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Does Your Content Suck? 20 Ways To Tell

by Jennifer on June 30, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

Last week on Copyblogger, Associate Editor, Jon Morrow, wrote a post called 20 Warning Signs Your Content Sucks. The post detailed 20 things that could help a writer tell if the content he or she is putting out there is any good or not.

When I first saw that post, I thought—“Cool, this post will be a reinforcement for me that my blog rocks.” Or so I thought.

But once I read it, I realized almost half of the 20 warning signs applied to me and this blog. A very scary thought considering the amount of time and dedication I’ve put into it.

For example, sign 3: “You’re not getting many (or any) comments,” applies to me. Almost 600 people subscribe to this blog…and yet my posts don’t get very many comments.

Or, for example, sign 5: “You spend less than one hour on each post,” applies to me. I typically spend about 30 minutes or so on a post. And when I do spend an hour writing a post, it’s usually because I got distracted while writing it and managed to check my Twitter feed, respond to several e-mails and catch up on the world of People.com.

Another sign that applies to me is sign 16: “You have no idea what keeps your readers up at night.” Even though I do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions, I’m still not sure I have a clear idea of what keeps you, my reader, up at night. A big problem for me, and a reason why my content isn’t as compelling for you.

Which signs apply to you?

Read the post on Copyblogger, then please share in the comments…if you’re willing to admit your faults.

Taking A Break
Last week I put a call out for guest posts because I need to step away from the blog for a couple weeks. Now you know why.

That list really struck a chord with me—in so many ways. It forced me to see that while I’m doing an OK job, I could be doing a whole lot better.

I’m a believer in continual improvement and continual learning and growth. But being as busy as I am, I rarely have much time for anything other than just maintaining what I’ve been doing all along (and even then I sometimes still have a problem doing that).

So I’m stepping back; I’m taking a two- to three-week break to think things through and work on some behind the scenes content stuff.

I’m not going to let this blog die while I’m off rediscovering my purpose for starting it in the first place, however. That’s why I’ll be posting guest posts from several of my brilliant Procrastinating Writers readers, starting next week.

I received an overwhelming response from people interested in writing for this blog. So I’m going to let their voices be heard.

You’re going to love what’s coming. New voices means fresh perspectives, ideas and tips.

Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions to help me improve my content or this blog in general, please, PLEASE share them in the comments below (or, if you prefer, send me an e-mail to: jennifer@procrastinatingwriters.com). And feel free to be honest and share what you really think; you won’t hurt my feelings 🙂

I want to make this blog a useful guide for helping writers who struggle to get started. In order to do that, I need to know what you want to read about, what you need help with and what writing problems you struggle most with.

I really appreciate your input.

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. For more great writing tips, articles and information, follow her on Twitter. 
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meghan June 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm

You know, I read that post a few days back and it kinda pissed me off. This whole “build a platform” thing is getting on my last good nerve as well. I work full time; M-F, 9-5. How can I be expected to find time to write my WIP (well) and write fabulous blog entries AND still have a life and/or actually SLEEP occasionally? It’s just not possible.

I’m tired of worrying b/c I only have 25 followers, and I only get 1-2 comments on each blog post. I’m tired of tweeting about my posts and getting no response. What I need to worry about is having less than 30k words written in my manuscript.

I really think this whole blogging thing is being blown out of proportion. Just b/c I read someone’s blog doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and buy their book. If I’m not interested in the subject or genre of the book, then I’m not going to read it. And if I hear about a book that does look interesting to me, I’m not going to NOT buy it b/c the author doesn’t have a blog or website.

It seems to me that everyone keeps forgetting that people buy books b/c they like the STORIES. Avid readers are out there, and most of them will buy your book if they’re interested in it, whether or not your blog content is exciting or your website is pretty. But that’s just my 2 cents…

2 Brittany June 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Most of the signs in that article applied to me, but I don’t really agree with all of them. I admit, my content isn’t great and I could improve it, but I don’t have 2-10 hours to spend on each blog post, especially if I want to blog consistently. My blog is about writing, and if I spent that much time on each post, I wouldn’t have time to actually write, so I wouldn’t have anything to blog about.

And I don’t think my content sucks because I’m not getting 5 page fan mails. Just because I don’t get any real fan mail yet doesn’t mean I’m a terrible blogger. Same with “You’ve never talked to a reader on the phone or in person” and “You’ve never read a book on copywriting”.

3 Rabia June 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I agree with Meghan. I’m a homeschooling mom, a wife, a friend, and a writer before I’m a blogger. I also have other interests and hobbies. Oh yeah, and then there’s housework, too.

Does it mean I should give up blogging because I can’t devote an hour or more to each post? No. I enjoy blogging; I get comments (yes, from my friends); and I like having a place where I can put up my ramblings, pictures, and flash fiction. Not every one blogs to be super-popular. Some of us are satisfied to have just a handful of comments on each post (okay, I have to admit that I’m not *always* satisfied about this, but today I am *grin*).

