Build your content writing skills. Develop good content. Win the trust of your audience. Here’s how.
Here, you’ll find:
- How content writing fits into the digital marketing world
- The difference between content writing and copywriting
- Benefits of content writing for businesses
- How to define “good” content
Content is the currency of the web. If you can deliver exceptional content that resonates with your readers, they’re more likely to do business with you.
It’s a give-take relationship that requires companies to showcase their expertise and authority in exchange for their prospect’s trust and admiration.
Once you have that, it’s easier to earn their business.
But how do you create content that gives you these results? Hint: it requires similar steps to building any new product.
So let’s explore what content writing is all about and how to create posts that win your target customers’ hearts (and their business).
What is content writing?
Content writing is the process of creating written content to attract a specific audience and drive a particular action.
In other words, it’s writing with a business purpose (e.g., to earn leads and conversions). It can also be used to inform, build trust, and position yourself or your brand as a thought leader.
Content writing vs. copywriting
Just a few decades ago, most content you found was either on television or in print at a library or bookstore. Today, you can tap into a vast amount of online content from a device the size of your palm.
But not all content is created equal. The written word is used in many ways, such as to entertain, engage, persuade, and sell.
“Content writing has a different focus than other forms of writing,” explains Josie Rojewski, content marketing writer at HawkSEM. “The goal of content writing is to provide relevant, helpful information and engage or entice readers to learn more about a topic.”
On the flip side, she adds the goal of copywriting is usually to try to get a person to take a certain action. Let’s take a closer look at the two writing styles.
Content writing is often used for marketing purposes by businesses. For instance, it’s used to increase online visibility and engage an audience they wish to convert into customers.
This is a less sales-y approach to getting your audience’s attention and convincing them to buy from your business.
Content writing can be done for various forms of content, including:
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Video scripts
- Press releases
Copywriting, on the other hand, is created with one focus in mind: to sell products and services.
The key difference between content writing and copywriting is that content writing is a less in-your-face way of selling a product or service. It focuses more on other tactics like brand awareness, credibility, and thought leadership. These are, of course, still important because they can effectively lead to sales just like copywriting.
For instance, you can write a blog post explaining how to use a CRM to improve your sales process. Then at the end, include a call to action (CTA) promoting your CRM as the solution.
The reader may or may not convert right away.
This Semrush post explains the different tools companies can use for content creation. And guess what — it promotes several of its own throughout the post.
It’s an educational piece that also positions its product as a must-buy.
“Content writing has expanded to include more than blog articles and web page copy,” says Rojewski. “I’ve written video scripts, and storyboards for massive marketing campaigns, and even helped design entire brand overhauls to include more and better content for clients. I think we’ll continue to see that expansion, especially in the short-and-long-form video space.”
Copywriting is a direct way to promote a product or service. These typically come in different content types like:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
- Promotional email marketing
- Website content
- Landing pages
- Case studies
- White papers
- Product descriptions
Copywriting discusses the product or service and how it can help or benefit the target audience. It uses the art of persuasion to convince the reader they need to make a purchase right now.
For example, B2C (business-to-consumer) companies that sell consumable goods can dangle a promotional offer in front of their audience to increase sales.
Take this example from BarkBox:
However, a B2B (business-to-business) company that sells complex software solutions can’t use this approach. The reason: the sales cycle can take months and requires the approval of multiple people.
For this reason, a content writing approach makes sense.
Now, this isn’t to say B2B companies don’t use copywriting. In fact, most use sales copy in ads, landing pages, and web page copy. But it also requires content marketing to nurture leads into customers.
If you’re wondering whether you should use one over the other, experience tells us to leverage both for best results.
Benefits of content writing for businesses
Content writing can making growing and scaling your business easier. Here’s an overview of how:
- Improves search engine rankings: Creating quality content improves your website’s SEO, making it more visible to potential customers.
- Increases brand awareness: Consistently publishing informative and engaging content can establish your brand as an authority in your industry and attract new customers.
- Cost-effective marketing: Compared to traditional advertising methods, content writing is a cost-effective way to reach a wider audience and promote your business.
- Builds customer relationships: By providing valuable information through your content, you can build trust with your audience and establish long-term customer relationships.
- Measurable results: With analytics tools, you can track the performance of your content and make data-driven decisions to improve your marketing strategy.
- Increases website traffic: Creating quality content that answers common questions and provides valuable information can attract more visitors to your website.
