So you’re giving content marketing a go and trying to get your articles published on more blogs. That’s great! Both guest posts and sponsored posts play a vital role in building your brand far beyond your own blog. Beware however, of Boring Post Syndrome, or BPS for short. It’s a silent killer that slowly saps your content of all life. BPS is the leading cause of content being declined for inclusion in our platform. Thankfully there his hope, if you catch it early.
The solution is what we call The 3 Step Process for Creating Compelling Content. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’ll help you get a lot more offers to host your guest content or sponsored posts. First, you’ll need to get into an inbound marketing mindset.
Inbound Marketing is about Pulling, Not Pushing
As a marketer, we understand that you have a message to get out. You have talking points, product features, a new service to introduce and so on. You have things you want to say because you probably think highly of your product– as you rightly should. What you have to say, unfortunately, matters little to the average blog reader.
You can’t push your message out in the wild. That’s not how guest blogging works. Your own blog can host promotional content, sure, but that same content isn’t appropriate when you’re a guest on another blog, hoping to connect with their audience. Yes, you are granted some extra room to tout your company when paying for a sponsored post, but that isn’t license to make your content an advertisement, either. Readers come for what interests them, and unless you’re starting with compelling topics, you won’t find good publishing opportunities.
Last week, I wrote that publishers don’t need your branded content as much as you need them. The message was that a brand marketer shouldn’t expect to commandeer a publisher’s readership just because he wants to do so as a guest, or even because he’s willing to pay for it. Let’s assume then, that you get that message loud and clear and you recognize your role in creating value for readers. Here’s where things get trickier.
Publishers spend nearly all of their time studying and responding to reader interests. Brands don’t– not at the same rate, anyway– because they’re focused on products, not content. When you don’t spend your days providing readers what they want, creating compelling topics can be a challenge from a creative perspective. Unless you have a process to follow.
The 3 Step Process for Creating Compelling Content
Google “compelling content” and you’ll find a wide variety of takes on the issue, many of them quite good. Here’s a recent short-but-sweet piece from The Klout Blog about to think about the process. This one from Convince & Convert provides brilliant insight wrapped in a Taylor Swift case study that shows you how to learn what your audience really thinks. Our own recent post about sourcing content helps find fresh new ideas when you don’t have any. Our 3 Step Process is simpler than all that, and comes into play when you’re ready to roll with a topic idea.
Before you get beyond the initial draft stage, ask yourself these three questions. If you can answer them clearly and convincingly, you just might have some compelling content on your hands!
1. Is someone asking the questions that my article answers?
This is the primary cause of most boring content. The topic doesn’t cater to anyone. Think: ball bearings. Mining equipment. Conveyor belts. Health and safety training courses for work. These are valuable things that real companies sell. They are no doubt worthwhile to a very niche audience on your own company blog who came searching for those topics to get a specific job done. But are they topics of interest for a wide audience? No.
When a writer is tasked with the job of writing an article related to a boring product, you get a boring article. It could be well-written and factually correct, but if no one wants to read an article about your product and the problems it solves, the article can’t be about your product. This is such a common problem, especially with ghost writers doing the work for you that we wrote an article called, Ghost Writing Challenge: Boring Products.
Nor should the article solve an issue no one ever has a problem solving. We’ve seen countless articles that do a great job avoiding the above problem, only to settle on a topic that doesn’t really exist in any reader’s mind. Everyone knows that fresh paint and pictures on the walls will help decorate a room. That’s kind of the definition. And if you want to save money on groceries, buying things on sale is a good idea. Of course.
Don’t restate things people know. Find an angle they haven’t thought of before, and start with a topic that matters in the first place.
2. Do the title and introduction provide good reasons to click?
When your topic is worth a read, you’ve got to be sure the title is worth a click. I did a detailed piece earlier this year about blog post titles that you might find helpful. Titles are about evoking curiosity. If no one wonders what awesome content awaits behind your intriguing title, the clicks don’t come.
After you’ve settled on a topic readers want to know about, play with a number of titles. The last thing a title should do is blithely label the article that follows. And since titles are often accompanied by teaser text, as they are in our own Content Marketplace, get your big idea out fast in the first couple of sentences.
Do you think the title and introduction if this article accomplished that goal? I could have called it “Creating Compelling Content,” but that just doesn’t say enough to evoke curiosity. Hopefully my title made you feel like something worthwhile and actionable would follow. Surely the introduction did. Notice how I waited two paragraphs before digging into the important background issue of how inbound marketing works. Too often, writers spend half a page on the set-up, rather than hooking readers fast. Once you lay out the big idea, you can fill in the details later.
3. Does the article deliver what the title promises?
Sometimes, great titles beget boring articles. Rather than providing a reward for reading further, the article delivers a total let-down. Don’t let it happen to your content. If you aren’t sure what you’re writing about, get help. Beef it up with quotes, consult subject matter experts, link to deeper resources or just stick tightly to your own area of expertise. Was your “45 Ways to Polish a Spoon” article too ambitious? Maybe a solid “3 Ways to Care for Antique Cutlery” will serve your readers better.
Writers (and the brand marketers they serve) often succumb to the temptation of producing more content when less would do. Quality really matters, and if your articles end up light on substance, not only will readers not think much of your brand, the publishers you want to work with might dismiss it as spam. Get each article right. Two awesome ones beat five boring ones any day.
OK, you think have a winner? Now pass your draft to an impartial person for his or her responses to the same questions. Content should never roll out the door without at least one round of independent verification. Do your part in the fight against Boring Post Syndrome and everybody wins.