Content marketing is certainly the golden child of 2014. Google has been slamming thin content for the last several years, but they cracked down even harder in 2014. Today, you need better content, some times longer content, and definitely more useful content.
Digital marketers are getting into the groove of producing higher quality content with real value. It is a beautiful thing – except when your content marketing strategy isn’t working. If you are following the top content marketing best practices and still not seeing results, the problem might actually be your writing.
Just because Google decided it wanted better content doesn’t mean we are all magically great writers. Take a look at these five writing habits and see if they might just be the culprits behind your lagging content marketing strategy.
1. The Double Space
Should you place one space or two at the end of a sentence? The writing community remains divided, so let’s look at where this practice started.
Before computers, all letters took up the same amount of space when typing – for example, a thin I and a much wider M were allotted the same space. Thus, the additional space was needed at the end of a sentence to show the difference between the space between words and the end of a sentence.
Then, the word processor arrived with all its fancy fonts – and the ability to group letters together based upon width. Today, nothing says outdated like two spaces at the end of a sentence.
2. Not Using The Oxford Comma
To use or not to use the Oxford comma? Like the double space, Oxford comma usage is hotly debated. I would argue for the purposes of content marketing, using the Oxford comma is a must.
The point of content marketing is to provide readers with useful, concise information that helps build your reputation as an industry leader. The Oxford comma helps clarify meaning, making your content easier to read and understand. Which, again, is the entire point of content marketing.
3. Listening to Your English 101 Professor
High school and college were likely formative times for your writing style. Remember the old “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” format? Toss it. What about using “one” instead of “you” or “I”? Toss it. You should not be using the academic research paper format when writing for your online audience.
Jason Brewer offers a good starting point for building your content marketing strategy:
“When considering a content strategy for your business, think about the reasons why people choose to interact with you online in the first place.”
I’ll bet your readers aren’t looking to read a research paper. (If they are, then by all means, stick to your research paper format!)
Instead of following your college professor’s outdated style guidelines, write in a way that positions you as approachable, informative, and entertaining. Your content strategy will be better for it.
4. Not Citing Sources
So, Twitter is the fastest growing social media platform, and Google+ is in second place. That is fascinating, but where did you get that information? Did you guess based on anecdotal evidence, make it up, or is your statement backed by solid research?
Show your reader they can trust the information you provide – so when you recommend that really awesome social media tool you have been loving they will actually believe you. Linking to your sources allows your readers to follow up and ensure the information you provide is correct, which in turn builds trust and credibility. And those are worth gold.
5. Not Rereading Before You Publish
As the copy editor for SEJ, I am a stickler for grammar and punctuation. But, for online writing purposes you really don’t need to stress out about the finer points of grammar. You DO need to make sure you reread your writing before you post it. Did you trail off in the middle of a sentence? Does your title say you’ll cover five points, but you only listed four? Rereading your writing helps ensure you publish the type of high quality content that will get you noticed.
Content marketing should be the cornerstone of your online marketing practices. But using outdated formats and poor grammar can turn readers off.
Are there other mistakes you see writers making? Share your grammar and online content pet peeves in the comments below!