There tend to be two opposing sides of the spectrum when it comes to evaluating and even… *gasp* … criticizing our own content.
The first side is where you find those of us who are total perfectionists that flinch at those who say, “Done is better than perfect.” (Why can’t it be done AND perfect? Best of both worlds— right?)
We settle for nothing less than what we think is as close to perfection as we can ever possibly achieve.
We slave over blog posts that we swore would only take an hour to write. Five hours later, we ironically find ourselves far from content with our content.
Then there’s the rest of us. The ones who truly believe that our content is the best of the best, and we sit back wondering why the world isn’t taking notes yet.
Someone criticizes your work? Disagrees with you?
Wrong. They’re simply wrong, and you dismiss their ridiculous opinions without a second thought.
And right in the middle of this spectrum is where we all need to be.
Understanding that, no, we sure as heck aren’t perfect. But also recognizing great work when we find it and when we produce it.
From this place, you can objectively analyze your content and take quick, practical steps to improving it before hitting the big, sometimes scary “Publish” button.
As much as I wish I could give you a complete, fool-proof, cookie-cutter solution to your content creation needs, I thought some important and easy-to-follow guidelines to ensuring your content is engaging, relevant, and geared towards the right audiences would suffice.
Understand that these aren’t by any means the only things you should ensure when publishing content, but they’re certainly a few steps in the right direction that will get your content more traffic, more engagement, and optimally, more conversions.
Write For Your Readers, Not For Yourself
There are two different ways that you can write content.
You can write your way, or you can write with your readers in mind, crafting something that is intentionally written for a specific, predetermined audience.
One of the biggest and most obvious mistakes content writers make is writing something that they enjoy reading and they think is great.
They’ll write, and they’ll sound really smart, and they’ll love it… but it won’t accomplish anything, it won’t add any value to the readers, and it won’t convert into anything more than the viewer’s time on your site.
Maybe it gets lots of traffic from relevant audiences, but it still doesn’t do anything.
And if it doesn’t do anything apart from making you feel like you’ve accomplished something, you’ve completely missed the point of creating content in the first place.
Your content must:
Teach– We all love learning about the things we’re passionate about. Great content should add value to the reader by teaching them something, whether it’s a concept/theory, statistical information, how to complete or improve upon a certain task, or otherwise.
Solve the reader’s problem– Oftentimes readers find themselves reading blog posts because they’re Googling “how to” do something. Whether you’re helping the reader solve their problem by showing them how to knit or how to search engine optimize their website, your content should solve a problem the user is looking for solutions for.
Inspire action– When you write content that is user-centric and is ultimately designed for them, it inspires change. Your content should stir up the reader to take action in some form. In your writing, encourage your readers to take action following your instructions in your content. This way, you will help create a tangible change in your readers’ lives, and it will help the readers remember you if they implement your advice into their own lives.
So, who is your content written for? Does it add value?
How can you make it more helpful, more clear, more interesting for the reader?
Use Credible Sources When Sharing Data
This may come as quite the surprise to you, but…
You shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet.
I think it’s safe to say that every single one of us has had at least a few experiences of reading something online that simply is not true.
Because of this universal experience, readers are often skeptical. After having read false information, misleading advertisements, and other blatant lies across the web, readers always tend to look for authoritative and trustworthy sources as opposed to reading posts written by anyone and everyone.
It’s your personal responsibility to make your readers trust you and your writing. They need to willingly take you at your word and act according to your guidance.
One of the most important ways to earn your readers’ trust is to back up all of your claims with recent, unbiased data.
Include links to trustworthy, well-known resources.
So, what do you look for in a credible source? How do you choose them?
When it comes to finding credible sources, I always start by looking for the following:
-Studies i.e. journal articles
-Writing and interviews by well-known authors who are widely respected and trusted
Use Visuals Wisely
I often read that bloggers should use images throughout their blogs to break up the text and make it easier to read.
While images do in fact make blogs easier to read, this can not be the sole purpose of the images you choose to use.
Images provide you with an opportunity that you do not have in the realm of writing.
Images can complement your writing by:
-Illustrating some concepts
-Visually displaying data in the form of charts, graphs, etc.
-Provide additional insights
-Show additional data that you cannot easily communicate via text
Don’t make the incredibly common mistake of missing out on the opportunity to utilize visuals that take your blogs from good to great (or great to amazing)!
This visual was an excellent addition to the article. It provides the reader with a clear idea of the point that it is making.
In other words, it adds value to the writing.
In the same way that your writing must consistently add value to your content, every image must as well.
Know Who You’re Up Against
Imagine that your content is a product that you’re trying to sell.
Every product has competition. Everything from clothing to technology to food, there’s always something bigger and better out there.
Before you publish your content, it’s important that you know who your competition is and how you rank.
One easy way to do this is to go to Google and begin searching using various search terms for the content you’re writing about. For example, if you’re writing a blog about growth-driven design, you would type in “growth driven design” “website design” “gdd” and other related terms.
Search through the first page of results and analyze the content from each search result.
How do they compare to yours? Do they answer the same questions? Are they directed towards the same audience?
Look at your own content objectively and determine where your weaknesses lie that your competitors surpass you in. Improve upon it and get yours up to scuff before publishing.
First Impressions Matter
Did you know that the title of your blog can affect its conversion rate by 40%?
It’s the deciding factor when someone is trying to determine if they are interested in reading the full article.
Don’t overlook the importance of the title.
Write down at least a dozen before you decide on one.
Use Google to find out what terms readers are searching for. Look at industry leaders and how they format their blog titles and analyze their most popular blogs titles.
I would go so far as saying that your blog’s title is the most important part of it.
Once you decide on your title, it’s time to start crafting the opening. The first 100-200 words of your blog will determine whether a reader continues reading or leaves your site.
Put yourselves in your readers’ shoes and ask yourself what kind of opening would entice you to continue reading. Read your opening and honestly tell yourself whether or not you would continue reading.
This step isn’t easy and can take some time, but it is vital to the overall success of your blog.
When it comes to publishing great content, you’ve got to be your own biggest critic.
Follow these steps for every piece of content you produce this week and next.
At the end of next week, take a look at your stats and see how your new pieces are performing.
I’d love to hear your findings. Drop me a line here or over on Twitter and let me know how it went.
Keep in mind that this is just the beginning and not by any means a complete guide; it’s an excellent place to start, though.
If anything else comes to mind that you feel is an absolutely essential step to creating great content, please share it in the comments below!
Looking forward to hearing from you!