Crank Up Your Copy: Ideas to Improve Your Content

If you’re blogging for business – or running a blog for a business – you need to have stellar copy. The best ideas, arguments, and offers won’t get you any new clients or convert readers into loyal followers if they are conveyed poorly. The quality of your copy matters when it comes to determining your blogging success.

You may be an incredible speaker, a wise consultant, or an inspiring teacher. But if you’re blogging, all this could be lost on your readers if they don’t like your way with words. Writing is the primary medium when it comes to selling ourselves online. Even podcasts or YouTube videos require captions or short introductions to help convince your audience to listen or watch. Your writing is your delivery, your execution, and if that fails, so does a large part of your ability to be persuasive, compelling, and engaging.

The truth is, your writing could probably be better. Everyone’s writing could stand to improve (and yes, I’m including myself and this post in that assessment). If you want to crank up your copy and start producing standout writing, consider these ideas and tips to improve your content.

Find and Maintain Your Passion

The first rule to amazing copy is to make sure you are passionate about your subject. Your enthusiasm and delight will shine through your words, and these positive emotions are contagious. You need to believe in your subject, service, or ideas. After all, if you don’t feel strongly about them, how will you persuade other people to feel the same?

This is why it’s crucial to understand you can’t start blogging or creating copy that converts readers into followers or clients with the sole purpose of making a profit from your endeavors. That’s where that sleazy car salesman vibe comes in, and most people are incredibly adept at picking up on that – and running in the opposite direction once they sense it.

Good copy starts with a belief in the content you’re creating. You don’t have to be a writing wizard to lay down some fantastic blog posts that people will get behind, because your passion is going to do a lot of the work for you.

Mentally Revisit Your 8th Grade Grammar Lessons

Keep in mind passion won’t do all the work, however. You can’t expect your copy to be outstanding if it’s barely readable. Temper that wild enthusiasm and tighten up your writing with a touch of formality and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

Remember those years in school where all you did was learn about the “right” way to write? Think back to the classes in which you were endlessly drilled on grammar rules and the way words were supposed to be formally composed (if you immediately started humming “Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses..” yes, you’re on the right track).

Although it might be tedious, good writing often follows basic rules of grammar. Here are a few common trouble areas in grammar that plague even the best of writers:

  • Subject-verb agreement and verb tense agreement
  • Sentence problems: fragments, run-ons, and comma splices
  • Overusing pronouns
  • Using weak words, including just, very, a lot, really, and like
  • Using passive voice (and avoid combing this piece for passive voice please, as it’s my biggest vice as a writer).

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should work to make every piece of content you produce extremely stiff and formal. Rules were made to be broken. Sometimes. It’s important that you write in your own natural voice and let your individual personality shine through. But you also need to remember that excellent copy by and large sticks to the fundamental rules that govern language. This makes writing easy to read and comprehend. Using three punctuation marks after every other sentence is obnoxious. Adding in a little flair with a brief sidebar (perhaps in the form of a parenthetical!) might be appropriate.

Excellent copy is a balancing act between your own style and generally agreed-upon rules about what makes a piece of writing great.

Other Rules to Follow and Tips to Consider

Grammar creates only some of the guidelines good writing typically follows. There are additional “best practices” that you can utilize to improve your content. In order to create standout copy, keep the following in mind as you write:

Create a Hook

Your introduction can make or break your copy. You need to immediately hook your readers with something compelling that encourages them to continue consuming your content. Don’t use up three lengthy paragraphs of text before you get to the engaging line. You need to…

Get to the Point

Avoid being extremely wordy. If there is a simple way to say what you mean, always choose that straightforward delivery over something full of jargon or a sentence stuffed with adjectives. Be specific and be precise.

Be a Storyteller

Some of the best, most compelling copy is content that tells a story. Spitting out dry facts left and right may make for accurate writing, which is certainly important (always be honest) – but it gets dull fast. Craft a story for your audience to delve into and explore.

Format Your Copy Properly

Once you’ve got the actual content figured out, you need to dress it up in a pretty package if you want your readers to pick up what you’re laying down. Format your copy in a way that is easy to read.

For the internet, this means easy to scan and easy to consume. Using headings, subheadings, numbered or bulleted lists, and break up paragraphs so that chunks of text are balanced by white space. It’s intimidating to open up a web page only to be confronted with a massive wall of text. Make your copy inviting to readers by breaking up long sentences and paragraphs into smaller pieces.

Include a Call to Action

Great copy won’t rock back and forth on its heels, shyly waiting for an audience to engage. A compelling piece of copy will leap up and flat-out say what readers can do next. This is a call to action, and it means that you wrap up your content with a next step. Ask a question to encourage comments or provide a click to tweet link for a great quote from the piece.

Try Some Actionable Techniques

If you want to crank up your copy, then take action!

