Marketers can write day in and day out and still fall into traps that lead to terrible content. You slip into bad habits that start small, but then become huge blindspots when you produce and assess your work. Before too long, readers lose all interest in anything you write and your marketing efforts struggle.
I’ll be the first to admit my writing isn’t perfect. But over the years, I’ve developed tricks to self-police my content. And knowing common issues can help you find your own room for improvement.
Here are four common mistakes any content writer can make, and the solutions you need to keep your writing on point:
1. Starting with the Intro
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the intro should never be the first section you type. Without context, intros have the least defined purpose of a piece. Even if you know exactly what you want to say in the rest of the article, it’s hard to get a grasp on what information is valuable enough to include upfront.
Many marketers just start spewing out thoughts and — if they’re lucky — land on a few coherent and relevant sentences at the end. But an intro makes the first impression on your reader. If your intro rambles or fails to orient your audience, they’ll stop reading.
The Solution: Write Your Intros Last
I’ll let you in on a little secret: the first few paragraphs of this piece were the last ones I wrote. I’d already finished the post and knew what the final product entailed. That made it easier to focus the intro so it quickly made it clear what this post was about and the main takeaways.
2. Being a Lazy Researcher
You’re an expert on the topics you write about. Readers turn to your content to get the answers they need. But you should still take the time to research a subject before sitting down to write — even if you’ve covered it a hundred times before.
The Solution: Google, Google, Google
Research is about more than finding stats and facts. While you should keep up with the latest data in your industry, there’s a lot more information to gather when doing your due diligence.
Look at other content marketing and see what conversation is currently happening around your topic. You’ll uncover more details about what your audience wants to know and new angles that will keep your content fresh.
3. Getting Fluffy
It’s not uncommon to use 10 words when 5 will suffice. There are words and phrases we regularly use when speaking that are fluffy, but still slip into our writing. It’s an incredibly tough habit to break.
However, in marketing, the messaging needs to be clear and concise. If you consistently use more words than necessary, it muddies the waters.
The Solution: Keep a Running List of Fluff
At first, it’s hard to spot fluffy words and phrases, which is why it helps to have a list. After finishing a piece, consult your list and delete anything that you unconsciously included. Slowly, you’ll get better at identifying what you should cut out of your writing, and your list will grow.
Here are a few words and phrases on my fluff list:
– “All of the” – In most cases, “all the” works fine
– “In order to” – Again, most of the time, “to” is enough
– Leading phrases – These are phrases that lead up to the action or point of a sentence. For example, “These trends have an impact on consumer behavior” should be “These trends impact consumer behavior”
– Redundant phrases – Colloquially, it’s common to say phrases like “plan ahead,” but by definition, planning happens in the future making ahead fluffy
4. Always Pushing for a Sale
Any marketer worth their salt has the core messaging and pitch of their company (or their client’s) down pat. These are the phrases we’ve carefully honed to explain what the business does and how it can help readers. And we look for every opportunity to use them over and over.
However, trying to cram the verbiage of your product pages into a blog article is jarring. The reader goes from learning about a topic they’re interested into being force-fed a sales pitch. And you lose all credibility in their eyes.
The Solution: Know When to Sell and When to Stand Down
The chances are that you consider where the target audience is in your sales funnel before writing a piece of content. It influences the level of information you include, but should also determine how hard you make your pitch.
If the topic is top of the funnel, there’s no need to fill a post with CTAs or extensive details about your product and services. The reader’s not there yet. The better option is to focus on educating your audience and leading them further down the funnel where they’ll be ready to buy what you’re selling.