Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Data-Driven Method for Finding Out Whether Your Content Sucks

Sometimes, you have to show some tough love. You’ve got to be brutally honest.

Because I value you (yes, you!) as a reader, I don’t want to lie to you or sugarcoat things for you. You deserve better.

I want to give you the best advice possible so you can go out there and succeed.

If I’m being brutally honest: Your content might suck.

It’s not your fault—my content was downright awful for years. It took me a long, long time to get really good at blogging.

Blogging is hard. Coming up with awesome content is hard.

You might know your content isn’t as good as it could be, but you probably don’t know where you’re going wrong.

And if you don’t know where you’re going wrong, you’ll never improve.

That’s why I’ve put together this data-driven method of finding out whether your content sucks. There’s no guesswork here. I’ve laid out everything for you here, step by step.

I wish someone would have given me a guide like this when I started blogging. It would have eliminated years of mistakes, and I’m not exaggerating.

Let’s get started.

Get into the right mindset

When I started blogging, I didn’t really know how to make my content better.

For a while, I thought I was just an awful blogger.

If you feel that way, let me reassure you: You’re not a bad blogger.

Writing is a skill anyone can develop, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I wasn’t born with the ability to write. I had to hone my writing for years.

I know from experience that it can be difficult to see exactly why your content sucks.

Thankfully, there are several tried-and-true methods I’ve learned during my career that will help you identify and fix problems in your content.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I want to point out two things.

First, you need to be your own worst critic. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but try to detach yourself from your writing.

There’s a famous quote in writing that applies here:


When you’re writing, don’t get too attached to anything. You’ll need to be honest with yourself during the editing process, so try to look at your own writing as if it’s someone else’s.

Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even today, I work with editors all the time. My writing still isn’t perfect, and I’ve been blogging for over ten years.

If you get stuck along the way, there’s no shame in finding a writer or editor to help you out.

Better yet, email a blogger you really admire, and ask for their help. It sounds crazy, but most bloggers (yes, even the big names) are more than happy to help up-and-coming bloggers.

Now that you’re prepped, let’s make your content shine.

Specifically, let’s talk about diagnosing bad content.

Often, if your content is bad, you’ll just know. Other times, it’s more difficult.

Here are some of the most common flaws of bad content.

Problem #1: Keyword stuffing

If you can use up both hands to count the number of keywords in a paragraph, you’re witnessing keyword stuffing.

Keyword stuffing happens when someone uses a keyword several times within a short amount of space.

Moz made up a great example:


Keyword stuffing has been around for years, and people still use it today in an attempt to enhance their SEO.

But keyword stuffing is really only good at one thing: annoying your readers.

Keyword optimization can be a powerful tool, but stuffing ruins it. Plus, Google doesn’t like it. If you have keyword stuffing, you need to fix it pronto.

How to fix it: Fixing keyword stuffing is a two-step process.

First, let go of your keyword obsession. Remember, you’re creating content for human beings—not for search engines.

Try writing an entire post without thinking about keywords at all. You don’t have to use the final product, but I do recommend this exercise to get you out of the keyword stuffing habit.

Second, get up to date with keyword research. It’s still a vital part of SEO and online marketing, but you need to do it right.

I recommend spending a lot of time investigating insanely specific long-tail keywords for your niche.

Then, learn how to seamlessly integrate your long-tail keywords into your posts. It might take a while, but it will reward you many times over.

Problem #2: Reader unawareness syndrome

I’ve said it countless times before, and I’ll say it again: Blogging is all about creating awesome content for your readers.

That means you have to know who your readers are.

I’ve read lots of blog posts that were well-written with excellent research and examples. The only problem? The content wasn’t aimed at the blog’s demographic.

Let me tell you the story of a failed startup called Patient Communicator.


Patient Communicator’s goal was to provide a CRM for doctors and patients. But, as founder Jeff Novich realized,

We had no customers because no one was really interested in the model we were pitching.

