Pretend you’re holding an orange. That humble fruit is full of delicious juice — and you have two choices for extracting it: You can either squish orange halves between your palms and hope for the best, or pass the fruit through a proper citrus juicer.
You’ll get the best results using the well-oiled machine, right?
Your content writing process isn’t so different. Your brain is full of great ideas, but letting them randomly leak out onto the page won’t give you stellar results. And it might be pretty tough to separate the messy seeds and pulp from the really good stuff.
Instead, you need a strategic content creation process that works to squeeze out every ounce of creative juice while filtering out any unnecessary pieces and keeping your efforts aligned with overarching goals.
We’re sharing a round-up of content writing tips to help you fine-tune your creative process. If you’re a content creator, consider this your recipe for freshly squeezed, pulp-free writing!
Table of Contents
- Always Keep Your Audience in Mind
- Organize Your Ideas Into an Outline
- Open With an Attention-Grabbing Intro
- Research, Research, Research
- Write in a Voice That’s Unique to Your Brand
- Make Your Content Skimmable
- Adapt Your Message Based on Content Type
- Get an Editor’s Eye on Your Writing
- Optimize Your Content for Search
- Close With a Compelling Call to Action
If you want your content writing to resonate with your target audience, you need to put the needs, interests and desires of your audience first.
Creating audience profiles or buyer personas will help you hone in on who exactly you’re writing content for. Use existing customer data and analytics to understand who your audience is.
Once you have an understanding of your audience, take some time before you write to dig into their most pressing questions or pain points.
Instead of approaching a topic from your own perspective, look at it through your audience’s eyes. What do they want to know? What do they need help with? This way of thinking can guide you to create a resource that they’ll get a lot of value from.
Think outlining will slow your roll? Think again.
The best digital content is well-organized — and if Marie Kondo was a content marketer, she’d recommend outlining as the best way to tidy up disjointed ideas.
Here’s a quick five-step guide to outlining a content writing project:
- Brainstorm: Jot down all of your ideas, research findings and subtopics related to your main topic.
- Categorize: Group these ideas and notes together by relevance.
- Name: Give each group of ideas a working header.
- Organize: Arrange these groups in a logical order.
- Edit: Set aside any outliers or unrelated insights for a future project.
By the end, your outline will have a clear sequence of ideas, which will ultimately be bookended by a solid introduction and conclusion.
Those working headers will become the subheads in your blog post or the page titles in your white paper. A piece of long-form content — like a pillar page, eBook or this blog post! — will typically include a table of contents with the subheads to show readers what’s up ahead.
As soon as you started reading this blog, you might have thought, “Pretend you’re holding an orange?” What on earth does that have to do with content writing?
Well, if you love puns as much as I do, you might have sensed a “creative juices” metaphor coming along. (Low-hanging fruit, I know…🙃)
But, if you’ve made it this far, that odd opening line hooked your attention enough for you to keep reading.
An eye-catching intro that encourages web visitors to stick around can increase time-on-page social engagement. This, in turn, helps boost your content’s ranking and performance. Plus, viewers can get more value out of your content marketing assets the more time they spend consuming them — helping build your reputation as a trusted industry authority.
Whether you’re working on social media captions, web content writing or a long-form downloadable resource, try:
- Creating a snappy headline that gives a preview of what’s to come.
- Opening with an anecdote or metaphor that sets the stage for your topic.
- Establishing a sense of urgency or giving the reader FOMO to show that they need to hear your message.
- Starting with a rhetorical question that makes the reader reflect and read on to find the answer.
- Presenting a compelling data point to catch the reader’s attention and hint at future insights they won’t want to miss.
Whatever you do, avoid long, meandering sentences. These are usually packed with too much information for your audience to digest. Also, steer clear of platitudes and generalizations that make your content seem like a snooze-fest.
The more unique and specific your intro, the better. Your objective is to give your audience a reason to care and keep reading.
The Content Marketer
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We want to let you in on a little secret here: You don’t need to be a capital-E Expert to write great content about a topic. In fact, you can come up with a really strong and informative piece of content without knowing the first thing about the subject!
The key is to conduct sufficient research first. Before you start writing, look at:
- The basics: Collect general information on your topic from authoritative sources, to educate yourself and spark some ideas.
- Keywords: Use related keywords with the appropriate search volume, difficulty level and search intent that you can target with your content writing.
- Data points: Gather facts and statistics from authoritative sources to back up the points you plan to make in your writing.
- The competition: Look at top-ranking pieces of content for those keywords, to see what competitors are saying. This should give you an idea of what your audience is looking for, and how you can differentiate with a more comprehensive piece of content.
To make sure your content stands out from the crowd but fits in with the rest of your marketing, embrace your brand voice when you write.
