As the weather gets colder and I settle back into my familiar pattern of staying inside and watching lots of TV, I find I’m drawn to hospital dramas. Not because they’re particularly good or anything – but because they’re on.
These days, reattaching limbs, pulling patients out of the wreckage of a car crash, and cutting lvad wires are things that hardly seem out of the ordinary.
It was, in fact, while watching doctors charge the defibrillation paddles and bring patients spluttering and coughing back to life that I came up with the idea for this blog post: breathing new life into an existing content marketing strategy.
What I mean by that is this: If you feel your writing has gotten stale or you’re stuck reinventing the wheel, it’s always a good idea to go back, take a look at what’s working (and what isn’t), and make a fresh start.
Let’s take a look at 5 writing hacks and explore how they can resuscitate your content marketing initiatives – CLEAR!
Scrutinize Your Headlines
The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” exists for a reason: People often do just that. When was the last time you clicked on a blog post with a dull headline and read it in full? Probably never.
It’s no secret that people are busy and they don’t have the time – or the inclination – to sift through boring blog headlines that might contain killer content. So do yourself a favor and put due time and consideration into your headline to make it really stand out.
Tools like CoSchedule’s blog post headline analyzer can help you evaluate your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value. In fact, I used it to come up with my headline for this post!
Stick to One Thought per Paragraph
A while back, my friend and colleague Casie sent our whole team a Search Engine Journal article about why it’s important to use just one thought per paragraph in a blog post or article. Check out the article in full for a complete list of reasons why, but the basic idea is it makes content easier and more accessible to readers – not to mention keeping their interest long enough to actually read a post.
I must say, since then, I’ve really tried hard to stick with the “one thought, one paragraph” rule. And you know what? When I’ve gone back and reread my own writing, it reads clearer, more succinct, and just plain better.
Frontload the Most Important Information
We all remember the “inverted pyramid” back from Journalism class in high school. Basically, the idea is to prioritize information so that the most newsworthy material (who, what, when, where, why?) comes at the beginning and the less important information comes later on.
With website content, the same general principle applies – in other words, it’s crucial to “hook” readers at the beginning of a post so they’ll stick around long enough to read it.
Neil Patel takes this one step further, recommending that content marketers “always place important elements that will attract potential clients in the ‘above the fold’ section.” Recent studies, he notes, shows that people will scroll down a web page, but they’ll spend 80% of their time above the fold and just 20% below.
Before I go in and insert the “Read More” tag in any given post, I make sure that the excerpt readers are getting is something interesting, informative, or entertaining enough that they’d want to continue on. If I’m not interested in my own writing, I can’t expect anyone else to be!
Get Into a Rhythm
It may sound obvious, but so much of content marketing writing – or really working in general – comes down to getting into the right frame of mind to focus. For writers in particular, who rely on creativity and inspiration to churn out original, noteworthy content, this is something that’s easier said than done.
Of course, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to getting into a writing groove – the trick is to find out what works best for you and go with it.
You might, for example, free write for a set period of time to get the creative juices flowing before you actually start to outline the blog post or article you’re working on. Or you may need to get up and stretch or walk around the office every hour or two to give yourself a breather and get your heart rate up.
As silly as it seems, I find I write best knowing I’m safe within the comforts of a certain area of my home or work office. When I need to get serious about writing, my kitchen table is somehow more appealing than my actual desk and the quiet space with couches and lap desks at work is preferred over the open area where many of my colleagues sit.
Leverage Free Eyeballs on Your Content
So, okay. Let’s say you’ve just finished a piece of content so good you want to print it out and put it on your fridge AND send it to your mom AND put yourself in the running for the Pulitzer Prize. Ha!
Do yourself a favor before you do any of that and ask a friend or colleague around the office to give it the once over. Peer reviewing content can seem like a drag, but really it’s the best way to ensure you’re delivering top-notch content living up to client or customer expectations.
But “gaining free eyeballs” on content doesn’t begin and end with peer reviews.
As noted in a ClickZ article on content marketing growth hacks, it’s also a good idea to get those outside your organization to read your blog posts or articles by collaborating on content.
“One of the biggest benefits is that typically those who you collaborate with will also share out the content to their audience. This opens the door to a whole new audience that you would likely never be able to get in front of and as they come to your website to read the blog, you can convert them into your audience.”
Over the past year or so, our organization has done a series of curated content assets on behalf of clients, resulting in not just better and more authoritative content, but increased social visibility and engagement, link opportunities, and more.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been stuck on a piece of content that wasn’t going anywhere (you can’t see it but both of mine are raised!).
The above writing hacks are just a few of the ways you can grab the shock paddles and resuscitate your content marketing efforts for the better. How have you freshened up your content when it’s gotten stale? What best practices would you recommend?