It’s almost the New Year! What will your resolutions be?
Maybe you’re dedicating yourself to a daily gym routine or you’d like to make a career change. Maybe you want to move to an exciting new city or maybe you just want to stop binge-eating Oreos and watching bad reality TV. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to make 2016 content marketing the best Internet marketing you’ve ever done, yet.
While I can’t help you with the other resolutions (good luck with those Oreos), we can certainly help you boost your writing habits to the next level and get your content into shape for the coming year.
10 Hot Ways to Get Your 2016 Content Marketing in Shape
Here are some tips to help you get started on great content for the upcoming New Year.
1) Always on the lookout for interesting topics
If you’re a copywriter, it’s likely that the world around you is literally teeming with ideas for great content. Maybe you’ve noticed a new algorithm update that has changed the way you search or maybe you’re seeing that all the holiday ads on TV are using storytelling tactics to make connections with customers.
Maybe you’ve heard about a hot new tech development or you’ve learned something that has made your content creation process easier and more fun. Whatever the case may be, keeping your eyes open and your ear to the ground can help you gather unique content ideas that nobody else is writing about. This will be especially true as 2016 and all the new developments the year will bring begin to roll out.
Some copywriters choose to carry a small notebook around in order to jot down ideas as they occur. By doing this and developing them later, you can ensure that you’ve always got an arsenal of topics at your disposal and that you’re writing about things that apply to real people…like you!
2) Get organized
It’s tough to be great at anything if you’re not organized. How many times have you tried to remember something you read but not been able to recall the website or the book it came from? How many times have you lost track of which version of a project you’re currently on or what you’re supposed to be doing that day? We understand.
As you head into 2016, one of the easiest things you can do to beef your content creation game up is to simply get more organized. Use tools like Google+ and Evernote to file research, take snapshots of interesting things on the web, and store your ideas so you can refer back to them later.
As a side note, both of these services can also be used to store your business and personal expenses and receipts, because nothing kills your content creation process quite so much as stress borne from disorganization.
3) Find your voice
Every writer wants to find his or her voice, but it’s easier said than done. In order to get better at writing in your own voice throughout 2016, get a head start now. You can do this by paying special attention to the writers you admire. Why do you like the way they write? What grabs you about their copy? What does the introductory sentence look like? Does the writer use a specific style throughout all of his or her pieces?
While it’s important to answer these questions, it’s also important to do so from a standpoint of learning rather than imitation. In other words, you don’t want to read this writer’s stuff and go out and copy the form exactly.
Rather, you want to focus on bringing the structure, techniques, and style into your own writing. Remember that finding your voice takes time, especially if you haven’t been writing very long. Be patient with yourself and continue auditing your content and the content you admire. Over time, things will click into place.
4) Stay on topic
If you’re like every other writer in the universe, it’s likely that at some point in your life, a teacher wrote “wordy” in red pen on one of your papers. It’s easy to be wordy – wordiness comes naturally to us and it can be difficult to maneuver away from it. For business or professional writing, however, it’s important to learn to trim the fat and stay on topic.
One of the most helpful pieces of advice on writing is called “The Day you Became a Better Writer” by the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. The piece advocates auditing your sentences, doing away with anything unneeded and focusing on keeping your work simple, clear, and to the point. Even if you’re a professional writer who’s been honing the craft for years, we can all benefit from working on being succinct and clear in our writing for 2016.
5) Focus on fulfilling a need
We live in the age of the content sea and with millions of pieces of web copy flying around computer screens every day, it’s hard to stand out. To get your content into shape for 2016, start focusing now on how you can get better at finding a unique angle to address topics.
For example, there are hundreds of articles about local SEO on the web so it’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to write one that is different from every other article out there. You can, however, approach the same topic in a different way. Maybe you focus on local SEO for new businesses or how local SEO is going to change in light of some new Google update. These topics approach the same fundamental idea from a different angle, and are thus valuable to customers.
6) Get better at titles
8 out of 10 people read your headline so it’s wise to make sure each one is as good as possible. To write great headlines, make sure your titles are answering a question, providing breaking news, or telling readers a secret (as in “The top _______ secrets of perpetually ___________ people.”) These headlines pique curiosity and draw clicks, which can be great for your site and content as a whole.
7) Focus on great first sentences
Right after people read your title, they head onto what? That’s right – your first sentence.
One of the best first sentences in all of literature is widely regarded as the first line of Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, which reads:
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Make in a picture to avoid duplicacy?
This opening line does two things: it sets the scene and it grabs the reader’s curiosity instantly. If you can do this same thing in your web copy, you’re in for huge copywriting success. Remember that you only have about 3 seconds to grab your readers, so your first line should make people pay attention.
8) Stay away from “fluff”
People are smart and they’re going to be able to tell if you’re pulling their chains. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than a “Fluffy” blogger. In order to avoid the dread trap of too much hype, keep your content believable.
This means not making insane promises, not over exaggerating results or outcomes, and not stretching the truth. Too much hype makes your reader feel manipulated and that’s not good for anyone. Instead, keep your content grounded, reliable, and relevant. That on its own is enough to draw readers your way.
9) Focus on closing
Once you’ve drawn your readers in, given them something to get excited about, and provided relevant content, you’ve got to send them off with a bang, too. No big deal, right? This means that the close of each piece of content you write should focus on summarizing your main points, telling readers how they’ll benefit from your information, and tying your closing point into the introductory sentence once more.
This ties up the reader’s experience nicely and increases the chances that they’ll go on to interact with your other content. For added power in your closing statements, write great CTAs that direct your readers toward a specific action.
10) Hone your editing game
Editing is almost as important as writing itself and great work never happens on the first draft. In order to make your 2016 content as strong as possible, focus on getting really good at the editing portion of things.
The first draft should be used to get all of your ideas down in one place and the second, fourth, and tenth draft should be used to edit the heck out of the first one and make it what Rand Fishkin calls “10x Content.” According to Fishkin, 10x content is valuable content that goes beyond being “good” and “unique.” What’s more, Fishkin says that if you can’t commit to creating content that’s in the top 10% of quality in your industry, you shouldn’t create content at all. That said, edit, edit, edit, and you’ll soon earn yourself rankings that reflect your effort.
Concluding Thoughts for Your 2016 Content Marketing
2016 is your best content year yet, we just know it and these 10 tips can help you make all your content dreams come true. Whether you’re a dedicated blogger or a newbie just entering the game, these get-fit tips will help you create content readers want to read and share.