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10 tips to create a compelling piece of content from scratch

Creating written content is easy enough to achieve. Creating a compelling piece of content and delivering the message in a new, exciting way?

That’s where this start-to-finish article will help you gain the foundational skills required to showcase subject-matter expertise and thought leadership in your industry.

According to the Oxford online learner’s dictionary, thought leadership stands for “the practice of developing important new ways of thinking that influence others.” While the phrase has been around as early as the 19th century, it only became trending lingo within the last five years. Now, due to the current pandemic, some venture to say it’s reached buzzword status. With more and more businesses offering online employment and virtual learning materials, the ability to write a compelling piece of content is in high demand. 

So how do you create a compelling piece of content and build a following to be considered a subject-matter expert in your industry? What makes you stand out from everyone else who has a blog or online business? You don’t necessarily need to discuss a brand new topic. You simply need to write, create, or speak (about) in a brand-new way. 

Contents

  1. Establish brand awareness
  2. Think creatively and innovate
  3. Execute your writing plan
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  5. Have strong supporting arguments
  6. Compose clear and concise content
  7. Assess your target audience
  8. Stimulate your readers
  9. Follow best practices for citing sources
  10. Use modern editing etiquette

Eventually, redundant or ongoing issues turn into background noise. They’re acknowledged but not heard in any meaningful capacity. In other words, presenting readers with reproduced material is tuned out far more easily than something that stands out. Even though the reader may be looking at the message and may recall some details, they likely won’t absorb it as exclusive to the brand, unless it sparks new thoughts. That’s where creating a compelling piece of content comes into play.

Excellent thought leaders give consumers content that reinvents old industries, explores new solutions to ongoing problems, redefines or disproves stigmas, and or makes modern solutions for common societal issues.

1. Establishing brand awareness

It’s important that anyone planning on writing for the web or creating brand awareness content has an in-depth understanding of their brand, topic, or niche. Hone in on what you know, or learn all you can about what you may not know, before you try to sell yourself as any type of guru. It takes hard work to earn a distinguished reputation, but only one poorly done article can brand you as uneducated, unreliable, or worse.

2. Think creatively and innovate

Before a thought leader can market their message, they need to come up with a strategy. Not just any plan will do. They need to brainstorm something that touches on trending concerns, from a new perspective. Therefore, creativity really needs to thrive. Yet, while most can name a person they deem to be creative, the term “creative genius” applies to a much smaller group. 

Creative geniuses are those who learned all they could about their target audience and buyer persona, envisioned something ground-breaking, sold many on their message, then followed through with every expectation that they set. Technically, it’s more about ingenuity than smarts. Although their approaches may differ, they share a common trait. They all excel at implementing innovative ideation, which is the process of forming creative ideas (written content) or producing original imagery (art).

3. Execute your writing plan

As mentioned above, good leaders don’t just invent fancy plans. They give compelling speeches that detail how they’ll carry out proposed agendas. Much like it isn’t enough for a house to be aesthetically pleasing but structurally weak, a compelling piece of content requires perfect paragraph structure. Delivering the speech is key when it comes to converting (swaying) the audience. The main idea (thesis) needs supporting details, whether through a written execution plan or research that backs up the thought leader’s point(s). 

The written content will become  the “why” and “how” behind the concept that the thought leader is marketing. Figuratively speaking, the words are like an army, backing their commander. So how does a thought leader tackle the task of rallying the strongest troops?  

Consider the mnemonic SHOWCASE to remember these following points while executing your writing plan: 

  • Search engine optimization
  • Have strong supporting arguments
  • Originality is key
  • Write clearly and concisely
  • Composition matters
  • Assess your target audience
  • Stimulate your readers
  • Edit, edit, edit

4. Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization. Utilizing tactics for SEO and local SEO can help digital content creators generate more online traffic. Sites such as Semrush run monthly analytics on the most searched keywords on search engines like Google, compiling lists of the top trending searches to help aid in multichannel digital marketing. If writers do their research and include all the relevant keywords in their compelling piece of content, they should appear more frequently in subsequent database searches. SEO is also useful when it comes to generating topics for a compelling piece of content to cover, as it tells the creator which topics are trending on the web. If the content doesn’t cover any of the top trending topics of interest, and or can’t be modified to incorporate evergreen thought leadership content, it may be beneficial to save the piece for later. Using three words in the top 50 searches, according to the Semrush data for November 2021:

SEO Keywords: YouTube (1), Amazon (8), Roblox (30)  

  • Vague example (0 keywords): Gadgets that make Vlogging Easier
  • Better topic (SEO specific): 5 Amazon Gadgets to Aid YouTube Vloggers
  • Vague example (0 keywords): Tips to Catch A Thief
  • Better topic (SEO specific): YouTube Vigilantes vs. Amazon Parcel Theft
  • Vague example (0 keywords): Keep Your Kids Offline
  • Better topic (SEO specific): Roblox YouTube Channels –  Dangerous for Kids?

