People who know me and enjoy reading my stuff know that I normally don’t write posts like this. But I just have to get this off my chest.
There are so many people asking “Why won’t people share my posts? What am I doing wrong?” Are you one of them? If yes then I feel your pain. I have been there. When we have started trendblog.net in October 2012 we were really happy when we got a couple of shares on Facebook and a couple of tweets to our articles. And why? First, nobody knew us. We were just a tiny little blog with around 5-6 published articles about really specific online marketing topics. Second, we didn’t know yet how to produce great content, which would actually add value.
We wrote articles about things that we have encountered in the office (specific problems) or some general technology stuff. In my opinion there is nothing wrong about these kind of posts. Actually, I think this is what people are actually looking for – solutions to their problems. But why didn’t we get successful with this approach?
One thing we were doing wrong is… we didn’t spend enough time writing our posts! You might think “duh”, but this is actually something that not too many beginner bloggers know and understand.
During the last couple of months I have been looking closely at our website’s analytics, checking social shares and had the Google Analytics real-time view opened constantly. This way I could paint myself a picture of what worked for us and what didn’t.
Looking at all this data I have noticed something, which was actually on the surface and quite obvious to me: I saw a strong correlation between how much time we have invested into writing a single piece of content and the amount of traffic it has received. The less time we have spent writing a post, the less traffic it got. Simple as that.
One of our recent posts has got quite a lot of attention on social media. Why? Because it was the right content for the right audience (look at the stats for the different social media channels).
You have probably seen a lot of presentations and read tons of blog posts in which the authors/presenters said one thing – add value. There are countless “inspirational” YouTube videos and success stories which are telling you to do the same. But let’s think about this for a moment. Adding value… What does this actually mean? Does it mean helping people? Does it mean that you have to write interesting stuff?
What I ask myself when writing my posts is “OK Daniel, why are you writing this?”. Even when writing the shortest 200-word posts or covering recent news. I find that asking yourself this question will keep you from producing content which, basically, sucks! If there is no reason for you to write what you want to write – then don’t.
Brian Solis, media specialist, keynote speaker and bestselling author, once posted something that every blogger or content producer of any kind should understand deep down:
Silence is golden. Do not break it unless you can enrich it… pic.twitter.com/as4ueiGpbh
— Brian Solis (@briansolis) May 18, 2013
Treat people like you want them to treat you
Some people are foolish enough to think that anything they write will be perceived by the audience as something great. Please (PLEASE) don’t think that you can get away with crap. Every human being with at least a bit of intelligence has a built-in BS meter, which flashes red as soon as the person sees crap-content sold as something extraordinary. You may be a specialist in your field, but we know when people try to deceive us.
Adding fancy words to your post doesn’t make it better and writing in your author bio that you are a “Social Media Guru” will just make your most valuable readers laugh. Still, there will be some people who you will trick with this. But do you really want to write FOR them? Would YOU want to talk to these people? I don’t think so.
I know, sometimes you don’t have enough time to produce great posts or whatever you do. But you know what? Everybody can. Just ask yourself a question: “How long will it take me to write something great?”. If your answer is a week, then post once a week! You don’t have to stuff your blog or YouTube channel with mediocre content just for the sake of posting something. You can’t afford to.
Would I like to read what I write?
In my opinion, it’s all about authority and reputation. Getting recognised by people within your field is hard. But it’s much harder to gain their trust back once you’ve lost it.
Knowing all this, how can you improve the stuff you write and get people to like it? (Sidenote: You actually can’t MAKE anybody like your content, this will happen naturally as a result of hard work and deep understanding of what you do and where you stand at the moment). Anyway, here are a few tips, which should help you to get where you want.
Know your audience
Back when we started trendblog.net we didn’t really know our audience. It was just a number in our reports (yes, reports are important). I had no idea who I was talking to in my posts and who might find my posts helpful and interesting.
It is very important that you know who you are writing for and what would interest them. Not knowing your audience is just like treating a patient as a doctor, having no idea what the issue is. You simply can’t help this person (and you might eventually kill him/her).
1. Look at your analytics
If you were smart enough to install Google Analytics or any other kind of website analytics system you already have some data to look at. There are two GA tabs, which are especially important for you – “Audience” and “Traffic Sources”. Do you see a lot of international traffic? Do you see traffic from Pinterest? Look at where your readers come from, both geographically and digitally.
2. Talk to people
Obvious, right? Yet only a few people actually go out there and to talk to their audience. This doesn’t mean that you have to go on the streets and ask random people about your website. Use channels where your target audience already is! You have a fashion blog? Then your audience is probably on Pinterest. Writing about technology? Reddit is the place to go. Ask people who already follow you on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
3. Listen to people
The great thing about the internet and social media is that you can find the things you want pretty easily. Now go on and do one thing: go to twitter.com/search-home and search for your company’s name and have a look at what people are saying about you. You should also visit Quora ans look what questions people ask. Listen to your audience and act accordingly.
Also, think about what kind of problems your audience might have. Learn how to solve these problems (if you don’t know the solution already) and write about it.
How to produce better content
Ok, now you know who you are talking to. So how do you produce valuable content?
1. Know your stuff
There is nothing worse than reading posts which are simply wrong. Have you ever read a post and facepalmed (if this is a word)? This is exactly what I mean. Don’t be that guy. Get your facts straight and research the topic you are writing about.
2. Be “real”
I, personally, like talking to people who are genuine, authentic and cut the BS. Be “real” with your audience. Don’t pretend to be somebody you are not.
3. Invest time
Investing enough time into writing a post is essential for filtering out crap and keep you from posting it. I call this the 3-2-1 rule.
- 3x hours – research
- 2x hours – writing
- 1x hour – editing and visuals
(Where “x” is the estimated complexity coefficient. It will differ from article to article, but should be at least x=1)
This doesn’t mean that you have to write for 6 hours straight. Spread them over a few days if you need. If you can set yourself a minimum limit on the time spent writing a post you will inevitably increase the quality of your content.
Everybody is good at something. And everybody has enough time to write something great (doesn’t apply to all top-level executives). So go out there and look where you are standing. Not even near your goal? Reevaluate your strategy and, if necessary, change it. Not satisfied with the current situation? Great. Never be.
I hope this post will help you to produce more valuable content, whether it’s a blog post, YouTube video, podcast or something else. I would appreciate if you could share your thoughts and tell me what you think about all this. Thank you.
TL;DR – Stop doing this. Now go on and read the whole damn post.
Cover image courtesy of Brian Solis