8 content writing traps you might be slipping into

by Dean Evans

content writingNot getting enough traffic with your content writing? You’re not alone.

The more important question is WHY? You’ve probably been writing some good content lately. Right? So why are you only getting a trickle of traffic when everybody else is getting a gush? Why aren’t your articles more popular?

It’s easy to dish out quick content writing advice like “create relevant articles” and “solve people’s problems.” But even if you follow these tips, it’s not always easy to get your content noticed, especially if you’re a small website or blog.

You might have a bigger problem…

It doesn’t help if you’re unknowingly stumbling into one (or more) of the web writing traps listed in this article. They’re not always obvious. And you might not want to admit that your writing is already snagged in one. But you can learn how to spot them…

Trap #1: Your content writing isn’t as good as you think it is

This is probably the hardest trap to spot and the trickiest to get out of. But be honest: is the content you’ve just created really ‘interesting’? Is it your best stuff? Or have you published something just to target a keyword phrase or satisfy a posting schedule?

How to escape: Your online writing needs to be genuinely original, relevant, easy-to-read, useful and accurate. It needs to be entertaining and/or informative too. Get back to basics. Focus on the classic article types – the list, the ‘how to’, the review, the case study (aka the ‘how I did’) and the ‘rant’. Concentrate on providing real VALUE to your readers by saving them the time, answering their questions or teaching/telling them something new. Don’t hold back.

Trap #2: You’ve written what YOU want

A classic mistake, this one. The secret to creating good web content isn’t to write about what you find interesting. It’s to write about what your readers will find interesting.

How to escape: To get this right you need to understand who you’re writing for. What motivates them? What problems do they have? What solutions do they need? Spend some time profiling your ideal reader – get to know them; put a face to them; know where they already hang out. Formulate a website content strategy that satisfies reader ‘need’.

Trap #3: You’re relying too much on Google to send you traffic

What have you done to promote your content lately? Don’t make the mistake that people will automatically find it, have their curiosity tickled by your headline and excitedly click on it. Things aren’t that simple. Sadly.

How to escape: You wouldn’t try to sell a car without putting a ‘FOR SALE’ sign in the window or advertising it in places where people are likely to notice. You need to do the same for your content. You need to market it. You need to SELL it.

So you can’t rely on search engine traffic alone. You need to go where your potential audience hangs out and let them know about your content. These days that means having a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Google+; submitting your content to StumbleUpon and Reddit; commenting on relevant blogs and websites. Got good content? Start shouting about it in those places where you’ll be heard by the right people.

Trap #4: You used the first headline that you thought of

Tut-tut. If nobody is reading what you’ve written, there’s a good chance that they’re never even seeing your content on the page. Why? Because your headline sucks. Your headline writing probably sucks. Without a potent title to tempt a click-through, even the best website content writing won’t get an airing.

How to escape: Don’t go with the first headline that bubbles up into your brain. Rewrite it. Rewrite it again. Rewrite it yet again. Keep going until you’ve run out of variations and until an enticing headline stands out. Look to other headlines for inspiration, the swipe and adapt them to your own needs.

Trap #5: You’re getting your timing wrong

Timing can be all-important. Be late with a news article and your voice will be lost in a cacophony of competing stories. Alternatively, you might work late nights on a big list post only to see it attract 15 readers and sink quietly into your archives. All because the timing wasn’t right.

How to escape: While the success of some content writing hinges on WHEN you publish it, the best content stands the test of time. In fact, the best content is designed to do so. For long-term traffic, interesting ‘pillar’ posts or ‘evergreen’ content can ensure that you attract a constant flow of traffic over time. Content like this might not take off straight away. But think of it as an investment in the future of your site.

Trap #6: You blog when you feel like it, not when you should

One of the ways you can build a loyal following is to give them a steady stream of good content. Some sites post every day, others on certain days of the week. They work to a plan; a content strategy. They don’t make it up as they go along.

How to escape: Easy. You do what the big boys of the Internet publishing world do. You create a content writing schedule and you stick to it. Without some consistency, your readers won’t know what to expect or when to expect it. Try it. You’ll see better results than a using a scatter-shot approach to content creation. I built my first blog by posting 1-2 articles a day, every day for six months. It’s hard work. But worth the effort.

Trap #7: You’ve taunted the octopus…

You’ve done the hard work – you’ve got a good headline, nailed your keywords, the content is good and your article has some visibility on search engines and social media. You’ve presented yourself as attractive bait, but your writing and presentation make consuming it a chore. Readers leave. Mutant octopuses zap you with their laser beams…

How to escape: Keep the basic rules of writing for the web in mind. Let your copy breathe with short sentences, compact paragraphs, an eye-catching image and regular subheadings to offer extra entry points into your content. Structure your article so that if anybody decides to skip parts (or leave), you have these elements working to hook them back in. Find out by downloading our ‘17 Ways To Improve Your Web Writing’ PDF. You can find it in the sidebar.

Trap #8: Your reader doesn’t know what to do next

I’ve got three words for you: ‘call to action’. If your reader makes it to the end of your article and you aren’t telling them what to do next then you’re losing a potential extra click, an opt-in, a comment, an enquiry, a sale or an ad click.

How to escape: Work out what you want your reader to do at the end of your article and, in most cases, just ask them to do it – “Leave us a comment below…”, “Sign up for our newsletter…”, “Share this post…”; “Here are other posts you might like…” The bottom of a post is also a hot zone for a large-sized advert if you choose to monetize your site that way.

Have we missed anything out? Is there anything else you’d like us to talk about in more depth? Headline writing, perhaps? Or DIY web content strategy? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you and about how you approach the mechanics of content writing.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Profound Whatever

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