Even the newest of SEOs and marketers understand how important content is to developing a brand presence. Your content is who you are. It’s your voice in the market and what you use to convey your message to customers. It’s through the combination of your Web site copy, your blog, your article marketing, your pitches, and your social updates that you reach prospective customers and turn them on until they become full-blown customers. There’s just one problem.
You…well, you can’t write. Or at least that’s what you’ve been telling yourself for the past thirty years.
Because you don’t believe you can write, you seek out advice, often from writers (or self-proclaimed ones). You ask for their tools of the trade and writing advice. The problem is sometimes these folks point you in the wrong direction. They don’t mean to feed you lies or bad best practices. It just, well, happens.
For example, below are five well-intentioned pieces of writing advice that may actually do more harm than good when you’re trying to build content for an SEO campaign. Break these “words of wisdom” and the content you put out will thank you. It will also probably suck less.
“Listen to music while writing!”
This might be the worst piece of advice ever told. And how many times have you heard it? About a million. You’re told that if you listen to music while you write it will help you block out distractions and make you focus better. And it will. If you’re listening to jazz or classical music or anything that doesn’t have actual words happening. But most of us aren’t listening to that. We’re listening to the music we like. Music with catchy beats, sweet lyrics, and that makes us dance around in our chair without a hint of shame. Essentially, it creates an even more powerful distraction – the need to get all Kevin Bacon up in our office.
Because our brain can’t help but focus on the words we’re hearing, listening to music ends up making us less focused and more ADD than we’d be on our own. It’s not music that helps you tune out the world, noise does. Want to put yourself into a trance of super-focus? Let SimplyNoise help you white-noise your way to productivity or check out RainyMood to let rain and thunder guide the words out. These two sites will help you block out disruptions WITHOUT adding more to the fire.
“Just write what you know!
Not sure what to write about in your blog today or what to create a sizzling new infographic around? Just write what you know! I’m not sure what that really means, but it’s terrible, vague and misleading advice. You should not write about what you know. No one really cares about all the things you know. What they do care about is what they WANT to know. The information they’re interested in and the advice that’s going to help them do something in their lives better. It’s not about you at all.
But fret not! The truly fantastic thing about having customers on the Web is that they tell you, every day, exactly what it is they want to know. They’re leaving you messages in your analytics, your site logs, through the conversations they have with you via social channels, and through the search modifiers they use. Don’t write what you know. Write what they’re asking for. And use all the information you have at your disposal to figure out what the heck that is. Then serve it back to them.
“Write to impress!
Telling someone they need to “come off smart”, “impress their audience” or “sound like an expert” in the content they write is a fantastic way to paralyze them or put them on a sad journey of incredibly awkward writing where their Web site copy reads like their 10th grade essay on Shakespeare. You don’t need to sound intelligent or like a scientist when talking to your customers. You just need to sound like them.
You need to use the same words they do.
You need to use the same paint points.
You need to show the same fears, the same concerns, the same wants.
You need to be weird like them.
The best way to ruin the writing you’re doing for your SEO campaign is to focus on yourself or your company. Focus on them. Sound and represent them. That’s where the magic happens.
“Writing is serious business!
You’re writing content to introduce people to your brand, to communicate with them, and to drive them to take a particular action. You’re not curing cancer (unless you are) or saving puppies (again, unless you are). So take off the cape and remove all that pressure that goes along with having to save the world on a daily or weekly basis and just write.
Write to your audience. Tell them exactly what you want them to know, in your own words but in their language. Talk to them like you’re talking to your closest friend. If it helps you get the words out, have a drink or two while you’re trying to find your magic and get it all out. You can write buzzed, you just have to make sure you edit sober. Do whatever you need to do to remove the pressure. It’s not going to help you speak to your audience any more effectively.
“Only share when you have an original idea!
If you truly believe that you can’t put finger to keyboard until you have something truly original and remarkable to say…you’re going to spend a lot of time NOT writing content to help your search engine optimization efforts. There are no original ideas left. Everything you produce is going to be a reflection of things you’ve consumed, thought about, were inspired by from someone else. And that’s okay to admit. It’s okay to mention how reading a blog post from Copyblogger changed the way you looked at copy and how Rhea’s post on OODA loops changed the way you handle the SEO process. You don’t have to be 100 percent original. You have to be interesting and valuable. Sometimes we confuse those and don’t write content that could be great.
Those are just a handful of “good writing myths” that I’ve seen suck the life out of many SEO campaigns or blog posts. What stumps your writing? Or what’s helped you break through and write content that your audience relates to?