You know that feeling, when you look through page after page after page on the web, but you can hardly find anything worth reading?
Sure you know it; almost anybody using the Internet today knows how infuriating that is.
Blogging is one of the most commonly used content marketing tactics. More than 2 million blog posts are being published every day, but sadly a lot of it is crap.
So, how do we deal with this problem? If you’re a content consumer, you just keep browsing till you find something worth your while.
But us content creators – we have the power to turn this trend on its head, and what we need to do first is make that choice.
What is crap content?
You’re probably preoccupied with 10 other things in a bid to grow your business, and you’re just churning out one blog after another because someone told you it would help. And may be you’re even ignorant of what really qualifies as bad content. After all, ‘crap’ is a rather subjective term, right?
Not really. There are certain red flags, which indicate that your content is no good. If you can identify your content with any of the following signals, you should really rethink your approach to content marketing.
Crap Content Alert 1: No originality
Publishing content that isn’t original can harm you in more ways than one. Not only will you be penalized by search engines, but you’ll also be putting your brand’s reputation on the chopping block. You may manage to catch the attention of a few readers despite your low search engine ranking. But once they find out that they stand to gain nothing out of reading your blog, they’ll be gone before you know it. Poof! If you want to share something that someone else has created, then use a content curation app. Don’t just blatantly copy.
Crap Content Alert 2: No actionable tips
‘How to’ posts are a popular thing among blog writers for two reasons. One, there really is demand for such posts. Two, keep writing style aside, and these posts are really hard to do badly. All you need is a clear structure to explain the steps to doing X, a few visual to supplement your explanation and you’re done. But sometimes, such posts flop too, because the tips you share are generic and vague. Specificity is key to writing insightful content. It’s what can set you apart from a hundred other blogs that are written on the same subject.
Crap Content Alert 3: No purpose to the content
Creating content that isn’t aligned with an objective, is like wearing sunglasses in the dark (no kidding, I’ve seen that happen) – those who see you, or in this case read your blog are left wondering, ‘what’s the point?’. If you’re content isn’t doing anything to inform or entertain your audience, there’s no reason for it to exist. Side note: selling is not the only purpose to all your content marketing efforts. It may be inherent, but needn’t be blatant.
Crap Content Alert 4: Not written for a specific audience
How you talk about whatever you’re talking about really depends on who you’re talking to. Complicated? Let’s break it down. Say for instance, you’re selling healthy snacks for kids. What are the chances that an 8-year-old would read your blog? (Especially considering that you’re trying to sell ‘healthy’ food.) The key decision-maker in this scenario would be the parent – that’s your target audience. When you don’t know who you’re writing for, the nature of your content, its style, and tonality can all be very difficult to get right.
Crap Content Alert 5: Not worth sharing
There could be several reasons why your blogs aren’t getting shared enough. The first thing you should check off the list of those reasons is quality. If your blogs are poorly researched, written or presented, there’s little hope that your readers are going to find it interesting, let alone share it with their friends. The lack of engagement with your content is an indication that whatever approach you’re taking isn’t working out.
It’s bad for them, and worse for you
Poor quality content is nuisance for consumers. It doesn’t tell them anything new, adds no value, bores them, and in short, is a waste of their time. But if you don’t find that worrisome enough, here’s the thing – it’s a waste of your time too.
Let’s consider some of the most common reasons why businesses publish content:
- Spread brand awareness
- Inform the audience
- Establish credibility
- Be recognized as a though leader
- Build a community
You’re not going to be able to achieve any of that with bad content. If anything, it’s going to taint your brand’s reputation, create an undesirable brand image, isolate your audience, and perhaps cause you to be buried in page 10 of Google’s search results. Basically, not good for you.
Content redemption: The fix to crap content
Like everything else, the ability to create interesting and engaging content comes with practice. Start with an honest evaluation of your current approach to creating content. Identify problem areas based on the five signals discussed earlier. While you should review your content itself, it’s also important to assess the process of content creation that you’re following. Here are a few questions you should ask:
- Are you setting aside sufficient time to create content?
- Is the content coming from a subject-matter expert?
- Is your content well-researched?
- Do you know who you’re writing for?
- Are you discussing fresh topics or fresh ideas through your content?
6 tips to help you write killer content, starting now
#Tip 1: Write strong headlines
Whether it’s on the Google SERPs, social media, or any external sites where you may have syndicated your content, the headline is what the reader sees first. And that too among a host of other headlines. If you want your audience to click-through, make sure to add some emotional value to your headline; would you like to go with curious, or furious?
Irrespective of what subject you’re writing on, your headline determines how many people actually read the full post. Here are a few examples of power-packed headlines.
Example 2: How Facebook Ruined Christmas
#Tip 2: Use shareable sub-heads
If headlines get readers to click-through, sub-heads are what encourage them to read-through. Creative sub-heads not only make your post easy to read, but also help hold the readers attention. They break the monotony of paragraphs and also help present all the information in easily digestible chunks. Here are few examples of interesting sub-heads:
Example 1: The Age of Visual Culture
Example 2: Content takes the spotlight
#Tip 3: Link to authoritative sources
Adding outbound links to authoritative sites allows your readers to verify the facts you’re stating, thereby boosts the credibility of your content. They improve your blog’s search engine rankings, and also give you an opportunity to build relationships with other authors.
#Tip 4: Make specific suggestions
Generic content is as useful as a blunt knife. If you want people to keep coming back to your blog you need to stop skimming the surface. Delve into the details, and offer specific information. For instance, if you’re writing a self-improvement blog, ‘Follow your heart’ is the most vague piece of advice you could offer your readers.
#Tip 5: Share your opinion
An opinion goes one step further than information. When you share an opinion, you’re essentially telling your audience how you feel about a particular trend, issue or incident. That adds personality to your content. If you have a popular opinion you appeal to a wider audience. If you’re opinion is controversial, people will want to know why you think so, even if they may not agree with you.
#Tip 6: Use visual content
The brain processes images more easily than it does text. Colorful images also provide respite from webpages that are otherwise just black-and-white. Also, sometimes visuals are more effective in getting your point across. There are several websites that offer both free and paid images.
If content is king, it’s time to start treating it like one. Bad content is a waste of everybody’s time and terrible waste of your effort, even if you’re only investing a little of it.