Brittney Sheffield / Marketing / October 16th, 2014

This is a Blog Post About Nothing

Sooner or later, every content creator gets writer’s block. I’m talking the “Holy crap, someone is paying me to come up with ideas and be creative and write, and I’ve done NONE of those things today,” sort of writer’s block. Too often it results in content that nobody wants to read.

Well, I had that kind of writer’s block today, and it was terrible. It wasn’t for not trying, either. I went about my typical, topic-hunting routine that I follow when I’m not itching to write about a particular subject and still came up short. Here’s how my morning went:

9:45 – Check the blog-topic suggestion list created by our team. Feel uninspired.

9:50 – Check Twitter for inspiration from industry folks I follow. No dice – thanks for nothing, industry folks.

9:57 – Get coffee.

10:05 – Talk to our blog editor, Mike, about the Internet. Decide ‘5 things #BlameJameis can teach you about Digital Marketing’ would just encourage FSU fans*. Feel frustrated.

But then I remembered seeing this Tweet from Rand Fishkin yesterday:

At which point I realized I was just writing because I owe Mike a blog post, not because I had an idea that was someone was going to love. And then I realized that my mistake was actually a perfect lesson in content creation.

Know Your Audience

If you truly know your audience, then you have a good understanding of their interests, needs and pain points and how you can inspire or help them. You should be able to easily answer the question, “Who am I creating this piece of content for?” before you ever start brainstorming. You can make this a natural part of your content creation process by establishing user personas and considering those personas regularly.

Create Substance, Not Noise

bored dog
Your content is boring, Human.

With a user-first mindset, you’ll naturally create content not for the sake of SEO or just because you need something new on social media, but for the sake of answering your audience’s questions or helping them solve a problem they’re having – or better yet, solve their problem before they realize it exists.

It’s becoming more and more important both from a user and SEO perspective that you only publish content that is truly unique and valuable. If you’re creating noise, content that simply reworks an existing piece on another site, you’re not really helping your users and eventually Google’s algorithm will catch up to you.

If you’re not certain you’ve served a particular audience, and you’re not sure who would even share this content you’re creating – don’t create it. It’s far better to spend your efforts on projects that you’re certain will resonate with and help your audience rather than crank out a lot of stuff that contributes nothing to the conversation. Think of each opportunity to publish something new as a chance for your audience to advocate for your brand and share that content with their friends. If they won’t share, retweet, forward or tell a friend about the message you’re delivering, just save your energy.

So what steps do you take to prevent yourself from creating something that won’t benefit your users? Let me know in the comments.


Photo Credit: Kristen Adams

  • Maria Juan

    @brittneysheff Seinfeld episode for content marketers?

  • Peter VanRysdam

    I feel like I’m writing this comment because I’m supposed to, not because I have anything to add. So you’re saying I shouldn’t write it then?

    • Brittney Sheffield

      Nailed it.

    • mikecush

      If you get an upvote, then it was worthwhile.

  • Christopher Burns

    This makes me think there is a happy medium. I’ve gone the opposite approach on a blog and only write when I feel super inspired… which leads to 1-2 posts per year which probably isn’t good either.

    • mikecush

      Edison’s quote about genius being 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration definitely applies to blogging, especially when it comes to your business. Waiting for inspiration to strike can result in great content, obviously, but often you just need to put the work in to discover something that will resonate with a customer or user. Not everything you produce has to be a “Eureka” moment to have impact.

      Plus, grinding out good content makes it easier to write once you hit on something that truly inspires you.

  • Jennifer Fix

    Such a good reminder to create substance and not noise. When I write content, blog posts, etc. I’ve been trying to think about whether the piece is something I would actually want to read, which has definitely helped me rethink the angle I take. Nicely done.

  • dwasylow

    I think the key to creating valuable content is empathy – being able to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and truly understand their needs.