Just like you, I read a lot of content every day to keep up with news, to educate myself, and to improve my skills. Lately, I’ve seen some instances of people committing content no-nos that are most likely hurting their credibility and their conversions, rather than helping anyone.
When you see someone doing something detrimental to themselves or their business, it’s irresponsible to not speak up and tell them to stop. Maybe they mistakenly think they’re using an effective tactic. Or maybe they just don’t realize they’re doing more harm than good.
But here’s the thing: I often advise writers to avoid using words like don’t or should when creating content. The last thing you want to do is sound preachy to readers. I also feel we, as humans, all have quite the rebellious streak. Tell us not to get into the cookie jar, and the minute your back is turned…you know how that story ends.
Telling someone not to do something is almost always a surefire way to get them to do that very thing. It’s why the term reverse psychology exists. So in the interest of preserving the integrity of the cookie jar, I’m going to share some things you should definitely be doing when you create content.
Write for Buzzwords
It seems that every few months or so, there’s a new buzzword making its way around the Internet. Social media is pretty much a constant now, and big data is gaining momentum. And yes, even content marketing is enjoying quite a bit of popularity right now.
Everyone loves buzzwords! So try working buzzwords into all your content. The more—and the more often—the better. You’ll sound hip and trendy, and people will think you really know what you’re talking about because, hey, you said big data, and no one uses that term without being able to identify the exact point at which data becomes big data. Right?
Yes, you should be creating content that attracts attention, and garners shares, but not at the expense of your credibility, or the strength of your content.
If you try to fib your way through a topic just because it’s a current buzzword, you’ll weaken your point, and come off less credible. Don’t write about the latest buzzword concept unless it truly applies to your vertical, or area of expertise. Trying to twist a concept to fit a trend will be obviously phony, and people will see through it. You’ll lose more readers than you gain, and appear out of touch with your own industry.
Aside from potentially damaging your credibility and losing your audience, incorporating buzzwords into your content that have nothing to do with your business can have a negative effect on another important content factor—relevance. Create too much content that strays too far from your focus area, and not only will your readers see through it, so will the search engines.
All that said, it’s true that some buzzword concepts will also apply to your business. If you run a food blog, you’re probably using social media to promote it, as you should be. But plenty of marketing blogs cover the topic of using social media to promote your business. Mention how you use it — just don’t make it the primary focus of your content. The main thing to remember is you’re creating content for people. When you try to cater to buzzwords and trends, you run the risk of insulting your audience’s intelligence. Speaking of which…
Talk Down to Your Audience
Creating content is all about educating, informing, and sharing information. In order to build authority, the content you create must demonstrate authority and expertise. If people are coming to your site, it’s with the expectation that they’re going to learn something, or gather useful, actionable information they can apply to their own endeavors.
And you know what people love? A know-it-all. Yes, nothing gives readers a warm fuzzy like listening to you yammer on about what an expert you are, how much you know, and how lucky they are to be learning at your knee. That’s definitely the way to expand your audience, gain readers, and land guest blogging and speaking opportunities from your industry peers.
It’s entirely possible to explain concepts and give instruction without being condescending, or insulting the reader. All that’s going to do is turn people away, and reduce the effectiveness of your content. If you must explain something, then explain it—but respectfully. Give examples, but not too many.
In a similar vein, there’s no need to constantly remind your audience how many years of experience you have, what your educational background is, or how many conferences you’ve spoken at. Save those things for your About page and your LinkedIn profile.
If people really want to know how long you’ve been in your industry, how many awards you’ve won, or what your professional accomplishments are, they can seek that information out themselves. To include it in every other post on your blog—or worse, to have it appear in the mini-bio that follows each post—is just overkill. This will only come off as an attempt to convince others of your expertise. Show rather than tell. Provide that expertise in the form of good, actionable information, not a resume.
