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Your content isn’t getting the credit it deserves. And it’s not fair. You’ve put all these hours into it and lots of passion and…goddamn it, someone just share it please! You shake the keyboard and think, ‘I’m never blogging again. It’s a waste of time and there are other ways to sell shoes, right?’
Wait. Before you give up, take a step back and remember your customer. It’s been a tough day for her too, She’s scouring Facebook to grab a giggle, a chat, a touch of excitement. I hate to break it to you (I really do) but she does not care about your shoes.
Let’s try a different tactic to wake her up, to grab her attention, to let her dream. We’ll tell her a story – the journey these shoes will take her on, the man she’ll dance with, the characters she’ll meet, how she’ll feel when she slips them on. Yes, that’s right – let’s show, not tell.
And I don’t mean this in the fluffy fairy tale way. I mean let’s talk benefits over leather pigmentation and share actionable advice over meaningless generalities. Let’s link and add value, let’s steal and add originality. It got me thinking – what other advice can content writers take from fiction writers? Here’s 4 of the best…
1. Shut Your Inner Editor Up (At First)
Easier said than done, but the first thing you need to do is lock your inner editor away. Don’t write a word before you’ve shut out that niggly (yet mighty) voice in your head telling you that what you’re writing is no good. It’s not that the voice isn’t right, it’s just that you can’t afford the luxury of time to listen to it.
Some of my favourite blog posts have been created on the back of restaurant napkins, scraps of old paper or anything I can get my hands on. Why? Because instead of letting my inner editor interfere with my thought process I’m giving myself permission to get it all down and get it all out. I know I can edit it later.
Here’s How to Get Your First Draft Written Fast:
- Open up that Google Doc and get all of your ideas down immediately. Don’t think, don’t breathe, just write.
- Order your thoughts into a logical structure (and I don’t mean edit). Copy and paste like-minded ideas together and break up your article into paragraphs.
- If any of your points need clarification (and some naturally will) do some research and add in relevant statistics, links and advice.
- Only now that you have the bones of your blog post written do you have permission to edit (I know, I’m mean like that). I’ll show you how to edit below, ruthlessly and without mercy.
Useful Tool for Creating First Drafts:
Write or Die is a fun tool to try. It can help you improve your productivity when writing first drafts. The idea? It aims to eliminate your writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination and awards for accomplishments.
2. Show, Don’t Tell (& Provide a Little Direction)
A great blog post shows your reader how to do something rather than just instructing them to do it. Content writing, after all, is about providing value. For example, imagine you’re writing a blog post about a new algorithm Facebook has just implemented. Instead of simply listing the new updates announced, why not provide useful tips on how businesses can beat the algorithm and still get their posts seen?
How Do I Show?
- Create useful how-to guides and cheat sheets.
- Use numbers and bulleted points to create an easier learning experience for your readers.
- Link to helpful sites and any relevant resources your readers can consult to enhance their learning.
- Include screenshots and diagrams to illustrate your point more clearly.
- Where possible, include examples and best practices from other companies.
- Add in quotes from experts and credible sources to add weight to your argument.
The Master Example: Moz
Moz are masters at creating in-depth, expert blog posts that guide readers through a helpful step-by-step process. They provide true value with each and every blog post and avoid pushy sales tactics, that not only tell but also repel. Below is an example of one of my favourite types of posts:
The Title Intrigues:
The Easy-to-Digest Advice is Numbered:
It Includes Helpful Screenshots:
3. Your Title is Everything (& So is Your Blurb)
What do blog posts and novels have in common? They need to be opened first. In the same way you can create a book that will never get read because of the cover, you can create a blog post that will never get opened because of the title, the excerpt, the meta description or the social media caption. Ouch.
On average 8 out of 10 people read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will read your body copy. Your headline needs to captivate and intrigue the reader enough to click through. But it also needs to clearly articulate what the your blog post is about. If it doesn’t achieve both of these objectives you risk annoying your reader and increasing your bounce rate.
Examples of Compelling & Clickable Headlines:
The Numbers’ Game (HubSpot):
The Sensationalist Headline (Boost Blog Traffic):
The ‘What Not to Do’ Scenario:
The Secret Revealer (Moz):
Here are Some Helpful Resources for Creating Your Own Powerful Headlines:
4. Kill Your Darlings (& Your Clichés)
Now that you’ve created a useful and advice-packed blog post, it’s time to clean up your copy. Sure, you’re looking for typos, but you’re also looking for any inconsistencies in language, redundant sentences, clichés, sweeping generalities and “research” that can’t be backed up by figures, studies or reports.
Those genius sentences that don’t quite fit into your overall message anymore? Find them, cut them (maybe keep them for another post) and forget about them. Unlike famous fiction writers, you can’t afford a professional editor. But surely you can find a second pair of eyes before publishing your post? Perhaps your boss or a detail-obsessed colleague?
Here’s What You’re Looking to Cut:
- Repetition- have you repeated the same point twice? Cut it.
- Clichés – people tend to skip over clichés as they’ve seen them so many times before. Can you think of a more original way of making your point or even a clearer way?
- Redundant words – Sometimes extra words can add personality to your content but sometimes they can kill your sentences. Go back over your blog post and see if there are any words that wouldn’t be missed.
Useful Tool to Help You Kill Your Darlings:
Cliché Finder helps you find and uncover pesky hidden clichés so you can remove them ruthlessly.