By Neil Patel published May 16, 2016

How to Fix the 4 Biggest Problems With Content Writers

problems-content-writers

Over the 10-plus years that I’ve been writing, the content marketing industry has experienced massive change.

At first, there were just a few of us plunking out a couple of blog articles a week. Back then, it was pretty easy to get a lot of traffic, comments, “likes,” and subscribers. Then, more and more people started jumping in.

Eventually, the content marketing industry as we know it was in full force.

Since that time, people have had plenty of advice on how to fix it, change it, and improve it. The blog you’re reading right now has been a major force in the improvement of content marketing. But we’re still seeing some issues. Some of these issues are relatively new. Some are signs of content marketing’s growing pains.

The problem, of course, isn’t with the industry itself. The problem lies with the way we’re going about it. In other words, the problem is with us – the content writers.

See if you can relate to these issues, and discover what you can do to fix them.

Problem 1: Content writers lack experience with the topic. Therefore, they can’t create in-depth and informative articles.

It’s really easy to hire a content writer. Just hop on Upwork, put an ad on Craigslist, or post a job on ProBlogger, and you instantly have hundreds of applicants.

But it’s difficult to find a content writer who has deep experience with your industry. Yet such knowledge and experience are essential for a copywriter to succeed.

Why? To write great content, you have to know your stuff forward, backward, inside out, and upside down.

To write great #content, you have to know your stuff forward, backward, inside out, & upside down. Click To Tweet

Generalist copywriters don’t have that experience. Yes, they’re great writers, but they lack an indispensable component that makes the entire effort meaningful – experience in your industry!

Just recently, I received a message from a copywriter who was looking for more work. Here’s what he had to say:

“My primary writing areas are in history and science. I enjoy diving into a new topic, conducting in-depth research, and developing helpful content.”

I appreciate his spirit of curiosity and search for knowledge. However, as a content writer, he lacks the specificity to be useful to a niche industry looking for a niche writer.

It would have been different had he written, “My primary writing area is the 1960s-era civil rights movement, focusing on the rise, development, and political influence of La Raza Unida in the southwestern United States.”

That’s a niche. And for a website whose content focuses on that niche, they’ve found themselves a stellar writer.

A writer who specializes in “marketing” isn’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, a writer has to specialize in writing about “conversion optimization on landing pages for small to mid-sized B2Bs.” Specialization should get a writer hired, not generalization.

Many copywriters are eager to accept work from anywhere. Therefore, they will spread themselves thin – writing about energy-efficient window installation in the morning and organic acne treatments in the afternoon. This is hardly the way to hone one’s knowledge and experience.

If you look at the trends in content marketing, you’ll see that people prefer depth. The average shares by content length increase as the content itself increases in length.

The average shares by #content length increase as the content itself increases in length via @neilpatel Click To Tweet

Avg. Share By Content Length

Image source

Long-form content as opposed to “snackable” content is what fuels a successful content marketing approach.

In the marketing funnel itself, long-form content – usually the deep stuff – is what helps users circle closer toward a purchase, encourages loyalty, and improves user experience.

Longform content vs shortform

Image source

What’s the solution? On the surface, it would seem that the solution is simply to hire people who possess experience in the niche for which they will be writing. This solution has some inherent challenges. Most people who are that niche-focused are so busy doing the work that they lack the time to write about the work.

Here are two other solutions:

  • Hire a generalist content writer but have him develop the topics or outlines from the people in the organization who are experienced.

I’ve seen both of these models work successfully.

Problem 2: Content writers think that a boring industry necessitates a boring blog.

Isn’t it fascinating that some people think that certain industries are inherently dull? I’m here to say that there’s no such thing as a dull industry.

Why? Because the right people will always be interested.

  • You might think that business telephony is boring, but I guarantee that some people are obsessed with this topic.
  • You might think that cooking with coconut flour is rather uninspiring, but some groups are absolutely and insanely excited about it.
  • You might think that SaaS marketing is pretty dull, but I for one am stoked about this topic.

It all depends on the audience.

Here’s the problem. When you think that your industry is boring, then you will write boring content.

One of the reasons people think that an industry is boring is because a given keyword or topic might not generate much traffic. However, relevant content is far more important than high traffic. If you write an in-depth article on a relevant topic and only five people read it, is that a waste?

It depends. What if those five people are part of your target audience – interested, curious, and eager to learn? What if you engage them as customers?

If that’s the case, I’d say that your article wasn’t a waste at all.

It’s time to rescue industries from the misperception of boring.

What’s the solution?