I’m a writer of stories. That comes first. I’d rather be a published novelist and have hundreds of readers than a blogger with thousands of subscribers. My 1000 words a day are going towards crafting fiction, not blog posts (and yes, while this is some cross-over in skill and technique, they are two different breeds of writing!).

Jennifer, that Copyblogger post is going to raise a lot of hackles. It sure needled me enough to come out of hiding and comment! 😉

4 ryan June 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I read the CopyBlogger post when you tweeted it last week. I did a post on it too. My blog sucks. It really made me question why I spend so much time blogging. I generally do spend over an hour per post. I do wait 24 hours before posting, most of the time – another suggestion from CopyBlogger (not included in the linked piece). Tomorrow’s post is specifically targeting my subscribers and I’ve been sitting on that and reworking it for 4 days.

Many of the blogs I read are things that are helpful to me: productivity tips, motivation and the like. As a writer, I doubt that I would ever by BOOKS by A-list bloggers. Most of them have practiced writing in lists too long to be enjoyable for any extended length of reading time.

If you are attracting writers to your site; we keep ourselves up at night, narrowly staving off suicide and alcoholism. The lack of comments might be because we’re all pissed that you have 6x the subscribers that I do (I mean “we” do). And speaking for myself only, I need just a small nudge to get working.

I rarely comment anywhere else because of my own self-importance (read: insecurities). How’s that for a confession? Back to trying to make my blog suck less.

Enjoy your break. Have fun. Rest is a deserved gift, a reward for being a human all these years. Come back and kick our butts into gear.

5 ryan June 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Ha, Rabia posted nearly the exact same point as me, while I was commenting. See! We are right!

6 andrew toynbee June 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I agree with everyone above…my Blog is in it’s very early stages and I’m still working out how to record the number of visits per day/year. It might be zero…but I’m not losing sleep over it as I am, like Rabia and Meghan, trying to get down 500-1000 words per day along with a F/T job and everything else. So I am only an occasional reader (three times a week if I’m lucky) of your wonderful Blog, Jennifer, but it has plenty of content to keep me thinking. I don’t see anything wrong with it. The only thing I have trouble with is finding older posts – but that’s probably me being a doddering old Technophobe!
I don’t know where you keep finding all the new ideas to keep us masses entertained, but please keep it up. And if your sabbatical helps you to create new strings to your bow, then great!

As for what keeps your readers up at night – maybe it’s time to put the question out again? You’ve proably gained a few fans since you last asked, plus our lives are constantly in flux, so what concerned folks last time may not be an issue now…
Just a thought.

7 jblan June 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm

@Meghan @Brittany @Rabia @ryan Thanks so much for sharing your opinions. I agree with all of you–that post kinda pissed me off too. I work a full time job, go to school part time, run this blog and am in the process of starting a new blog and a health coaching business. Maybe I take on too much and could do a better job with the blog if I didn’t have so much going on, but I like to be involved in a lot of stuff. And blogging has almost entirely taken over my writing time…so I rarely, if ever, get to write any fiction.

I think the difference between “us” (meaning most bloggers in general) and the people in charge of Copyblogger is that they all work full time for themselves and so they have time to spend 10 hours writing one blog post. We don’t all have the luxurious jobs/lives that they have.

I’m aiming to improve my blog/blogging enough so that I can eventually have the same luxuries they do. I want to work for myself (pretty much always have) and blogging is a part of that process for me. That’s why I’m so focused on improving my blog and making it better. Maybe I worry too much or think about it too much, but my readers are really important to me and I want to make sure that I’m giving them what they need to be successful. I only succeed if they do.

@andrew toynbee Thanks! I appreciate you saying that. If you are looking for old posts, click on the “archive” list and you can click on each month and all the posts from that month will come up. That’s an easy way to search. Otherwise another way is to look up keywords using the “search” function.

8 Rabia June 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I think the difference between “us” (meaning most bloggers in general) and the people in charge of Copyblogger is that they all work full time for themselves and so they have time to spend 10 hours writing one blog post. We don’t all have the luxurious jobs/lives that they have.

Right. That post on copyblogger is for people who make their living off their blogs. It doesn’t really apply to those of us doing it on the side, for fun, or as a supplement to our main passion (which for me is writing stories; for a crafter, it could be an etsy shop, whatever).

9 Jennifer June 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I’m normally just a lurker, but I thought I’d comment here to tell you that your blog is awesome. I always enjoy reading it and find plenty of useful information and motivation. Don’t get discouraged and enjoy your break!

10 jennifer blanchard July 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

@Jennifer Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate you taking the time to leave it. 🙂

11 Missives From Suburbia July 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

I happen to be privvy to a few bloggers’ traffic numbers because of a PR opportunity we undertook together a year or so ago. I was surprised to find that several bloggers I assumed were big traffic drivers weren’t, because they routinely got twenty or thirty comments on each post. Three of those big-name bloggers had about a quart of my traffic. I usually rate three or four comments, which I was feeling bad about up until then. People are reading my blog, just as they’re reading yours. Just because they aren’t commenting doesn’t mean they aren’t reading, referring other people to your blog, and supporting you. I’m sure we could beef up our comments by being more controversial, but that’s not what I want in my blog.

