It’s no secret to many of us at this point: we spend a whole lot more time online today than we used to.
Amazon is basically the Walmart, Target, and Blockbuster of the new era; we communicate more with our fingers than we do our voices, and who knows what would happen if the internet were to suddenly cease to exist.
Something out of a Walking Dead episode, one can only assume.
Barring global catastrophes, we’re not getting any less digital anytime soon, folks. And for those of us operating in the online space, this means learning how to better communicate with our direct audiences.
There has been plenty of talk in regard to content creation and marketing over the years, and how it has quickly become one of the primary methods of driving quality traffic to a given site.
That being said, it is of no use to you, and your audience if you try to keep up with the content Joneses of the world, only to end up looking like an imposter at the end of the day.
Spoken in plain English: You want to make absolutely sure that what you are publishing online accurately represents you and your brand overall.
It’s not enough to simply publish for the sake of publishing anymore, as content needs to be of a certain quality and substance for it to really matter.
Let’s face it, though, not everyone is an excellent writer; we all have our strengths and weaknesses.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few practices that you can implement to make sure that the content you are posting speaks more positively on your behalf.
Here are a few, rather simple ways you can automatically improve the overall quality, engagement, and substance of your online content:
1.) Make Sure You Write with Purpose and Present Real Value.
Value, is largely considered to be a subjective concept; “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” or something to that effect.
But before we go and get too philosophical, the general points being made here are as follows:
- Know your audience.
- Know what type of content they will benefit from.
- Stop expecting so much in return.
To know your audience is to know your purpose; you can’t offer anything of value if you don’t know who will be on the receiving end of it.
This is why it is always important to pay close attention, and more importantly, listen to your audience. Find creative ways to learn about the specific problems your readers need solved.
You can do this in a few different ways:
- Asking what type of content they’d like to see using social media, videos, and the like.
- Allow comments so you can gain direct feedback.
- Asking at the end of content pieces you’re currently publishing.
- Tracking your overall engagement (shares, comments, likes).
There are a ton of ways to find out what topics your content needs to address, you just need to be mindful, and sometimes, a bit proactive about it.
Remember, it’s about the intended audience’s needs, not necessarily your own.
On the subject of managing your expectations, many are skeptical of offering anything up for free, and that’s definitely understandable.
“They’re just gonna’ take what I offer and run – those thieves!”
Jokes aside, the funny thing about giving away free, useful information, is that people tend to return the favor without you really needing to ask.
When you write insightful, helpful, funny, or unique pieces, people will often share their discovery with others who share similar interests.
That’s the funny thing about people: they often tend to know other people as well.
It’s mind blowing stuff, really.
Sure, some people will just use you for your freeadvice, and you know what, that’s perfectly fine.
Remember, you aren’t creating solely for the traffic gains and conversions, but rather to establish yourself as someone whose information is VALUABLE in regard to a particular subject.
If your sole means of sharing a piece of content is for-profit or self-gain, you’re starting off on the wrong foot, and many times, it will show.
Define a purpose for your writing, outside of the typical “More traffic! More customers!” school of thought. Other people are bound to take notice, especially if it’s helpful, and of quality.
2.) Be Meticulous About Grammar and Spelling
On the surface, it seems like a rather petty topic to be so critical about. “How much can a few spelling mistakes really affect how my content is assessed?”, you might wonder. Well, quite a bit, in actuality.
In an article published by Sean Coughlan for BBC News, Coughlan spoke about CEO, Charles Duncombe, and his findings that showed correcting a single spelling-error on one of his e-commerce websites resulted in an 80% sales conversion jump.
Now, keep in mind, we’re not specifically talking about content conversion in this particular piece, but this bit of data still helps to illustrate a critical point:
First impressions are extremely important, particularly in the online space.
The majority of site visitors will come to some form of conclusion regarding a website within about 5-seconds of visiting the page.
