If you ever had a writing teacher that told you to just “write better,” I apologize on their behalf. Any professional writer will tell you that this advice just doesn’t work, but it is probably the kind of advice you find in a lot of “How to Make Better Content” articles. You’re not looking for someone to tell you to just “improve your writing and you’ll see more shares.” That’s information you already know. Here’s information you might not know about how to actually make your content successful:

how to write better

Write better.

Hear me out: it is possible to quickly improve your own writing with relatively little effort. You don’t need to get a degree in English or even own a book about grammar and style. What you do need, however, is an understanding of what makes writing good. Specifically: having a clear point and giving your reader a reason to care about what you’re writing. It wasn’t until college that I had an English professor write, in huge red Sharpie on my paper, “Why should I care about this?” He wasn’t being mean—he was teaching me that all writing must have a purpose and that that purpose needs to be clear to the reader. Another bit of advice: develop your own voice and stick to it, but make it a voice that your target audience will actually like.

Break your own news.

We’ve all been talking so much about the importance of “unique” content that we’ve forgotten what the word actually means (and that it’s impossible). This is something else that you would learn in a literature or creative writing program—everything is derivative of something. There is nothing truly unique and spending so much time fretting over whether or not what you’re writing is unique can create some serious writer’s block. Here’s a better idea: break your own news. Don’t just copy topics that some other writer has already explained thoroughly. Take a new angle or a deeper look at a topic and if you have news, you should be the first one to write about it.

Do your research.

There’s no bigger turn off for a consumer than seeing an expert get something wrong, and you are supposed to be an expert in your field. Before you write anything, you need to do a mountain of research. Some of the most successful posts on the internet are those that are written only after a great deal of leg work has been done by the writer. You want to have the hard facts and the resources to back yourself up. Your research should be first hand, too. Don’t just find an article that’s already been written on your topic and rewrite it, using all their same resources. Consumers already have access to an article like that and Google is going to favor it because it was first, rendering yours pretty much worthless.

Change up your content.

If you always write a concise 500-word post about a topic, people are eventually going to get bored of coming to your website and reading what you write. 500 words is rarely enough length to really get into the meat of an interesting topic. It’s a skim over the surface, at best. Shareable content is content that actually has substance. For example, you’re never going to find an article that effectively teaches you how to monetize your blog in under 500 words. Obviously, there will be times when 500 words is more than enough to cover a topic—don’t limit yourself, but don’t fluff up your pieces just for a word count, either. Diversified content is the key to success.

Make your content easier to read.

What does that mean? It means shorter paragraphs and headings in bold so your reader can easily scan what you’ve written and find the information they are most interested in reading. This is why lists and bullet points are so popular in online content—they are very easy to skim and quickly give the reader the information that they want about your topic.

Write better headlines.

Consumers are getting sick of clickbait headlines, but that doesn’t mean that your headline should be boring. It should quickly sum up what your content is going to be about, but it should do it in a way that interests and engages your reader. There are lots of different ways to write effective headlines, but here are a few quick tips: phrase your title as a question, present your article as a list, highlight the controversial nature of your topic, etc.

Links are dead.

That’s an exaggeration, obviously. It can still be valuable to include links in your post, but some search engine marketers have become so obsessed with links that they sacrifice the quality of their content to include more links. They spend so much time obsessing over which links to use, what the anchor text should be, and how to insert it into their content that the quality of the content suffers. Post links only when they are very relevant to your content and engaging to the reader. Don’t include links simply because you think they’ll help you get a better search engine ranking.