Halloween is one of the spookiest times of year. If you’re a content professional, the only thing scarier than a low-budget horror movie or a Stephen King novel are your haunting content mistakes. Let’s face it, bad writing and bad content are pretty horrifying. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most gruesome and truly frightening mistakes that no writer can afford to make.
1. Failing to proofread
Maybe you’re in a hurry and you think it’s ok to just skim through your copy. Don’t! Spelling and grammar mistakes are among the biggest turn offs for readers. It looks unprofessional and lazy, and diminishes your authority. If you’re not a natural grammar whiz, then get your colleagues to put some fresh eyes on your content. Or, you could even hire a proofreader. Better yet, why not use software that will check it for you?
Remember, even the best of us miss things sometimes, so it’s essential to always check, check, and recheck your work.
2. Not citing your sources
Anyone can make big claims in their content, but if they’re not backed up by citations, they lose impact. Worse yet, you’re not giving credit where credit is due. You don’t need to back up every assertion, but you should cite statistics and major ideas that aren’t your own or aren’t commonly known. You don’t want to be accused of plagiarism.
3. Referencing out of date or unreputable sources
Finding new and reputable research can take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Linking to outdated statistics to make a point about a current scenario isn’t only lazy, it could invalidate your entire argument. Industry, educational, and government websites all have a treasure trove of evidence you can use. If you find a good stat mentioned in a less-than-authoritative article, go and find the original research. If you put in the work, you’ll find the treats, while avoiding the tricks.
3. Not knowing your audience
Not knowing your audience is one of the worst content creation mistakes you can make. Don’t assume you know who you’re trying to reach. Instead, take the time to find out. There’s no point in creating highly technical content for a layperson, or watered-down articles for academics. By knowing your audience, you’ll be able to create content that resonates with them, rather than leaving them in a scary rage.
4. Neglecting headlines and subheadings
The headline you choose can make all the difference about whether or not someone will read your article. It needs to be engaging and alert the reader to what they should expect. Subheadings break up walls of text, allowing readers to scan and hone in on the parts of your content that are most relevant to them. People have short attention spans. You need to do everything you can to draw them in.
5. Producing boring, repetitive content
Content creators are under constant pressure to produce innovative, interesting content for their clients. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut. Is this fresh and new? Is it relevant? Is it a new angle on the subject? To avoid falling into this trap, take the time to do original research, read up on the industry, and look for new takes.
6. Your content isn’t diverse enough
Mix up the kinds of content you’re creating. Sticking to the same format every time gets stale. After all, there’s more to life than blog posts. You could use longer form content, infographics, how-tos, case studies, and educational articles. Keeping it fresh means keeping your readers coming back.
7. Your topics are too narrow
Successful content marketing strategies look to stretch the topics they cover. If you’re only writing about one topic — say your product or service — your readers are bound to abandon you. Good content marketing produces articles on a range of topics, including those that are only tangentially related to what you’re selling. So if you want to reach new audiences who may have never heard of you before, try expanding your repertoire.
8. Your content isn’t meaty enough
Whether your piece is 300 words or 2,000+ words, it needs to have value and give the reader something to take away. While longer form content is becoming more popular, longer content doesn’t necessarily mean better content. Make sure you’re giving the reader actual meat and not just fat. Keep your content lean, bloody, and on point.
9. You’re not producing evergreen content
Writing about trending topics is important, and can help with views and shares. However, timeless or “evergreen” content has lasting value beyond that week or year. It doesn’t become obsolete and will bring in new traffic and readers long term. Like the immortal Dracula, it’ll live forever.
Don’t get spooked by your mistakes
We all make errors, but by keeping your eyes peeled (figuratively, not literally) you should be able to shock your readers by your brilliant content, not by your horrifying mistakes.
For more on how error-free content can double the impact of your content strategy, grab a copy of our research report: The ROI of Great Content