There are many phases to creating a landmark, effective piece of content, from the generation of the original idea to the publication and syndication of the piece. Ideally, you’ll have some degree of mastery over all of these phases, but there’s an advantage to treating them as independent segments. Instead of conceptualizing the process as the summary of “content marketing,” you’ll get the chance to zoom in and hone individual elements of your strategy. Think of it as owning a pizza shop and taking the time to ensure you’re using the best ingredients, the optimal cooking temperatures, and so on.
I’m going to zoom in on one of these segments; under the metaphor above, this would be the “final bake” of your pizza. After writing a draft of your piece, you should go through and give it a final polish, correcting small issues and making your piece as presentable as possible. These are the seven polishes you should apply:
It could be argued that your headline is the most important part of your piece. With a bad headline, even a great piece of content can go unnoticed or unexplored by the masses. Before publishing the final version of your article, take a minute to make your headline just a little bit better. Can you add a more powerful word or phrase (like changing “The 5 Habits You Should Make…” to “The 5 Habits You Can’t Ignore…”)? Can you add a more noticeable, specific, or compelling value (like changing “5 _____ for SEO” to “5 _____ to overtake a competitor in local rankings”)? Can you make it more concise? More actionable? More unique?
Run through your article and try to separate yourself from it entirely—it may help to enlist the eyes of a friend here. Put yourself in the role of devil’s advocate, and argue against yourself. Pretend that you don’t believe anything you’ve written, and look for holes in your arguments. Are there counterarguments you neglected to mention? Are there gaps in your logic that you didn’t address? Is there a lack of evidence for any of your points? This happens more often than you realize, but you have the power to catch it before it’s too late.
Almost every post can do with some visual touch-ups. Vision is the strongest human sense, and people gravitate toward content that offers a visual component. As an easy solution, you can embed a handful of images related to your article. For example, you could post photos of the process you’re describing, or if you can afford the casual tone, memes or reaction images that entertain your readers. Beyond that, you can include infographics, videos, or anything else that compels your readers and relates to your content.
Most published content has at least a few sentences that don’t need to be there, so your draft probably does too. Take a few moments to comb through each sentence of your work individually and question its use. Does it relate to your point? Does it add value? Can it be altered, substituted, or transferred in any way? If a sentence isn’t objectively adding value, it doesn’t need to be there. Get rid of any sentences you find without purpose.
People don’t think in words and sentences; they think in abstract feelings and illustrations. Metaphors are powerful because they allow us quick relations of subjects and ideas without getting bogged down with the technical language. Almost any concept can be conveyed in a simpler, more engaging way by use of a metaphor—like my pizza metaphor in the introduction. They don’t have to be big, complicated, or grandiose—instead, sprinkle them in whenever you believe there to be a potential gap in understanding between you and your reader.
There’s no excuse not to proofread. It takes a few minutes and can save you embarrassment and reputation damage. For the keen-eyed reader, just one error could be enough to compromise their opinion of your piece (and your brand), so take the time to ensure those small mistakes haven’t crept up on you. Since it’s difficult to catch the mistakes of your own work, consider enlisting the aid of a coworker or friend.
Remember when we improved your headline in the first step? Now we’re going to write a few alternates. Think up three or four new headlines for your piece—some can be simple alterations of your original, and some can be entirely new. Then, use these different headlines in rotation when it comes time to publish and syndicate your piece. With multiple versions, you’ll appeal to different segments of your audience, and ultimately, one version will work better than the others. This will help you maximize your readership in the short term, and provide you a better understanding of your audience for the long term.
These steps don’t take long and don’t demand a high degree of expertise, so there’s no excuse why you should be taking them for every piece you produce. They won’t be able to salvage an uninteresting topic, nor will they guarantee you’ll get lots of readers if you don’t syndicate it effectively, but they will increase the inherent value and presentation of every piece they touch. And in the content marketing world, every bit of improvement helps.
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.