If you manage to showcase sub-par grammar, or worse, numerous spelling errors within those initial 5-seconds, your credibility may quickly be brought into questions.
This seems to be the case for a few reasons:
- People are increasingly concerned about falling victim to fraudulent activity online.
- Multiple grammar and spelling errors can make you come across as careless, and therefore, as a less reliable source of information.
- If repetitive enough, it can distract from the overall reading experience.
Unlike during face to face interactions, we have far fewer indicators to rely on in order to assess the trustworthiness of a source of information online, so naturally, people hone in on things like presentation to come to their conclusions.
Is it a bit shallow? Possibly, but one has to consider the online landscape, and the wealth of misinformation floating around on the web, not to mention security risks.
Some content creators believe in producing as much content as possible, as quickly as possible, opting to forego things such as proofreading and manual spell-checking.
Consistency is good, no one with any knowledge of the digital world would try to dispute that.
That said, many would also agree that it’s better to take your time producing carefully crafted work, than it is to push out a constant stream of rushed content pieces.
If you don’t consider yourself very good at things like spelling, grammar, and punctuation, there are a lot of free and paid resources out there that can help make things less painful for both your reputation and your readers’ eyes.
If I had to make a recommendation, I would certainly recommend you take a look at Grammarly (ref. link), if you haven’t already.
It’s free to use, and they also have a toolbar you can download and integrate straight into your browser.
You can download the toolbar here for free, or use the paid version if you want more in-depth writing suggestions for your content.
Ultimately, whether you choose to use a writing tool or not is irrelevant; the fact remains that being thorough about checking your content for simple mistakes can go a long way in gaining your readers’ trust.
It’s better to spend an extra 30 minutes proofreading than it is to give off the impression that you just don’t care. It might even make sense to hire a freelancer to proofread your work for you.
3.) Be Authentic in Your Delivery
One of the great things about creating content is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Sure, there are a few hard and fast rules, like doing our best not to neglect spelling, grammar, and punctuation (see section 2), but generally speaking, your authenticity is going to be your best selling point.
The concept of authenticity works on a few different levels, but in this case, it’s difficult to convey authenticity if you:
- Don’t believe in what you’re creating.
- Have ulterior motives to your content.
- Tell half-truths or outright lies to your audience.
Some of these things may work for you in the short-term, but over the long-haul, people will eventually begin to catch on, and oftentimes, the odds of recovery are slim to none.
If you don’t believe in the content that you’re creating, it’s going to be pretty hard to get anyone else to believe in it either. In certain situations, this can be an unfortunate reality.
If you’re, say, a freelancer or paid employee, and have been tasked with creating content for a topic you really have no interest in, you might find the process to be tedious to say the least. In this scenario, you have one of two options.
- Accept that you don’t really have an interest, and do sub-par work anyway.
- Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can, because the goal of the content is to help OTHER people.
Remember, the first part of this article touched on the idea of creating for your audience first and foremost.
Creating something of substance should still be the ultimate goal here, whether you’re writing for your own personal brand or another client.
Your wants come second to the audiences’ wants, and with that in mind, it’s much easier to research otherwise “bland” subjects, knowing it is your duty to give value, as opposed to receive it.
This way, you can be authentic in your motives as well, as your goal isn’t to pretend that you’re in love with the topic you’re writing about, but rather, to show an authentic interest in helping your audience, whatever that entails.
Alternatively, if you’re dealing with content creation for your own brand, it is a bit easier to convey that same kind of authenticity, as you’re hopefully basing content around things you’ve taken an interest in as well.
Building trust is one of the most important elements of digital content creation, and the best way to build that trust is through said authenticity and candidness.
The last thing you want to do is give off the impression that you’re just going through the motions, or worse, that you simply don’t care.
And with that, there you have it, a few simple, but rather effective ways to improve your content.
Remember to be mindful of your audiences, take pride in your overall presentation, and be honest about your motivation for creating content in the first place; people notice the little things.