Like with anything in life, content writing is vulnerable to the development and persistence of some very bad habits. Bad habits in the writing, publishing, and syndication of your content can interfere with your overall quality, the long-term viability of your campaign, and of course the size and loyalty of your readership.
Fortunately, your content strategy is an ever-evolving entity, and no matter how long these habits have been forged, it’s possible to break them if you are aware of them and have committed yourself to the process.
If you catch yourself involved in any of these five terrible content habits, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy and try to move past them:
Let’s get one thing straight here: newsjacking can be a valuable part of your content strategy, as long as it’s only part of it. Newsjacking, the process of scouting the news for articles relevant to your business and repurposing the article to be valuable to your readers, is useful because it takes a smaller degree of effort than most articles (since the bulk of the content already exists in some form) and because of its timeliness and relevance. However, once you’ve newsjacked a series of articles, you might become accustomed to the workflow and proceed to newsjack the majority of your new posts.
The same habit can occur when you browse your competitors’ blogs for inspiration. Rather than reading up on new material, thinking about it, and brainstorming your own new topics, you might get used to cherry picking new topics directly from outside sources.
While these habits might allow you to skate by Google’s algorithms and impress your users for a limited time, if this represents the entirety of your content strategy, you’ll be setting yourself up for destruction. You’ll never be able to become an authority in your respective field if you don’t have a sizeable contribution of unique content—material, facts, and opinions that users can’t get anywhere else. Feel free to leave newsjacking as a component of your strategy, but don’t neglect the importance of originality.
The importance of consistency in a content marketing program cannot be understated. While each of your articles needs to be a unique piece, they also need to fall in line with a consistent voice, a consistent feel, and a consistent schedule.
Small business owners especially have a hard time maintaining a consistent publication schedule. Since content marketing may not be a primary concern and resources are scarce (some entrepreneurs take it upon themselves to do all the writing for their business), the publication of articles becomes random, based on their whims and business circumstances.This kind of inconsistency makes it impossible to build a loyal audience—unpredictable publications means nobody knows when to check back for more updates.
Focusing on inconsistent topics can also be a problem, especially if you meander outside your business’s realm of expertise. It’s important to have a diversity of topics available for your disposal, but you’ll also want to become known as an expert in a specific niche—if you can’t, your business might fall into a pit of irrelevance with overly general or non-specifically written material. Having a consistent brand voice can be the glue to hold your separate topics together—make sure you have an outline and a plan for it, especially if you’re using multiple writers.
This is a critical mistake of writers everywhere, not just content marketers. The only way to get better at writing is to read. Otherwise, you’ll fall into a close-minded, repetitive way of thinking and writing, and you’ll never learn to surpass your own skills. Reading opens the door to new opinions, new ideas, and new styles of writing that can influence you and help you grow in the right directions. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in stagnation.
It’s easy to lose the habit of reading, especially as you become more versed in your field of expertise and more confident in your abilities to churn out blogs. But even the most conservative industries change often, and staying up-to-date with the latest content can keep you ahead of the curve. Make sure you subscribe to several major publications, including the blogs of your competitors, industry news sites, and national news sites. Read several articles a day if you can, and try to learn something new in every article—even if it’s just a fact or a new means of presenting information in your body copy.
Content marketing has evolved beyond the need to replicate the same written article format with every post. While written content is still valuable because of the sheer volume of scannable text that is presented to major search engines, users crave a more integrated experience.
For example, instead of posting a traditional written article, you could write a step-by-step guide with images accompanying each step of the process. Or, you could break the article down into bullet-point reminders, and post an accompanying video to demonstrate the process. Experiment with different formats for your article content as well; instead of relying on a step-by-step guide format, a list-based format, or a header-and-subheader based format, you could vary it up by including new formats for each new entry.
When you start writing blogs regularly, following the same format becomes an easier way to manage the process. However, it will ultimately work against your campaign. Diversify your formatting in order to appeal to the widest possible audience and preserve the interest of your current following.
Your content marketing strategy cannot remain stagnant; it needs to grow to meet the needs and desires of your customers. After writing for long enough, it’s easy to develop a habit of focusing on your own means of production, rather than on your readers’ perspectives. However, this can be damaging to your bottom line. The most successful content marketing programs on the web are the ones that actively take their readers’ opinions into consideration.
Read your users’ comments often, and respond whenever you can to build the conversation. Feel free to ask your users directly what they like and don’t like about your blog, and what they’d like to read about in the future. You can even go a step further and conduct formal surveys to learn more about your audience and cater to them. When you write with your readers in mind, you’ll be far more successful in the long run.
Habits take a long time to form, so it’s only natural that they’ll take a long time to break. These habits can result in a serious burden for your content marketing campaign, so it’s essential that you get rid of them eventually, but try not to get discouraged if you find it difficult at first.
Instead of trying to break all of them at once, focus on one habit at a time, and make a series of gradual changes to improve upon that area of your campaign. When you break the process down into a series of manageable, actionable steps, you’ll have a much easier time triumphing over these bad habits and restoring your content marketing strategy to its former glory.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.