Specifically, check out top leadership topics for November 2021.

5. Have strong supporting arguments

Have strong supporting arguments. Regardless of the topic, a compelling piece of content gives powerful proof that products, ideas, or initiatives are feasible or valid. Thought leaders are seen as authorities in their chosen subjects. A few supporting details that can make compelling cases in support of your marketable content:

  • Expert advice on the topic 
  • Original research of some sort, backed up with credible data analysis
  • Prior research, data, or recorded evidence from reputable sources
  • An outline of your business plan, or business FAQ 

Keeping in line with the topics above (Amazon, YouTube, and Roblox), consider this example of collecting strong research or evidence:

SEO specific topic: YouTube Vigilantes vs. Amazon Parcel Theft                    

  • Possible resource: YouTube itself (via a new SEO search)
  • Possible resource: Recent news coverage about Amazon package theft
  • Possible resource: Interviewing YouTubers with related videos

Originality is key. Despite the importance of SEO output, it’s also essential to take your compelling piece of content in a new direction. You want to put a spin on something already being discussed. An authentic addition to already available resources is so much more powerful than a reproduction of the same, already abundant material. You can achieve this by: 

  • Sharing innovative products
  • Using personal examples 
  • Giving thought-provoking arguments that cause pause for critical thinking
  • Sharing perspectives that haven’t succumbed to market oversaturation
  • Trending topic example: Amazon’s Cyber Monday Sales  
  • Redundant topic example: Amazon Sales For the Holiday Season
  • Original topic example: 10 Trending Amazon Toys That Don’t Seem Worth The Price

To really stand out, a compelling piece of content should also contain some sort of original research. Unfortunately, this is where many thought leaders fall short. Many types of research require qualifications, certifications, and legalized documentation before they’re considered valid. 

According to an article published by The Content Marketing Institute, “To generate credible results, you can’t wing it. It takes time, expertise, and budget to execute a high-quality, original research project that produces findings for content marketing.” Unsubstantiated, weak, rushed, or inaccurate research can destroy a person’s reputation, along with their career. Sometimes, it can even lead to legal issues (refer to the 2010 case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield). 

How, then, can a thought leader include original material without spending inordinate amounts of time or money? How can a writer without applicable degrees or licenses still generate new research? The last option under our H – interviewing YouTubers with related videos – is an excellent, feasible option. It’s impossible to be redundant or repeat the same boring results if you’re using exclusive materials! Conducting your own interviews with experts or third parties with firsthand experience is a sure-fire way to be innovative. Some other options are as follows: 

  • Conducting online polls and using the results 
  • Presenting research as a personal (unqualified) experiment, instead of scientific fact

6. Compose clear and concise content

Write clearly and concisely. Your opening statements are crucial to getting the reader’s attention. Keep the message simple and straightforward, but significant. The goal should be grabbing attention, not generating award-winning words. You want it to resonate with as many consumers as possible, and not be forgotten soon after. There’s no need for fancy verbiage. The more stripped-down, the better. There’s plenty of time to demonstrate your level of intelligence after the message has left an impression. 

Chosen topic: 5 Amazon Gadgets To Aid YouTube Vloggers

  • Fancy thesis statement (overcomplicated): Technological amelioration has produced endless invaluable gadgets, many of which can assist us with our videography.
  • Better thesis statement (more straightforward): Thanks to the age of technology, we now have many gadgets that can help us make video content. 

Composition matters. Good spelling, strong sentence structure, paragraph formation,  grammatical accuracy, and political correctness are equally important. All these elements combined determine the strength of any composition. Good composition will strengthen a writer’s credibility, leaving less room for misrepresentation. It shows that the content creator took pride when it came to their work, as well as took time to improve it. Going one step further, it poses the notion that all of their research was conducted or collected similarly. 

