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influential content

#ContentWritingChat Recap: How to Create Influential Content & Become a Strong Editor with Stephanie Stahl

Want to learn how you can create influential online content?

Wondering how you can strengthen your editing skills and polish everything you write before hitting publish?

Well, you’re in the right place! In this month’s #ContentWritingChat, we talked all about becoming a better writer and editor. Let’s dive into the recap!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: How to Create Influential Content & Become a Strong Editor with Stephanie Stahl

Our guest host for this chat was Stephanie Stahl. She’s the General Manager for our friends over at Content Marketing Institute. And we were so thrilled to have her joining us to share some of her top content creation and editing tips with us!

Q1: What qualities make a piece of content influential?

We all want to create influential content that resonates with our target audience, right? But you might be wondering what exactly makes a piece of content influential and which qualities you should embody. Here’s what you need to know:

Stephanie feels influential content contains three key qualities: credibility, creativity, and emotion. Does your content have these things?

For Gaby, it’s all about having a solid understanding of who your audience is. You simply cannot create the content they’re searching for if you don’t take the time to get to know them!

Jason feels influential content should trigger an emotional response in your reader. This is a huge part of establishing a connection with your audience.

According to Gene, influential content should be well-written, well-researched, and show deep insight.

Authority is a must for influential content! Kristen feels you can show your authority through your own experiences, but also through research and opinions.

Rebecca also feels that influential content should have an authoritative voice.

Lexie said that content is influential when it makes you think and act. Is your content inspiring your readers to take action?

Alexa’s advice is to make sure your content is engaging. She also said you should provide something useful to your audience, not something redundant.

Q2: How can you be sure you’re creating content that resonates with your target audience?

It’s important that our content is written with our target audience in mind, but is there a way to make sure it’ll resonate before hitting publish? Check out this advice:

As Stephanie said, you need to treat your audience like your best friend. Get to know what they like and what they don’t so you can create the content that’s most appealing.

Kylee knows that you can’t start writing unless you’ve done your research about who your target audience is.

Lexie agrees that it’s all about getting to know your audience first. Talk to them and build a relationship first so you can understand their needs.

Active listening is where it’s at! Gaby knows this is a great way to discover what your audience is interested in and what they need help with.

One thing you can pay close attention to is whether or not your audience is converting on your content. As Sarah said, you want your audience to take some type of action after reading your post. If not, it’s time to make some changes.

Like Michelle said, sometimes it just requires a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your audience when striving to create influential content.

You’ll want to pay close attention to your metrics if you want to figure out what’s truly performing the best. Caitlin suggests looking at the common qualities that your most popular pieces of content share. You can even ask for feedback from readers.

While you’re doing some trial and error, your analytics will become your best friend. As Alexa pointed out, the data you find here will help you create content that resonates.

Q3: What are the essential elements that every great piece of online content should have?

So, you want to make sure your content stands out! Well, there are a few things that great content always has. Here they are:

For Stephanie, great content has credible research, compelling interviews, an empathetic voice, and a little bit of drama. She also said it’s important to help your reader understand any facts and figures you quote so they’ll see why it matters.

Gene knows that a winning headline is key to a great piece of content! If your headline isn’t grabbing attention, people won’t bother to click. Just avoid clickbait titles!

Sarah said content should speak directly to your audience, include a CTA, have credibility, and be easy to read. She also suggests having a good visual layout and overall experience for website visitors.

Headers, images, and links! All three of these elements are essential according to Rebecca. Use headers to split your blog post into sections and break up text. Images help provide captivating visuals. And links give readers more content to consume on the topic.

Lauren agrees that visual elements are a must for influential content. Plus, they’re great for sharing on social media.

Claire’s advice is to make sure your copy is friendly and relatable. This will draw your audience in, not repel them. Plus, she mentioned the importance of cutting down on jargon, particularly if it’s something your audience won’t understand. Write in a way that’s easy for them to get what you’re talking about.

