7 Habits That Boost Your Content Credibility

The more content you create, the greater your need will be for ways to up your game.

Struggling to come up with ideas?

Feel like your content isn’t engaging?

Maybe it’s time to try changing some of your habits to jumpstart your brain.

Here are 7 easy ways to get you back on the path to great content:

1. Become an insatiable reader

Book

It’s no secret that reading can improve the quality of your writing. But what you read can be as important as how much.

Instead of gravitating toward your favorite genres or topics, make an effort to read outside your comfort zone. It will often lead to finding unique connections and examples in your content.

Need suggestions to get you started? Try Open Library, Popular Science, Daily Good, Open Culture, and Cool Hunting.

2. Analyze before you click

Slowing down to understand your own motivation for clicking a link or reading an article can help you create content that does the same for others. Create a simple spreadsheet to track your browsing habits. Take note of:

  • Words/phrases you use in searches
  • Wording that entices you to take action
  • Graphics/formats that motivate you

3. Create a swipe file

A swipe file is simply a collection of anything that inspires you. Whether you collect clippings in a shoebox or catalog your favorite posts in Pinterest, it’s a good go-to resource to spark new ideas.

Remember, it’s just called a swipe file. You’re not actually going to copy other people’s ideas exactly. You’re using them as a jumping-off point to fuel your own work. Whether you’re inspired by an e-book layout or come across topics you want to explore, you want to keep it organized and accessible.

4. Outline, outline, outline

notebook and penWhen you’re creating content, it’s really easy to go off on a tangent if you’re not careful. Outlining can keep you on track and help you flesh out your idea.

But before you start having high school English flashbacks, keep in mind that these should be simple outlines. Figure out the main takeaway, then jot down 3-5 subheading bullet points each with 2-3 support points/examples.

Not only does this give you a nice roadmap for your content, but it can also highlight thin topics.

Once you finish your outline, you can use it and simply expand the sections. As you’re writing, be sure to sideline anything that doesn’t fit the outline. It could make a separate, new piece of content. I always have Workflowy open to capture my ideas.

5. Write a messy first draft

Repeat after me: First drafts are supposed to suck.

Now here’s where I usually run into problems. I have the bad habit of editing in my head before I type. As much as I would love to write like the wind to get an idea out and then go back and edit, my body won’t let me.

While that might seem like an asset, I can tell you from experience that I have lost numerous brilliant ideas because I muddled them around in my gourd too long, and they slipped away before I could type them.

So let this be a warning, fair content creators; write fast to get the ideas down, then go back and shape it into content someone will want to read.

6. Evaluate your work

Now that you’ve written your draft and edited it into something great, you must resist the urge to click “publish.”

No seriously, don’t do it.

Before you send your content out into the world, you need to evaluate it from a couple different perspectives. Does the content deliver the main idea from your outline? Is it engaging to your prospective customer/visitor? You’ll also want to proofread for any errors.

reading glassesBecause you’re so close to your content, you may not be able to give an objective evaluation. It may be best to have someone else look at it with fresh eyes or let it sit for a day or longer and then look at it again yourself after you’ve given it some distance.

For her recently-published e-book, Linda Formichelli had put a call out for beta readers to take a last read through before it was finished. By doing that, she was able to gather a collection of quick feedback and suggestions, which no doubt made it a stronger offering.

7. Conduct a postmortem

No, I’m not suggesting you perform an autopsy! A postmortem is simply evaluating your content’s effectiveness after others have had the chance to view or act upon it.

You can get as detailed as you want here, but I suggest keeping it simple to start out. Take a look at what worked well and what may not have met expectations.

Would a different subject line prompt more subscribers to open your email? Does shorter or longer copy convert better on your landing page?

Fortunately, you can continue to tweak and test most of your content until you’re satisfied with the results. And by constantly fine-tuning, you’re also showing your audience that quality is important to you, which will keep them coming back.

It may seem like a lot, but these are just a few ways to improve your content. There are a ton of resources out there to help you spark creativity and improve your writing.

Time to share!

What processes or go-to resources do you use to improve your content?

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0Kara Parlin is an expert copywriter and marketing coach who teaches solopreneurs and small businesses how to embrace their smallness in marketing themselves online. She’s all about helping entrepreneurs live the work that moves them. 

Comments

  1. Hi Kara,
    I really like your tips, esp. on becoming an insatiable reader, probably because I am already one, so I’m biased. LOL. But one thing I find about reading, and developing content from what you read, especially for the insatiable reader, because we read so much, is that we often forgot to take the time to really digest what we’ve learned to a degree where we can turn that into our own content.
    So what I’ve started doing lately, is to take notes in Evernote. And because I read on Kindle (unless it’s a color book), I can go to my Kindle page to view all my highlights.
    It’s also probably good to read the same book twice – which I’m guilty of never doing.
    Best,
    Lucy

  2. It’s funny, I wasn’t always a big reader. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate it more. I find myself stopping at unique phrasing or ways an author plays with language.

    Even when reading other people’s blogs, it’s interesting to take a look at their voice and think about how it works with their messaging/products/services. I find that I respond more to authentic people. And that’s something people should keep in mind when they’re thinking about how to present themselves. Just like in fiction, multi-dimensional people are more engaging.

    I think sometimes, people assume they have to come off like they know everything about their topic or industry. But that actually puts distance between you and the customer. The more they feel like they can relate to you, the more comfortable they’ll be doing business with you.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Kara

  3. Great tips!

    I’m also a big fan of Workflowy. I’m a serial list maker so that app is a godsend. I also use Pocket to bookmark any blog posts that inspires me, sort of like making a swipe file, or a list of possible blog post ideas.

    Thanks for a great read!

    • I LOVE Workflowy! I need to try out Pocket. For now, I’ve just been capturing URLs in Workflowy, but I can see that getting messy!

  4. Kara, I loved your tips! Especially keeping a swipe file. I think I unconsciously do this on Pinterest an it certainly works very well when I’m looking for visual inspiration, but now that I’m aware about the positive effects it can have I’m definitely going to add on more content ideas that will keep my mind fresh. Thanks again for writing this post!

  5. Thanks for your comment, Kim. I also find it helpful to track posts I come across that have a lot of comments/shares so I can go back later and try to understand what people found most engaging.

    When I’m planning a post, I tend to want to put a ton of information in to make it as complete as possible. But that leaves little room for others to add to the conversation. I have to remind myself to leave some open spaces to invite exploration.