Don’t mean to scare you but…copy blindness is real and it’s in an office near you. It’s making us produce content that isn’t aligned with our goals, strategies or brands – and sometimes we don’t even know where, or why, we lost our way. I’ve suffered attacks of copy blindness in the past and only narrowly escaped complete content ruin – it happens to us all. Avoid content disaster with these blindness-busting strategies to help solve the most common content killers. Open your eyes for renewed content clarity.
Mistake #1 Not considering your audience
Falling into the trap of blindly creating content, forgetting who your audience actually are – is a lot easier to do than you think. Here’s how to combat it and create better targeted content:
- THINK RELEVANCE: Is your content pitched too ‘high’ or ‘low’? Are you telling accountants things about payroll they already know, or boring entrepreneurs with corporate governance? Align your content with your audience’s most pressing concerns and step away from just parroting brand content.
- THINK LANGUAGE & TONE: Are you using your audience’s language? Or are you slipping into jargon or writerly habits? Use clear and concise language and back up your writing with research to ensure accuracy.
- THINK CONTEXT: Think about platform demographics and user behaviour to avoid content mismatch (some useful social media demographics for marketers).
- THINK PEOPLE: Use writing personas to help clarify audience needs, habits and behaviours – use them as a litmus paper test for relevancy. Flesh out a few different personas and research their habits and behaviours in detail. Use user-testing to refine your audience strategy.
You have to constantly remind yourself who your readers are and what they want. Think relevant, unique, actionable and useful for your audience – not for you, your team or editors. Strategies and calendars won’t save you if your content has become misaligned with your audience – engagement metrics and leads will plummet. Here’s some advice on how to manage multiple audiences and demographics at once.
Mistake #2 Being too nice
Don’t be too nice to yourself and cut yourself too much slack. Being nice leads to blindness.
Your critics don’t know the backstory and won’t care —they will judge you based on what’s in front of them. That’s what you need to do too.
- Read your copy back as your most critical audience member. Channel their levels of scepticism to train your critical eye.
- Are you waffling? Not backing up your claims? Shifting topics wildly? Check your copy for cardinal sins.
- This is the one question you should be always be asking: ‘so what’? What is the point of your content? Is it filling a need? If you don’t know: down your tools and come back to it when you do.
- You’re creating a product for consumption—being critical is a crucial product development phase. Try to speed it up where you can by implementing controls and feedback loops.
- Remember, being critical isn’t about beating yourself up, but about being analytical and critical about what you write and produce for the content marketplace.
Mistake #3 Not measuring content performance
Measure your content and act on data. Copy blindness results from not acting on engagement data. Your audience are already telling you what they think, so listen to them.
Look at click-through rate, unique views, exit and entrance rates, time on page, bounce rate, comments, shares, downvotes, upvotes, downloads, engagement, backlinks and any other metrics you can track.
The metrics are there for you to use them. They will give you subtle (or not so subtle) hints about how your content can be improved. Don’t just dismiss a badly performing piece – look at the data and see if you can fix anything.
- High bounce rate: Is your content or title misleading? Does your page design need improving, or does your content not match your domain? Try to ensure that that design and page purpose work in harmony.
- High exit rates: Have you given the user somewhere to go next? Include a call to action to take the user to a download form, contact form or to another piece of relevant content.
- Lots of downvotes: Is the piece too reactionary or not well-researched enough? Is the topic offensive? (Negative attention can be harnessed for positive gains too- here’s one man’s story about going viral and dealing with controversy).
- No backlinks or mentions: Is the content link-worthy? Is there enough substance? Try expanding on a topic, going really niche, or including more unique imagery and design elements like infographics. Here’s why you should think of creating cornerstone content.
- Few comments: Are you saying anything new? Is there a call to action at the end? Sometimes you have to invite people to contribute, but obviously the goal is to create something so good it will naturally get comments going. Often the difference between no comments and comments is a unique voice, plenty of research and dedicated editing. Having a strong opinion also helps!
- Few downloads: Is your download form user-friendly? Have you emphasised the benefits enough? Sometimes people get lazy and unless they are hungry for your content they might not bother with a form. Keep forms simple and let people know you won’t spam them. Make your resource worth the effort.
Mistake #4 Not having a strategy
Not having a strategy is a one-way ticket to copy blindness. Without a strategy your copy is going to lack purpose and your content won’t be aligned with your overall goals. This great post reminds content marketers why having a strategy is super important (and why we should never start writing without one).
- Strategy is led by data and targets– it answers the question ‘what do I want my content to do‘?
- Strategy helps you keep things goal-centric and task-specific.
- Strategy helps control costs and resources and reminds managers that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that e-books aren’t written in one either.
- Review your content strategy on a regular basis and focus it around tent-pole marketing activities.
