Content. Every business wants content. Every business needs content (especially those that embrace content marketing to find and engage potential customers).
But that means you have to create content, and that means writing it.
And that's where the whole issue of content suddenly gets tough.
And that's why this list of outstanding writing resources put together by Kevan Lee of Buffer is so great. (Buffer lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social media updates--and has also taken the idea of transparency to extraordinary lengths.)
There wasn't a content marketing course back in the day, so everything I've learned has been self-taught. And I'd love to share some of my favorite lessons, so I've emptied my swipe file. What you see here is everything I've saved over the past five years.
Nuts and Bolts of Web Writing
by Robin Sloane, Snark Market
Stock is your evergreen, tentpole content that draws traffic from the moment of publish to the end of time. Flow is the filler, the stuff that keeps your blog churning or your social media streams full.
Check out the article for details.
by Gregory Ciotti
Ogilvy is widely considered the father of modern advertising, and his 10 most valuable lessons contain advice that worked when he wrote it in the 1960s and that works for online writers today.
Here's lesson No. 2: The temptation to entertain instead of sell is contagious.
by Karri Stover, Business 2 Community
Pretty much the cream of the crop for copywriting formulas: appetizer, main course to follow.
by Kevan Lee, Buffer
Shameless plug alert! I wrote this article, but I didn't really write it. All the formulas listed here are the incredible work of super smart writers and advertisers. It's all them, zero me.
by Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger
(Last copywriting formula link, I swear!) This one's great if you want to get deep into one single, can't-miss formula for writing on social media or blogs.
by Jason Miller
Miller's post on LinkedIn offers a great review of the factors that go into an all-time-great post. Just a sampling of them:
- Unique voice
- Easy to read
- Has personality
- Has fantastic visuals
- Useful and inspiring
Here's the post that Jason Miller references as his "favorite blog post" of all time. It's written from the point of view of a dinosaur.
by Demian Farnworth, Copybot
Simple tips in three basic categories--reading, writing, and critiquing--to help you be a better writer.
by Joel Klettke, Business Casual Copywriting
This post is a kickoff to Klettke's month of posts of fewer than 250 words. The premise: Your reader has to pee really bad, so you best get to your point. The 250-word post challenge is a fun one to keep in mind, too.
Content Marketing Advice
by Rand Fishkin
It's an article wrapped in a SlideShare with amazing takeaways for articles. If you work backward from the title ("Why Content Marketing Fails"), you'll have a pretty awesome case for how content marketing succeeds.
by Corey Eridon, Hubspot
My favorite tip: Go into your old blog posts and make them great.
by Felicia Spahr, KISSmetrics
Spoiler alert: The secret is Open Loops, and they work like this (click through to the story for some cool examples, including one from Buffer):
Open Loops in TV shows are the equivalent of that cliffhanger that keeps you up at night, consuming your mind with thinking about what's going to happen the next week, or that story line that was never quite explained. Those aren't just "blips" in a script. They are put there so that it's harder for people to get up off the couch than it is to stay and watch "just one more episode."
by Gregory Ciotti
One of my favorite lessons: Don't forget about "solved" problems. In the case of Men's Health, the magazine has found that the market for fitness information is so great that "solved" headlines can work over and over again.
by Garrett Moon, CoSchedule
Cool, beautiful stuff from the CoSchedule blog.
by Brian Clark, Copyblogger
Clark calls the big idea here Agile Marketing, in which it is key to learn to optimize constantly on the basis of feedback. Good stuff.
by Jessica Hagy, Medium
A short, two-minute read, this fun piece on Medium hits on some of the unspoken truths of content marketing.
by Neil Patel, Quick Sprout
This beautiful infographic from Patel covers things such as images, layout, voice, and social media.
by John O'Nolan, Ghost
If you're looking for a new blogging method, give O'Nolan's a try. I was fortunate to stumble onto many of the techniques he mentions here (ideas, outlines, etc.), and I would have been better off finding his post first.
by Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media
Here's one to blow your mind: "Think of content as hubs. You can write on a single topic at different depths to come up with a huge number of individual articles: high-level list posts, overview of a topic in a list item, and in-depth posts about an element of the topic."
