The 26 Surprising Rules Of Great Content Creation
CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer Studio will score your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value.Test every headline before you publish. Try Headline Studio »
Great content creation is a lifestyle.
You live and breath it; almost everything that happens to you makes you think “this could be a blog post.” Here are the rules. You probably already know them, because you’re living them now.
The Rules Of Great Content Creation
1. Live what you write. Believe in what you’re writing, or it will show. You can talk it if you walk it. Otherwise, you’re guessing out loud and your audience can tell. If you find yourself writing what you don’t believe anymore, change what you’re doing, rethink your beliefs–do something. Try to get the two as parallel as you can or you’ll start to feel resentment and have a hard time living with yourself.
2. Your critics and fans are the same. Be ready for both criticism and adoration from the same people, over the same content, and in the same day. Take one as well as the other. They go together like light and shadow.
3. Always be reading. Read not just blogs and books that are related to marketing or blogging or your niche. Read outside your usual realm. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read history and philosophy. All things can apply to the content you are creating in some way some day. You won’t regret your knowledge stockpile. Ever.
4. Don’t write too much. Write every day. Write extra, because you’ll be editing and cutting. Write as the habit it should be. But don’t write so much that you’re burned out. When you feel burned out on writing, pick up a fiction book and read. Reset your mind in a different path.
5. Write with daring. The post I wrote last week was different. I sat down to write and thought in exasperation “I cannot write yet another typical blog post. Not today.” So I wrote something else. It might not appeal to readers. It might not be the top-post. It might garner laughs. I might wish later I’d not written it. But I needed to write something that was different even if only so I could write fresh the next day.
6. Write so your readers enjoy it. You have a chance to brighten someone’s day, give them the change in direction they were hoping for, or change an attitude. Your goal isn’t to write a great blog. It’s to write a great day for your readers. Your goal isn’t to impress someone else. It’s to write so the person who reads it is glad that he or she did.
7. Think of yourself as a writer, not a content creator. One changes the world, the other packages up a product. There will be days when feeling comparable to a factory won’t inspire you much at all. On those days, think of yourself as a writer. You have a great history of noble and great writers to be inspired by; less so with “content creators.”
8. Think of yourself as a content creator, and not a writer. Some days you have to ship, whether you have a grand philosophy to share that day or not. If need be, compartmentalize your creative self. Understand you have a job to do, that it might not feel noble right now, but you’re gonna do it the best you can, and that it doesn’t define who you are later.
9. Stretch yourself. Stretch how you write, the topics you write about, and be sure to stand up periodically and actually, physically stretch yourself at your desk so you don’t fall asleep. Get the blood moving to your head.
10. Wander away from the pack. Try something that everyone else doesn’t swear by. Ignore that great advice. They say short, you say long. They say now, you say tomorrow. It might not work, they might have been right, but at least you strengthened your writing backbone a bit and tested out your own feet. And, who knows. You might end up finding something new that becomes the next must-have advice.
11. Network, and be friendly. No one hugs a porcupine. Be friendly online. You don’t have to be fake. If you’re not feeling friendly when you read that blog post comment, come back when you do, and not a moment before. This is how you connect with people.
12. Promote your work before yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about what you’re writing and what people want. Remember this: unless you’re a famous celebrity and people have oddly fixated on you, people really only care about themselves and what you can do for them. They care less about that new puppy you blogged about and more about the 5 Ways They Can Save $100 Each Week. Don’t be a self-promoter. Be a work-promoter. People are interested in themselves. Let your work feed that.
13. Blame no one. You wrote a blog post that bombed, started a flame war, was grossly inaccurate, was hilariously bad, caused people to unsubscribe from your email list, or was pistol-whipped by search engines? Your fault. You wrote it. Not a big deal. Move on and keep writing.
14. Inquire after your readers. Ask questions, in your blog posts, in your comments, on social media. Actually ask with the desire to hear. This is not you throwing out a fishhook to snare the next sucker for your online webinar. This is you asking another person and letting them share their opinion. You will learn something.
15. See words in a new light. Words are not just a means to an end. They are capturing the electric thoughts in your brain so others can understand them. They are powerful and not merely governed by rules, not merely a rigid part of a formula. Expand your vocabulary. Experiment with the sound of the words as you read them in your head, the juxtaposition of words, the hidden meanings and puns that you can create based on how you use words. Dump your cliches and stand-by phrases.
16. Understand your blog is dangerous. Oh, is it ever. It’s the printing press and the pen that defeated the sword and the freely spoken word, all rolled up into one and then some. Your blog can be powerful. Will you use it to harm, to help, or to simper and whine?
17. You are the oven. As a blogger, you take all the raw materials–the studies, the blog posts, the articles, the books, the infographics–and you interpret them for your reader. You do the hard stuff so they can have ten or fifteen minutes of enjoyment reading. Don’t be annoyed that this is what you will do. Be sure you know how to distill your knowledge down for this purpose.
18. Expect completely unpredictable returns. You will not understand why your least favorite or most ridiculous posts get the most traffic. You shouldn’t chase after it. People will read what they will read. Don’t restructure your blog around a topic purely based on numbers. One-hit wonders are found on every blog. They throw off the curve and that’s how it is.
19. Tip your hat to search engines, then turn your back. Ultimately, you are not feeding a search engine. You are not here for a robot. You are here for human readers and you should never, ever let anything trump human readability and enjoyment no matter how much racket the robot makes.
20. It’s all about who you know. You can work 10 years or 10 days and have the same success. It depends on who you know and who they know and if they’ll share and tell. That may be discouraging. Whatever it is, it isn’t a blank check for shoddy work. You do your best work over the days and the years.
21. One-time hits are great, but not that great. A one time hit is like a punch. It happens, it dissipates, you might have some collateral effects for a while, but you quickly settle back to the status quo. Your content shouldn’t be created out of an infatuation with hit counts. That’s chasing after the wind. Even if you catch it, so what?
22. Accept your title. Are you a professional blogger? A part-time blogger? A hobby blogger? It doesn’t matter what you are, so long as you know. That’ll help you understand what tools you’ll use, for one thing, and how much sleep you’ll lose over things like leads and conversions and affiliate income. Know what kind of blogger you are, and proceed to write without shame. There’s room for everyone.
23. Be authentic, but know if you’re a jerk. The word now is authenticity and trust and that’s the best way to write but do you know if your authentic self is even likable? do you care? Does your audience care? Be authentic enough, but temper it with a kindness and patience for your audience. You’re not a hypocrite if you do that, nor is your writing fake.
24. You are writing in permanent marker. What you write online is forever. Even if you robots.txt your site so the Internet Archive can’t access it, the things you write online do not come with an eraser two or three years down the road. Be friends with your “draft” button and think before you hit publish.
25. Find your own growth percentage. I’m not talking about traffic or conversions. I’m talking about what percentage of content will you write according to the winning formulas of the day, and what percentage will you write simply to grow your knowledge and skills whether they are a traffic “win” or not? There might be overlap, but there might just be a few posts here and there that no one cares about that still changed your own life.
26. The best way to learn to be a blogger is to be a blogger. To learn, you have to start. To get better, you have start when you’re at your worst you’ll ever be. You can read all of the “how to be a blogger” posts you want, but until you start you won’t understand. To be a blogger, you must be a blogger.
This is actually a short list when it comes to rules of successful content creation. There are thousands. What rules do you use in your own writing?
January 14, 2014