We all make mistakes. Even the best content writers can hold their hands up and say “hey, I’ve messed up” now and again.
That’s ok. After all, that’s how we grow, learn and become better writers. We screw up, recognise the mistake, assess what went wrong, and remember not to do it next time!
Heck, I’ve been guilty of every single one of these mistakes at some point. In fact, occasionally I might find myself drifting into one or two of them even now. The key is recognising you are about to make a major mistake and doing something about it.
So if you’ve screwed up and you know about it, congratulations! You’re a better content writer for it. If you haven’t yet realised it, here are my top 5 major mistakes content writers make, and how you can stop making them.
Trying to listen, but failing to hear
We all know listening to your audience is fundamental to create engaging content. It is possibly the most effective way of understanding what resonates with your readers, how they align with different types of content, and what topics engage them most.
But sometimes it can be difficult, and despite trying to listen, we can often find ourselves struggling to hear what our audience has to say, or what they want to know about. Without hearing our audience, it’s almost impossible for us to write great content that our readers want to read.
Hearing your audience is simply a matter of empathy, making time to understand their position, views and opinions. There are heaps of different ways you can do it, from jumping on social media and seeing what your most engaged followers are talking about, to having one-to-one calls with active members in your community.
The important thing isn’t how you listen and hear your audience, it’s simply that you hear them.
Promotion over value
This is an area I’ve struggled with over the past few years, as I have never aligned with the traditional notion of copy. The idea that great content has to promote products, and lead to increased sales just didn’t sit well with me. And thankfully, I’m not alone.
In fact, with the apparent surge of content marketers, it seems I’m now part of a majority who believe this traditional approach is wrong. Great content does not have to promote products. At least not directly!
Sure, it’s imperative to keep your brand voice, purpose, vision and values in mind. It’s also important for your content to be authentic. But great content addresses the wants of the reader, not the writer.
To find great, valuable content that will value both you and your reader, Go out of your way and understand your reader’s pain points and frustrations, and see how you can authentically address them.
Copying other content writers
As a content writer, staying up to date with the latest developments within your industry is vital, and often we turn our attention to other writers, thought leaders and influencers.
That’s great and a crucial step to enhance your knowledge, understand the various points of view surrounding a particular topic, and can even be a great source for new content. And that’s where it should end.
Taking inspiration from other writers is great, but there are heaps of writers who simply rewrite the same thoughts, opinions and knowledge that their chosen thought leader offered up.
This is not authentic. It is not you, or your voice, and it is unlikely that it will appeal to your audience. Instead of copying others, be authentic. Have faith in your writing. Read and understand what others are saying, and add your voice, thoughts and opinions to the conversation.
Focusing on frequency over quality
Posting frequency doesn’t matter.
Let me be more specific. There is no doubt frequently posting to your blog matters. It matters for SEO, it offers unique content to direct returning visitors, and it gives you something fresh to share on your social media channels.
But unless you emphasize a daily, weekly or monthly post as a recurring aspect of your blog, your audience aren’t going to be worried about the frequency with which you are posting. They will be concerned about the quality of your posts.
If you want to post daily, go ahead. But make sure that every word of that piece of content offers the absolute most value possible.
Buying into the idea that you have to post new content with a set frequency is a mistake. What matters isn’t the frequency, it’s the quality of the post, and the value you are offering.
All content and no audience
By far the biggest mistake that content writers make is believing that great content is enough. We sit down, channel our inner Hemingway and voila! Amazing content that the world will love.
If only it were that simple.
The fact of the matter is without spending time building your audience, engaging and having an active dialogue with them, very few people will even find your content.
Sure, you’ll get the direct traffic. Heck, if you’ve done your job right, you might even show up in search a couple of times. But without an engaged, active audience, there will be very few people sharing and engaging with your content.
To build an active community, talk to people. If people have engaged with your content, engage with them, thank them, and validate their effort.
Great content is just one piece of a very elaborate puzzle. The major mistakes content writers make are not always in the content itself, but in failing to create, engage and participate in the community around it. The solution to the major mistakes that content writers make is simple: be present in your own community and create the quality content they crave.