7 Article Writing Pitfalls You Should Avoid at Any Cost
You’ve probably seen countless articles listing down often-missed grammatical errors, but this is not one of them. Article writing is a lot more complex than having impeccable grammar, especially if you’re writing to market your business online.
To maximize our articles’ impact on our bottom line, we sometimes do things that might actually do more harm than good. We’ve enumerated them below, as well as a few suggestions to avoid these errors and make your articles more effective as online marketing tools.
1. Writing the article as you would a school paper
Let’s start with the easiest and, hopefully, the most obvious one.
We all learned the fundamentals of writing from school, but not a lot of traditional learning institutions have evolved enough to cover online writing as a course. As a marketer, you should know that online writing is drastically different from academic writing.
For one, less attention is paid to sentence and paragraph length in school because our teachers have the patience and dedication to go over our verbose writing. Never make the mistake that your site visitors will do the same. In fact, you’d be lucky to keep them on your page for more than three minutes.
Tone is also an important consideration. A scholarly approach to writing often dictates the use of formal language—something that your website readers may find inappropriate, if not downright boring, for a website that sells perhaps cars or clothes.
Remember that your article is competing for attention against highly engaging formats like videos and social media posts. If your writing sounds too robotic, that may be all the readers you’ll get.
Go for short sentences and light paragraphs as much as possible.
Use subheadings and other visual devices to aid skimming and speed reading.
Find the best tone for your website, favoring a more conversational rather than formal tone, and stick to it.
Familiarize yourself with other content writing best practices.
2. Relying on external sources to explain for you
This one is very common, yet not a lot of marketers see why it can negatively impact their campaign.
When you’re writing an article, you often link to other websites to back up your claim or expound on your topic. There is nothing wrong with that—in fact, it can even help boost your page rankings, not to mention your article’s credibility.
Why then is this a potential issue? While linking to external pages can be beneficial, it can also spark interest in a related or altogether different topic that can lead visitors away from your website. It happens all the time: you use a technical term and link to Wikipedia (please don’t!); you cite statistics and link to the source; you mention a recent event and link to the news website.
Done incorrectly, you risk losing site visitors who could have gone all the way and add to your sales.
Include definitions for technical terms within the article.
State statistics and facts as clearly as possible so as not to require your readers to verify your claims, or worse, seek clarification elsewhere.
Dedicate a sentence or two to briefly expound on news or other events that you feature.
Do what you can to keep readers on your page, but just in case, make sure every external link opens in a new window to remind readers to go back to your site after.
3. Filling the article with industry jargon
Speaking of technical terms, have you ever taken a moment to check your articles for readability?
In an attempt to establish authority in our respective fields, we tend to use industry-specific terms that can easily alienate your readers. We’re not just talking about overly technical words here. Acronyms are equally to blame.
Bear in mind that a good number of your site visitors are there to know more about your business, and a completely technical discussion would only repel this segment of your target audience. Savvy article writing finds that (sometimes elusive) sweet spot between technical and instructional discussion, so your marketing efforts can tap both the experts and the beginners in your field.
Use common words where possible.
Accompany technical terms and acronyms with their definitions, which you can include in your sentences or substitute with context clues.
Evaluate if you’re better off using acronyms for the rest of the article (e.g. “DNA” is better known than “deoxyribonucleic acid”).
4. Anchoring your discussion on a developing story
We always want to make our articles relevant, and one way of doing this is by relating our discussion to news and recent trends in our industries. In our experience, however, this does not always benefit you when you make a still developing story the main topic of your article.
The reason should be obvious. When you see a sudden shift in the story, the supposed relevance of your article is also affected. Chances are you will either need to update your article or scratch it entirely. This is easier for companies who have a content creation agency working full-time on their articles, but what if you don’t?
Surely, you wouldn’t want outdated information lying around your site. Not only can this reflect badly on you, it can even lead to legal issues where more serious matters are concerned.
Avoid making developing stories the center of your article, unless you deem the risk to be worth it and you have the resources to monitor for sudden changes.
Feature developments in your field only when they have been confirmed, if possible.
Modify your published articles when necessary to safeguard your business from potential issues.
5. Telling your readers to shop around
Believe it or not, there are marketers who do this because content marketing is supposed to be unbiased. Telling your readers to consider other providers is believed to be the way to go. In reality, this can be highly counterproductive to your marketing campaign.
The potential customer is already on your website. It simply does not make sense to suggest that they come up with a shortlist of their options, even when you were implying all the while that yours is the best one. Your visitor may always end up on another website with a more aggressive marketing approach and seal the deal elsewhere just like that.
People are more perceptive than you may think. They can always tell whether or not you are only in it to make a sale, or if your content is indeed meant to provide valuable information for consumers.
Provide an objective review of your products and services and never ask your readers to check out other suppliers.
Leverage the unique selling points of your business to establish the need for your products and services without being too salesy.
6. Adding geotags just for the sake of mentioning them
Here is another potential drawback of writing purely for marketing’s sake. Digital marketers know the importance of mentioning geotags (i.e. target locations) in your articles so that search engines can index them and potential customers can find you.
As with any other form of marketing strategy, however, proper execution is key to successful geotagging. As a rule of thumb, you are not supposed to mention a specific location unless the statement is also specific to the locale.
For instance, an article with the title “Most Suitable Roofing Materials for Homes in New York” should go with a geotag. In this example, the article talks about the compatibility of certain construction materials to a specific location and not anywhere else.
In contrast, the article “Why Order Roofing Materials Ahead of Time in New York” should probably not go with a geotag. If the article intends to discuss the value of purchasing construction supplies in advance particularly in New York, then keep the geotag. But if the same logic applies to anywhere else, then the geotag is obviously just there to attract people in New York.
In instances where the article fails to deliver on its promise of a location-specific discussion, readers can easily be turned off and leave your site. You may have intended to boost your search rankings by using geotags, but the high bounce rate may just give you the opposite.
Mention your target locations only when necessary.
Find creative ways of inserting your target locations in the call to action, where mentions of geotags usually do not affect the integrity of the article.
7. Featuring something controversial, morbid, or offensive
It may be because of the “shock factor” or simply because they need to make a point, some marketers go as far as including sensitive matters in their articles. Perhaps desperate times really call for desperate measures.
As a case in point, an article once alluded to an actual case of a child drowning and used it as a jumpoff point to highlight the safety features of a swimming pool product. While this may be logical, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If there’s anything that your marketing instincts should tell you, it is that unpleasant things like this can adversely affect your customer’s perception of your business.
Keep your articles light and bank on the positive attributes of your business.
Be inventive and come up with fresh writing angles that do not resort to anything negative.
In the end, we always have to evaluate whether or not the article writing strategies we employ can actually help our business. Many of the practices you’ve established may be working, but having a professional content creation agency to guide you may just be well worth the investment to err on the safe side.