Q4: Are there any key things editors should keep an eye on during the editing process? Tips to make it easier?

Editing your content doesn’t have to be stressful! If you can outsource it, that’s great. But if not, this important tasks falls on your shoulders. These tips will help you polish your content so it shines:

This is great advice from Stephanie!

Lexie suggests reading through a piece of content in its entirety before making any edits. This way, you can see if it paints the full picture you envisioned. If not, you’ll have some changes to make.

Gene loves to use the Hemingway app to make sure his writing is clear and easy to read. The app helps him keep sentences short and understandable. And since he keeps paragraphs short, it makes his content more readable.

Reading your content aloud can make a huge difference! This helps Lauren spot any mistakes she might have missed.

One piece of advice that Gaby shared was to use a style guide. You can create one for your own content or refer to one if you’re working with a client. This way, you can be more consistent in the voice you write with and the overall appearance of the content.

Think about the education level of your readers before you begin writing and while editing. As Caitlin said, sometimes the writer can be more advanced in an area than the reader. This can lead to the usage of jargon or complex ideas that your audience might not understand.

Q5: What are the top mistakes writers make when editing their content and how can editors help them?

When it comes to editing, we sometimes make mistakes! To avoid them, check out these mistakes shared during the chat so you can be on the lookout:

Being too wordy is definitely a no-no! Stephanie knows a great editor can help cut out any unnecessary words while still keeping the main points in tact.

Not editing your work is definitely a mistake! While it may be tedious at time, it’s worth it to review your content before hitting publish.

Since Sarah edits her own content, she knows how challenging it can be sometimes. Her advice is to step away for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes. This way, you’ll be more likely to catch mistakes and spot places for improvement.

Michelle’s advice is to read your work aloud, take some time away and then return to it, use a tool and/or a human editor to catch mistakes, and change the font to better spot errors.

Lauren says you shouldn’t rely on the same old words and phrases all the time. Don’t be afraid to switch things up a bit!

When it comes to editing, you also have to recognize when enough is enough.

Q6: When editing a blog post, how can we determine its readability and whether or not it will captivate our readers?

Readability is very important when it comes to your blog posts. But what exactly makes a post readable? These tips will help!

If an editor stumbles over details, gets confused by the point, or gets bored… That’s a sign something needs to change. If your editor feels like that, there’s a good chance your reader will too.

Lexie suggests reading through your content from start to finish without making edits. Were you able to get through it or did you get bored? Boring content needs some work!

Jennifer suggests using the readability analysis in WordPress if that’s where your site is hosted. It can provide some helpful insights into where you can make improvements.

Kylee knows that big chunks of text are definitely a NO! She also said to make sure your content flows from one paragraph to the next.

Having big chunks of text makes your posts harder to read. Break things up into smaller paragraphs, utilize headings, bulleted lists, and images to enhance readability.

Q7: Are there any tools you rely on to be both a better writer and editor?

There are plenty of tools out there that can improve our writing and editing skills. Which ones are worth trying out though? Here are a few suggestions:

Stephanie knows there are plenty of great tools out there, but sometimes it just doesn’t compare to a red pen!

Julia suggests taking in reader feedback, get critiques from a pro, and to read and write often.

Lexie knows that it’s all about practice. To be a better writer, you have to consistently practice writing.

Gaby is definitely a fan of Grammarly!

Lauren relies on Google Docs because it’s easy to use when editing content. It allows you to leave notes and see where changes have been made.

Danielle’s go-to tools include CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and the Hemingway app.

Mara is also a Grammarly fan, but she also knows that her co-workers make all the difference when it comes to editing.

Never stop reading! You can get so much inspiration from reading what others have written. But as Lauren suggested, just try putting your own spin on things.

Q8: If we want to strengthen our content creation skills, are there any resources we should check out?