Conversely, brands are only as successful as their marketable resources. If structural issues abound, they may weaken a reader’s opinion on a brand or writer. For example, readers may call into question the brand’s (or creator’s) professionalism. If the content creator was lazy, careless, or unmotivated when it came to composition, did they also cut corners with products or brands they’re promoting? The answer may be no, but readers and consumers are less apt to believe it when the written evidence contradicts careful construction. 

Tips to organize research (video)

 7. Assess your target audience

Assess your target audience. What key demographic(s) are you hoping to appeal to? Is your compelling piece of content relevant to that (those) demographic(s)? Does your writing contain biases that may serve as distractions, or have you been careful to keep things objective? Does your title successfully speak to the age group or stage of life you want to target? 

Target audience: Senior citizens 

  • Poor choice for topic (via title): YouTube and College – The Pros And Cons of Using Videography To Study 
  • Better choice for topic (via title): Traveling After Retirement – 10 YouTube Channels To Help Plan Your Trips   

Keep in mind, a thought leader may have much broader goals, in terms of content reach. If so, it’s important to make a compelling piece of content that’s inclusive for all applicable ages and stages.

Target audience: Families

  • Poor Topic Choice and Title: Best Roblox Groups For Singles 
  • Better Topic Choice and Title: Roblox Codes of Conduct – How They Help Protect Against Predators and More
  • Good Topic Choice and Title: 10 Reasons Roblox Is Great For All Ages 

8. Stimulate your readers

Stimulate your readers. Once you’ve gotten their attention, you want to try to keep it. For many content writers, eliciting emotion isn’t always easy. It’s critical, however, for a top-notch, compelling piece of content. Readers need to feel the passion that fueled the idea, brand, or product. Here’s a simple checklist to use when reviewing:

  • Is your thesis statement clearly stated? 
  • Will your opening paragraph compel the average reader to keep going? 
  • Have you written as objectively and unbiased as possible? 
  • Are your paragraph transitions smooth? 
  • Did you use examples relevant to modern, daily living?
  • Have you substituted fancy words for simple verbiage when applicable? 
  • Have you shared at least one antidote, fun fact, or relatable story?

Edit, edit, edit. Even if you already prioritized your composition, it doesn’t always mean your work is the best that it can be. When going through the checklist, if you find that your writing contains some weak areas, this is the time to adjust them accordingly.  

Free online editing tools, such as Grammarly and Hemingway, are useful for fine-tuning finished written content. There are also tools to aid in editing visual content, like Canva and Magisto. For a more comprehensive collection of editing tools for creating a compelling piece of content, check out this LinkedIn article, or the list of writing tools on Reedsy

Although there’s no guaranteed way to achieve renowned thought leadership status, sticking to the SHOWCASE guidelines should help you get leaps and bounds closer. Remember, sometimes less is more, as long as “less” is better than what already exists. Attention to the little details, even those that make your writing or content creation seem tedious, pays off by selling the overall concept better than the competition.

And trust me when I tell you that there’s plenty of it out there. Aim to make your compelling piece of content notoriously quotable, rather than simply a passable source for online information. If you don’t take the time to make something inventive, impactful, and rare, you’ll never set your content apart from all the rest. 

9. Follow best practices for citing sources

Due to the pandemic, the past two years have led to many businesses rethinking their hiring requirements and offering more freelance work. Despite the many tragedies Covid-19 has inflicted, searching for online employment has become far easier. With the surge of pieces of content across most online platforms, the internet is bursting with research on the biggest trends.

‘More’ doesn’t always mean better, though. Freelance writers need to stay more vigilant than ever, in terms of confirming their sources are valid and keeping their work free of plagiarism. 

Where do they begin, then? How do they know if the research they’re using was ethically composed? Similarly, how do they ensure that their own project doesn’t fall into unethical territory?  

Research best practices

Avoid plagiarism

There are tons of online resources that delve into the specifics of how to avoid plagiarism. Simply stated, plagiarism is defined as taking credit for someone else’s content – either their words or ideas. If using information from someone else’s publication, you need to credit clearly. Depending on which forum, academic field of study, or professional area you’re focusing on for your compelling piece of content, there are several ways to go about citing your resources. Though they serve similar purposes, they’re used in different contexts. 