- Establishes thought leadership: By sharing your expertise and insights through your content, you can establish yourself and your business as a thought leader in your industry.
- Improves conversion rates: Well-crafted content can persuade potential customers to take action, such as purchasing a product or filling out a contact form. This allows you to use email campaigns to nurture them into loyal customers.
At the end of the day, content marketing can generate a return on investment. A HubSpot report shows marketers that blog are 13 times more likely to see positive ROI.
6 steps to effective content writing
Content writing can make or break your business. Get it wrong and you could hurt your company’s reputation, diminishing trust and sales.
But you can avoid this by getting your content marketing strategy right from the get go. Here’s how to do that.
Understand your audience
Knowing who you’re addressing in your content sets the tone, topics, and style you should write in. It makes finding what to say (and how to say it) easier and ensures your content resonates with your target audience.
Some companies think they know their audience and what they want, only to learn later they had it all wrong. So guessing who your prospective customers are is a time waste. Instead of putting together makeshift persona profiles, put in the work by talking to your customers to learn who they are.
You can do this through customer interviews and customer surveys. There are also tools you can use to learn what your audience consumes online. For instance, Sparktoro is an audience listening platform that identifies influencers your audience follows, content they engage with, and keywords they include in their bios.
Google Analytics is also useful for learning which topics get the most burn. And which lead to high bounce rates.
Using a combination of first, second, and third-party data will give you a complete picture of your customers and how to reach them.
Attract your audience with compelling headlines
Once you know who your audience is and the type of content they prefer, it’s time to create it. And it all begins with the headline.
Your headline is the first thing your audience will see, making it one of the most important elements of your content. You need to make it click-worthy.
Here’s where your audience research will come in handy, along with the following tips to create compelling titles:
- Keep it short and sweet: A good headline should be concise and to the point. Aim for no more than 10-12 words (or 55 characters). This way, it’s all visible in the search engine result pages (SERPs). For example, “5 Secrets to Perfecting Your Morning Routine.”
- Use strong verbs: Verbs are the engines that drive headlines. Use active, powerful verbs to grab your reader’s attention. For example, “Revamp Your Wardrobe with These Simple Tips.”
- Be specific: The more specific your headline, the better. Avoid vague or generic headlines that don’t tell the reader what to expect. For example, “How to Train for a Half-Marathon in 12 Weeks.”
- Use numbers: Numbers add specificity and credibility to your headline. For example, “7 Ways to Boost Your Productivity at Work.”
- Make it interesting: Your headline should make the reader want to click through and read more. Use humor, intrigue, or storytelling to pique their interest. For example, “Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel the World.”
- Keep it relevant: Your headline should accurately reflect the content of your article or blog post. Don’t mislead readers with headlines that don’t deliver. For example, “10 Easy Recipes for a Quick Weeknight Dinner.”
- Ask a question: The more thought-provoking the question, the better. But ensure it’s relevant and not clickbait-like. For example, “Are You Making These Common Mistakes in Your Workout Routine?”
- Test different options: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different headlines to see what works best. Try A/B testing different versions to see which one gets the most clicks.
At HawkSEM, we build online marketing strategies that will attract and convert your target customers. We do this using audience and competitive research to learn your market and the best way to position your brand. Then our experienced content writers develop content that generates results.
Write introductions that grab the reader’s attention
You captured the reader’s attention with a compelling headline. Now, it’s time to follow through with an attention-grabbing introduction. The purpose of your intro is to connect with the reader (e.g., ambitions, worries, challenges) and lay out why they should continue reading the post.
There are different formulas content writers use to write effective introductions. A popular one is the ‘Problem, Agitate, Solution’ formula. Here’s how it works:
- Problem: Identify a problem or pain point that your reader is experiencing. Ex: You’re tired of feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work.
- Agitate: Make the problem feel more urgent or pressing by highlighting its negative effects. Ex: Your workload seems never-ending, deadlines are looming, and you can’t seem to catch a break.
- Solution: Introduce your solution to the problem and explain how it’ll help your reader. Ex: Our stress-management program teaches practical techniques for reducing stress and increasing productivity, so you can feel more in control of your workday.
Here’s an example from HubSpot:
Other ways to catch the reader’s attention with your introduction include asking a question, stating a surprising stat, or using an anecdote.
“I’m a big fan of leading with a scenario or metaphor of some kind that gets to the heart of what the piece is going to be about right up front,” says Rojewski.