While you’re checking out all of those suggested tools, here are some additional resources to use:

Gaby suggests taking online classes, reading case studies, collaborating with others, and more. All are great options for strengthening your skills.

Danielle loves to listen to the interviews on the Longform podcast.

Influential content just isn’t the same without great graphics! Our favorite is Canva, but Michelle also loves Pablo by Buffer.

Ready to join #ContentWritingChat for yourself? We chat on the first Tuesday of every month at 10 AM Central! Just follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat for all the latest.

25 Editing Tips For The Modern Copywriter: How to Go Beyond Typos & Edit for Gold

Today, being a great copywriter also means being a great editor.

Gone are the days of simply tapping out a piece and sending it off to an editor somewhere, who will clean it up, polish it, and make it ready for publication.

Not only will this approach make your editors want to pull their hair out, but it also won’t do anything to help you grow your skills!

Instead, it’s critical for today’s working copywriters to hone their editing skills, so they can improve and strengthen their content as they write it, rather than simply doing a post-mortem when it comes back covered in red ink.

modern copywriter, modern copywriting, editing tips for copywriters

25 Editing Must-Dos for Smart Copywriters

To overhaul your editing game and write the best content of your life in 2017, follow these 25 smart editing tips:

1. Pay Attention While You Write

Great editing has its foundation in great writing. The more tuned-in and attentive you are as you write a piece, the easier it will be to edit later. With that in mind, start your editing process as you’re writing. Instead of writing with the television on, or in a loud area where you’re distracted by neighboring conversations, do yourself the courtesy of focusing entirely on the task at hand.

If you can work in a quiet office, that’s your best bet. If not, put on some headphones with some instrumental music that won’t damage your focus. Pay attention to every sentence you type and write like you’re going to go back and edit later. While you can’t expect your first draft to be Harvard Business Review-ready, you also aren’t doing anyone any favors by phoning it in.

2. Walk Away From All Your Content Before You Edit It

Want a recipe for terrible editing? Edit your content immediately after you’ve written it.

Writing is hard work, and forcing yourself to dive back into something with a fine-tooth comb after you’ve just wrapped up the writing process isn’t smart.

Instead, write your piece and then walk away for a few hours (at least), or a day.

This serves two important purposes:

  • It gives your brain a chance to let go of the content and view it with a fresh perspective later.
  • Secondly, it allows you to think about what you’ve written, and catch your own typos, misspellings, and grammar mistakes, which can be tough to identify when you dive right back in.

3. Read for Flow

Flow” is an intangible thing that all great writing has to have. If you read through your content and find that it’s jolty, confusing, or broken, you’ve got a problem. One great way to identify flow issues is to read your content out loud.

Since you’re the person who wrote the material, and thus the one who is most familiar with it, reading it out loud should be a piece of cake for you. If you stumble over words or get stuck, though, you can bet the flow needs some adjustment.

Read all your material for flow, before you even evaluate it for grammar or structure.

4. Strive for Powerful Intros

Content without a powerful intro is like a cake without frosting: boring, dry, and unappealing. To make your content exciting for both your editors and your readers, it’s essential to pay some additional attention to your intro. Ideally, your introduction should “grab” the reader, and make him or her intensely interested in what comes next.

Again, this is a component of editing that requires you to walk away from your content for a while. When you come back to it and read the first line, are you interested? Do you feel compelled? If you have a hard time making this judgement call yourself, ask a friend to read the material for you and give you their opinion.

Since strong intros are so essential to the overall readability of your material, putting in the time and effort to get them right will help overhaul your material, in the long run.

5. Use Tools to Grade Your Headlines

Today, crafting a great headline doesn’t require you to rely solely on your own creativity.

Tools like the Advanced Marketing Institute headline analyzer can evaluate your headline and “grade” it according to its concentration of intellectual, empathetic, and spiritual words, as well as metrics like length and keyword inclusion. 40%+ is a great grade to aim for.

headline analyzer

Instead of just rattling off a headline and calling it good, plug your next title into one of these machines and see what comes up. If your headline isn’t as strong as it should be, spend the time to fix it.