  • Practice. Apparently, it makes perfect. The more you write, the more adept you’ll be at working with words.
  • If you get stuck or don’t know where to start when creating new copy, resort to word vomit. It may get a little messy, but that’s what editing is for. Sit down and literally put pen to paper if that’s what it takes.
  • Brainstorm. You can’t write excellent copy if you have zero excellent ideas. You might have to let the word vomit fly here too until you make brainstorming sessions a habit, but simply getting everything out is a great way to unearth amazing ideas.
  • Do research if you need to. Be able to admit what you don’t know, and strive for accuracy.

Once you’ve created your copy, there are a few hoops you can make it jump through to find its weaknesses, figure out how to improve it, and determine whether or not it’s ready to be published.

  • Read your copy out loud (or have a friend read it out loud to you). This technique is a great way to fish out sentences that are clunky, confusing, or need clarification. This will also help you identify areas where you’ve been overly verbose.
  • Also plan on making multiple revisions. There’s a reason your teachers required you to submit rough drafts and final drafts. A quick read-over of something you’ve recently produced is not a great way to edit; because your ideas are so fresh in your mind, your brain tends to automatically correct any mistakes as you read or discrepancies in the text. Before you edit, go do another activity or let a significant amount of time pass. Sleep on it if you need to, and come back at your copy with fresh eyes and a clear head.

Now, Get Out There and Crank Up Your Copy!

With these tips, ideas, and actionable steps, you should be ready to attack your next copy challenge and crank up the quality of the content you’re creating. Don’t let your incredible ideas and important message get lost in poorly written copy. Instead, work to improve your writing so you can provide your audience with intelligent, persuasive copy.

Stop Blogging in a Vacuum: How to Increase Engagement

Blogging Alone

You know those motivational posters your middle school teachers had plastered all over their classrooms? The ones that featured a set of whales leaping out of the ocean with the caption, “TEAMWORK” and included a little quote that was supposed to convince you not to hate all your group-work assignments?

These made easy targets for the parody “demotivational” posters that have long been popular as chain email fodder. While most of them were clearly made by individuals who have a sense of humor that got stuck in the 7th grade, there’s one I’ve seen that, as a blogger, made me stop and think. The picture is of two people on a desert ledge, dwarfed by the landscape. The caption says, “BLOGGING: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”

The reason this got my attention is because the caption is, unfortunately, based on a kernel of truth. It’s wonderful that anyone with an idea and an Internet connection can fire up their own blog and start producing posts. It’s not so wonderful that so many of us who want to run a blog don’t have any direction, knowledge on best practices, or understanding of how to translate thoughts into engaging posts. Too many bloggers out there are lacking killer content and the knowledge of how to share that content properly with the world. As a result, they’re lacking readership and engagement is nonexistent. They’re also adding to the noise and making it harder for readers to find and engage with great blogs

This is a problem, because I believe each of us does have something to say. You do possess something that you can share via your blog will add value to a reader’s day. We simply need to uncover exactly what that is. Offering something of value to the world will be the foundation to your well-read blog that attracts readers and builds engagement within your community of followers and connections.

Don’t be the blogger who has nothing of real substance to discuss, and who is projecting their posts out into that desert canyon where the only response they get is the sound of their own voice echoing back at them. It’s time to stop blogging in a vacuum, learn how to create content that an audience wants, and increase your engagement to grow your tribe.

Increase Engagement by Offering Value to Build Loyal Followers

Before we even dive into what good content looks like or how to draw more eyeballs to that content, you need to identify what it is you have to say that other people want to hear about, learn about, or talk about. People want to come to your blog and engage with your content when you have something to offer them. When you offer value, you build readership, and when you build readership, you can build engagement.

This might sound intimidating, but the value you offer to others can be anything – really! – so long as you are:

  1. Passionate
  2. Articulate
  3. Respectful of what the audience wants. It’s about your readers, not you.

That last point is extremely important. You want to empathize with your readers, show you understand their wants and needs, and provide something for them. This could be information, knowledge, a solution, or even an idea or image that provides happiness or inspiration. This doesn’t have to be complicated – keep in mind that at its most fundamental, what you provide should either take away someone’s pain, stress, or confusion, or add to their happiness, knowledge base, or quality of life in some way.

It’s Not Your Topic, It’s Your Presentation

Let’s look an example to provide some more clarity on how to offer value. Say you are passionate about your pet cat. You love talking about your cat, sharing cute pictures or funny videos, and telling stories about what your furry friend does and why. So, you blog all about your cat and (unsurprisingly), you’ve found you’re blogging in a vacuum. You have all this fun content about you and your cat, but you’re blogging into empty space.

What’s the problem here? If you said, “no one wants to read about your stupid cat,” you’re wrong. It’s not that no one wants to read about someone else’s cat. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the topic of “my cat.” This is a niche millions of people around the world can relate to, and want to read about because they’re passionate about cats, too. What is wrong is that there is no value being offered. The problem is that in this example, this blog is presented in a way where the content serves the blogger and not the reader.