There are six more insights from Crestodina in the article; each are just as good.
by Rand Fishkin
The best case you can make for focusing on SEO (even a little bit) with the content you produce.
by Henneke, Copyblogger
I use this post to check in every so often to make sure I haven't fallen into any of these bad habits. The need to publish daily is a constant one for me.
by Gregory Ciotti
The article's closing strategy alone is worth the price of admission.
by Belle Beth Cooper, Buffer
This one first got me hooked into running and writing a blog of my own. Cooper shares an incredibly deep and transparent look at how Buffer runs things.
by Peter Shallard, Copyblogger
Never be short on blogging ideas again.
by Noble Direct Marketing
There are tons of actionable insights here from ad legend John Caples--everything from the specific words to use ("Introducing" and "Finally!") to the styles to try.
by Brian Clark, Copyblogger
Simple but important.
by James Agate, Think Traffic
I started thinking about the possibilities of guest posting thanks to Think Traffic founder Corbett Barr's blog posts and articles on the topic. This article (a guest post about guest posting--meta!) has some super advice.
by A.J. Kohn, Blind Five-Year-Old
Here's one that I failed to consider for a long time: the readability of what you write. Now I often picture what a post will look like as someone reads/scans, along with what I'll actually be writing.
Creativity is 85 percent a learned skill. Wow. Really? If that's the case, it's so great to have resources like this one from Duvall that cover the topic so deeply. The creativity training routine he outlines is top-notch.
Fair enough, this one has little to do with writing other than a huge motivation to make each day count.
31. How to Be Great
I wish I could copy and paste the whole thing right here so you could read it right away. Every time I breeze through this one I want to go out and create something.
One hurdle I often face with writing something is a fear that it might fail. Turns out, failure is perfectly alright.
A short one from Medium, this 60-word manifesto is a superb reminder of why and how we do what we do.
34. At iDoneThis, We Believe in Taking It Slow
The slow Web movement is something really close to my heart and, I believe, close for a lot of writers too. Online writing runs the risk of being shouted down by the noise of a busy internet. What the team at iDoneThis have shared is that there's another way--a quieter, simpler way that just might improve the writing work you do.
35. The 5000th Post*
by Seth Godin
In typical Godin fashion, this one's brief. But it does outline several of the lessons he's learned in reaching the 5,000-post milestone. To paraphrase one of my favorite parts:
Don't write because it's your job, write because you can.
"First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It's even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood."
It gets better from there (and before there, too). Backes is a teacher and author who certainly knows her stuff. I want to print this article out and hand it to every middle school child.
Some really great, actionable tips on how to create a personal essay from scratch.
Did you know: Dr. Seuss produced Green Eggs and Ham after he bet his editor he could create an entire book in under 50 different words.
Really cool insights and examples from Ciotti.
Just a really great collection of inspiration. One of my favorites (from Kafka, kind of an ironic inspiration):
"Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly."
Write down one big thing, three medium things, and five little things to do each day. Then do them!
Clear is one of my favorite voices on productivity and getting more from yourself and your day. The 2-Minute Rule breaks down like this (there are lots of examples and background in Clear's post):
- Part 1--If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.
- Part 2--When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
The headline here says it all. Patel is a busy guy, so it's amazing to peek inside his writing process. I've adopted his "intro/conclusion" technique for the blog posts I write, and it's been a big timesaver.
Kamb tells a great story (maybe it's familiar to you): He used to publish blog posts according to a schedule, and would always be up incredibly late the night before cramming for the post that needed to be written, edited, and published. He has since found several hacks--really useful things like technology tips, tools, and strategies.
This was the first Buffer blog post I read--and, boy, was it a good one! It set me down a path for thinking of productivity in a whole new way: not so structured as before, but rather an intuitive approach in which I listened more to how and when my body would respond. I've squeezed out a ton of extra writing because of it.
Blanda's article touches on a lot of journalism topics that also interest online writers. Things such as understanding an audience and even the aforementioned stock and flow concept get mentioned here.
A list of intangibles--more like love and confidence and less "a keyboard" and "a thesaurus"--this piece from Simone is hugely relatable for those of us who write regularly.
I could have picked any number of "Here's How X Writes" posts from the Copyblogger series, so narrowing it down was hard. Read several, or them all. Maria Popova's interview was especially fascinating because she creates so much writing content all by herself, and she's so well-versed in the writing of others.
You're way into my treasures box now. This link is an archived newsletter of McKenzie's that contains so much good stuff on writing, blogging, and marketing strategies. For instance, should you place the date on your blog posts? What types of content should you be posting? McKenzie's answers will get you thinking.
Quick, bite-size snippets of psychology lessons that can help you understand the behavior of the people you're writing for.
This piece originally appeared in The New York Times in 2001, and it has tons of good takeaways for authors and writers in general. Stuff like "Never open with the weather" and "Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said.'"
Another fun resource. Jokes. And a great publication to end on.