Remember: 80% of people read your headline, while only 20% read body copy, so investing in your headline is a smart decision.

6. Use Several Grammar Checkers

In the modern world, Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker won’t cut it. To make sure your content is web ready, run it through a few different checkers, such as Grammarly and the one on your word processor, to catch any mistakes you didn’t see with the naked eye.

7. Use Hemingway to Simplify Your Content

Hemingway is an app that helps make your writing “bold and clear.”

hemingway app

When you plug a content segment into the app, it highlights sentences that are difficult to read, proposes simpler words, and highlights passive voice. Ideal for anyone who writes for the web on a regular basis, this app is a great way to lower the reading level of your content and make it more appealing for multiple audiences.

8. Clean Up Your Language

As a copywriter, it pays to know the difference between casual voice and being unprofessional. While it’s one thing to seem warm and approachable, it’s another to alienate readers or editors with sloppy language.

What’s more, the latter can actually cost your clients business. With this in mind, read through your content for any language that can be enhanced and made more professional.

9. Avoid Self-Aware Statements

Editors hate reading statements like this one:

“Today, we’re going to give you ten tips to clean your gutters faster. Read on to find out more.”

Why, you ask? In addition to being annoying and interruptive, these statements aren’t necessary. (See my post on refining for gold, for more on this.)

If you’re writing well, your title and meta description will tell your reader what they’ll learn from the content, so you don’t need to reiterate it again in the body copy. What’s more, the assumption is that, if you’ve crafted a compelling introduction, your reader will want to read on, so you won’t have to tell them to do it.

When you avoid self-aware statements like this, you keep the flow of your content intact and provide a more enjoyable experience for your readers.

10. Don’t get Attached

To be a successful editor, you have to release attachment to your work. If you’re editing correctly, you’re going to hack away a good deal of the content you wrote in your first draft, and that’s okay. If you can stay un-attached to your material, you can see it for what it really is rather than what you wish it would be, which also allows you to adjust it as needed.

11. Save the Things You Chop

As you remove content from your first draft, open another document and drop it in there, instead. Editing is a fluid process, and you may find later that the piece you removed from the first paragraph fits well in the fifth. By saving your edited-out material until you’re sure that you no longer need it, you can create cohesive content that reads and flows well.

12. Edit In Small Bursts

Unless you’re editing a very small piece of content, you’ll want to edit in several short bursts. In addition to preventing overwhelm, this will also allow you to maintain a clear eye for the content and support the flow throughout the piece.

13. Anticipate Your Readers’ Questions

The worst thing you can create for a reader is confusion, so it’s essential to anticipate your readers’ questions as you edit your material. If, at any point, it seems like your information or thesis may not be clear for your reader, re-evaluate and correct it. The simpler your content, the better.

14. Shorten Everything

Concise content is readable content. This is as true for a 6,000-word monster post as it is a 500-word micro blog. To make your content more readable and user-friendly, shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Look for places you can eliminate unneeded words and phrases and simplify your language. When you make it easy for your reader, they’re more willing to want to engage.

15. Be Consistent

Inconsistency confuses readers in blog posts. With this in mind, keep your voice, references, terms, and phrases consistent throughout your content. The more reliable you are, the more trustworthy you’ll appear to readers and clients. Simple things, like inconsistent capitalization or punctuation can ruin an otherwise good piece.

16. Develop a Process

Everyone edits differently, but maintaining a process is essential for a flawless execution. No matter how you prefer to edit your material, hone it into a process you can rely on an execute every time you sit down to evaluate a piece. This will standardize your editing and make for more consistent finished products.

17. Check for Spelling and Grammar

Yes, great editing still requires that you check your spelling and grammar. Be particularly aware of simple word mix-ups that word processors don’t always catch (such as “compliment” and “complement”), or words that you’ve added to your personal dictionary that may be incorrect.