So what can be done to change this? Remember, you want to either take away bad things like stress or add to good things like enjoyment. Solve a problem or increase happiness. Our cat blogger can offer value and increase engagement by creating posts like “Why Your Cat Scratches Your Couch and What To Do About It,” “7 Signs Your Cat Needs More Attention – and How to Provide It”, or “Top 10 Cute Cat Moments Around the World from 2013.”

Now the blog has begun to serve the reader instead of the blogger. With each of these post ideas, the blogger can include pictures of their own cat and share personal stories to illustrate widespread problems or universal reasons to feel joy amongst cat owners. Readers can now relate to the content, because it’s offering to solve one of their problems or it was created for their enjoyment. The audience can engage now; the blog is all about them and they want to take part in the discussion

Value Isn’t Without Personality

Focusing on providing value doesn’t mean your blog has to be divorced from what interests you. It simply needs to be packaged and delivered in a way that makes it all about the reader. As you saw with our cat blogger example, the blogger didn’t need to stop sharing stories, pictures, or information about their cat. They simply needed to incorporate these elements into posts that served the needs and wants of the people visiting the blog.

You can do the same. Your blog should offer something of value, but it shouldn’t be void of your opinions, thoughts, and interests. These are elements of what makes a blog stand out and be heard over the noise of people who have nothing to say yet publish post after post of boring fluff. Your individual, unique voice is what will help draw readers in. The value you offer them encourages them to not only come back for more but also to share with others.

If you remember, the number one thing you needed to turn your idea into valuable content for your following is passion. You should be passionate about your topics or the niche you’re in. What you should not do is ignore the people you’re relying on to engage with you and eventually become loyal members of your tribe.

Creating Engaging Content

Once you establish what it is that you can offer your followers that they will find valuable, you need to actually round up those followers and convince them to join your tribe. Yes, having an SEO strategy will help you rank better in search engine traffic and this is an important component to getting your blog seen by others. But there is something else you should be doing that is actually much more crucial to increasing engagement. If you consistently publish high-quality, thoughtful, valuable content that promotes discussion and keep that going long enough, you will develop a loyal base of followers that love you and your blog and will be happy to join your community and promote what you’re doing to others.

If you are lacking incredible content that fails to engage the people that visit your blog, you’ll never gain a foothold in your niche. Throwing a jumble of your thoughts into a post and calling it a day is, unfortunately, not going to be good enough if you want your blog to engage and retain an audience that consists of more people than just your mom.

To create content that increases engagement, your post needs to meet the following criteria:

  • The post should be empathetic; it needs to acknowledge what readers want or need.
  • The post should be helpful; it needs to provide the information required for readers to obtain what they want or need.
  • The post should always provide value in some way; it should solve a problem, offer a solution, allow readers to build knowledge, or serve as a source of joy.
  • The post should be written in your own, unique tone and voice; this is what hooks a reader, encourages them to engage by joining the discussion or sharing your content, and gets them coming back for more (a good rule of thumb: write like you talk).
  • The post should be relevant; it needs to somehow connect with your chosen blog topic or niche.
  • The post should end with a call to action to encourage engagement; ask readers a question and invite them to post responses and opinions in the comments or provide an awesome quote and turn it into a click-to-tweet link.

If your posts adheres to these guidelines, you’ve likely got a thought-provoking, interesting piece of content ready to be published. This is an incredible step forward, but your work isn’t quite done.

You need to provide your audience with an easy way to join in the discussion and to quickly and painlessly share your blog posts. Ensure you have a simple, functional comment form in place so that readers can add their thoughts to the post and engage with other members of the community. Don’t make your readers jump through too many hoops to prove they aren’t spammers; this is what good spam-blocking plugins should do for you.

Additionally, provide social media sharing buttons for your readers so they can easily click on the platform of their choice and hit “share now.” Again, these buttons should be simple and functional. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot at the finish line by making sharing buttons tiny (or obnoxiously everywhere) or hard to find. Remember, you want to make engagement as easy as possible for anyone wanting to connect with your blog in some way. Confused minds don’t buy – and frustrated users don’t bother wasting time trying to figure out how to leave a simple comment. They certainly won’t do you the favor of sharing your content if you make it difficult for them to do so.

Put It All Together and Replace Empty Space with A Vast Readership

By putting the above information and advice into practice, it’s extremely likely that you’ll be able to stop blogging in a vacuum and start sharing content with your own dedicated audience. Taking these steps will make your blog a more accessible, thoughtful, and pleasing space for others. You have something to say, so ensure you have an audience to say it to and a tribe that wants to engage with what you’ve provided for them. If you offer value, produce excellent content, and make it easy for others to engage in a variety of ways, it’s a guarantee that will not only increase your readership but also increase engagement for your blog.