We are content creators, masters of the written word, honing each blog post until it cuts deep into the minds and hearts of consumers. At least that’s what we all want to believe.But the worthiness of our content is judged by readers we will never meet, and they don’t care about our egos or aspirations. They care about what’s in it for them.
And so, as we sit back after finishing a post, cracking our knuckles and smiling at the genius glowing on the screen, we should ask ourselves an honest question: Is this article really worth anyone’s time?
I don’t mean to discourage you by going there. Honestly, I’ve written volumes of content that was barely worth my time to read, let alone anyone else’s. I kept working at it, though, freelancing for several industries before starting my own business. I’ve never stopped learning and improving, and that’s the only way to create work you’re proud of.
But other marketers are forcing this question on us as well.
In the fall of 2016, Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi had some tough love to share with attendees of their signature event, Content Marketing World. He said, “I believe mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all.”
This sentiment was echoed by marketers across social media, all of them crying: “Yes! Create amazing content or GET OUT of content marketing!”
I understand the sentiment, and I agree with it. People are starting to understand it’s better to slow down the content machine and create better stuff. They are also starting to get that content marketing is not a part-time endeavor. You need to be completely invested if you want results.
I’m on board with these ideas 100 percent, but telling people to “Create amazing or do nothing” is a bad message. It’s the worst kind of marketing platitude, one that offers no helpful advice to people (who decides what “amazing content” is anyway?), and might actually encourage struggling marketers to just give up.
I admire Joe and Ann. They are incredible thinkers and I love their stuff, but "create amazing or do nothing" is the wrong message.
I’m going to offer another suggestion:
Okay, enough pep talk. Let’s circle back to the original question: Is your blog worth their time? If the answer is “probably not.” It’s time to do a little soul searching.
This is the biggest problem with blogging today. Everyone is producing lots of content, but very few ideas.
Earlier in my career, I wrote for some agencies that wanted every article researched from other websites. Not once did I get to interview a client and share their unique stories with readers. Later on, when I started working with my own clients, I made sure their perspectives made it into the articles. It made a difference.
I’m not jumping on a soapbox to tell you your work needs to be 100 percent original. I don’t think that’s possible in today’s world. Every industry has trends that come and go, and whenever something new pops up, we all write about it. Repetition and sharing is part of digital marketing, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
What I am saying is adding a pinch of you in the post will make your blog tastier. Share a new idea, or lesson your audience will appreciate. We are often so preoccupied with regurgitating information we forget how much people love a good story. Find something new to say. Don’t just repeat what others have written.
Working with freelance writers over the years has made me realize a couple things:
The latter is a problem I see more and more. Many businesses think the sole purpose of blogging is to score high search engine rankings, and the freelance writing community has responded by pumping up their profiles with claims of SEO expertise and digital marketing specialization. This usually means they obsess over working keywords into the copy as many times as possible.
This mindset is misguided and leads to shoddy work.
When everyone in the marketing community is doing the same tactic, it has usually outlived its usefulness. If you think keywords are all you need to generate leads with your content, you are in for a world of disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong, SEO is important. I just hate the way bloggers let it dominate their writing. The experience of reading their stuff is like drinking a lukewarm glass of milk on a blazing hot day. It's stilted and lifeless writing. Hardly satisfying.
Marketing is about differentiating ourselves from other businesses. Why do we insist on cranking out one article after another that sounds exactly like everyone else?
My advice is focus on the message. Be different. Be creative…and don’t forget your keywords.
Professional bloggers keep up on what’s happening out there. You’re probably active in several LinkedIn Groups, maybe following a podcast or two, trying to keep up on how to optimize your posts for greater impact.
You channel all this knowledge and expertise into an article, then someone you report to – a client or a supervisor – tries to take it in a completely different direction.
This is a difficult situation I find myself in all the time. Everyone is a marketing expert, and will try to change your work because they know what the audience wants. Here are some of the most common mistakes people want to make:
Regardless of the feedback, I always listen with an open mind. Good ideas come from everyone – not just blogging pros – but if you get a request that runs counter to well documented best practices, it’s your job to speak up.
You have to tactfully explain why their suggestion will hurt your efforts, and back it up with data and research when needed. After all, you are the one accountable for producing results. You have a responsibility to voice your concerns.
Sometimes people will listen, sometimes they will insist you do it their way. No big deal. The world will go on, but you must believe in yourself and make your voice heard.
Blogging is a risky way to make a living. Success is never guaranteed, even when you do all the right things, and only your readers, the buyers, will decide if you prosper. The best thing to do is be honest with yourself. Is your blog really worth their time? If not, it’s time to do things differently.
Anyone who tries to be different in a world full of homogenous voices on the Internet deserves high praise, regardless of whether or not you make a million bucks doing it.
This post has been updated in 2019.
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