18. Break Your Sentences into Individual Words

As you read through your content, ask yourself if that word fits where you put it. Is there a better option? Would an alternative word communicate your point more effectively? If the answer is yes, change it. This kind of micro-focus will serve you well as you progress in your career as a writer.

19. Write Yourself Notes

As you move through your content, use your word processor’s “track changes” feature to leave notes in your material. The next time you make a pass through the content, refer to these notes and ensure you’ve resolved any issues of quality, clarity, or flow.

20. Make it Specific

Vague pronoun reference will sink great writing every time. With this in mind, replace vague words like “it,” “they,” “them,” and “stuff,” with more specific alternatives.

21. Take Multiple Passes

Edit your finished piece two or three times before you turn it in. While this may seem like overkill, being as thorough as possible will decrease the legwork you leave for your editors and make your finished material more enjoyable.

22. Take a Walk in Your Reader’s Shoes

Before you submit your material, think about it from your reader’s perspective. Does it answer their questions, provide value, and come off as relatable? Make any last-minute changes you might need to check all the boxes.

23. Format it Beautifully

Great content is formatted well. Use a readable font, standard font size, H2 and H3 tags, and bulleted and numbered lists to make your material reader-friendly and simple to skim.

24. Do the Skim Test

If you had to read your material fast, could you? Today, many readers skim content rather than reading it in its entirety. If your material doesn’t pass the “skim test,” it might need to be re-worked.

25. Be Ready for Feedback

Once you’ve passed the content along to your editors, be receptive of feedback. Cruel editors are few and far between, and everyone benefits when editors and writers work together to create better content.

Better Editing Starts Here

While most writers believe that editing isn’t their responsibility, these 25 steps can make you a better writer, a better team member, and, yes, a better editor! All writing benefits from great editing, and honing your own skills is a fantastic way to become a more in-demand copywriter.

Need copy editing help? We have expert editors on staff ready to help you!

online content improvement

7 Surefire Ways To Improve Any Piece Of Online Content You Create

Ever written something, and walked away from it?

If not, you should try it—today.

Coming back to the same piece after an hour or a full day gives you a whole new lease on your content. Typos, grammatical whoopsies, and flow issues are a few things you’ll spot in a literal second after you give your eyes (and fingers) a break from the keyboard.

In today’s content world, delivery is critical.

It could mean the difference of someone reading your content, or not.

So, whether you’re a seasoned writer or a novice, it’s important to know where you need to improve — all without wasting too much of your time.

Self-editing is your key. This not only catches those pesky grammar errors and typos, but it could dramatically improve the delivery—and ROI—of your copy.

Learn 7 quick edits that will make your copy fun, engaging, authoritative, and 100% better than the first time you drafted it. Save this and next time you craft up new content, come back to our list.

online content editing

Self-Editing Is A Must No Matter What Online Content You’re Writing

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing.

Landing pages, web content, blogs, or your email responses to your bestie.

Taking the time to edit and make small (but necessary) changes will make a dramatic difference in how your copy is received.

WordStream highly recommends self-editing. In fact, they recommend editing your work ruthlessly and as if you are your harshest critic.

Why?

Everyone else will read over your copy with just as much scrutiny. If you do so first, you can catch the errors and potential lackluster statements that will turn readers away.

7 Genius Edits That Make You A Copywriting Superstar

Readers today are hard to grasp. So, you need to get their attention (and do so quickly). Once engaged, you have them at your fingertips. Of course, all it takes is a single error or loss in flow to lose their attention for good.

To avoid this very hazard, here’s what we suggest:

1. Go With The Flow

Have you ever visited a website only to see a wall of text and tap the “back” button as quickly as possible?

Most internet readers will do the same when they see such a wordy travesty.

The idea of sifting through such a massacre of words isn’t appealing to even those with tons of free time on their hands. So, don’t bombard your readers. Instead, give them what they crave.

