Since I first began exploring the world of SEO and content marketing – back in 2007 – I would estimate that I’ve created at least two thousand pages of quality content. By quality, I mean pages and articles filled with information that was valuable to at least some portion of internet searchers. I’ll be the first to say that producing that much content was not an easy task, especially if you’re more or less a novice or journeyman writer like myself. Although it’d be helpful to possess a master’s degree in English Literature & Creative Writing, it’s not a necessary prerequisite. The simple fact is, most anyone with a decent set of writing skills can become a successful blogger or content marketer if they put in the work.
Be yourself, but be professional about it
The internet is very conversational and informal, meaning you can exercise a little freedom with your writing style. Posting blogs or writing effective sales copy does not mean you need to be held to strict conventions of proper english and grammar; however, you do need to at least respect the basics, which are:
- No misspellings. Nothing says unprofessional like a site that’s rife with misspelled words. If spelling is not your forté, then look for a plugin such as Grammarly to help you out in that department.
- Avoid typos. Unlike misspelled words, typos are easy for anyone to avoid. Just be sure to proofread your work before you hit publish, and if you use a tool like Grammarly, it’ll catch the typos as well.
- Try to be concise. The internet is host to millions of users with very short attention spans. If you aren’t able to grab a reader right away and keep them engaged, they will bounce, so try not to ramble.
Being mindful of those 3 things, it’s time now to move on to a few basic tips to get you started on the path to decent content creation…
- Start writing. Now! Unless you’re a regular Bill Shakespeare, you might be a little intimidated by the prospect of putting your written words out there for the world to see, and maybe you think you’re just not good enough, but don’t be discouraged. Just as with any sort of craft, practice makes perfect. The sooner you can get started, the sooner you can find your voice and start connecting with your audience.
- Be helpful. The vast majority of internet users are online with questions that need answering and problems that need solving. Provide answers to those important questions and you’ll start to attract visitors right away.
- Write about stuff that people are searching for. If you’re trying to establish a readership or market to a particular audience, then you’re obviously going to want to write about the things those people are searching for. A little common sense here can go a long way, but there are also a variety of tools and practices one can use to help plan a topic or entire content strategy (e.g., Google Trends, popular topics on social media, keyword research, etc…).
- You don’t need to be the authority. While it is great if you can establish yourself as the foremost expert in a given area, what’s important is that you know a bit more than your target audience. Chances are, you can be of value to hundreds and maybe even thousands of people who know less than you, without the pressure of thinking you need to know more than anyone else.
- Be interesting. A little color in your writing can go a long way. In fact, if your writing voice is amusing and engaging enough, you won’t even have to be the teacher all the time — you can simply be a storyteller if you want. If you can teach someone something and be interesting at the same time, then congratulations…you win at blogging.
- Use visuals. We humans are very visual creatures. One of the easiest tricks in the book for getting someone to read your blog post is to place an image near the beginning. This presents the reader with a visual cue as to what the article is about, drawing them in long enough for you to (hopefully) captivate them with your content. Additional images throughout the post will help to maintain the reader’s attention.
- Use headings and proper formatting. In keeping with the short attention span theme, it is important that you publish your articles for scanning. Most internet users won’t take the time to read every post they happen upon word-for-word, instead, they scan the page – looking for the content relevant to what they’re searching for. Keep paragraphs short, use section headings, and apply text decorations (e.g., bold, italics, underline) for emphasis.
- Use a compelling headline. The purpose of a headline is to grab the visitor’s attention. Often times these should be very descriptive of the content, but there are times when an abstract or comical headline may be even more effective. Think about what referring link they may have clicked on or what search result led them to your site, then show them a headline they cannot resist. Creating good headlines is an art unto itself, so experiment away.
This post offers a quick and dirty look at the basic foundation for good content. There’s a lot more to consider once you lift up the hood and really try to fine tune things, but I’ll get to that in due time. Until then, these basic tips should serve as a good primer for the amateur blogger or content creator looking for a little advice on how to kick things off.