Writing/Content

The 10 Don’ts of Online Content Writing

You’ve written content and you’re positive it is amazing, yet no one is stopping by and reading. Why is that? Do people just not know about you? You’ve set up a great marketing campaign and it can’t be that. Well, the answer is that you probably follow a lot of the “don’ts” of online content writing. Every “don’t” that you do will lose readers. What are these don’ts? Let’s take a quick look at what you might be doing and why you should stay away from these awful don’ts.

What Not To Write

The “What You Should and Shouldn’t Write” posts you’ve read are great. They are excellent guidelines, but sometimes you might find yourself writing several “don’ts” throughout your post. Most of the time, these “don’ts” are not intentional and easy to fall into.

Let’s take a quick look at a few “don’ts” you should stay away from to help you craft excellent content:

1. Stay Out Of Trouble, Don’t Plagiarize Content. This should be common sense for all of us, but some people forget this crucial and simple point. Duplicating content is a big no-no in any form of writing whether it is for a college term paper, writing a novel, or crafting online content. Not only is this highly unethical but it is also something that will get you in a lot of trouble with Google. Google doesn’t like people duplicating other people’s work. If you’re duplicating someone’s work, stop right now and start brainstorming your own ideas; you want to rank, don’t you?

2. Don’t Choose Popularity. Popular posts are great and it seems like writing on a popular topic would be a good idea, but it actually isn’t. Writing on a topic that is popular is a surefire way to get lost in the myriad of other posts on the same subject. It is also a guaranteed way to get people to roll their eyes if they happen across your post. The more a topic is written about the more we all tend to overlook it because it is “overdone.” If you plan to write on a popular topic then make sure it is unique and stands out from everything else. Try to take a different spin or viewpoint on the topic. A great way to do this is to write a catchy headline with sub-headers that will get people into your post, but we’ll talk about that later.

3. Never Stuff Your Content. This is a point every content blog post seems to make, but that is because it is crucial. This refers to the layout of the page and how it looks, as well as to keyword usage throughout the site. When it comes to the layout, you need to keep your site looking fresh and clean, making sentences easy to read. We all skim when it comes to reading online content and if we don’t find any information within the first few seconds, we all tend to leave. Make sure your information is readily available to your readers and make sure it isn’t going to hurt their eyes as they scan.

The other aspect of stuffing is keyword usage. This is something you have to remember because Google will quickly slap a ban on you. This will really hurt your rankings and you will start losing visitors. You will also end up losing your current readers. How so? Because they will be able to tell that you are stuffing your content with keywords. It is frustrating to read a blog, product description, or article that is chockfull of keywords and lacks in quality.

4. Don’t Write Terrible Headlines. Headlines are crucial in your online content. You don’t want some wishy-washy headline that doesn’t bring readers in; you want something that catches their attention. Your topic can be the most interesting topic out there but if your headline is boring, no one will read it. When your content is shared on social media, the first thing people read is the headline. In those brief few seconds and words, readers expect to learn a little bit about your topic and they expect you to leave them hanging. That brief information with a little cliffhanger will make the casual social media readers click on the link and head to your site and blog. This is what can make a new sale for you, as well. How do you know if your headlines are working? Well here are a few quick ways to tell from Brafton:

  • You will see an increase in the traffic to the blog posts with the best headlines.
  • There will be additional shares on social media because people loved your headline and blog post.
  • People will spend a longer time on your site.
  • The posts with the great headlines will receive the most comments.

5. Never Have A Boring Blog With A Catchy Headline. Once you get that great headline, make sure your blog posts matches. If your headline tells readers this article is the best and everyone must read it, but your blog is lame and lacking in quality, you’ll lose the trust of readers quickly. Never sacrifice the quality of your blogs or articles — if you do, you will lose readers and potential clients. Creating awesome headlines with awesome content to match will definitely up your readership and page views.