What is that?

Readers today crave organization, easy-to-digest sentences, and small tidbits. They want it all to soak in slowly.

Nothing kills it for a reader more than improper flow, and improper flow wastes an excellent article to boot.

When you’re self-editing, purposely press that “Enter” key every few sentences. Aim for one to three sentences per paragraph max. Your grade school teacher may groan, but she’s not writing online for today’s reader; and, you’re not trying to get an “A” in English Literature 101.

A few ways to improve your flow:

  • Vary your sentence lengths.
  • Avoid choppy, awkward sentences.
  • Get rid of fluff or needless words.
  • Utilize the power of transitional words and phrases.

2. Open With Something Relatable And Oh-So-Yes-Worthy

Have you ever read an opening paragraph that made you nod in agreement?

That’s your goal here.

Open up with something relatable to the reader. They found your article or blog, but now you need to remind them what they were looking for.

Touch on emotional value here, but be honest and sincere.

Susan Gunelius at Forbes wrote an excellent piece on creating brand stories with high emotional value. In her words, stories are the perfect catalyst to building brand loyalty and brand value.”

3. Break It Up — But Keep It Organized

The more you break up the content, the easier it is to digest.

By that we mean, use sub headers. Organize your thoughts into main advantages and topics, then use those key advantages for creating sub headers.

Bold them too.

Bolding points out to the reader what they need to know and what they will learn if they stick around to read what you’ve written.

4. Don’t Be Shy With The Bullet Points

Bullet points are magical for copywriting.

They break up walls of text and make them easier to take in.

Even better, they let you jet out your ideas while keeping the reader focused.

When making bullet points, think of an outline. You’re not writing a novel here.

Organize the text and make it scannable. You can bold key points and then add tidbits after that to highlight what you’ve just said.

Copyblogger’s Robert Bruce wrote an excellent blog on creating bullet points people want to read. He recommends bullet points because they keep people reading and provide a clear benefit to the reader.

5. Avoid The Clichés and Buzzwords

cliche

Clichés are used so often that they can lose their impact.

The same goes for buzzwords. Buzzwords are overused and may irritate some readers; forcing them to leave the page.

Avoid distracting people with unnecessary wording and just stick to the facts. Sure, you can add in your own personality, but if you see a cliché or buzzword in your writing, remove it immediately.

Get extra guidance on what words to use (and which to edit out) from Oxford Dictionaries Top Tips for Word Choice.

6. Convert The Passive To The Active

Passive phrases are pesky — and we’re all guilty of using them.

Sometimes you can’t help it.

But, passive voice (or the overuse of it) can kill your content.

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab defines passive voice as the subject that is “being acted upon.” You can quickly identify a passive phrase by looking for forms of “be.” Note passive voice isn’t a grammatical error; it is a style choice.

An active voice provides brevity, clarity, and assigns responsibility. So, when active voice makes sense, use it.

7. Use Second Person Instead Of The Third Person

The third person is robotic and sterile.

It doesn’t speak to the reader.

Pronouns, like “you,” “your,” and “yours” (i.e. the second person) will help the reader picture themselves in what you are saying.

Your writing becomes more intimate, and creates a connection between you and your reader when you use the second person.

Now It’s Time To Tackle Your Work With Your Copywriting Knacks

You officially have our inside secrets for better self-editing.

Of course, now is the time to take what you’ve learned and implement it.

We recommend writing up your copy and taking a break. That way you are more apt to catch pesky errors, but also you have a break from the creative role so you can hop into the editing role.

Just remember, self-editing is a skill. Similar to your writing, you need to perfect that skill over time.

By implementing these seven quick tips, you can refine your editing and improve your writing; making you one marvelous copywriter.

Need incredible copywriters for your next project? Express Writers has a team of talented writers and equally remarkable editors to create beautiful content for your site. Visit our Content Shop to see what we can do for you!