Cite your references properly

References are basically citations that occur at the end of a project or document. They’re mainly used with academic or educational material and inserted as footnotes or listed on the last page of the corresponding content. Properly citing references is essential when it comes to creating a compelling piece of content.

References should follow whatever formatting style was used for the rest of the project. The style is either determined by the academic field of study that the primary topic falls under, or assigned by the project facilitator (professor, boss, author, or client). Though there are important differences when considering APA vs MLA, their reference pages usually contain most of the same information: the author’s name, the title of the work, and the publication year.

Page numbers, volumes, digital object identifiers, or issue numbers may also be required. 

Let’s look at the three most used formats below:

MLA Format: MLA format is typically used in liberal arts, such as literature, language, and anthropology. Papers or projects that use MLA usually list references underneath Works Cited. Sources appear alphabetically, whether by the author’s surname or by the title of whatever source it is citing. Additional guidelines apply to sources with no listed author, multiple authors, multiple titles, or titles that start with a number. All guidelines, however, adhere to some form of alphabetization. 

Please note that format specifics will change, depending on the resource types used to extract information: books, online articles, magazines, or journals. In this post, I’ll be using examples specific to books, journals, and online material.

  • MLA Format Example (Book)
    • Catholdi, Angela. Research Basics. Fictional Publishing Press, 2021.
  • MLA Format Example (Article)
    • Kershner, Adam and Angela R. Catholdi. “8 Proven Tips For Organizing Online Research”. Make-Believe Journal, vol. 123, no.4, Nov. 2021, pp. 5-6. University of Kahana LLC Online Library, doi: 12.345. Accessed December 2021.
  • MLA Format Example (Website)
    • Catholdi, Angela. “8 Proven Tips for Organizing Online Research.” Kahana, 
    • 1 Dec. 2021, https://getkahana.com/tips-for-organizing-online-research/?fbclid=IwAR3DRed-6tCfQ1GhABWtIm-kCONsDaQsDceWkBE-zaFJjAykHSkRjYuBwJw

For additional examples and a more in-depth look at citing using MLA citations formatting, PaperTrue’s blog does an awesome job explaining how to cite sources in MLA Format.

APA Format: APA format is typically reserved for social sciences, such as sociology or criminology. Papers or projects that use APA usually list references in a bibliography. Like MLA, sources appear alphabetically, according to the author’s surname. Unlike MLA, however, a source without an author will be listed chronologically, according to the title. 

Again, it’s important to note that the formatting guidelines will change, depending on the resource types used to extract information: books, online articles, magazines, or journals. With APA format, website citations will also vary according to site type (news sources / blogs / single author pages). For additional examples and a more in-depth look at the APA Style format, Scribbr is still a stellar source. For more information on citing websites, in particular, I recommend referring to the APA Style official page.

  • APA Format Example (Book)
    • Catholdi, A (2021). Research Basics. New York: Fictional Publishing Press.
  • APA Format Example (Article)
    • Kershner, A., and Catholdi, A. (2021). 8 proven tips for organizing online research. Make-Believe Journal, 123(4), 5-6. doi: 12.345
  • APA Format Example (Website)
    • Catholdi, A. (2021, December 1).  8 Proven Tips For Organizing Online Research. Kahana. 
    • https://getkahana.com/tips-for-organizing-online-research/?fbclid=IwAR3DRed-6tCfQ1GhABWtIm-kCONsDaQsDceWkBE-zaFJjAykHSkRjYuBwJw

Chicago Format: Combining the referencing styles we’ve discussed above, the Chicago format uses footnotes and bibliography pages (notes). Business projects, papers, and or a related compelling piece of content for business often cite resources this way, though APA is still accepted in some areas of study. While sources are still listed alphabetically by surname, they follow their own spacing rules. After the first line of text in every listed resource, additional lines are indented (known as hanging indents). Titles are also italicized (books) or written in quotations (journals).

As always, the rest of the formatting guidelines are subject to change, based on resource type: book, online article, magazine, or journal. For additional examples and a more in-depth look at source citing in Chicago Style format, Scribbr (once again) has plenty of examples.

