77 Tips for Better Content
We all dream of better content. Content that gets read, shared, linked to and sells your product. And there’s more to good content than simply “writing better”. So here are 77 tips for better content that you can take action on today. Some of them involve more than others, but all of them help you to produce the right content for the right people.
Before you start
1. Analyse your competitors
Before you start any content production, you should understand what your competitors are doing. They may be having lots of success with certain types of content produced to a certain type of audience. So it’s important to find your competitors and analyse what they are doing.
2. Understand your perfect customer
The best customer for your business may be different from the easiest customer for your business. So research it! Linked with competitor research, finding your perfect customer is essential for any business.
3. Understand your audience
But your audience and your customer may be slightly different things. And understanding how your audience reacts to content is essential to a good content strategy.
4. Be on top of trends in your sector
Whether you’re in banking, wearable tech, pet food or garden gnomes, you need to be on top of your industry’s recent trends. Not only can they help you improve your product, but they can help you discover new topics for content that your audience are really interested in.
5. Be on top of marketing trends
And on the same note, keeping up to date with the latest marketing trends will help you promote your content better. More eyeballs on your content should mean more sales, after all.
6. Research your topic
And this is the biggie. Research, research, research. You may feel like a subject matter expert, but that doesn’t mean there are blind spots in your knowledge. So fill them with research.
7. Keep business goals in mind
If your business plan involves selling a smaller product and then up selling, targeting the bigger product with your content can be a disconnect. Make sure you know and understand your business goals.
8. Always audit
Before you start any content marketing activities, it’s worth running a complete marketing audit.
Planning content can mean two things. 1) Plan your content marketing, and 2) Plan the individual piece of content. And both are vital.
10. Have a ToV
A ToV doesn’t need to be rigid, it can be bendable to fit to individual writers, but by having a consistent voice, your content links to each other much better, giving your readers something familiar to keep going back to.
11. Follow a style guide
Different from a Tone of Voice guide, a style guide is the foundation upon which you write.
12. Refer to your personas
But that Tone should fit to your personas, and so should your content. An article on an advanced web development may fit your business, but does it fit your personas?
13. Don’t write what your audience wants, write what they need
I’ll leave this one to Henry Ford:
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.'
15. Choose the content type that fits
You may really want to make a video, but is that the right content type for both your audience and your content?
16. Write what you know
We’re a big believer in subject matter experts writing content. Don’t force a content marketer to write about research automation, let the expert take care of it.
17. Read more - for blog ideas
And you can only become a subject matter expert by learning about the subject! So read, digest and take the best bits from across the web.
18. Learn some HTML
HTML basics are a great foundation for blog writing. Just learn how to insert images, links, format your text and a few other bits and bobs, and you’ve made life that much simpler.
SEO and Content Must-Haves
19. Use multiple keywords
There are many different keywords that may be associated with your article, so don’t simply stick to your primary keyword.
20. Keyword synonyms are your friend
And while you’re at it, use some common variations on your keywords. Not only does it look better for your reader, but it adds more potential keywords to your article.
21. Use LSI keywords
Linked to that, use LSI keywords. These are basically related keywords, but you can use a tool to find these semantically linked keywords. Some will be the same as your synonyms from above, but you may stumble upon some new gems.
22. Use multiple header tags
Keep your H1s for your headline, but spread the love with H2s and H3s throughout your content. And don’t be scared on H4s and deeper, too - if they make sense in the content flow.
23. Use related images
We are visual animals, so images are important. But don’t fill up your content with stock images. Only use the most relevant visual content to spice up your written word.
24. Don’t forget alt-text
But whatever image you do choose, don’t forget the alt-text!
25. Write compelling meta descriptions
Meta descriptions aren’t really for Google anymore. No, they’re for the user, so make sure to make them compelling.
26. Don’t forget opengraph
But there’s more than just meta now, so don’t forget OpenGraph for Facebook. It lets you set the image, too.
