One of the most common questions I get asked is... How do you get past the blank page and write really great content?
When it comes to writing web content most people assume you need to be super technical, follow specific formatting guidelines, and be a natural born writer. This is simply not the case. Anymore, to be an authority on a topic - or to be "read worthy" - you simply need to be genuine, and make a valid point. Period.
Following are some tips to get you over the hump, and have you whipping out great content in no time at all...
Get In The Groove
When you decide to sit down and write content, you should start by turning off all distractions. Close your email and any other windows/tabs, sign out of instant messenger programs, turn off the ringer on your phone(s), and lock the children in a closet (LOL J/K heh).
It helps to write when you feel most inspired, or most creative. Analyze the times in your day or your week that you do your best creative work, and use this time to write multiple articles or blog posts.
If all else fails, just get started. Once you get over the initial hump, that sense of accomplishment can really get you on a roll
Every time you think of a great topic idea for a new blog post, a new web page or a new article, make note of it! Keep an idea journal on your desk, in your car or in your purse and jot down ideas when you have them. Otherwise, they will be just as easily forgotten - and lost forever!
I use the draft feature in WordPress to make notes throughout my work day. I can easily find topics by title in my draft list, and add to the notes or include links/references to study later. This works out really well for me, as I can go back and flesh those drafts out into a full blog post - or copy and paste it into a web page from there. I currently have 394 posts in draft...
This gives you a nice selection of topics to choose from when you sit down to write your content.
If you are not sure what to write about, you need a little inspiration. Luckily, there's plenty of that on the web Start by researching keywords on WordTracker (that link takes you to their free, unlimited keyword tool). Dig deep - by clicking on keyword phrases - and look at what people are really searching for in your niche. You'll find an endless source of content ideas there.
For even more inspiration, visit niche forums or online communities and look at the conversations people are having. Find out what people are talking about, what they are asking, and use that to come up with "starters" for your website content.
What's The Point?
You have set aside some time to write, you have your ideas & notes in front of you, and its time to put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingertips to keyboard!).
Start by asking yourself this question: What is the primary objective of this piece of content? What point am I going to make, and what do I need to include to make that point clear to my readers?
You can start with a quick outline that includes: the title, the topic ("I am going to show you how to abc with xyz"), the main points you want to include, and the conclusion. It doesnt have to be perfect - its just a rough draft that gives you a starting point.
Every piece of content must have an objective. Not only should you identify the point you want to get across to your readers, but you should also identify your own personal objective for that piece of content.
Who Are You Writing To?
I find that it helps to get an idea in your mind of the people - or the type of person - that will be reading your content. Who are they? What are their challenges? How do they feel about the topic?
A great exercise: Imagine that you are on the phone with that person, and they ask you "how do you abc with xyz?" - Then write your response.
Let It Fly
Dont edit or format your content as you go. This interrupts your creative thought process, and triggers that "perfectionist" mentality that can easily hinder you. Instead just sit down and write freely, keeping in mind that this is your "rough draft" and you can edit it later.
You will usually end up with a more genuine piece this way, which is exactly what you want. Keep the flavor and the personality you have poured into it, and go back afterwards to edit the grammar or punctuation.
You've just written an awesome piece of content. Your ideal visitor comes to your web page and reads every single word on the page. By the time they get to the very end, they have already scrolled past all of your navigation and they are now sitting at the very bottom of the page.
Now what? You answered their question, taught them something, or otherwise engaged their interest through your entire article. Do you end it there, with nothing for them to look at but your page footer?
What do you expect them to do next? For goodness sake, dont leave them hanging! Make sure you tell them what to do next. Give them some kind of option besides closing the window, or clicking the back button!
See the "content pages" section on Using A Call-to-Action.
Now you can go back and read through your content, make sure that all your points are covered, that it flows well and that there arent any major grammatical errors.
You might also want to tweak the formatting a bit. Use bullets for any lists you included, add sub-headings if it is a long article, add relevant images, etc.
This is also a great time to optimize your article. Come up with a catchy title or headline, that also includes a relevant keyword phrase.
But forget perfection. There is no such thing. Also - there arent any set rules for how long it should be, how it should be formatted, or any other silly detail. Dont get caught up with "the rules"... because there arent any.
As long as you make your point, and end with a call-to-action, you're good to go.
While you are making note of each of these tips, go back and look at this article as a whole. It actually serves as an excellent example of each of those points.
The idea for this blog post came to me at 3am one night. I got up, went to my office (in the next room, thank goodness - short commute!) and started a draft with the title "how to write content" - and then went back to bed.
I came back to this post later and started with an outline of the points I wanted to include. Those points ended up as the bold section headers throughout the content. I simply sat down and wrote the details for each of those points. (And yes, I'm going to conclude this topic with a "Call to Action" here in a minute...)
I promise you - if I can do this, so can you!
I'm Still Stuck, Lynn...
I highly recommend you give this an honest try. Once you get over the hump, you may find that the writing comes much easier than you expected.
But if you are still struggling (after a sincere effort) and you find yourself pulling your hair out trying to write content, there are two other options. You can outsource your content development or use fill-in-the-blank templates. An inexpensive solution is Jiffy Articles. Or you can try using a microphone to "talk" your content, and then transcribe it into text (or you can outsource the transcription, of course).
Another great resource I love is Easy Article Starters. You can see those links for live examples.
If you like these tips, and would like even more ideas for coming up with an endless source of ideas and inspiration for unique & creative web content, then sign up to be notified about my upcoming guide: Easy Unique Content.