Mark Twain once famously declared “there is no such thing as a new idea”.
While we can’t recall many other stories about a runaway child embarking down the Mississippi River, Twain’s point still rings true. A quick Google is enough to prove this - you’ll notice onsite and blog copy driven by the same topics, objectives and keywords tend to follow an almost identical script - whether in the content’s structure, style or informational value.
But here at Paragraft, we’re all about originality - and so are our mates over at Google.
After all, originality is a great way to send all the right quality, relevance and authority signals to our search engine overlords. It’s a sure-fire way to better engage readers, too - unique angles, fresh information and creative approaches are more effective at capturing and retaining an audience’s attention.
So, today, we’re investigating three cardinal sins of content: clichés, empty vocabulary and unoriginal copy. Detailing why these should be avoided like the pla- we mean, banished to the tenth circle of content hell, this post will ensure your content creation is unique, memorable and distinctly you.
What’s a cliché?
A cliché is a turn of phrase that’s heavily overused and, as a result, has lost its impact. Devoid of any original thought, clichés commonly take the form of idioms and metaphors.
Some common examples of clichés in content include:
- Think outside the box
- Low-hanging fruit
- Keep calm and carry on
- Stand out from the crowd
- One-stop shop
- Tip of the iceberg
- ...and so many more!
Why to avoid
Clichés are a sign of a lazy content writer who lacks inspiration and creativity. If that wasn’t damning enough, the overuse of cliché will quickly undermine the value of your content by confusing your message and weakening how engaging and memorable it is to your reader.
Clichés also tend to be a product of a particular language - or more specifically, a particular culture - which can cause an unnecessary communication barrier with an international audience. Of course, in the context of branded content creation, this can avoidably prevent a piece from achieving its purpose.
How to avoid
As clichés are, by very definition, turns of phrase that are commonplace in everyday communication, it’s easy to stray into cliché when creating content.
To avoid this, do as the experts do: prioritise your brand identity.
By viewing each sentence through the lens of your brand identity - including your values, your style and your tone - you can avoid generic copy in favour of vocabulary and phrasing choices unique to you and your brand.
What’s empty vocabulary?
There are a lot of words in use in the English language - 171,476 in the Oxford English Dictionary, to be precise.
Within this mountain of vocabulary, there are some words that can be considered ‘empty’. These tend to be generic adjectives that offer little insight into what’s being described.
Common examples of empty vocabulary include words like:
Why to avoid
Purpose-driven content creation should provide the utmost value in the most concise way possible. This means making the most out of your word count and, more importantly, your word choices.
When using empty vocabulary, you’re not adding any value to your content - only words. This means the reader has to work harder to gain informational value, hindering engagement. It also negatively impacts the quality of your content as a result, hindering search ranking potential in the process.
How to avoid
Evaluate your choice of adjectives. Do they provide the reader with any additional insight? Do they add further informational value?
If you’ve answered ‘no’, fear not. Whack out the trusty ol’ thesaurus - there’s a synonym for everything. Don’t just pick out the first in the list, though. Instead, seek out the synonym that’s most relevant and offers the most informational value.
Replace general adjectives that simply describe what something is (like those in our examples above) with purposeful adjectives that describe why something is that way.
For example, a ‘good deal’ could instead be labelled a cost-effective, pocket-friendly or pound-saving deal. Likewise, an ‘interesting talk’ could be better described as insightful or thought-provoking.
In both of these instances, the reader has gained more value: they know it’s a good deal because it’s cheap, and know it’s an interesting talk because it offers lots to think about.
So, avoiding empty vocabulary enables you to offer more value in a more concise way - making this approach a big hit with users and search engines.
What’s unoriginal copy?
At its worst, unoriginal copy is content crafted by the wonders of copy and paste.
Aside from straight-up plagiarism, unoriginal copy can also describe content that mirrors the style, angle or informational value of existing content found elsewhere.
In short? It’s creating content that’s been done before without bringing anything new to the table.
Why to avoid
Duplicate content is one of the biggest enemies of the SEO copywriter - and the reasons for this are twofold.
First, content directly lifted from another ‘source’ (such as a competitor’s content) is subject to a Google penalty, which could see the offending pages removed from Google’s search index.
Second, Google’s algorithm has also evolved to prioritise content quality when ranking content. By creating unoriginal copy, you’re weakening the value of your content. Without any new information or perspectives to contribute, you’ll struggle to surpass existing content on your topic in Google’s search rankings.
When writing for any audience, engagement and user value should be at the forefront of your content creation. If you’re simply rehashing the same ol’ information in a way we’ve all seen and heard before, you’re ticking neither of these boxes - and your content’s performance will suffer as a result.
How to avoid
Avoiding unoriginal copy means offering new ideas or new ways of presenting old ideas. Sound tough? It can be, especially if you’re writing in a competitive industry.
Of course, the best way of ensuring your copy is original is to come at it from a unique perspective. This means coming up with fresh topics and ideas that haven’t been covered before. Though this may sound all but impossible, with the right resources, it’s actually easier than you might think.
Unlock new ideas by delving into audience research. From polls and focus groups to search and onsite user behaviour data, utilise the resources available to you to better understand the problems your customers face and the solutions they need.
While topic maps and search tools can also be beneficial, utilising business data is the most powerful way to generate topics and talking points truly unique to you and your audience.
That’s not to say every piece of content needs to break new ground. In instances where you’re straying into territory that’s already been covered, strive to take a leaf out of Noel Gallagher’s book by adding your own spin.
But rather than adding some nonsensical lyrics to a T. Rex riff, instead make sure your unique element is driven by value.
For example, perhaps you’re expanding on informational value by curating new stats and figures, or offering insightful new perspectives from a subject matter expert. Alternatively, you might’ve found a refreshing and creative way to explore an old topic, strengthening the value of your content by making that information easier to understand and retain.
Don’t fall victim to cheap content creation crimes like clichés, empty vocabulary and unoriginal copy. As Wham recommends, if you’re gonna do it, do it right - strengthening the value of your content by prioritising originality in information and style.
For one-of-a-kind content, leave it to the experts. Get in touch with Paragraft today to learn how we can make unique, value-driven content work for your business.