27. Link, link, link
Page Rank isn’t to be hoarded...spread the love and your readers will love you more.
28. Add sources
Quote from a case study? Mention it and link out. Quote someone? Mention them and link out. Not only does it add credibility, but they may reciprocate, especially if you reach out to them.
29. Natural anchor text is a must
Use anchor text that fits naturally into your sentence flow. Not only does it improve readability, but it’s better for SEO.
30. Spend time on headlines
Often it’s the headline that gets shared, not the article. So make sure your headline is on point.
31. Know how you want to end before you start
Don’t let an article run out of gas. By planning for the end, your content will have a better flow.
32. Write to an individual
A great tip for writing better copy is to write as if you’re writing a letter to an individual. Your persona may be a good start.
33. Audience first
And it doesn’t matter how perfect your SEO game if the content isn’t tailored to what your audience needs.
34. Write headlines for the platform
Headlines should be different for different media. Twitter reacts differently to Facebook, which reacts differently to Medium, and on and on.
35. Focus on the flow
How your reader digests your article can be even more important than the information contained in it. So get your content flow right.
36. Sub-headlines should tell a story on their own
Not everyone reads the entire article, they just scan. So make your article scan worthy with sub-headlines that tell a story.
37. One thought, one sentence
Each sentence you put down on the page is one single thought. More than one thought per sentence and it can be hard to follow. So keep it simple.
38. Keep paragraphs short and to the point
And on the same topic, each paragraph should be short and to the point. One concept per paragraph, with 2-5 sentences exploring thoughts within that concept.
39. Use a list
Lists have 2 purposes. 1) It’s a great way to break up your content. 2) Google loves them.
40. Always refer back to titles and subtitles
Each new paragraph should start by referring back to the previous paragraph and previous sub-headline. It just helps the flow.
41. A new story, or an old story told in a new way
One good rule of thumb: good content is either a completely new story (a case study, for instance), or an old story told in a new way. Disney films are a great example of this.
42. Your lead is vital
After the title, those first few words are what turns your visitor into a reader. So make them count.
43. Keep it simple
If the basis of an article cannot be condensed into a short, succint excerpt, it’s too complicated. KISS!
44. Write now, edit later - Stephen King
Hemingway has another variant:
Write drunk, edit sober.
Put simply, get those words onto the page, and clean it up afterwards.
45. Use emotion
Don’t rely on me to tell you emotion is key. Listen to this guy.
46. Tell a story
And that emotion thrives when you give it a good story to tell. So learn from advertising, and work stories into your copy: it makes you more human.
47. Use as many words as you need to say what you need to say
Content should not work to word counts. If a topic needs 4,000 words, give it 4,000 words. If it needs 200, give it 200. Don’t stretch it out thin across the page, or squeeze it into a tiny box. Give it the space it needs to tell the story you want it to tell.
48. Avoid passive voice
A simple one here. Just head over to Hemingway App, and let the AI tell you all about it.
49. Avoid repetition
Don’t repeat yourselves. Just like stretching out a story too long, it will bore your audience...
50. Unless it adds emphasis
In the right circumstances, repetition of a word or phrase can boost conversion rates.
51. Write for sharing
Short sweet snippets of info are great for social sharing. Like this one.
52. Give actionable insights
Content Marketing is in the business of giving people new information or ideas. So give them something tangible, something they can takeaway, and they’ll be truly grateful.
53. Don’t go off-piste
Remember to stick to your topic. Sometimes you get a great idea and it all comes out in a flow. But if it’s not on topic, it doesn’t get published. But don’t throw it out.
54. If you do, copy that out and keep it for later
When it does happen, simply copy it out and put it into a file for later. It may be perfect for new content.
55. Stats and data back anything up
Without data, it’s just your opinion. Which is fine if you’re Warren Buffet. But if you think that man doesn’t use industrial quantities of data, I’ve got something to tell you...
