In fact, there are 4.66 billion active internet users globally out of the total world population of 7.83 billion.
And what are these people doing on the internet?
Reading or consuming content.
Your task, therefore, is to communicate with them through various channels and content formats.
To do that effectively, you need to know the ins and outs of content writing.
Good news, because in this post, I’ll show you how.
What is content writing?
The definition of content writing says it’s the process of developing, writing, and editing web content primarily for digital marketing purposes.
There are many types of content writing:
- Blog entries and articles
- Product descriptions
- Scripts for films and podcasts
- Email newsletters
- Landing pages
- Press releases
- Social media posts
And even content for specialized platforms (e.g., tweetstorms on Twitter, text posts on Reddit, etc.) are all products of content writing.
As you can see, writing is the backbone for pretty much EVERYTHING on the web.
But why would companies take such great pains to write and publish content?
Why content writing is important
More and more businesses are using content marketing as a lead generation tool.
According to research:
- 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers.
- 56% plan to increase their content marketing spending next year.
Most content published to the web gets little to no eyeballs:
And, it’s hardly surprising.
There are 252,000 new websites and 7.5 million blog posts published daily.
Add to that the countless social media posts, white papers, e-books, and more.
There is an overwhelming amount of written content online.
To stand out and get noticed, you need superior content writing skills to ensure your content resonates with your intended audience and gets read, linked, and shared.
Put another way:
With so many businesses competing for sometimes-identical audiences, it’s crucial to publish high-quality, customized content that cuts through the noise and attracts prospects and customers.
15 essential content writing tips
If you’re new to content writing and learning the ropes, or have been churning out articles for years, these 15 content writing tips, tricks, and best practices should help you get the desired results.
Let’s jump in:
1. Come up with a substantial content outline.
The essential first in the content writing process is to create an outline.
Outlines help improve the quality of your content for two key reasons:
Firstly, an outline compels you to write all of your ideas in a structured manner, so it helps to facilitate the writing process.
Secondly, using an outline typically results in a far better content structure. It enables you to view your content at a level that is impossible to perceive while writing off the top of your head.
This is especially true when you’re writing long-form content.
A content plan (e.g., structure) ensures your final output covers every important point you want to make.
In other words, it ensures you cover a topic in completeness, which is critical if you want to rank well in search engines these days.
But, how do you go about constructing a substantial outline?
Try these three methods:
Refer to a successful piece of published content from the past.
Here at SEO Sherpa, for example, we regularly produce authoritative SEO blogs containing practical SEO advice our audience can apply.
Therefore, it makes sense to draw on the framework of our existing and successful guides when we begin developing new ones.
As you can see, we use the comprehensive guide format a lot.
Why? Because it works GREAT for us.
And that’s why we keep using it.
Use tried-and-tested templates.
The majority of experienced content writers follow tried-and-tested templates.
Some good examples of content writing templates include expanded list posts, ultimate guides, branded strategy case studies, complete lists, and tools-of-the-trade posts.
Research popular content on your topic.
To increase the chances your content will be successful, refer to material that already performs well.
In other words:
You can utilize high-quality and popular content as the foundation for your topic outline.
Then add additional insights and angles.
Let’s say you plan to write a post about money-saving tips.
The easiest way to find the top-performing articles about saving money is using search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
Type in your search word or term (i.e., money-saving tips) in the search bar and see what comes up.
By reading the top articles about your topic, you’ll be able to determine exactly what to cover in your article.
Getting insights from popular content can help you reorganize and refine your outline and let you see where there are information gaps you can fill.
Fast-track your content outline creation process by installing the Ahrefs browser extension.
This extension will allow you to get a quick overview of the content structure of any article you are reading by highlighting the header tags in the article.
2. Write original content.
Whether in business, journalism, research, content, news, or other forms of writing, plagiarism is a huge no-no.
Sure. You can use the information you find online to create an outline. However, you shouldn’t make it a practice to copy and paste pre-existing content.
If you do, your article will have difficulty ranking on search engine results pages, because search engines will (generally) favor the original version.
Plus, you’ll lose your credibility.
So, aside from gathering data from online resources, drop by a library and get more references. Talk to experts and get quotes if you can, or get permission to discuss case studies or use company resources.
You can also “listen” to what people are saying about your topic by looking for content on the subject across different media. You can check various information sources like LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, and YouTube. You can also listen to podcasts or watch documentary films.
Do these things, and you’ll be better able to come up with a substantial and original piece of content.
Don’t let yourself be limited by your sources, and make it your goal to add to the information already available on the internet.
3. Craft a compelling headline.
You could be the most thorough, talented content writer who knows SEO content better than anyone.
But, you’ll still be unsuccessful if you don’t use the right headlines.
After all, a headline is the first thing that attracts people’s attention.
According to Copyblogger:
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
In other words:
The headline is what gets people to read your content.
Killer headline writing takes practice, but it’s not rocket science.
You can train yourself to write catchy headlines by noting the headlines that grab your attention when reading. You can then rewrite them in your own words to see if you can do better.