Many product ideas fail because the company doesn’t understand what their audience wants. It’s the same for blogs.

If you don’t understand what your readers want and deliver that type of content, your blog will be quickly forgotten.

How to fix it: To relieve reader unawareness syndrome, you’ll need to do some thorough research to find out who exactly your audience is.

This is a great opportunity to look into both demographics and psychographics of your readership to understand who your readers are and why they read your content.

A good method of obtaining both demographics and psychographics is to survey your readers. SurveyMonkey is a great tool for this.


You’ll get direct feedback from the people you’re writing for, and you can’t get much better than that when it comes to marketing.

Problem #3: Bad writing

When I first started blogging, I was a bad writer, to put it lightly.

Over the years, I’ve learned a ton about copywriting, but for a long time, my content suffered.

There’s no denying that well-written content can take you from 0 to 60. If you can write well, you’ll command your readers’ full attention.

More importantly, excellent writing sets you up as an authority. Being able to communicate your ideas clearly is an invaluable skill to have, no matter what industry you’re in.

Likewise, bad writing can harm you. People won’t see you as an authority, and they might even doubt your credibility.

You could have the best content in the world, but if it’s not written well, it will flop. That’s why it’s a great use of your time to study writing.

If you struggle with writing, don’t worry—it’s easier to improve than you might think.

How to fix it: In short, study copywriting from authoritative resources. Here are a few to get you started:

Next, become a regular reader of the most popular blogs in your niche. For example, in marketing, Hubspot, Inbound, and Inc are three popular blogs.

A simple way to find the top blogs in your niche is to run a Google search.

If you’re in finance, for example, search “finance blogs.” Find 5-10 popular blogs, and read them religiously.

Finally, put what you’ve learned into practice. Compare your content to that of the blogs you read. Do you see similarities? If you struggle, where is the problem?

This 3-step process will help you become a better writer, but it won’t happen overnight. You have to be dedicated and keep it up every single day.

Keep practicing, and, like I said earlier, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Problem #4: Lack of value

People love value.

Jay Baer from Convince and Convert surveyed 25 popular blog posts and found that people love tips and tools. Many of those 25 posts featured actionable advice that readers could use almost instantly.

Sadly, many blogs withhold value from their readers. Many bloggers are afraid to give too much away.

What those bloggers don’t understand is that people read content in order to get something valuable.

Think of it as a transaction. The reader is spending time and energy to check out your content, and they’re looking for something in return.

It seems counterintuitive, but giving away a ton of value will make your readers more devoted to your brand. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.

That’s why I write super-long articles that are packed with advice. It’s a tried-and-true method that’s never let me down.

If you’re worried about giving away value, don’t be. It’s worked for me and countless others, and it’ll work for you too.

How to fix it: Start creating content with the sole goal of providing value. Don’t worry about doing SEO or writing clickbait headlines. Just focus on value.

Strive to provide at least one helpful takeaway in every piece of content you write. (Longer content should have more takeaways.)

These takeaways should be pieces of actionable advice that readers can use in their lives. Ideally, they should be able to implement the advice immediately.

Make sure to let your readers know what value they’re getting. Start with the title.

Here’s an example of a great title from Brian Dean at Backlinko:


You can tell right away what you’ll get if you read the article. That’s what you want to accomplish.

You can also create infographics like this one we published on Crazy Egg:


Whatever media you use, pack it full of value. You won’t regret it.


Let me reiterate this: If your content sucks, it’s not because you suck.

Writing awesome content is hard. It’s taken me years of practice to get where I am today, and guess what? I’m still learning.

But it’s important to recognize when your content does suck.

There’s a huge chance that your content will make a lot of first impressions. People who have never heard of your brand before could stumble upon one of your blog posts, and they’ll judge your brand based on your content.

And if your content is bad, you’ll lose potential customers. But if your content is amazing, you’ll win people over.

from Quick Sprout