Content is a cornerstone of effective inbound marketing. Marketers carefully and enthusiastically research topics and keywords, devise titles and premium offers, and schedule content on their editorial calendar. The plan is perfect, right?
Yes, the plan is perfect! However, achieving your goal—top-notch content that attracts website visitors, moves leads down the funnel, and establishes thought leadership—isn’t so seamless. You may have the topic, keywords, titles, and a place on the calendar, but what could be thwarting your progress is writing the content itself. And that can derail the whole plan …
Content stumbling blocks occur with even the best writers and marketers. Here are six such obstacles, with advice on how to overcome them:
1. No lead
The problem: You don’t know how to start your piece of content.
The solution: Save the beginning for last.
Whatever you call the start of your piece of content—a lead, an introduction, a preface, a prologue—that beginning is key to drawing readers in, keeping them on the page, and hopefully encouraging them to click on links and CTAs. Yet, this often is the most difficult part of the writing process for marketers. Wasting too much energy on the lead diminishes the time you have for the rest of the post or e-book. Jumping into the guts of your content results is real progress and can get your creative juices flowing. Return to the lead later, and don’t try to get too cute or clever with it. A straightforward intro is better than something forced that readers can’t wrap their heads around.
2. No words
The problem: Writer’s block—[high-pitched scream]!
The solution: Take a break.
Writer’s block happens to the most experienced professional writers, so marketers shouldn’t sweat a blank document and a blank mind. Move on to another task temporarily, or just step away from your computer. At SmartBug, where we are lucky to be able work remotely, I’ll walk my dog around the block (no pun intended) to try to clear my brain and then focus on what to write when I sit back down. Also, be sure you are giving yourself enough time before a deadline—writer’s block is far more stressful (and harder to overcome) if you have just an hour or two to finish what you’re working on.
3. Too many words
The problem: You aimed for a 600-word blog post and somehow ended up with 2,000.
The solution: Divide and conquer, or reread and revise.
The reason for writing too much can fall into two buckets. First, you had so much good information that your original word count couldn’t contain it all. Longer content isn’t necessarily a bad thing—some readers appreciate the trove of knowledge you are providing, but others may not bother with a blog post or e-book that they can’t quickly peruse. A possible solution is to split a long blog post into two, thus giving you additional assets to promote. The same idea can be applied to e-books: One piece of premium content can become a series of reports. Good design can also make all those words more palatable.
The other reason for endless content is that you simply got too wordy. It happens—you get into a train of thought and that train fails to stop for any station on the route. Go through the content and self-edit … and self-edit and self-edit. Be concise. Take out any tangents that don’t support the goal of your content. You might not slice your post in half, but you can streamline it so that it isn’t so verbose.
4. Feeling overwhelmed
The problem: The e-book or pillar page you are planning seems like so … much … work.
The solution: Outline, work in small chunks, and don’t stress out.
For longer-form content, such as an e-book, white paper, or pillar page, the task may seem enormous, so you keep putting it off, thus leading to an even more gargantuan job. If you feel overwhelmed, your writing will inevitably suffer when you do finally get around to tackling the content. Careful planning can make the writing process less daunting. An outline is key to starting—I find that just getting that outline laid out and formatted in a document is enough of a first step to get rolling on the second step. Also, don’t try writing a big piece of content all at once. Write a section on one day, another section on the next, the intro on another day, and so on.
5. Meandering from the title
The problem: The content you wrote doesn’t match the title or topic.
The solution: Deviate with care.
Blog titles often are chosen with keywords, pain points, and other inbound principles in mind. However, sometimes the outline your team devises fails to stay on topic. Or, the additional information is necessary for a good post, but you struggle to weave it in. Try to find a happy medium between your title and what you think the post needs. You don’t want to deceive the reader who clicked on your link and doesn’t find what was promised, but you also want to put your thought leadership on display. As a last resort, you can always revise the title to match the content.
6. No conclusion
The problem: You don’t know how to end your blog post.
The solution: Skip the conclusion.
Ideally, you want to wrap up your awareness- or consideration-stage blog post with something intriguing—maybe a piece of advice, a new piece of information, or a next step. But what I see often is something so random it leaves the reader befuddled. I also see conclusions that just regurgitate the rest of the post, which implies the reader wasn’t paying attention in the first place, or that say, “Now you know [insert topic here]!” which is patronizing, implying the reader was too dumb to understand the content on his or her own. My solution—and I admit, it’s not shared by everyone—is to forego the conclusion. No ending at all is better than something painfully forced, and if the rest of your post was outstanding, readers won’t care that it doesn’t have a formal conclusion. Case in point, I’m just going to end this post right here …
What stumbling blocks do you encounter with writing inbound marketing content?