If you’re unsure about your choice of headline, come up with three samples for every content you write and conduct an informal survey at work. See which ones get the most votes and use them.
Doing this regularly can help hone your skills in crafting original and engaging headlines, as your brain becomes more familiar with what makes a headline compelling to people.
4. Use a catchy hook.
How can you make your content stand out besides writing a compelling headline?
Using a compelling hook, that’s what!
A hook is a word, phrase, or sentence that draws the reader in. It’s an attention-getter that piques the reader’s interest and compels them to read more.
With attention spans dwindling and an abundance of online content without a catchy hook, competing for readers’ attention will be challenging.
This is where a proven hook format comes in.
Here are several popular and effective hooks you can swipe and deploy:
The statistic hook provides a solid fact for your readers to grip on right away.
Establishing your credibility early on will help support the points you make later on in your writing.
Additionally, a startling figure can pique your audience’s interest in the subject and encourage them to read further.
An anecdotal hook can make for a personal opening that reveals more about you to your reader, depending on your topic.
Even though it’s pretty common to write online content in the second person, there are certain situations in which you can use the first-person perspective.
You’ll share a snippet of your life or a short, interesting, amusing incident with an anecdotal hook.
For example, you could write about the importance of air conditioning maintenance.
Your anecdotal hook could have you narrating your personal experience during a hot and humid summer when your AC broke down, and you also had to fend off mosquito attacks.
This particular hook can be a little lengthier than others; just ensure it is relevant to the topic.
Using a memorable quotation pertinent to your topic could draw the audience’s attention to your content effectively.
Just be sure to credit and clarify the quotation after including it. Also, the citation you include should strengthen and add to the depth of your writing rather than sound random or isolated.
Another clever strategy to grab the reader’s attention is to start writing with a strong statement of your thesis or perspective.
Even if readers don’t entirely concur with your position, they will be curious to see how you back it up.
Statement hooks frequently compel people to either want to challenge your viewpoint or follow you as you elaborate. Either way, your content wins in terms of engagement.·
A content piece will immediately grab a reader’s attention and leave them wanting more if it opens with a question.
However, ensure the query or questions you pose at the beginning are open-ended.
Instead of posing a straightforward yes-or-no question to the reader, make sure you’re offering them something they would want to investigate further.
5. Create consumable, sharable content.
One of the secrets to publishing successful content is making it simple to read and share online.
You can hire the best copywriter to create content pieces for you. But if the outcome is difficult to read, no one will bother to read it.
How do you make your content more straightforward to read, skim, and distribute?
Check out these techniques:
Make it amusing, witty, and rich.
Your writing needs to catch and capture the reader’s attention, whether it’s about content development, building safety, vitamins, or automobiles. If your writing is uninteresting, readers will go to another page.
Keep your paragraphs brief and concise. One or two sentences is best:
You can spice things up with visuals or use various content formats to draw people in.
In strategic places, you can include videos, infographics, images, screenshots, and graphs.
Just like you see in this post!
Ensure it’s quotable on social media platforms.
Include shareable quotes in your content writing to improve the likelihood of it ranking well in search results and getting shared on social media.
For text-based posts, you can highlight a share-worthy quote that, when shared on social media, will give people an idea of your content and intrigue them enough to want to read more.
Having these attention-getting quotes prepared is crucial before you publish the full content.
Then, you can draw attention to them in your writing.
6. Write with your audience in mind.
Crafting content based on who you’re writing for is crucial if you are to create pieces that will resonate with your audience.
While specific topics may interest the general public, content writing should be more focused and specific.
If you’re writing about digital marketing, your approach to the topic would be different than if you were writing for small business owners or advanced digital marketers.
Therefore, it’s crucial to know who your audience is first, so you can speak in a language they understand.
To do that, I recommend defining a persona and target audience.
7. Pick a unique, interesting perspective.
With millions of blog posts published daily, you can’t publish something that’s already cliché and anticipate a deluge of traffic.
Even if you’re writing about a topic that’s been written about hundreds of times, you can still drive visitors to your content by approaching it with a compelling angle or unique perspective.
Simply put, an angle is a hook that distinguishes your work from others written on the subject.
Studying the SERPs is the best way to find a unique angle for your content.
For example, let’s take the keyword “how to bake a chocolate cake,” we can see a few different angles being used:
The angles above are:
- Hershey’s (brand)
To stand out by targeting the “how to bake a chocolate cake” keyword, angles we might use for our content could be fast, moist, rich, professional, etc.
Of course, your target audience will determine your approach and the site where your content will be published.
Using an altogether different example, if you’re discussing mental health, there are different approaches you can use.
You could write from the perspective of the person with mental health issues, their loved ones, or family members. You can also interview mental healthcare professionals and present their perspectives on the matter.
Whatever the approach to your topic, make sure it’s unique or different.
8. Include actionable tips.
Your content can’t only be interesting, engaging, or amusing – although these content qualities have their uses. And even being merely informative could be insufficient.
So, what’s the missing element?
Your material must be extremely helpful and actionable if you want your content to be popular and successful.
Here’s how you do it:
Create a structured procedure.
