You want to know the hardest part about Internet Marketing for small businesses or small marketing departments? You’re reading it right now. Creating content is your biggest challenge, and no tool out there can do the writing for you. But this list can help you make the process easier.
I used to write quite a bit of fiction. Satire, actually, although people may have thought my stuff was funny for all the wrong reasons.
Even though I wrote humor, it wasn’t always fun and games. In fact, it was a heavy-duty grind most of the time. I wrote several books, and I’d be up at 5 am, sitting at the keyboard, following Stephen King’s advice to crank out 1,000 words a day.
That disciplined writing is no different than writing content for your website. It’s hard work. Grueling at times. And there often seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
But it works. Using this approach, we’ve doubled, tripled, quadrupled (not sure what comes after that) client’s traffic simply by producing great content. Every week, we produce content, and people read it. Lots of people.
Now there are a million tools — and blog posts — that claim to turn you into a blog publishing machine. But I want to focus on some core writing habits that have allowed me to consistently produce effective content throughout my career.
1. Do it first
Make your writing the first thing you do in the day. I actually make it second – I like to work out, shower and shave first so I’m wide awake. But that’s it. I don’t open my email (very important). I just sit down and write.
Avoiding email, text messages, etc., is critical. It’s too easy to get distracted today. And it’s easy to seek out those distractions, because creating content is hard work. But if you’re focused, alert, and rested, you can make it work.
2. Set a time limit
I like to give myself about an hour or two to crank out a post. Now that’s the first draft (and it doesn’t include any sort of research) but the time allotted isn’t important. What is important is the limit.
Finishing a first draft quickly is a huge advantage. Now you can see spots that need more research, more depth, more links, or conversely, where you can cut, sharpen, and clarify. The point is, you’re no longer staring at a blank page. And that’s AT LEAST half the battle.
Allocating a specific amount for time for suffering — er, writing — allows you to withstand the pain. I remember this workout class that was brutal, but it only lasted a half hour. I knew I had only a half hour, so was able to bust through it because I knew the pain would only last 30 minutes..
The time limit focuses you on writing, while giving you peace of mind because you know you’ll be able to get to the other tasks pulling at you that day.
3. Pick a day
Routines are important for consistent work. If you’re only writing one post a week, pick a day when you will write it; preferably earlier in the week.
Tuesday is ideal for me (even though I’m writing this one on Wednesday). You’re past the Monday sleepies, and you’re not too burned out from the week.
Many small business owners who write their own blogs do it on weekends, or whenever they can carve out a spare couple of hours. Mistake. Treat your blog like the critical marketing advantage you need it to be. Give it your wide-awake energy, and an established slot in your schedule.
4. Pick a time of the day
I mentioned earlier that you should “do it first,” but that doesn’t always work for the night owls of the world. If you want to write late at night, that’s fine. But stick to it.
5. Don’t write cold
Pre-plan your blog post topics. If you’re in the inbound marketing game, as we are, your posting should be strategic, based on what’s trending and what your customers want to read. Don’t sit at the keyboard cold, and try to come up with a topic.
Have any research or phone interviews done ahead of time. If you can find a few great source articles, they’ll prompt your writing.
6. Just write it
This is tough one for the folks who aren’t writers. The first draft is all about getting it out. Just get your thoughts on the page. If the first paragraph reads horribly, don’t worry about it. Keep going. The idea is to get yourself in a groove, so the thoughts flow freely. You can fix it later.
7. Let it sit overnight
This is one of most effective rules for writing a great post. DO NOT post it or give it to someone to read unless it has sat overnight.
I’m not sure what it is about sleep, but it allows you to see things from a whole new perspective. When you come back to your post the next day, you’ll see the areas that were written poorly, or the points that need further emphasis.
8. Reduce by 10%
One of Stephen King’s rules from one of the greatest books ever written about writing (On Writing) is that you should reduce your piece by 10%. That means take your word count, and hack 10% of the words out.
Omit needless words is the cardinal rule in The Elements of Style. The 10% hack will help you do it.
9. Let someone else read it
Always get an outside opinion before you publish. And don’t pick a creampuff. Find someone who will be objective and give you straight, honest feedback.
10. Keep your writing at 1-3 lines per paragraph, and use subheads and lists
One of the fun things about writing blog posts is that you get to keep things brief and conversational. Avoid the monster paragraphs. Use subheads and lists (like these).
11. Don’t stop
You are going to have down days with this stuff — days when you question the worth of blogging and creating content for your inbound marketing.
Remember this: Google and social media rewards hard work. They will give you credit, ranking and shares if you work and and publish consistently. So don’t give up. EVER.
Or if you find writing this stuff is really a pain in the hinder, hire a pro. There’s no reason everyone should endure this misery.
Find out how your content and conversion ranks with our interactive version of the Content Scorecard you can fill in yourself – no email required for download.