what to write

What to Write When You Have Nothing to Say

For many years I have earned my living through writing Web content and yet I still experience dismal moments of what to write when I first sit down with pen in hand each morning. You’d think, or hope, that by now my mind would be trained to produce words but it puts up the same fight, every time.

The biggest single difference between successful, popular websites that attract quality traffic which converts into paying clients and customers and the websites that arrive with a fanfare and rapidly disappear into obscurity, is the quality of the Web content.

It’s not flashy design, animations, colour schemes or the other clever stuff. It’s the quality of the information – however it’s presented.

Creating great quality Web content is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the main stumbling block in client projects. It’s also the issue most clients remain in denial about, until they come to write!

What can you do?

What can you write when your mind puts up the shutters and goes AWOL? How do you coax words from a brain that does not want to cooperate?

Just Write

It’s not a new idea and it’s one that is discounted by many. Until you write something you will write nothing. You get that?

It’s like anything else in life, there is no magic, it takes work.

If you have time and interest try starting or ending every day by writing 500 words. This simple exercise keeps the mental cogs from seizing up. This writing can be utter drivel and you can throw it away as soon as it’s done, if that makes you happy, but the point is to get the words out of your head on to paper or screen.

Manage Expectations

Nothing you write will be fit for publication as it is.

Nothing I write as a first draft is fit to be seen.

I know of no successful writer who just writes and hits publish.

When you sit down to write you are harvesting raw materials from your mind. Don’t anguish over perfectly punctuated prose at this stage. Just write.

If sentences aren’t your thing, try bullet points. Use a mind map if those crank your handle.

It doesn’t matter how you get the words out or in what format. You can even dictate them for later transcription. Just accept that it’s simply information gathering at this stage.

Different Types of Web Content

Distinguish between the different types of Web content.

First there’s your cornerstone content.

This is the stuff that gives the who, what, why, where, when and how about your business and how it benefits your customers and clients. It’s the stuff that doesn’t change very often.

Then there’s product specific content – this might be item write ups or reviews and sales pages.

Lastly there’s your blog content.

If your website were a delivery van your cornerstone content would be the wheels and engine, the product content would be the goods in the back and the blog content would be the fuel.

The cornerstone and product related content is the stuff you may want to employ a professional copywriter to produce for you. The blog content is your chance to interact with your (potential) customers and clients, these are the words you are most likely to be writing every week (or more frequently) and it’s this content that seems to cause the most problems.

You do Have Plenty to Say

I promise you there is a lot you can say which is relevant to your target audience.

I can also promise you that you’ll not be able to think of anything when you first sit down to write!

Again, it’s an old idea but it’s an idea that has persisted because it works: Keep a notebook or use your phone voice recorder to capture ideas as they come to you.

Start looking for ideas in your everyday interactions. If you find yourself lost in thought, start writing those thoughts down. Start building a library of ideas.

Questions, Concerns, Problems, Experiences, Case Studies

What question are you asked most often? Write a blog post answering it.

What is the biggest concern a potential client may have? Write a blog post addressing it before they even have a chance to voice it.

What problems are you solving for people? Write to explain how and why you do that.

What life experiences brought you to where you are now? Let people know why you do what you do.

Who are you helping and how? There may be a need for anonymity but you can still produce compelling case studies.

The Big Wide World

What’s happening in the World that affects you and your clients? Write to discuss the issues and offer reassurances, tactics to cope and facts (as opposed to the usual media driven hype).

Find popular global trending topics and ride on the tidal wave of interest generated PROVIDED your contribution to the conversation is relevant. There have been some spectacular incidents where this tactic has been very badly implemented and the fallout has been dramatic. Don’t do that!

Interviews

Talk to your best customers and clients. Interview them to discuss why they chose you.

Third party validation is far more powerful than anything you can say about yourself.

Join Existing Conversations

Monitor relevant social media channels to see what’s being discussed in your area of expertise. Add your tuppence worth. If someone else has blogged about an issue or an item of interest you can blog about their blog. Explain why the article is useful and relevant (or not!) and link to it.

Never be worried about sending readers elsewhere. They will remember you as a useful resource and they will come back.

It Doesn’t Have to be About You

Not everything you write has to be about you. In fact it’s a good discipline to ensure it isn’t.

Recycle Content

Time marches on, things change and your content can be dusted down and given pride of place once again. The nature of blogs mean content does get buried. This is often a good thing. Some blog content is timely rather than evergreen and loses its relevance but not all of it does.

There will be blog posts you have written that can be given new introductory and closing paragraphs to reflect a current situation and republished.

Use a Template

It sounds formulaic but I promise nobody will notice as the words you fit into the template will change its appearance.

Remember, your website is like your delivery van. Without being regularly topped up with fuel your van will go nowhere. The same is true for your website. Without the fuel of content it will contribute nothing to your business but sit and rust away by the side of the Internet highway.

Get yourself a notebook to start capturing ideas. Download Recordium or Auphonics on to your smartphone and dictate ideas. Begin or end every day by writing 500 words.

I cannot promise that writing will ever become easy but it does become easier!

And, of course, if you need help with your Web content, you know where we are.