Rather than simply publishing a list of items you compiled from lists created by other people, strive to make the information you share immediately actionable by breaking it up into a series of steps, suggestions, tips, or strategies.
A good example would be rather than simply discussing the function or benefits of using image SEO, you can expand the topic further by providing steps to rank in search engines like Google.
We wrote a post about image SEO, and including steps is precisely what we did.
When you cite examples in your piece, you make it easier for readers to appreciate and apply your advice or the information you share.
Case studies or personal narratives work for specific types of writing.
Or you can simply give examples to illustrate or prove your point.
Keep content evergreen and up to date.
You could have great website content and render it irrelevant when the information is antiquated or dated.
To keep your content current, make it a point to review and update previously published content once or twice a year.
This is especially useful in science, technology, or IT-related posts, as innovation is constantly at work in these sectors.
For bonus points, include a “last updated” date at the top of your article to reinforce that the content is fresh.
As you can see, that’s what we do on our blog.
9. Cite credible and authoritative sources.
Depending on the topic, there are instances when you need to lend credence to what you are saying by citing data from credible sources. This includes statistical information, percentages, or any numbers and figures mentioned in your writing.
You also need to refer to authoritative sources whenever you make sweeping statements.
Examples of these include:
- Women are generally paid less than men even when they occupy the same positions in a company.
- Taking vitamin supplements is considered unnecessary by some health experts.
- There is a lack of efficient implementation in the country’s building code.
Getting your information from reliable sources that are considered industry or subject matter experts strengthens your work’s credibility and shows your diligence as a writer.
Anytime we mention a statistic, fact, or complicated topic, we link to a credible source.
I suggest you do the same.
10. Optimize content for search engines.
Flawless content writing is useless if it is not SEO-optimized because few (if anyone) will ever read it after you’ve published and promoted it.
Therefore, you must learn to master SEO content writing.
Knowing how to write SEO-friendly content can help your work rank on all the popular search engines; Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, and others.
But not just that.
Writing with SEO in mind ensures that when you write about a particular topic, you cover the relevant subtopics and well-liked shoulder topics associated with the subject.
That’s good for SEO and your content in general.
Not sure where to start when it comes to SEO best practices?
Check out our simple step-by-step SEO guide for beginners.
11. Integrate multimedia content.
Incorporating multimedia content whenever you can to break up long passages of text will make reading easier.
This is especially true if you’re writing long-form content like pillar pages or white papers.
For a blog entry with more than 3,000 words like this one, it’s asking a lot of the reader to just keep reading without the help of relevant images or visual elements.
To break up the walls of text, we’ve included a ton of multimedia content.
Images, screenshots, videos, and Tweetables all help to keep the reader interested.
12. Make every word count.
Let’s face it. People are busy and easily distracted. We know this for a fact.
So, in content writing, it’s essential to avoid dilly dallying or overextending your topic and subtopics.
Include the information, discussion, analysis, and examples you want, and then stop.
By keeping your content concise, you’re making it easier for your audience to consume.
And the more they like it, the more pleasant their experience would be on your site (great for UX, right!).
13. Use calls to action.
Include succinct, strategically placed calls to action throughout your content.
This helps guide your readers towards further content, products, or services that could help them.
On the SEO Sherpa blog, we tend to include a prominent CTA at the top and bottom of each post.
Sometimes, we use call-out boxes like this one:
And other times, we embed custom graphics such as this “get a free proposal banner.”
Whatever CTA you choose, your audience must find it simple to complete the action, whether purchasing your products, trying your services, getting a quote, or signing up for a newsletter.
My top CTA tip?
Use precise wording and a color that contrasts with the rest of your page.
14. Measure results.
Ensure you’re keeping an eye on and tracking crucial content performance indicators.
Organic traffic and the number of sessions or page views are most used to gauge content effectiveness.
However, leads and conversion rates are popular metrics to include in your results.
Knowing how your content is doing can help you strategize more effectively, develop topics and utilize formats that bring the most beneficial results.
15. Edit, edit, and then edit some more.
Avoid making obvious grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes.
When you finish the first draft of your content, take a break and review it later.
You can edit the material for minor grammatical faults or correct structural problems with a fresh eye during your review.
A reader’s trust in your brand can also be made or broken by minor linguistic faults.
They might conclude that your content isn’t as trustworthy and well-written as other stuff on the web and turn to other sources for further information if they see that you’ve left out periods or misspelled terms.
A tool like Grammarly can help you minimize grammatical mistakes:
But a word of advice:
You don’t need to follow every suggestion Grammarly spits out. Confirming every tip verbatim can lead to personality-less content, and have you end up ignoring context.
Taking care of grammar and spelling not only builds credibility and trust; flawless writing is a hallmark of A-grade content.
But don’t get caught up in the minutiae.
Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your writing.
Bring your content writing ‘A’ game
Great content writing takes research, planning, and painstaking hard work.
But with these tips, you can start working on improving the content you publish to help you rank better on search engines and get noticed.
Which of these tips are you going to implement first?
Are you going to add calls to action to your content, or maybe plan to cite more authoritative sources?
Let me know in the comments below.