If you’re interested in the industry, then you’ll be able to create interesting content. And if you can combine in-depth content with an interesting style, then you’ve totally won. To ensure that your content isn’t boring:

  • Go deep. Deep content is rarely boring.
  • Unleash the data. The right people always love a good dose of data.

Problem 3: Content writers go through the motions rather than trying to provide a truly helpful resource.

Here’s how this problem goes:

  • Business: “We have to do content marketing.”
  • Content writer: “OK, I’ll write some blogs for you.”
  • Result: <Crickets>

Almost everybody is doing content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual research, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing.

b2b-respondents-using-content-marketing

But how many of those businesses are excited, energized, and enthusiastic about their content marketing efforts?

Content marketing has become another marketing function – just something you have to do. But content marketing is different from most business activities because it requires creative, inspired, and enthusiastic output of content. That content has to connect with people.

What’s the solution?

Content is not merely a business function. It’s an organic method of making a real connection with potential customers. Energize your content by:

  • Rewarding your content writers based on agreed-upon performance benchmarks for their content.
  • Using content writers who really get it – who know the industry, the biggest problems, and how to solve them.
  • Creating collaborations between those who are hired to write content and those who deal with the industry’s biggest and thorniest problems.

Problem 4: Content writers don’t understand their audience.

I’m going to make a big statement: I know how to improve the content marketing industry in one brilliant blast of awesomeness.

Ready for it?

Know your audience.

That’s it. If content writers knew their audiences better, then they would be able to create better content. It’s really that simple.

If writers knew their audiences better, they would be able to create better #content via @neilpatel Click To Tweet

Sometimes, content writers don’t see themselves as marketers. So what happens? They end up simply being writers and not taking the same perspective that a marketer would take.

Marketing begins with the question, “Who is our audience?

The answer often comes in the form of personas. A persona allows you to look at a customer, understand where they are coming from, and address their needs and wants.

Eric Murphy wrote about this problem in his HubSpot article:

Content marketers are still marketers, and due diligence is an essential part of the job. As with any marketing campaign, understanding who your audience is, what they’re looking for, where to find them, and how to deliver the most effective message is essential to intentional success. Sure, it’s possible to get lucky from time to time without research, but repeatable success isn’t possible without intimately understanding the components of the model below.”

That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to solve this problem. You’ve got to research your audience, understand what they want, and deliver content that meets their needs. There’s no shortcut.

As Murphy points out, it’s important that content writers know two things: their market (which includes the audience) and content marketing itself.

It’s important that #content writers know 2 things: their market and #contentmarketing via @ericmurphy Click To Tweet

Market-Content Marketing research

Image source

What’s the solution?

It’s a tall order for any content writer, but it’s an essential part of succeeding at this adventure we call content marketing:

  • Allow your content writers plenty of time to research the industry and audience.
  • Provide your content writers with as much information about the industry and audience as you possibly can.

Conclusion

I’m pretty sure that content marketing is going to be a viable form of marketing for the next few hundred years (if not longer). It’s in our best interest to give content writing our time and resources. It’s worth doing an amazing job.

What are some problems that you see in content writing? How do you correct them?

Given that content writing is going to be around for hundreds of years, invest 30 seconds now to receive insights, tips, and other advice to improve your content. Subscribe to the free daily or weekly CMI newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

Other posts by Neil Patel

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    We (content marketers) may be skewing the numbers on the longest content by promoting it more thoroughly and effectively. Many are now heavily investing in pushing content via Facebook especially – and that definitely skews the numbers. To see this, look at content on BuzzSumo with over 1000 shares and note the percentage from Facebook.

    Brands must be willing to pay for subject matter experts if they want more than researched and regurgitated content. Top freelance writers who ghost for CEOs and demanding brands are making $450-$750 per 700-1500 word post because there simply are not that many top writers with in-depth business experience.

    Meanwhile, many think $150 is too much and a few writers with decades of business experience are still charging that – but I doubt that will continue much longer. I keep expecting one writer I work with to increase what she charges any time and I’ve been warning clients that is likely to happen soon.

    We can train intelligent writers to write better, but we can’t give them experience they don’t have. The best writers have business experience in one or more industries. One solution is for writers to seek out and work with industry experts who can’t write like they do, but can provide insights and quotes they can use in content they produce.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Great response — I like how you broke down the numbers as well. I think at the end of the day it’s pretty evident who knows their stuff and who does not.

