Even professional writers make mistakes from time to time. But that’s okay because there’s often no better way to learn. Still, if you make the same mistakes over and over, you’re not really learning anything are you? In this article, I’ve outlined 9 most common content writing mistakes even professionals sometimes make. Hopefully, you’ll recognize those that you are doing and stop making them and you will also avoid any you might make.
Content Writing Mistakes #1. You Don’t Know Your Audience
Who are you writing your content for? Do you know your audience? If you haven’t defined your target audience, you can’t count on anyone to care for your content. Without knowing your reader, you won’t be able to get into his or her head.
Before you type (or write) a single word on your computer screen or notebook, you need to define your readers. Create a persona of them. Define their background. What age are they? Are they married? Do they have children? Think of the education they might have. What schools they’ve attended? What was their career path and where do they work currently? How do they get new information? What are their biggest challenges? There’s a lot more to consider here, so hop on over to this post on HubSpot for a handy free buyer persona template.
Creating detailed personas is important for knowing who you’ll write your content for. Once you have a clear picture of them, it will be much easier for you to deliver the kind of content your readers are interested in.
Content Writing Mistakes #2. You Don’t Research Enough
Not doing any or enough research won’t lead to anything good for your content. As far as content writing mistakes go, this is one you just don’t have any excuse making if you want to present yourself as an expert and thought leader in your field.
Research may sound like such a boring word for you, but without it, your content will fall flat. Nothing says “this guy knows what he is talking about” than actual evidence, studies and research data that can backup your content.
Content Writing Mistakes #3. You Don’t Think Your Headlines Through
Think of a headline as an entry point to your content. If the readers are interested in the headline, they will check the post you wrote as well. They may like the content or not, but they will at least look at it. Now, consider what happens when the readers don’t like your headline. They won’t even bother reading the rest of your content.
Your headline needs to offer a glimpse into what your content will be about. It has to be relevant to the rest of the content, and with that, relevant to the needs of your readers. It should grab attention just enough to guide the reader to peruse the article, where you can offer more information on the given subject. The headline needs to be creative, but not gimmicky. A lot of content writers try to be too funny or smart with their headlines, but then completely miss the original point. You need to avoid doing that.
If you want to know more about writing good headlines, I wrote a post about it earlier, so check it out.
Content Writing Mistakes #4. You Fail to Format Your Text
People have completely different reading habits when they have a book in their hands versus when they are reading an online web page. While it is completely okay for them to read big paragraph chunks in books, online that’s a big no-no.
Not formating your online text is one of the biggest content writing mistakes you can make and it can really drive readers away. Think of online readers more as “scanners” than as actual readers. Your content is competing with hundreds and thousands of other things on the Internet alone, so you should count yourself lucky if the reader even stops to look at it sometimes.
Consider that your readers are busy and even if they start reading your content, may not have enough patience to finish it all the way. To make this work your way, you need to implement the following into your content:
- Break the content with headlines and subheadings
- Use short paragraphs (maximum 5 lines).
- Use short sentences
- Use bullet points or numbers
- Bold important words to point the reader’s attention to them.
Content Writing Mistakes #5. You Don’t Proofread Your Content
Even the greatest writers in the history had someone to look over their text and hunt for poor grammar, or bad sentence structure. Imagine what it would look if Mark Twain was mixing “than” and “then” in his books. He wouldn’t be one of the bestselling US authors of all time, would he?
Luckily, we can correct our content writing mistakes much easier these days than mr. Twain could at his time. If you’re using Word, all you have to do is press F7 on your keyboard, and the program will hunt for misspelled words for you. Or you can use a more powerful online program, since Word still misses many mistakes you could make. The bottom line is – you don’t have any excuse to write content with poor spelling and grammar.
Content Writing Mistakes #6. You are Not Editing Your Content
While proofreading allows you to see what grammar or spelling errors you’ve made, editing is necessary if you want to further improve your content. Simply put, your first version will rarely be good enough to present it to your readers. Maybe you won’t strike lucky with the second version either. Or the third, fourth and fifth. Edit your content as much as necessary.
Here’s a trick about editing, though. Never do it immediately after finishing your draft. Your brain needs to take a rest from the content you’ve just been writing for the past hour or two. If you not, you won’t be able to spot what you did wrong with your content. So, before you start editing your work, go for a walk, grab a lunch, watch a video or read a book. Then return with rested mind and a pair of fresh eyes. You’ll see things much clearer.
I know editing is sometimes boring and we would all rather avoid it, but with it, you can make an okay post into a good one and a good one into a great one, so why not?
Content Writing Mistakes #7. You Don’t Think About SEO
Yes, you are writing for humans, but you need to show the SEO some love as well. Before writing your content, you should do some research to know what phrases and keywords will your readers most likely look for. This will increase the visibility of your content and make it easier for you to reach your target audience.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) rules are always changing and shifting and it can be difficult to follow them. SEO, however, is necessary if you want your content to get the attention you think it deserves.
Content Writing Mistakes #8. The “Writer’s Block” is Stopping You
All writers suffer from a writer’s block. But thinking of it as an insurmountable obstacle and giving up is one of the biggest content writing mistakes you can make.
What leads to the writer’s block? The biggest culprit here is perfectionism. Many content writers want their first draft to be “perfect”, so they sweat over every word, sentence or paragraph in order to make it “just right”. But that’s the problem. As you are constantly rewriting and thinking “I don’t like how this sounds”, you are losing your writing rhythm. Little by little, you hit the writer’s block.
So how can you beat the writer’s block? Neil Patel suggests using these 12 techniques:
- Turn off any digital distractions
- Don’t think, write
- Go on a vacation
- Drink coffee
- Change your working environment
- Clean your house or get a shower
- Listen to some relaxing music
- Read a book
- Go for a walk
- Play a video game
- Read or watch something inspirational
- Sleep on it
While there are points here that I don’t agree on, like changing your working environment (I think your brain works much better in a familiar surrounding) or drinking coffee (but that’s just because I don’t drink coffee myself), Neil is making some good observations here and most of these are very good ways to beat the writer’s block.
Content Writing Mistakes #9. You Don’t Have Your Own Style
We all know plagiarism is absolutely forbidden in writing. If you simply copy/paste someone’s work, Google will penalize your website for duplicated content. But what about the style? While there are plenty of useful tools such as Copyscape that can tell you if some of your content is duplicated, they can’t tell you if your writing style is also “borrowed”.
But unfortunately, for you, the readers will be able to tell.
What content writing mistakes have you been making? Would you add any other that I missed here? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article to your friends.