With Buzzfeed Inc. predicted to earn up to $120 million in revenue this year, it’s easy to understand why everyone and their pet guinea pigs are eager to jump on the blogging bandwagon. But with the bandwagon already jam-packed with similarly-minded content creators, how can we make sure our blogs are original and actually worth something to the people of the internet?
I’ve become increasingly frustrated at how “rehashed” content seems to be now, and a lot of so-called marketing blogs are some of the worst culprits. This is why I decided to write a plea of sorts, for writers everywhere to please keep original content alive! It’s not a call for you to toss SEO out of the window, but it is a case for well-written content that isn’t designed purely with SEO in mind.
Stop writing for SEO (no, but really)
“If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.” – Matt Cutts, Google Webspam team
SEO is the bane of my existence sometimes – I can’t tell you how frustrating it can be having to write 35 city-specific landing pages for the same company, all of them 400 words long and all of them written differently!
We hear people self-righteously declaring the importance of “not writing for SEO” all the time, but how many of us have actually been taking that advice seriously? And how can we not consider such a huge player in the traffic generation game when writing?
SEO matters, and it’s not going to stop mattering any time soon
But here’s the thing – if everyone just keeps on churning out utter crap in the name of SEO/link building/a deep need to prove themselves to their parents by making their herbal remedies blog wildly popular, then we’re all just losing. We’re saturating the internet with terrible to mediocre content, and wasting time that could be better spent writing genuinely good content that is naturally share-worthy because it’s actually valuable.
Basically, if your focus is on SEO rather than the quality of your content, you’re doing it wrong.
You might have to sacrifice quantity in the name of quality in order to improve your content, but you’re much more likely to cultivate a loyal following of engaged readers blog, which will no doubt improve your ROI dramatically.
If you don’t know about is, don’t write about it
You would think this would be obvious, but apparently not. If you do research into a topic before forming your own ideas and original ways to explain something new to people, then fine. But don’t simply rephrase seven other articles you’ve read on the exact same topic.
I feel so cheated when I click on a link (complete with Buzzfeed-worthy catchy headline, of course) only to discover that the writer behind the post knows even less than me about the topic they’re claiming to be somehow superior in their knowledge of. It’s annoying! Have some integrity and write what you know. And if you don’t know it yet, then learn it and then write about it in a way that brings something new to the table. Readers will respect you a lot more, and their desire to read your next post will be around 34967% higher (ballpark statistics according to me).
Tone down the dumbing down
Jargon isn’t ideal for any piece of writing, but neither is excessive summarizing. It’s important to make your posts appealing to the worse-than-a-goldfish attention span of the average 2014 human being, but you shouldn’t bullet point the crap (and substance) out of everything you write just to pander to people.
If you went to a conference by Mark Zuckerberg about using social media effectively, you wouldn’t demand that he speak for no longer than five minutes, would you? For people to respect writing more, we, as writers, should command respect! The problem with all these “5 Quick Ways to Find the Meaning of Life NOW” style articles is that they often fail to provide sufficient detail. (Um, hello – everyone knows it takes the 15-minute drive to Olive Garden and however long Waiter Jeff takes to provide you with bread-sticks to find the meaning of life.)
Your writing can be as unique as you are
Everyone on the planet has different thoughts, feelings, and ways they express themselves. Therefore, there’s no reason your writing can’t be original. By cultivating your own personal style, and maintaining it in all your writing (while obviously being adaptable where necessary), you should be able to make everything you write distinctive, and at original in at least some ways.
Disagree with the norm – even if the experts are saying it
Sometimes, everyone ever seems to have the same opinion, but you just don’t agree with it. Instead of shying away from arguing against seemingly well-informed gurus, voice your own thoughts! Maybe they’re wrong, but expressing them should at least open up some hearty discussion and enlighten all who get involved. Don’t be afraid of those who shout the loudest – if you have good reason to think your beliefs are valid, then share them.
Know the difference between original content and original ideas
You’ve probably heard people say that “there are no original ideas”. Whether or not that’s true, your content can certainly be original. You don’t have to be presenting some ground-breaking new discovery that no one knows about in order to ooze originality – you just have to give people a reason to want to read your writing, either because you presented an existing idea in a way that was better or different, or because you expounded on an idea in a way that no one had really thought about previously.
Don’t rush the writing process
Most writing benefits when you’re able to write something, go away for a while and do something else, and return to it with a fresher perspective and the ability to make it better. The fast-paced world of blogging can certainly put the pressure on writers to bust out content faster than it takes to say “nobody will want to read it”, but you should try to avoid diminishing the value of what you write by taking sufficient time to refine it. Forget what the latest infographic is telling you about how posting 7 times a day increases ROI by however many percent – focus on quality.
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not
One of my biggest pet peeves with marketing-related articles is the tendency for people to overstate their skills in a certain area. Sometimes it’s ok to not be an expert in something – no one really knows perfectly how to improve Page Rank, for example.
The goal of writing a post is to help people, so don’t make generalized, sweeping claims that you can’t really back up. We’re all guilty of it, because we want to seem confident in our writing. But opening up a topic for discussion may be better than simply acting like the expert in it. And don’t discount the value of quoting those who really do know about your topic – even if your post is just a solid compilation of the useful advice of others, people will still want to read it.
Tell original stories
We’ve all heard that great storytelling equals great writing, but how often do we actively try to include stories in our posts? Science shows that the effect storytelling has on our brains makes writing more engaging, as we become more emotionally involved in what we’re reading.
While you may not be able to come up with 100% original ideas, you can certainly come up with 100% original stories, whether they’re from your own experiences or fictional. This will give your posts a fresh edge, while encouraging people to keep reading.
Always stay creative
One thing that will always help your content stay original is keeping your creative juices flowing. There are numerous ways you can do this, and it’s really down to you how you choose to stay energized creatively, but just make sure you do. Don’t stay in a rut.
I hope this encouraged you to not sell out by rehashing existing online content. Above all, keep writing – it’s what will keep you good, and you’re much more likely to come up with original ideas when you’re constantly using your skills. Don’t let the tsunami of online content drown you – choose to surf the wave rather than swim with it! (Solid metaphor right there… minus the danger aspect.)
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.