As someone who has been producing and consuming online content for quite some time now, I’ve noticed a couple of trends that set quality content apart from the rest. Today I’d like to share with you 10 common mistakes that content creators tend to make and some easy ways to avoid them. (Disclaimer: everyone has made these mistakes at some point or another, myself included. But by making yourself aware of them and consciously striving to remedy the situation, I promise you can slowly phase them out, one at a time.)
When you’ve got a membership site or any other site that delivers high volumes of content, you want your readers to trust you, follow you, and come back to you for more. At the same time, you want to develop a system for publishing content that feels routine and manageable for your busy life. These tips will help you develop the systems and processes you need to feel like a pro content creator in no time!
- Writing bad headlines. The headline of your post is the first thing that people are going to read. Headlines can make or break your content, and they typically range from “Been there, read that” to “I have no idea what this post could be about.” A good headline never wants to be on either end of this spectrum. You want something that’s clever and inviting, but most importantly, you need it to be relevant. If the reader can’t tell within 5 seconds of reading your headline what your post is about, chances are he/she is not going to click it to read the rest of the post.
- Forgetting to proofread. Nothing makes me click away from a post faster than an abundance of spelling and grammar errors. I understand that typos happen from time to time, but if I’m reading a post that has error after error after error, it makes me feel like you didn’t care enough to reread your content. And if you didn’t care enough to read it twice, why should I care enough to read it now? If you struggle with spelling, grammar, usage, mechanics, and punctuation, hire a freelance copyeditor to give your content a quick once-over. Sites like Elance, Outsource, and Fiverr are all great for finding low budget help.
- Omitting visual aids, images, typography, colors, etc. Text and content are paramount, but visual aids are what catch the viewer’s eye, spike their curiosity, and guide them through content. A post without an image has a much higher bounce rates than those with. If you’re not the kind to load a post with a ton of images, at the very least be sure to use some typographical aids such as bolded text, italics, different sized headers, numbered/bulleted lists, different colored links, etc. There are lots of ways to break up the monotony of black text on a white screen. Experiment with a few and find what feels right for your brand and message.
- Forgetting to give credit where credit is due. Speaking of using images – if you’re borrowing images from the web, don’t forget to give credit! Giving credit is so easy and can be in the form of a caption or a hover over. If you’re feeling especially crazy, you can even link out the image to the owner’s website or social profile.
- Losing credibility with your fan base. Sometimes, life happens and creating content gets pushed to the back burner. But if you’ve made a public promise to your readers to share new content every Wednesday and you fail to do so for an extended period of time, you’re losing credibility with your readership. This is especially true if your readers are paying members. The easiest way to battle this is to set realistic, not idealistic, goals for sharing content when you’re just starting out. Start with one post a week and slowly build up as creating content becomes less and less of a struggle. Make yourself an editorial calendar and put deadlines for drafts into your calendar.
- Duplicating content. Have you ever written a particularly fantastic guest post that you just HAD to share on your own site? That’s great! You should absolutely share it with your loyal readership, but there’s a way to do it that keeps your content from being marked as spam by search engines. Didn’t know that was possible? Well, clicking the oh-so-easy copy and paste buttons and sharing identical content on multiple sites makes you seem redundant to both your readers and search engines. You can either rewrite the post to say the same things with different words. Or you can write a fantastic intro on your site and then LINK OUT to the original piece. Feel free to reuse the image, or better yet, take a screenshot of the piece and use that. Never, ever duplicate content!
- Not using internal or external links. All too often I find myself reading a piece and coming across something/someone that I’ve never heard of. So I open a new tab and do a Google search for it/him/her. But then I get distracted in my search and sometimes I’ll forget to finish reading the original piece. How much does that suck? So much. By inserting links to what you’re referencing you can help direct eyes to exactly what you want your readers to see. Additionally, inserting links gives the reader the option to click, open in the link in a new tab, and do their research after finishing reading YOUR piece. Even more important than linking externally, content creators should always be linking to their older posts. Why? Because it shows readers that you are an industry expert on any given topic. It makes them want to go back and explore your older posts and encourages them to come back in the future. Linking is a great way to prove to your readers that you’re worth subscribing to.
- Focusing only on the numbers. Tracking your stats is important, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of creating content. You should absolutely check in a few times a week to see how many views your content is getting, where those clicks are coming from, who’s clicking out and where to, and more. Just don’t do it obsessively. I used to be very guilty of this – publishing a post and then obsessively refreshing my stat checker for the rest of the day. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the importance of your numbers, but remember that your time is always better spent researching and drafting new content.
- Forgetting to use digital media. You may be sharing content every day or every week, but are you reaching your peeps? If you aren’t blasting your posts out to your mailing list and you aren’t posting to your Twitter and Facebook, you’re not maximizing your reach. Obviously, digital marketing techniques work best on public or free content, but that doesn’t mean that your private, members-only content can’t be repurposed in some way for digital media. Share a particularly fantastic headline with a snappy “subscribe to get posts like _____” tweet to entice new subscribers. Repurpose old members-only content into a newsletter blast. When you’ve got a membership site, chances are your library of content knows no bounds. Tap into your archives and restructure some of that old content to share on social media or in emails. The beauty of a rapidly changing digital media sphere is that what was said even a year ago probably bears repeating.
- Not responding to comments. Did your latest and greatest post get an avalanche of comments? That’s awesome. Did you respond to all of them? If not, shame on you. When people take the time to let you know that they love your writing style, you should take the time to thank them. When people ask you a question in reference to something you wrote, you need to answer them. Interacting with your readership makes your readers feel recognized, loved, and connected to you and your brand. Set aside a little bit of time each week to respond to your fan base and remind them that you’re a real person behind the screen who sees and appreciates their feedback.
I hope you found this post helpful and are ready to create some awesome content for your site! If you’ve got any additional tips or mistakes to avoid, please drop them below in the comments below. We always love to hear from you.
March 27, 2015
Hi Jeff, Thanks so much for your comment! I'd like to clarify what I meant by "borrowing" as I would never, EVER encourage people to use images without the consent of the owner. There are many sites that host photos that you can use for free under a Creative Commons license. Among these are fan faves such as Flickr. For more information on using images from Flickr, you can check out this page: https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ Additionally, there are many sites that offer free stock photos. My personal favorite is Death to Stock photo, but a longer list of free stock photo sites and their various attribution rules can be found here: https://bootstrapbay.com/blog/free-stock-photos/ Again, thanks for your comment and I hope this helps clear things up!
Jhansen R. Machado
March 25, 2015
Thank you very much for your tips. I believe many folks (just as i) will find this very useful. Especially to make us REMEMBER some obvious things as re read before spread it to the world. Best regards.
March 26, 2015
Hi Nicole, I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing. Tony