6. Never Believe You Know More Than Others. This is a quick way to lose customers and readers. If you are waxing eloquent constantly on certain topics and illustrating that you are, obviously, the expert, people will not appreciate that. We don’t like people talking down to us or showing us just how much they know, even when we know they are an expert. We want to be talked to in a normal, conversational way and we tend to learn more that way. Make sure your content is readable and relatable for everyone. If you are writing about taxes, try to break it down into a layman speak. If you are writing about legal issues, don’t use all of that legalese; use words everyone understands to explain the process. In fact, you should make sure most of your content is at a 5th grade reading level.

7. Don’t Try To Sound Like Someone Else. Only you can sound like, well, you. You can’t sound like others and others can’t sound like you, plan and simple. If you attempt to write like someone else, it is going to come across as fake and forced instead of genuine and knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid to sound like you; this is what people want. This will help you stand out from your competitors and your unique voice is what will bring readers in. Writing like yourself helps to engage and connect with your readership and customers.

8. Quantity Does Not Trump Quality. This goes for keywords, word count, and length of the blog. If you have a set amount of words to write (i.e. 500, 800, 1,000), don’t try just to meet that number. First of all, that is pretty lazy; secondly, it will be evident to your readers that all you are doing is attempting to reach a certain word length. The same goes for keywords, which we talked about earlier. If you sacrifice quality for quantity, your readership is going to plummet. Don’t focus solely on keywords or the length of the blog; focus on writing something that is worth reading. Before you start writing, ask yourself what you would like to read and write that. If you don’t want to read it, then other people won’t want to either. Do this with every piece of content you write, whether it is on a topic you enjoy or a topic that doesn’t interest you. By asking yourself the question “would I enjoy reading this,” you will have a great piece that you will be proud of.

9. Too Short or Too Long, That Is the Question. Let’s take a minute to talk about blog length. Is there such a thing as too long or too short? Well, many people have different opinions regarding this but there really is such a thing as too long or short. Many people prefer longer content because they can get more information and they feel the writer knows what he or she is talking about. Content that is too short doesn’t give people enough information to feel satisfied and it is hard to repurpose. What you need to know is what your specific client base wants. Test different lengths and see which posts are frequented or offer polls asking clients what they want. Be sure always to offer them the ability to choose between a long article or a short blog. A great idea is to craft longer content and then break it down into snippets. You can place these snippets into infographics or other visual content with a link to a longer article. Offering people the ability to choose which length of content they read will keep readers on your site longer and can cause them to become customers, as well.

10. Don’t Make Typos Or Grammatical Errors. Typos and grammatical errors will definitely chase readers and customers away. It is difficult to trust an organization that makes frequent errors and never attempts to change them. We aren’t referring to the occasional error; we all make them. What we are talking about are the constant and consistent mistakes such as spelling or using certain words incorrectly. Typos and grammatical errors don’t only chase readers and customers away; they also chase search engines away. Google and Bing will slap a ban on your site quickly if you keep making mistakes. (Never fear, this is only for your content, not anything written in the comment section of your site.)

Some great ways to watch out for typos and grammatical errors are:

  • Give yourself time on every piece. Don’t rush through writing because this will only amp up the errors you make. Give yourself plenty of time to work.
  • Read your written content out loud a few times to make sure it flows and that you didn’t make any simple errors such as writing, “form” for “from” or accidentally writing “you’re” when you meant “your.”
  • Get someone to read over it for you. Fresh eyes will catch things you keep reading over and missing. This is a great opportunity to hire a copyeditor.

Call In The Professionals

Sometimes writing content and following all the rules can be overwhelming for you. You have a company to run and you have employees to work with. Sometimes your content strategy will be placed on the back burner or you won’t dedicate the necessary time, rushing through it. This might be a great opportunity for you to hire a professional copywriter. They know all the ins and outs of Internet writing and which rules they can’t break. They’ll know how to craft something catchy and awesome, while still getting the message of your company and brand across. Many professional copywriters will also already have copyeditors, keeping the mistakes out of your content.

So Long and Thanks For All the Fish

Now that you know a few things to avoid, try crafting some awesome content whether it is for a weekly blog, articles, or for product descriptions. If you find that you are still having a difficult time crafting content or that you just don’t have the time to dedicate to it, don’t hesitate to call in a copywriting professional. Once you take a step in the right direction with your content, you will see your company become incredibly successful. Go on, start writing now.

About the author

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Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.

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