Writing Good Content

What to Do With the Blank Page

One of the questions that I get asked a lot when talking to people about marketing, specifically as it relates to content: What should I write about?

The sight of a blank page can be incredibly daunting and often times cause enough anxiety to just give up on it. This is fine if you have someone else on whom you can rely to write content for you – a freelancer, an assistant, etc – but what if it’s just you?

Well fortunately there’s a pretty simple way to get past writers block when you’re working from a blank page: Just start writing. Don’t worry about how it all comes out – you can go back and edit everything later but when you’re getting started, the most important thing to do is to just start getting words on the page. Presumably the fact that you’ve gotten into this business that you’re in means that you have a fair amount of knowledge to share with the world so just pick a topic and start babbling about it.

When you’re done, you’ll likely see that you have a pretty extensive article somewhere in the middle of all of your written “ums” and “ahs” so now it’s time to edit. Again, this is pretty simple. Go through each paragraph like you would if you were talking to a client, an investor or a donor and make sure that it sounds like you want it to. Think of it like creating a sculpture. Everything that you want to say is in there, you just have to clean away the extra marble (or in this case, words) to get to it.

Having trouble coming up with a topic?

Here are a few tricks that I like to use to figure out what topics that I should write about:

  • Look through your recent emails from relevant stakeholders to find a question that needs to be answered. More than likely if one person asked the question, others are, too. Write up an in-depth response to that question and post it to your blog.
  • Do a Google search for a question that you need to find an answer to. My mom always told me that the best way to learn something for yourself is to teach it to someone else. Here’s your opportunity. Go out and find an answer to your own question and share it with the world.
  • Complain. In just about every industry, there’s plenty for all of us to gripe about. Start writing about something that really irks you and chances are you’ll find yourself being identified as an “edgy” and “insightful” leader in your field. It’s not bad therapy, either. *Note: Make sure you spend a lot of time editing if you go this route. Otherwise your edgy and insightful thoughts just sound like whining.
  • Wax Poetic: Remember the way that things used to be? When the industry was still unadulterated by ______ and _______? You’ll have to fill in your own blanks but I’m willing to bet it won’t be hard to start writing when you do.

A Few Guidelines for Good Content

Thanks to the Internet, the bar has been lowered quite a bit on what constitutes “good” content. I won’t go down this rabbit hole in this article (I’ll save that for one of my complainer articles). We do, however, need to identify some minimum guidelines for quality content. Here are the ones that I like to stick to:

  • The key to good communication is brevity. Don’t say something in 10 words that you can say in three.
  • Your articles should be at least 300 words. This is a search engine guideline. If you want Google or Bing to pay any attention to your content, they want to see at least 300 words to do so.
  • Go deep. You’ll get more traction out of an article that goes a mile deep on one specific topic than a similar article that goes an inch deep on three or four. Plus, you might find yourself with an entire blog series on your hands, making this whole process a lot easier.

We could go on and on with these content guidelines but these are enough to get you started. Now go write something!

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