Wikipedia Copy/Paste & Other Mistakes
Content writing is essential for good search engine optimization. It can be difficult for a first-timer, but rest assured – the pitfalls are easy to avoid. While there are common threads in most good content writing, the usual traits of bad content writing are easier to pinpoint. Here are some habits of highly ineffective content writers:
-Taking Info from Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia’s information is mostly reliable—that much I admit. But if your audience wanted to hear info recited, they would have gone to Wikipedia in the first place! Many content writers turn to Wikipedia when assigned articles for a new company. There is nothing wrong with this, but even if you start your research with Wikipedia, be sure not to end it there!
-Setting the Wrong Mood. When I first took on freelance content writing work, my sole source of topics was Google News. As any content writer who tries this will discover, not every product or service sold on the Internet makes headlines. Worse still, some clients’ products will make the wrong kinds of news. Any writer who has produced content for companies that make weapons, cars, or alcoholic beverages can surely attest to this! Remember that you are being commissioned to write articles by clients, and that you ought to keep their product or service in a positive light. To wit, a good and bad example of an article topic for a company that makes freezers:
Wrong: “Authorities Obtain Warrant to Search Suspect’s Freezer”
Right: “Freezer Sales Skyrocket as Record-High Temperatures Hit Midwest”
-Telling Tall Tales. Content writing is such a young and misunderstood practice that many full-timers forget that they are writing articles, not ad copies! As a content writer, your audience is not captive and will freely leave the website if your writing is not interesting and genuine. Readers are distrustful of promotional content with a blatant lack of objectivity, as they should be.
Wrong: “It’s the only freezer that’s top-of-the-line, low-priced, and has never left a customer dissatisfied!”
Right: “[sentence deleted].” Better to write nothing than to descend into pitchman’s jargon for several sentences each article!
-Fluffing up an Article with Filler. So you were asked to write an eight-hundred-word article – that doesn’t mean you should stretch a five-hundred-word article with unnecessary sentences. Think back to some of the more difficult topic you have written—somehow, someway, good content writers find a way to make the article happen (more often than not, you’ll end up with more material than you need anyway). The Internet is a vast place and you should have no trouble finding inspiration for material to fill the remaining three hundred words.
-Writing in the Middle-School-Essay Format. Many content writers are asked to write articles of around five to six hundred words in length. This word count evokes bad memories of eighth-grade five-paragraph essay assignments for me, and, judging by the format of much content writing, I can tell I’m not alone. To view content writing as a formulaic chore is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You don’t have to reinvent stream-of-consciousness prose every time you write an article, though. One simple format that is preferable to the five-stanza standard is the bulleted list. Bulleted lists are a great way to get across pure information without seeming pretentious, dull, or wordy. They are also easy to read.
Believing You Are Above the Need for Editing. No One Is.Even the greatest writers have relied on copious editing and rewriting in order to reach their finished product. An objective second set of eyes, even from a less gifted writer, can pinpoint bad writing decisions—grammatical errors, confusing analogies, or simply dull writing.
If no editor is available, edit your writing yourself—remember that good writing starts at the second draft!