  • Chicago Format Example (Book)
    • Catholdi, Angela. Implementing Research Basics. New York: Fictional Publishing Press, 1989.
  • Chicago Format Example (Article)
    • Catholdi, Angela. “8 Proven Tips For Organizing Online Research.” Make-Believe Journal. 123, no.4 (December 2021): 5-6. 
  • Chicago Format (Website)
    • Catholdi, Angela. “8 Proven Tips For Organizing Online Research.” Kahana. December 1, 2021. https://getkahana.com/tips-for-organizing-online-research/?fbclid=IwAR3DRed-6tCfQ1GhABWtIm-kCONsDaQsDceWkBE-zaFJjAykHSkRjYuBwJw/.

Include in-text citations

Sometimes, creating a compelling piece of content calls for the use of citations within a project’s text. Citations are meant to ensure that the writer is giving full acknowledgment to the person or work that they’ve quoted. They normally appear in brackets, at the end of the sentence in question. Like references, they also follow the format of the paper (MLA or APA). Since in-text citations still need a ‘Works Cited’ page, bibliography, or ‘Notes’ page, they don’t need all the details that the longer references include. They’re markers for readers to follow to the main references list. 

Scientific research primarily uses citations in order to classify data, statistics, or similar pieces of evidence. This doesn’t mean they can’t be used in projects involving the arts or other fields of study, though. In fact, they’re used quite often. 

  • MLA Citation (Last name of author and page number)
    • Catholdi (page 10)
  • APA Citation (Last name of author, date of publication)
    • Catholdi, 2021.
  • Chicago Citation (Author-date)
    • Catholdi 2021, 12. 

When writing a compelling piece of content, not all situations require footnotes or a separate list of properly cataloged resources. Since the Internet is now considered the main source of content retrieval for most geographical areas, other methods of citation have been adapted and implemented. Blogs, for example, don’t usually use footnotes, works cited, or have bibliographies. Many quote sources with hyperlinks, like I’m doing in this sentence and throughout this post. 

According to the Oxford online learner’s dictionary, a hyperlink is “a link from a hypertext file or document to another location or file, typically activated by clicking on a highlighted word or image on the screen.” Using hyperlinks allows for additional, previously researched, supporting information. It also helps ensure that blogs stay on topic and adhere to the widely accepted guidelines on article brevity. 

Let’s break down what this means. If I’m writing a compelling piece of content about the best practices for content research, there are dozens of components that go into the overall process. It isn’t enough to list steps and assume the readers are familiar with the concepts in the steps I’ve outlined. At the same time, I can’t be expected to write a paragraph on every single research term. My content would quickly turn into a book. 

That’s where hyperlinks come in. They help support my arguments, as well as help the reader navigate the most important terminology. Rather than simply informing the reader that they’ll need to write a thesis statement in their first few sentences, it’s generally helpful to briefly define what a thesis is, then add a hyperlink that leads to more in-depth information. Like most process steps, hyperlinking comes with its own set of guidelines. 

Be as straightforward as possible. Don’t throw links into your pieces of content haphazardly. They should directly reference the source or the subject you’re writing about in that specific sentence. If writing about credibility, my link should either highlight the source I’m referencing (like Scribbr) or a keyword phrase.

  • Incorrect method: Creating a compelling piece of content based on research requires much more than our discipline.
  • Correct method: Creating a compelling piece of content requires much more than our discipline. Scribbr lists several additional steps, which we’ll break down further here. 
  • Correct method: Creating a credible compelling piece of content based on credible sources and research requires much more than our discipline. 

Stay away from clickbait jargon and advertising lingo. Try not to link outside sources through terms like “read more here” or ask them to click for additional details. Instead, link with clear and narrowed down criteria.  

Don’t use resource titles to title your own hyperlink. Article names should be visible and easily distinguishable when readers click the link, but they shouldn’t be used to connect your blog or article to the one written by somebody else. 

Example Article: 8 content research best practices (Kahana)

Use descriptive text if needed. If you feel it isn’t obvious where you got the information, add more details to make clearer distinctions. Remember, the goal is to make sure each resource is identifiable slash credited accordingly. A good writer doesn’t leave room for plagiarism accusations. They can easily disprove them with clearly referenced works.  

Take advantage of online citation tools

As you can probably tell, proper referencing sources, using citations, and making sure your compelling piece of content doesn’t plagiarize can be a daunting process. Even with guidelines in front of you, you may become confused. Thanks to the age of technology, many writing platforms have designed citation generators, otherwise referred to as Reference Management Software. Scribbr is one of those platforms, but others such as Endnote, EasyBib, and PaperPile offer comparable services. They not only help writers create their bibliographies but add annotations and notes. Some even have checkers for plagiarism! 

