As someone who's 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.
In this post, I’d like to share with you 10 common mistakes 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, 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 become a pro content creator in no time. So let's get started!
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10 Common Content Mistakes
Writing bad headlines.
Your post's headline is the first thing 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.”
You never want your headlines to fall on either end of this spectrum. You want headlines that are clever and inviting, but most importantly, you want your headlines to give the reader a clear idea of what your article is about. If the reader can’t tell within five 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.
There are also best practices when it comes to headline formatting. For example, including certain words and keeping your headlines a certain length can increase your chances of engagement. There are a ton of headline analyzer tools out there to help you with this aspect of headline construction. The free analyzer by CoSchedule is a great one to check out.
Failing 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 the writer just didn't care. If the content is riddled with errors, how can I trust that the information provided therein is authoritative or valuable?
If you struggle with spelling, grammar, usage, mechanics, and punctuation, you might consider hiring 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.
As another option, consider using an app like Grammarly. It's a great, free way to whip your content in to shape and learn a lot along the way.
Not using visual aids.
Text and content are paramount, but visual aids are what catch the viewer’s eye, spike their curiosity, and guide them through content. It's a fact: posts without images have much higher bounce rates than those that include them.
Stock images are a great resource. If you're on a budget and can't afford a subscription to one of the bigger image banks, check out a free one like Unsplash. It's full of gorgeous images on just about every topic you can imagine, and every single one is free.
In addition to incorporating images, be sure to use typographical aids such as bolded text, italics, different sized headers, numbered/bulleted lists, different colored links, and so on.
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.
Not giving credit where credit is due.
Speaking of using images, if you’re borrowing images from the web, don’t forget to give credit. That goes for pictures from free image banks like Unsplash, as well.
Giving credit is easy and can be in the form of a caption or a hover over. If you’re feeling especially generous, you can even link out the image to the owner’s website or social profile.
Giving credit is not only the right thing to do, it also adds to the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of your work.
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 going to lose credibility with your readership.
This is especially true if your readers are paying for your content. The easiest way to battle inconsistency 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.
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 you should do it in a way that keeps your content from being marked as spam by search engines.
Sharing identical content on multiple sites makes you seem redundant to both your readers and search engines. Rather than copying and pasting, 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 for the original content, 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 or someone I’ve never heard of. So I open a new tab and do a Google search. But then I get distracted in my search and sometimes forget to finish reading the original piece. How unfortunate is that?
By inserting links to what you’re referencing in your articles, you can help direct eyes to exactly what you want your readers to see. Additionally, inserting links gives the reader the option to click and do their research after finishing reading YOUR piece.
Just be sure to click the “open in a new tab” option when adding links. That way, your reader won't be directed away from your article when they click on its links.
Equally important to linking externally is linking to older posts within your blog. Why? Because it shows readers that you're an industry expert. 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, and who’s clicking out and where to.
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.
Plus, organic content takes time to gain ground. Obsessively checking your metrics in the beginning can be deceptively discouraging. And discouragement could keep you from creating the new content you need to succeed.
Not using 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 links to your Twitter and Facebook, you’re not maximizing your reach.
Obviously, digital marketing techniques work best for 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, you should!
When people take the time to let you know they love something about your content, you should take the time to engage with 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, appreciated, 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.
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Keep these common content mistakes in mind, and you'll be well on your way to creating awesome, error-free content for your site! If you’ve got any additional tips or mistakes to avoid, please drop them 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