56. Deliver the content your headline suggests
Linked to this, you need to deliver what your readers expect. You can’t promise one thing, and then deliver something else. Or can you?
57. Get to the point! Don’t ramble
If you’ve made your point, backed it up with data, and told your audience how to replicate, there’s no need to keep banging on. That’s a sure fire way to lose a reader. Best case: they’ll skim on. Worst case: that’s a click away.
58. Comedy is a great icebreaker
Many experts sugget steering clear of comedy in content. But, so long as it fits to your brand, there’s no reason not to introduce a funny anecdote. Just keep it relevant.
59. And don’t overdo it
Excessive or forced comedy, however, is a big turn off. Probably the biggest.
60. Vary sentence length
I’ll let this graphic tell the story.
61. A picture is worth 1,000 words…still had to be written
Images are a vital part of storytelling: we are visual animals after all; but descriptions are still important. Let the images be the hook and free the words to do the heavy lifting.
62. Refer to other articles you have written
If you’re writing on a related topic, there’s a good chance someone will want to read that other article. So link to it. Plus, internal linking is vital for SEO.
63. Perfect grammar is not a must, but readable grammar is
We can get bogged down in a world of perfect grammar and tiny mistakes being picked up on. But that sentence was not perfect grammatically. Most people won’t notice, and in fact many grammar “rules” make your sentences less readable. Clarity always comes first.
64. The power of 3
A neat trick when writing is the magic triad. 3 words or phrases put together to increase impact. It works and it has worked throughout history. So use it to draw people in.
65. Break up the flow occasionally
Flow may be vital to drawing your reader down the rabbit hole, but sometimes you want to make them pause. So break the flow. That triad? Stop it short at 2. Add in a 1 word sentence, or even paragraph. But not often.
While grammar may not be the be all and end all, making sure your content is readable is. So check it with one of these 2 great tools.
67. Cut, cut, cut
Your first draft should not be your final draft. In all likelihood you’ve got a ton of content in there that doesn’t add enough value. So cut it. And cut again.
68. Kill your babies
We all have them. Short phrases or expressions that we create and fall in love with. They’re our babies and we couldn’t possible cut them from our content. Well, sorry, but they need to die. Most of the time, these “babies” are holding you back from seeing the bigger picture. So get rid of them.
69. Doesn’t matter how good it is if no-one sees it
Of course, no matter the brilliance of your prose, if no-one sees it, it’s not brilliant. Get it out there! Share, promote, syndicate: get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
70. Write “series”
Sometimes you can’t fit everything you want to say into 1 article. So don’t. A series of content can be very effective at driving engagement across more than one platform.
71. Syndicate your content across platforms
And it’s your use of those platforms that is key. Don’t just post to your blog, look to Medium, to other blogs, to newsletters, to YouTube and social sites, and to anywhere else where your content would fit.
72. Change the format
And if it doesn’t fit, try out a new format. Making a video out of an article, or an infographic out of a slideshow is a great way to boost your content’s reach.
73. Create a newsletter
One format you should always use, though, is the newsletter. Keep it coming and fill it with snippets from your latest blog posts to keep interest high.
74. Keep track of useful data
Data is key to good performance. While you shouldn’t be driven by it, great content metrics simply help you produce better content.
75. Keep track of comments
Comments are a great way for you to not only see what’s working but get more ideas for future content. So keep track of all your comments and refer back to them whenever you need ideas.
76. Update your content when useful
Sometimes new information becomes available. And when this happens you have two choices. Write a new article, or update the old one. The latter not only refreshes old content but can give it an instant boost, making it a great choice.
77. Any rule is there to be broken
Rules are not there to be rigidly adhered to at all times. If you think breaking a single content rule would bring you more impact, do it! Don’t produce a rigidly perfect piece of content that doesn’t perform. Be creative and bend the rules, that’s what they’re for.