10 Bad Content Writing Habits And How To Overcome Them
Whether you work with enterprise-level clients or local specialty stores, content marketing can be a powerful tool for spreading brand awareness and driving conversions — when done right.
If there’s one thing that’s true about the content marketing game, it’s that it never gives you a break. No matter how many clients you work on, what industry you’re writing for, or what kind of SEO-Led content strategy you’re pushing, there’s always more for you to write.
Keeping up with the high demand and consistently delivering top-level material is easier said than done. Not only do you need to drive forward and continue creating fresh content, you also need to ensure that your writing doesn’t suffer along the way.
While everyone has their own tendencies, there are definitely bad content writing habits that most of us can relate to — let’s take a look at how to overcome them.
Being Too Salesly (Or Not Salesly Enough)
CTAs, product-driven articles, unique selling propositions, customer benefits — with the knowledge that your end goal in content marketing is almost always to promote or sell a product, service, or brand, it can be difficult not to be overtly salesly.
Yet, the silver lining about being noticeably too salesly is just that — it will be noticeable. When you are reviewing your work, remember the tone of the piece — if you’re writing about a sensitive topic, consider leaving the sales-driven CTA out.
On the flipside, if you’re using a post to advertise a new smartwatch, you may be missing out on leads if you don’t include that same sales-driven CTA.
Using Too Many Exclamation Points!
The overuse of exclamation points may just be the cardinal sin of copywriting.
Not only does the overuse of exclamation points look outright silly, it actually takes credibility away from what you’re saying. The misuse of exclamation points has become so common that we now tend to tune them out completely — not great at all if you’re ending half of your sentences with them.
Exclamation points should be reserved for the most genuinely exciting, groundbreaking, and life-shattering points you have to make. A good content marketer should be able to use creativity to find a way to emphasize certain things without slapping an exclamation point on the end of them.
Remember — if everything is worthy of an exclamation point, nothing is.
I’ll write this section later.
All jokes aside, procrastinating too often and for too long has a noticeable negative impact on your work. When you procrastinate, you’re losing time you could’ve used to refine and improve your work — remember, time is your most valuable asset.
While some procrastination can be beneficial, that doesn’t mean you should lie to yourself and put off all your work because you “work better under pressure.” If you’re struggling to start, remember that just the act of actually starting your assignment is half the battle.
Once you do that, handle it bit by bit until you nail it.
Writing to Hit a Word Count
Many of us have been guilty of this at one point or another — you’re pressed for time, and before you know it, you find yourself typing away aimlessly just to hit your agreed-upon word count. This is problematic for many reasons.
The main issue with writing to hit a word count is that much of what you write will likely have no real value to the reader. If you find yourself writing away in a flurry, stop yourself and take a step back. Read what you wrote and consider if it adds value.
The time spent on a page is shrinking and shrinking in our age of distractions — the moment the reader feels they’re wasting their time, they’ll bounce from the page. Be careful and ensure you are always 100% present when writing.
Repeating the Same Words Over and Over
There’s a big difference between using the same adjective a few times in a long-form blog and using it three times in just the intro paragraph. You can bet that your readers will notice, too.
The first step in catching yourself in the act of repetition is to be diligent when writing. That way, you can be creative on the spot and use different phrases to say what you originally meant.
The next step is to be on the lookout when proofreading your finished work. Remember — if you think you used that word too recently, then you did.
If you find yourself leaning on certain words like “great” or “simple” as you write, do a search for these words after you’ve finished writing. If you flag three or more instances, consider swapping them out with more descriptive terms.
If your blog post looks like it pre-dates the Google Panda updates (shout-out to my fellow SEOs out there), you have a problem on your hands.
Keywords (when used effectively) are essential in creating a resource to be crawled by search engines. However, the line between proper usage and keyword stuffing is a fine one.
Your keywords shouldn’t be inserted into your writing — they should be a part of your writing naturally. For your standard blog post, once in the title, once in the intro paragraph, and once in a subheading is more than enough.
If you need to use a keyword and haven’t found the opportunity, don’t just throw it in — rewrite sentences and move things around for it to flow naturally if you need to.
Knowing Your Audience, But Forgetting to Speak to Them
Knowing your audience is just half the battle — correctly applying your content to them is the next step.
Using the wrong tone of voice or merely forgetting who you should be talking to mid-project can result in ineffective content that doesn’t speak to your readers. This can even be harmful to your brand or organization if done multiple times.
No matter the audience you pick, they have unique characteristics, demographics, nuances, and beliefs. If they don’t feel as if these characteristics are being recognized by your brand, they could lose trust.
Therefore, always remember to refer back to your audience profile when writing — this way you can catch yourself early if you begin straying from your core messaging.
Writing Without Advancing a Larger Strategy
Behind all stand-out content marketing material lies a cohesive, fully-developed content strategy.
While you may be able to produce somewhat effective content without working with a broader strategy and goal, you’ll be missing out on the opportunity to take your material to the next level.
Working with a fleshed-out strategy enables you to organize your thoughts and ideas, analyze your progress, set and achieve goals, and much more. Things like knowing your KPIs, best channels to use, ideal formats, and brand mission are all needed to make content marketing that stands out.
Being Too Repetitive
Content marketing is a high-volume gig — with plenty of channels to post on, various formats and ways to make content, the never-ending schedule, and high-demand for content — it’s easy to get repetitive.
Being a little repetitive with your material is okay (and often necessary) when building up brand awareness and driving conversions. The key to maintaining the right amount of repetition is proper organization.
Ensure that you have a schedule in place that spreads out your content types well and provides your readers with variety throughout the week. If you run a series of social posts, make it a weekly series. Like to create Top 10 lists? Space out the scheduling so you don’t over-saturate your feed with one type of content. Balance is key.
No one wants to admit it, but we all know we’ve been that person before.
You craft the perfect tweet, post it, and then view it live to bask in your own greatness — the only problem is that it already has 47 favourites and 13 retweets by the time you realized you spelled doughnuts “dougnuts.” Nice.
But hey, at least you learned your lesson, right?
Proofreading will never be any less important — do it, do it again, and then get your boss and mom to do it. Mistake after mistake will make your brand or organization look downright silly and take away credibility each time.
Need a hand with your editing? Tools like Grammarly and the Hemmingway App can make your life a whole lot easier. Just remember not to follow them blindly as they make mistakes too.
Content marketing is an ever-changing ballgame. In order to stay on top of things, you need to keep finding ways to improve your craft and expand your offerings — standing still and doing the same things over and over is a sure-fire way to get lost in all the noise.
While looking ahead and pushing the envelope is necessary, it’s also important to remember the basics and keep doing the things that work. Maintaining good writing habits is one of the core attributes of any solid content marketer, but avoiding or correcting bad habits is just as essential.
So the next time you sit down to write, make a conscious effort to steer clear of these ten detrimental habits — your crown jewel piece of content may only be a few keystrokes away.