken a closer look at their content, I’ve quickly seen why they never got traction.
So much content suffers from little professionalism “leaks.” Errors that undermine the content’s authority, squander audience interest, and detract from business goals.
It doesn’t take a very big leak to make it impossible to fill a bucket.
And most of the time, these problems are completely fixable.
You don’t need to be perfect
Now, it would be a mistake to think you have to be some kind of prize-winning author in order to create solid, interesting, highly engaging content.
Whether you’re creating text, audio, video, or any other format, there are a handful of key elements you need to hit consistently. The elements that prevent those annoying “leaks.”
Of course, as you build skill, your content will keep getting even more effective. But sometimes, even great writing misses the mark.
Ever wonder why some wonderful writers don’t see success with their content?
You may have run across delightfully written content that doesn’t seem to get the writer any closer to their goals.
Solid, strong writing is important for a content marketer.
But solid, strong strategy is even more important.
When you can put both of them together, you’ll be unstoppable.
If for some weird reason you had to pick just one to get started, choose strategy.
Smart strategy, consistently implemented, is the fastest way to get where you want to go.
And wonderful writing with weak strategy too often becomes a frustrating waste of time.
It’s one thing to be able to produce a good piece of content.
It’s another to keep producing quality material, week after week and month after month.
You could try to rely on your own instincts or talent, but some days, those things are in short supply. It’s smarter to develop a simple, reliable process.
Your process shouldn’t be so complicated that you won’t do it.
(Anyone remember David Allen’s 43-folders system from Getting Things Done? The one that could be replaced by … Google calendar?)
And it can’t be so simple that you miss important parts.
Ideally, you want a process that can be distilled into a discrete set of steps. Then you can simply create a checklist and efficiently tick each item off as you work.
Here are a few of the themes I suggest you consider for that list.
Kaleigh did a great job yesterday talking about the critical importance of knowing your business goals before you start writing.
- Who do you intend to serve with this piece of content? What will they get out of reading or hearing it?
- How is this content going to serve your larger business goals?
- How will you know if this content is a home run … or a dud?
Quickly checking in on your goals before you start writing will help you build a solid, authority-boosting body of work. And you’ll do it much more quickly than if you tried to play it by ear.
Whether you’re talking about a screenplay, a haiku, or a numbered list post, structure is crucial if you want your writing to go the distance.
Anyone can bang out a quick reaction to the latest scandal. And sometimes, that’s a perfectly decent way to get attention to your site.
But if you want people to stick around — and continue to find value in your content for years in the future — you need solid structure.
- Is your headline compelling enough to capture attention? Does it rely on timeless strategy, or is it a “clickbait of the month” trick?
- Do you get to the point quickly? (Do you have a point? A single, compelling point?)
- Have you structured your content to fully support your claims? Is your evidence credible?
- Have you provided enough information to make your argument, without overloading or boring the audience?
Well-structured content is a pleasure to consume, guiding the reader, viewer, or listener effortlessly through the piece.
You don’t need to be a crazed perfectionist to be a trusted web publisher — but you shouldn’t be a slob, either.
Poor spelling, missing commas, and other simple-to-catch errors can make even the most brilliant idea look cheap and shoddy.
This is a handy time to be a writer. We’ve got pretty decent tools today to check spelling, usage, and grammar. So use them.
- Are you 100 percent certain about all of the spelling, punctuation, and usage in your post? If not, run it through a good grammar and usage checker. Grammarly is a good option.
- Is the content easy to read? Consider running it through a readability index. There are plenty of free ones.)
- Review how the content looks on the page. Can you improve the formatting to make it more reader-friendly?
It’s not the end of the world if you make an error because you didn’t know the precise connotation of a word, or because you had the occasional brain-lapse over its and it’s. But when you do make a mistake, learn from it and work hard to keep that error out of your writing in the future.
(By the way, if you make a living as a writer, your usage and spelling should be close to perfect. Clients and organizations depend on us to make them look amazing!)
Polished content conveys authority. It reassures the audience that you know what you’re talking about.
A resource to help you with your content marketing tasks
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was already a checklist that could walk you through fixing these annoying leaks and embarrassing errors?
We thought so, too, so we created one. 🙂 It’s a small but mighty resource to help you click Publish with confidence.
Our Content Confidence Checklist lets you check off the most important elements of good content, so you know you’re producing your best work. Because even when we know what to do, we have to remember to do it … every time.