Yet whether writers choose to use programs to help with citations, it’s still beneficial to know the basics of manually referencing. Knowledge is power, and learning is one of the most powerful resources we have.

As mentioned above in this post, one can never be too careful when it comes to protecting their image or brand, and plagiarism accusations can ruin a writer’s career.

Additional resources used (Indirectly)

Purdue online writing lab videos:

10. Use modern editing etiquettes

The information age has changed most of the world’s functionality. Gone are the days of long library trips to research from physical books. With just a few clicks of a keyboard and an internet connection, virtual content on almost every conceivable topic is always at our fingertips. As helpful as this sounds in theory, online information has a few key downfalls. Since anyone with access to the worldwide web can post as they see fit, there’s little regulation when it comes to weeding facts from fiction. It’s not enough for writers who want to be known for their top-notch pieces of content to write compelling articles. They need to edit them efficiently. 

While manuscripts (books) often require four different types of editing before they’re deemed ready to publish, a compelling piece of content for the Internet will typically need only one. Both use content editing for the bulk of their written material. Also called substantive, heavy, or structural editing, content editing assesses all aspects of a document to ensure cohesiveness (flow) and strengthen readability. Paragraph structure, word usage, overall appeal to readers, and proper use of SEO all play vital roles. Content editing ensures they’re all the best that they can be. 

As discussed in our prior pieces, even if a writer has been mindful of their composition and taken their time with their text, it doesn’t always mean their work is free from glaring errors. These errors may not be as obvious to the one who wrote them. After all, we’re all subject to human fallibility. Every time an error appears in what is supposed to be a compelling piece of content, it carries the following risks to the author: 

  • It encourages disinterest. Every thought leader should strive to create something that captures the interest of many in their target audience. Naturally, in order to complete the bigger picture goals, they need to strive towards sparking universal interest. After all, big numbers start from the bottom and build, one by one. Some writers go with the notion that their message is the most important, not the document’s mechanics. Believe it or not though, an author can set their own negative precedent by publishing messy, unedited work. 

Think of the readers as visitors to the writer’s home. If the host doesn’t set aside time to clean up the clutter and make things presentable, why should the readers waste time stopping by? The goal should be to wow them and make them feel the writer is passionate about their topic. Not editing leans more towards carelessness and laziness, both of which connote the antithesis of passion!

  • It threatens credibility. When someone goes looking for a compelling piece of content, they tend to want up-to-date, accurate details on trending societal topics or day-to-day concerns. In other words, credible sources. The expectation is that writers researched topics thoroughly, or else have credentials that make them an expert on said topic. Many trust their source sites blindly until they have a reason not to. Just as unedited work shows that writers may not have put in full effort, it also calls to question exactly how much effort was put into their research. If they cut corners when editing, where else did they skimp? Every time errors are spotted, it shaves another layer off their thought leadership credentials. 

Let’s consider an example. If a writer’s credibility begins with a score of 100, their written content spans four pages (roughly 1500 words), they fail to catch five spelling errors, make three grammatical mistakes, fail to format one large section, repeat the same line of text more than once, and veer off track with their conclusion, they’ve already lost ten percent credibility. If the aforementioned spelling errors each pop up two times, there goes another ten percent. If every grammatical problem appears on every page, they roughly lose ten more. So forth and so on, until they’ve left each reader with an awful first impression.  

  • Misdirected Focus. Even if the reader decides to look past glaring errors and read the unedited content anyhow, there’s a good chance the overall message or concept will be lost behind the text’s mistakes. No thought leader wants their work to be defined by incorrect spelling or improper grammar. They want readers to walk away remembering their bullet points and most impactful sentences, rather than misplaced apostrophes or choppy writing style. 
  • Misaligned Intent. Likewise, if writers aren’t aware of certain social constructs, have adopted a bias as truth, or used unreliable sources when backing up their thesis, what is meant to be a compelling piece of content may be off-putting in ways they can’t imagine. Word usage makes all the difference. A point made for friendly debate can go sour or be misread as prejudice more easily than one may think. By leaving off keywords like ‘many’, ‘some’, or ‘most’, a sentence about trending issues or surges in behaviors can mislabel whole groups of people or lump sum demographics. Issues like this are more apt to occur in the first draft of a document, and often aren’t caught until authors read their work aloud. 