12 Missives From Suburbia July 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

Wow…I was writing that comment with two kids tugging on me, and it’s pretty disjointed. Apologies for that! I’m sure you get my gist.

13 Fikriyyah July 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

First time commenter, long time reader. I loved your blog when I was an avid procrastinator. Now that I’ve conquered the demons as to why I procrastinate (thanks in part to some of your posts), I feel like your blog is still useful, just not as useful as it used to be.
Maybe that’s why some of us aren’t commenting as much either, we’ve benefited from the advice of previous posts, but now the content isn’t as relevant now that we’ve conquered our fears. Procrastinating is not an issue that goes away with ease, so a booster is always needed therefore I still subscribe.

14 jennifer blanchard July 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm

@Missives From Suburbia You know, it’s interesting that you point that out. I guess when I read other blogs (esp. those considered to be “top blogs”) I just assume that they have a lot of traffic. But I also recently discovered that some of the blogs I love and read and look up to don’t have nearly the subscribers I have. So you’re right–I think it’s most important to know that people are reading than it is to have comments.

@Fikriyyah Thank you for the amazing compliment! I’m so happy to hear that this blog has helped you move past your procrastination. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s that my advice all along has been so helpful that people have overcome their procrastination issues and moved on, so they no longer really need advice like this.

You have given me a lot of things to think about, so thank you!

15 AJ Best July 3, 2010 at 3:17 am

I want to hear more about how to get out of a brain fart. You know – the deathly writer’s block. I seem to get in a giant rut, and take it out on my writing and I want to stop doing that.

You can maybe post things about writing groups, and exercises they can do. Or exercises that you can do to get your mind flowing.

Just some thoughts! 🙂

AJ

16 Jeff Brunson July 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Jennifer, write to us (at some point) about your journey in these 2-3 weeks. I do believe people would love to read about that. Thanks for taking it so seriously.

17 jblan July 8, 2010 at 8:56 am

@Jeff Brunson I will definitely think about doing that. What would you like to hear about specifically?

18 Andrew Toynbee July 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

Jennifer B. – Thanks for the tip – I managed to retrieve posts from the past month that were of particular interest (i’ve been off ill and needed to catch up a bit).

AJ Best…I’ve discovered a useful cure for writer’s block – Google Street Maps! For the full story, visit my blog, but here’s the gist of it;

I needed to get a character uncomfortably close to her (feared) Step father so she would have to drive past his street where the danger of running into him was a real risk.
I worked out , using the satellite view, that since she would want to live as far away from him as possible (within financial reason) when she’d run away from home, she’d take up residence on the opposite side of the city. So, with her town being on the North-West side of the city, his would logicaly be located on the South-East. I found a nice little town close to the city that I decided would be suitable.

Enter Google maps…and that marvellous tool for writers – the Street view!

So, I drove (virtually) around the streets of the Step-Father’s town, looking for the ideal site for an emergency situation that Sarah could attend. The residential areas were nice, but dull for all practical purposes. My (virtual) driving uncovered a small university, a venue that I’d had in my early notes but hadn’t (yet) worked into the First Draft. Right beside the University was a very, very tall tower that looked like it dated back to the 1960’s. Hmm…I thought. What if some Students from the nearby University had decided to spend their nights strapped to the top of the tower? What if one of the students had overdosed/fitted/gone comatose and needed the emergency services to get them down (it’s a very tall tower) and my character was called in to assist?

I could see that the tower was opposite a well-known Brand factory, where, I suddenly thought, her Step-Father would work. Never mind having her drive near his house (boring!). Have him in the crowd whilst she’s busy rescuing students. If she saw him, he’d be a major distraction and a conflict between her fear and her professionalism. If he saw her, he’d try to control her actions and create mental (and physical?) conflict yet again.
Without Google Street Maps I’d never have been able to create this scene as I’d never have known about the dramatic tower, nor its proximity to a university and the well-known factory.

19 Laura Lee Bloor July 15, 2010 at 11:46 am

Thanks for this Jennifer. Yep, I’m falling short, which I knew. But blogging, just like anything else has learning curves and pitfalls. As you know, I needed a big, long break from blogging for a bit. I’m glad I did that. I’m ready to get back to it now. Thanks for all your help and support in keeping me writing!

20 jennifer blanchard July 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@Laura Lee Bloor Good. I’m glad to hear you’re ready to get back into it. I’ve missed reading your posts! I think I’m where you were at a few weeks ago right now—needing a serious break. I’m actually taking one, too. From now ’til the end of August, I am officially “off” from the blog. I’m still running my weekly newsletter and Twitter feed, of course, but no blogging. I have lots of fab guest bloggers filling in for me while I’m out. But even though I’m on a “break,” I’m doing a lot of planning, rethinking and working on some other projects that I’ve neglected over the last few months.

21 David C July 21, 2010 at 9:11 am

I am a regular lurker and your blog is one of the first that i read regulary , i always find something here that inspire me and keep me going, i think you are doing a great job, thank you.
David C

22 jennifer blanchard July 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm

@David C Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!!

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