  • Louise Callan

    Thanks Neil, you make some very valid points. I read quite a lot of online content, mostly about digital marketing, but it is evident that much of it is written by people who may be able to regurgitate information, but have little genuine personal experience. Endless lists of ‘ways to attract new customers’ etc rarely offer insight into the application in business. The theory is fine, but for me the most useful content shows real situations and the achieved outcome. This type of information is the exception rather than the rule, perhaps because it is harder (and more expensive) to create.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      I think it’s important to seek and find people who also apply the material they share. The more actionable your content the better.

  • http://theiuvo.com/ Dan TheIuvo

    Another excellent article, Neil. And some good points. I might disagree and say that you can write a good content even if you don’t know everything about the topic you are writing, if you know how to write and who do you write it for. But, great article,

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      I believe you can as well – it’s just always better when you know the subject matter

      • http://wethepeoplefree.com/ Cheryl Jones

        This is why some points or a rough idea of what the company wants is extremely helpful.

        • http://theiuvo.com/ Dan TheIuvo

          @Cheryl_Jones:disqus exactly. Company must know what they want from a content writer. And of course it is important to know the subject matter, no doubt about it. But, if you are a great content writer, you will be able to do a research about any topic and write about it. @disqus_5pPRxXyRW3:disqus

  • Jennifer Lind

    How do you explain journalism?

  • http://wethepeoplefree.com/ Cheryl Jones

    I actually do write for various blogs and I do agree that passionate interest about a topic does make for better writing. I do agree that sometimes it is hard to get excited about certain topics. In that case, since I have the option, I look for other industries. On the other hand, I think it would be easier for writers if someone has an idea in mind, to lay out the points he wants in the article. Even if I do not know anything about a topic, if I know what points you want, I can write a good article. I generally research anyway, but input from the company is extremely helpful. Cooperation is necessary. Once I saw a topic that was pretty interesting to me, but it had a lot of industrial terms in it. I asked for a “inner circle” dictionary of terms, but it was not forthcoming. So, I did not write, and I am pretty sure I could have written some good articles week after week with some cooperation. Companies need to start with specific, long-tail keywords they want as well as a general sense of what they want (bullet points vs. no bullet points, for example), instead of hoping the writer can be a mind reader as well. Incidentally, my dream job would be writing for conservative political, Christian or Catholic blog, so anyone reading this who has a connection, I’d appreciate the contact.

  • http://www.towermarketing.net/ KHoward

    Concerning the first problem you outline, what advice do you offer for content writers who work in an agency setting, serving clients in multiple industries? It’s unrealistic to think agencies can hire an expert writer with in-depth experience to serve each different industry that may come through the door.

  • Paula Rhoads

    excellent points

  • Mike Drohan

    “Top influencer” writes blog about the 4 biggest problems with content writers, breaks rules 1 and 4.

  • https://expresswriters.com Julia McCoy

    You know? All these problems can be solved if you find the RIGHT content writers.

    Neil’s right, these are all VERY valid problems, and from the many clients that come to my agency, I see them all the time.

    As an expert writer myself who started out with a 100% satisfied feedback across my projects, I know what it takes to make clients happy. But I discovered that *I* can’t be THAT go-to writer for *everyone*.

    One great writer isn’t the solution. It’s that simple.

    Just like “there’s no I in team.” I discovered that’s how I’d win. I went and created a team of writers, comprised of varied expertise, assets, and skills – and that’s how I now provide a content service that *everyone* can win at using, and therefore win with their own content. By knowing our writers, hiring a variety of expertise and skillsets, and never lowering standards on the internal hiring steps I’ve created that rule out anyone who’s not serious, we give our clients (many include national name brands) content that they’re happy with. 99% of the time. That’s a high percentage.

    🙂

  • Amit

    Well, this article as well as many others available on the Internet, discusses some of the problems. Although every thinly laid out, it does not highlight the core problem (s) concerning content writers and the topic briefs that are provided by SME’s. Being a content writer, I used to prepare topic specific questionnaires and send it out to the vertical heads as well as the SME’s working with them. It so happened, that they were dabbling in many areas which they had vague knowledge about. It’s common knowledge that technology is becoming obsolete and losing their shelf-life faster than before. Apart from that, communication is a grey are in organizational premises; there always seems to be a conflict due to miscommunication. Timelines provided are laughable and expectations from the written article is phenomenally ambitious. So, there’s this situation where people think constructing sentences and providing each and every detail withing the permissible word limits an easy task. Everyone wants to jump into a hype without a solid foundation. Looking for quintessential ‘Jack of All Trades’ is harming everyone, not only in this context but with any skill set(s), considering, that many projects experience enormous quality issues and also are busy fixing bugs (errors, flaws, and failures) that makes a project abysmally fickle. There needs to be a reality check when it comes to expectations in organizations, and set mutually acceptable (management and employee) goals.