Now that we’ve established why a writer needs to edit, let’s break down how they can do so.  

  1. Read it through. As mentioned above, reading through a finished project – especially out loud – can help the writer catch mistakes otherwise missed while composing it. Don’t just listen, though. It’s also important to look for mistakes. Scan over every sentence before, and also after, your auditory edit.
  2. Illuminate the key points. Make sure the most important parts of text are marked with headers, bulleted, underlined, numbered, or otherwise easily identifiable. Readers should be able to locate all pertinent details via the document’s subtitles or similar distinctive tags.
  3. Cut out or shorten irrelevant text. Online blogs and articles often come with filler, also referred to as fluff. Filler is unneeded text; it adds to the word count but doesn’t make key points, support the writer’s arguments, or add any value when read. With thought leadership, since being a leader means being direct, the goal is to cut out as much fluff as possible. Every sentence should contain a piece of information vital to the flow. Extra sentences that don’t hold the reader’s interest or keep them engaged with the brand contribute instead to the bounce rates. As one would expect, when consumers bounce from (leave) one website for another that has the same type of content, the (monetized) website or brand they abandoned risks financial losses to a brand competitor.
  4. Clean up the overall format. Once it’s been confirmed that all remaining text adds value to the project’s message, sentence and paragraph placements also need to be reviewed. Have paragraphs been sectioned underneath relevant headings? Does every sentence tie into the heading or bullet it’s linked with? It’s all about the content formats! Unrelated blurbs of text can interrupt the message and may confuse the reader.
  5. Double-check spelling and grammar. We all know word processing programs come with automatic spell checks, but the same can’t be said for all platforms. At least not all free versions. Many blog servers, for instance, don’t check text for errors unless the writer is subscribed. Furthermore, spell checkers don’t check the grammar. Even if spelling is checked by the platform, grammar mistakes could remain. Whatever the specific need, there are fortunately many free editing and proofreading tools to help content writers succeed. My personal favorite is GrammarLookup, but there are dozens for writers to choose from. Not using a free service to double-check your work? There’s simply no excuse if aiming for thought leadership creds.
  6. Cross-check SEO terms. From a B2B standpoint, it’s critical to edit text for search engine optimization. This is where keywords will come into play. A blog, project, or article stands to get more online traction every time consumers type its keywords, or search terms, into search tools. Since leadership requires being at the top, the more a brand or blog appears in users’ online searches, the better chances that business or the brand will rise in rank. Once again, writers have options to help them with their plight. There are many SEO-tools that are readily available, including the Google Search Console, which can be used for free.
  7. Test all project hyperlinks. Broken links within a text don’t reflect well on the overall work. Just as an employer wouldn’t likely give a job to someone who sent them a resume with broken links to prior work, a client or consumer wouldn’t be inclined to trust websites or brands with their business if they were publishing work that had broken, dangerous, or bogus URL attachments. In order to write effective links, make sure all sources lead to reliable, relevant, current, and functioning third-party websites.
  8. Check off all criteria. Most paid thought leadership projects have guidelines. I recommend pulling those guidelines out once last time before submission. Remember, your submitted work will need to meet the standards of whomever has employed you. Work that doesn’t meet the client’s expectations, even if written quite well, may negatively impact future opportunities or your reputation. Adhering to instructions should be a main prerogative, even if the preference is to go in another direction!
  9. Read it through again. As a final safeguard against possible mistakes, I suggest reading the edited content and making sure it accurately represents your full potential. If you’re confident with all the details of the finished product, adhered to what was asked of you, hit all the key points, and like the results, send it on or publish it and let the masses judge! If not, it’s better to go back and edit the weak spots again. 

Thanks to the human condition, no one can write with perfection 100 percent of the time. What separates a compelling piece of content from an average blog post, however, is the author’s wish to get as close to perfect as they can. Drive and dedication are almost as important as skill and execution. Mistakes are often fixable, but not if we choose to ignore them and hope that they aren’t pointed out. Be your own worst critic, and I promise when you get due praise, your efforts will seem worth it! 

Big list of resources to help create a compelling piece of content

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About the author

If you’re interested in finding out more about my personal story, let’s connect on Twitter. I also write my own blog, An Inside Out Existence, about personal introspective insights I have had.

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