Talk Over Your Audience’s Head
Okay, so you’re smart. You’re an expert in your field. You demonstrate this by creating authoritative content that is both educational and useful. You know how else you can demonstrate how smart you are? By throwing around a bunch of ten-dollar vocabulary words and obscure terminology. After all, anyone who reads your blog should be at your level, right? If they don’t get it, that’s their problem, and they just need to educate themselves.
There’s no need to show off. You want people to look to you for information, but there’s a fine line between being informative, and being pedantic.
It’s a safe assumption that many of the people who read your content seek it out because they’re in the same industry you are. But if you tailor your content to cater to that very specific—and possibly small—audience, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to expand that audience and gain new readers.
Always consider the beginner. New people enter industries every day. You want your content to be accessible to as many people as possible. But use caution—try not to err too far on the side of being accessible and fall into the talking-down-to-your-audience trap. You must find that happy medium between being the expert you are, and being understood by as many people as possible.
This doesn’t mean you should never create high-level content if it suits the subject matter, or when you do want to target a specific audience. Consider including a caveat, and perhaps directing those who may be less familiar with the topic to some of your previous beginner- or intermediate-level content. Give your readers the opportunity to build themselves into experts, and stand a better chance of converting them into regular readers rather than causing them to bounce out.
Write Just for the Sake of Writing
If you’re creating content on a regular basis — which most likely means you’re maintaining a blog — an editorial calendar can be a good thing. It helps keep your content fresh, which helps keep your readers happy, and can also help maintain and improve your rankings.
What’s even better is sticking to that schedule no matter what. It’s Wednesday? Time to publish a post! Don’t have anything to say? Write something — anything — and publish it anyway. After all, you have a schedule to follow, and an audience’s expectations to meet. If you didn’t schedule passion, you must not need it.
Trying to write according to a schedule can also result in your content sounding forced, hollow, or apathetic. Not in the mood to write? Don’t really have anything to say? It will come through in your content, trust me.
Never is writing more difficult for me than when I have to write a blog post at a certain time, and about a topic I’m not very interested in or passionate about. It’s not that I can’t do it, but it’s probably not going to be my best work. Knowing I’m not doing my best work also has an effect on the finished product. (And I should clarify, this only applies to the posts that will have my name on them. Client content is a completely different animal.) Maybe it’s the same for you, and if it is, you must build some flexibility into your editorial calendar.
At the same time, I understand and agree with the need for an editorial calendar, I’ve never been a fan of regular blog-publishing schedules. Publishing a post because it’s Wednesday, or because it’s been a week since your last one, doesn’t have nearly the same impact on your audience — or your authority — as publishing a post because you have an idea you simply must share or you’ll burst.
Similar to writing for buzzwords, writing a post just to start an argument, or gain more comments about a trendy or hot topic is only going to gain you a reputation as an instigator, not someone to be taken seriously, or who has anything truly valuable to say.
It’s difficult to balance an editorial calendar and writing with purpose if you’re the sole writer on your blog. If possible, collaborate, or find a few regular guest bloggers who can help you round out your schedule.
Whether you build a stable of contributors or go it alone, writing with purpose — but still keeping your site fresh — requires temperance. In other words, you can’t let your blog go too long without an update, either, and let it become one of the 95 percent of blogs that end up abandoned.
The point is, don’t force it. And if you truly have nothing to say, you may just be choosing the wrong medium. There’s nothing wrong with that—not everyone needs a blog. It’s better to not have a blog at all than to start one and leave it collecting dust and spam comments. The latter makes you look apathetic to your business, and to potential customers and clients, while the former — as long as you’re engaging in other forms of marketing — can simply be seen as a choice in how you communicate with your audience.
Now it’s up to you. You can either go ahead and grab a big ol’ handful of those cookies from the jar, or you can be honest with yourself about whether you’re doing any of these things, and make an effort to stop doing them. The only things you have to gain are credibility, authority, and respect.
What are your content no-nos? What do you try to avoid doing in order to build your audience? Share your content creation don’ts in the comments!