Mistake #5 Not asking for outside advice
Getting other people’s views on your content is a great way to combat copy blindness. It also helps you develop as a writer and a subject-matter expert. Win-win. Just remember to not take it personally.
- Get someone who actually knows about your topic to read your piece; they will be able to provide you with loads of valuable advice and spot any errors quickly.
- Don’t crowd people editing your copy for advice immediately- give them time to think. Try not to ‘manage’ the feedback process too much and just let it happen.
- Don’t get offended by edits or bogged down with pointless arguments about the Oxford comma. Use advice to grow as a writer, but reserve the right to not make the edits you don’t agree with.
Mistake #6 Neglecting your keywords
Copy blindness means neglecting your core keywords.
We are not advocating keyword stuffing: it doesn’t work and your copy will suck. But we are advocating using your users’ language and thinking about semantics, audience language and co-occurring keywords that will score you high on relevancy on all fronts.
- Neglecting keywords can make your copy harder to understand for both users and search engines. Keywords often form the basis of great user-oriented content, so don’t ignore them.
- Don’t forget to do extensive keyword research in your niche to make sure you’ve covered the topic thoroughly.
- Keyword research should help spark content ideas: use it as a content discovery tool.
Mistake #7 Not editing like a fiend
Editing well is your best protection against copy blindness. It helps you rid yourself of all those little copy gremlins that crept in. Don’t forget these three rules of editing:
- Let copy breathe: Give it a few hours (preferably days) before editing something to see it in a new light. It will give your brain time to refresh.
- Be ruthless: Don’t get hung up on little things like spending hours writing around that one little sentence you want to include. Just cut the sentence out and move on. It comes back to that whole “killing your darlings” thing that surfaces in writer advice posts time and time again. Cliché, but true.
- Be real and be strategic: Be honest with yourself about what you are writing about and why. Cut anything that sounds false or doesn’t fit. Remember to create with purpose, not panic (easier said than done during deadlines).
Mistake #8 Forgetting your story
Sometimes blindness comes from lack of inspiration.
It can be easy to lose your way in the content quagmire and end up feeling like a lifeless content bot. Breathe…and try to remember the story you originally came to share, and what you find so compelling about it. What made you want to write? What’s the best thing about your subject? How do you help people?
- What’s your story? Have you told it yet? Getting real with people about what you are doing can pay off big time. Many great content creators have shared brutally honest, sometimes embarrassing, tell-all posts that have earned them hundreds of comments, backlinks and shares. Don’t feel like you need to wear an armour all the time when you write.
- Have you taken any risks with your copy? Like ever? Taking some risks (and A/B testing them) is worth it. You might be stuck in a formulaic rut and not even know it…
- Switch it up and write from the other side. Change the formatting, slant, angle or tone of your next post and see what happens. Work against your instincts to see what you can do.
- Why are you creatively exhausted? Is there something else stopping you from doing great stuff? Try to get back to what motivates you and remember to take a break when you need it.
Mistake #9 Not using free tools
Use the tools of the trade to help you write better.
If you are still struggling to get distance from you copy, turn to some great free writer apps that can help you improve your copy. Turn to these for inspiration, second opinions and help when you need it.
- Hemingway App: a super user-friendly readability tool that gives you loads of actionable tips on how to improve your copy.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: a firm favourite with busy bloggers, this tool gives you some handy tips on how to write an emotive and punchy headline.
- Alchemy API: this goes into a little bit more detail and uses APIs to analyse language, looking into its semantics. Some great insights here and a fast way to analyse copy on a large scale.
Mistake #10 Dismissing without promoting
Anyone ever heard about great content, wrong time?
Blindness can also impact post-publication. Sometimes content doesn’t work because it isn’t promoted or presented properly. It could be that a few months down the line the same post would really work and you’re just out of season, or that you haven’t found the right audience yet. Promoting content is one of the most important things you will do so give it your full attention. Your hard work is not over yet. (Sorry).
- Make sure you have a marketing strategy aligned to deal with content promotion. Promotion is extremely important and without it, you’re setting yourself up for content failure.
- Vary titles and experiment with clickable snippets. Use different featured images and mix things up. Post during peak social times to maximise reach.
- Recycle content and post things on a regular basis using scheduling tools. Tag anyone featured to encourage more sharing. Embed share functions like ‘click to tweet’ to maximise user engagement.
- Culling and streamlining can be just as effective as constantly churning out stuff. Think about where less is more and what experience users might be getting from a messy and confusing blog or landing page.
- Make sure your content is seasonal and relevant. Create a content calendar that maps out key seasonal activity so you won’t be out of whack.
Writing great copy can be hard, but hopefully these tips to cure copy blindness will help you power through and create content that’s even more awesome and successful! What do you think is your biggest barrier to content success right now?