One business might opt for a formal, polished voice because it speaks to its audience about high-stakes subjects. Another organization might write in a conversational tone because it’s on a mission to reach and connect with individuals. Wit and humor may be hallmarks of one brand, while an educational tone distinguishes another.
Wherever yours fits in, get to know your brand voice and amplify it in every new piece of content you write.
Your readers are pressed for time — and savvy enough to know they don’t need to read a piece of content word-for-word in order to get something out of it.
By making your writing easy to skim, you can deliver value even to readers who spend just a few seconds looking over the content. If something catches an audience member’s eye, they can take a closer look at that section and read it in more detail.
Here are some content writing tips for creating skimmable, successful content marketing assets people will actually enjoy reading:
- Outlining: As we noted earlier, building your content from an outline ensures a logical and skimmable flow of ideas.
- Short paragraphs: Split up long blocks of text with line breaks.
- Subheads: Begin each new idea or topic with a clear subheading.
- Lists: Organize ideas into lists, using bullets or a listicle format. (This blog post does both!)
- Bolded text: Put the most significant words in bold at the start of a bulleted list item or mid-sentence.
- Design elements: Draw attention to key points like important facts and quotes by incorporating them into graphic design elements.
Use this as a rule of thumb: If someone only reads the headers and bolded text, they should understand the main thrust of your message and still come away with some useful takeaways.
A strong content marketing strategy will include a variety of content types that each serve different purposes. What works for one type of asset won’t have as strong an impact for another.
Here’s an example of how you might change your angle based on where different assets fit into your overarching strategy:
- Blog posts: Light, helpful and highly focused resources for top-of-funnel traffic.
- eBooks: Detailed overviews of key topics for middle-of-funnel web visitors.
- White papers: Informative and data-rich assets for bottom-of-funnel readers.
- Emails: Conversational and compelling messages for bottom-of-funnel audiences.
- Social media posts: Engaging, bite-sized insights for prospective and current customers.
Although you’ll be adapting your approach, remember to maintain a consistent brand voice across all of your writing. As audience members move through the sales funnel and encounter varying types of content, everything will feel connected and on-brand, even though the messages are tailored differently.
After you’re through writing the first draft of a piece of content, you do not want the next person to read it to be someone in your target audience. Instead, you need someone else to look over the copy before it goes out into the world.
Team up with an editor or fellow content creator who can give your writing a once-over. They can catch any typos, run-on sentences or factual errors.
In addition, your editor can provide initial feedback on the flow of ideas and how you’re presenting your key points. If they’re left with some confusion or lingering questions after reading your content, chances are, your target audience will be too. Make an effort to clear up those issues when you move on to the revisions.
They say two heads are better than one — and there’s no doubt about it in editing. Consider this step a collaborative process that makes your content writing stronger.
There’s no point in putting so much time and effort into your writing if your ideal reader will never be able to find it. If you’re producing landing page copy, blog posts or any other type of content that could turn up in search results, ensure your writing is search engine friendly.
Writing SEO content starts with researching and selecting the right keywords. Factors to evaluate include:
- Relevance: The keyword should be related to your brand and the topics you want to write about.
- Search intent: If web users have informational intent, they’re looking to gather information — and a blog post could be the right fit. But if they have commercial intent, they’re looking for products, solutions or services — so they’re more likely to visit a landing page.
- Keyword difficulty and search volume: These indicate whether certain keywords are within reach. Avoid choosing highly competitive keywords you may never rank for.
When it’s time to write, your SEO content writing should be comprehensive, offering an in-depth overview of the subject. Aim to provide the best possible result for your chosen keyword (i.e., the user’s search query). Address a range of questions and sub-topics that align with the searcher’s intent, but keep the content as focused and specific as possible.
Your reader reaches the end of your written content. Okay, what next?
Do you want them to wander over to a competitor’s site to find some other perspectives or solutions? Probably not.
If a piece of content marketing doesn’t give your audience an idea of where to go next, it’s not doing its job. While you might mention your products or services throughout the resource, the conclusion is where you really want to insert a final call-to-action (CTA).
Depending on the type of content and your goals for it, your CTA can prompt any of these actions:
- Learn more: Tell the reader where they can go for more information on the subject.
- Contact: Point the visitor to your contact page so they can reach out directly to you.
- Like, follow, share: Invite your audience to engage with the resource or social media post.
- Get a free XYZ: Suggest that the reader take advantage of a complimentary resource like a free custom quote, downloadable eBook or webinar invite.
- Consider a related product or service: Wrap up by describing the solution you offer that could meet your reader’s needs.
If we were closing out with a CTA, we might point out that we offer an array of content writing services to B2B and B2C businesses. The content writing tip you’ll probably get the highest ROI from is to partner with a team of content creation experts who can do the heavy lifting for you.
But if you’re on a roll and ready to keep leveling up your own writing? Subscribe to our newsletter for a steady stream of impactful insights and weekly inspo, from our content marketing fam to yours.