Believe it or not, content creation isn't simply a matter of sitting down and hammering out whatever comes to mind. There's actually a sort of science to it, meaning it can be a pretty difficult process if you go in without knowing what you're doing. There are plenty of areas where you can stumble - and in many cases, you might not even realize you've erred until it's too late.
"Because content is such a creative, artistic endeavor, it's easy to screw up," writes Relevance's Michael Ferrari. "Yes, content should be a creative venture. But it should still be a profitable venture, too. Sometimes, that can make for a tough balancing act during the creation process."
That's where I come in. Today, I'm going to go over some of the most common mistakes made by novices and veterans alike. Commit them to memory, and you'll be well-equipped to avoid them in the future.
Being Unrealistic With Your Timeline
"When you finish a project with an unrealistic deadline, your reward is another project with an unrealistic deadline,"- Meridian Health Plan CIO Tom Lauzon.
A large part of success in content creation stems from knowing your limits. What's the maximum amount of work you can do in a given period of time while still attaining a reasonable level of quality? If everything goes as planned, how fast can you finish a particular piece?
The key here is to set deadlines that are short, but still attainable. That's why it's important that you know the answers to both of these questions. That way you'll neither bite off more than you can chew nor set a schedule that's too lax.
"One of the things I love about short deadlines is that people think straight," illustrator Christoph Neimann told 99U. "I really believe in the collaboration between the client, and I know this really improves my work. The problem is when people have too much time on their hands."
Leaning Too Heavily On Your Sources
"The secret of all effective originality...is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships." - Leo Burnett of Leo Burnett Worldwide.
Another mistake I made all too frequently in my early days was over-citation. There were two reasons for this. First, I was incredibly paranoid about accidentally plagiarizing someone else's content - I'd had pieces stolen from me by content scrapers before, and I didn't want to feel as though I was even tangentially related to them. Second was the fact that I didn't really have a lot of faith in my own thoughts or expertise.
I was green as grass, after all. What did I know?
Here's the thing. While you do need authoritative sources to back up any major claims you make in an article, they shouldn't form the sum total of your work. Personal anecdotes can do a lot to round out a piece, as can casting old content in a new light.
Not Using Sources At All
"In developing any sort of content on a website, you're going to need high quality backlinks in order to back up the authority claims of your site" - Julia McCoy, Inbound.org.
The opposite extreme here is neglecting the use of sources entirely. There are very few people in the world who can be considered complete authorities on any topic, and even the most respected scholar or expert still occasionally refers to someone else's work when creating their own stuff.
"When you make a claim, always, always back it up," writes McCoy, quoted above. "I cannot tell you the amount of times I read a really good piece and realized a major statement or claim it made was not supported with evidence."
"Simply creating content or having a great product won't cut it any more. Sharing your content is just as important as creating it." - Tony Randall, Creative Bloq.
The old cliche "if you build it, they will come" simply doesn't apply to digital content. If you're in the business of content creation, then you - or someone else in your organization - needs to take steps to distribute your creations to the masses. You need to share it on social media, send notifications through email, exercise proper SEO; the works.
Because the best content in the world is meaningless if no one can find it.
Creating Bad Content
"The creative muse cannot be simply willed into being exactly from 9 am to 5 PM. People have different rhythms that make them more or less productive during certain hours." - Oz Alon, Honeybook CEO/Co-Founder.
Some people seem to have a boundless reserve of creative energy. They can slip into a creative mindset as though flipping a switch, creating incredible content with total ease. The rest of us are stuck writing when inspiration hits; creating when we've something relevant to say.
It's vital that you understand how your creative process works - this is a topic I've written about in the past. While it's fine to occasionally force yourself to put together a piece (sometimes your 'worst work' can, with a little editing, turn into something masterful), if you're doing it too often, then there's something wrong.
Content creation can be difficult to handle if you go in unprepared. It's not simply a matter of writing an article and hurling it onto the web. There's a lot more that goes into it - and understanding the mistakes you can make is the first step in understanding how to make better content.