“Usually when we write a piece of content, we’re trying to answer a direct search query/some question that people are actively researching,” she adds. “There’s nothing more annoying than an article that was clearly written to hit a certain word count rather than answer a question.”
Ensure the rest of your content is just as engaging
After landing your introduction, make sure the rest of the post contains high-quality content. What does this mean?
- Is relevant to the reader and their needs
- Provides value to the reader using facts, examples, and data to support claims
- Shows not tells using eye-catching imagery
- Gives in-depth detail to educate the reader so they walk away informed
- Includes a mix of creative writing to tell intriguing, but relatable stories
Do this in every piece of content you create and you’ll have a winning strategy that generates traffic and new leads.
Structure your content for “skimmability”
Now that you’ve written your headline and introduction, it’s time to structure the rest of your content. This is important because it’ll determine whether a reader consumes the entire post (especially if it’s long-form content).
Here are some tips for structuring your content:
- Break up the text: Break up long chunks of text with visuals like images, videos, and GIFs. These will make your content visually appealing and less boring.
- Use subheadings: Use headings and subheadings to organize the different sections of your content. This makes it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for.
- Include relevant examples: Give examples that illustrate your point. This will help readers better understand key concepts and make the content more engaging.
- Make use of bullet and numbered lists: Lists are a great way to make your content easier to scan, as well as highlight key points. You can use ordered or unordered lists, depending on what works best for your post.
- Add a conclusion: Your conclusion should summarize the main points of your post, as well as reiterate why it matters to your readers. This will drive home your message and ensure readers remember it. And it’s useful for those who like to skip to the end.
- Use a CTA: Don’t forget to include a call to action in your conclusion to ensure readers take your desired next step (e.g., schedule a demo, subscribe to your newsletter, share the content on social media platforms, fill out a form).
You can also use other elements to break up your content and direct readers to helpful resources. Amazon does an excellent job of this with it’s “Did you know” and FAQ boxes:
Edit and proofread your content
Quality content comes from selecting the right topics, offering a ton of value, and conducting a thorough editing process to ensure it’s error-free.
Typos and formatting issues are distracting, which may cause readers to bounce prematurely. They also make your business look unprofessional.
The way around this: editing and proofreading your content before publishing. Yes, there’s a difference between the two.
- Proofreading requires a keen eye to spot inconsistencies in spelling, grammar, and syntax. It ensures the content is clear and easy to read.
- Editing goes beyond typos and homes in on formatting, structure, and flow. It also involves fact-checking, ensuring links work, and eliminating fluff (unnecessary words, sentences, and sections).
You can use tools like Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway Editor to speed up both processes. Writer also makes it easier for your teams to follow brand guidelines by selecting what words to use and avoid, and other tedious writing rules.
Optimize for SEO
Don’t hit publish just yet — not until you’ve optimized your content for search engines (aka search engine optimization).
You already made it engaging and polished for the human eye. Great! Now, you’ve got to ensure search engines can find and rank your content.
Google and other search engines use algorithms to rate your posts and determine its relevance for specific search terms.
You can optimize your content by adding the right keywords in a way that flows naturally within the piece. Ideally, you’ll have a primary search term, which can be long-tail (e.g., how to create social media marketing strategy) or short-tail (e.g., social media posts).
Then, you’ll have secondary search terms relevant to the main keyword and topic that you sprinkle throughout.
Your primary keywords should be mentioned:
- in the title
- within the first 100 words
- in the meta description
- in at least one subheading
- elsewhere when or if it makes sense
Pro tip: While you want the keyword to be prominent, avoid overdoing it. This is called keyword stuffing, or it’ll hurt the readability and rank potential of your content.
You can use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Semrush, Clearscope, and Surfer SEO to find keywords. The latter two also have content editors where you can see which keywords you’re missing so you can add them. Once your content reaches a high score or rating, it’s ready to go.
Writing content for your business or personal brand is key to a healthy digital marketing strategy. But it’s not as easy as firing off a blog post and hitting “publish.”
A successful content writing plan requires consistency, which can be a struggle when you juggle multiple items on your plate.
The good news: You don’t have to go it alone. You can work with an agency that provides content writing services such as content strategy, content calendar building, SEO content creation, and overall project management.
At HawkSEM, we offer holistic digital marketing and writing services that encompasses it all: SEO writing, web content, keyword research, and even email marketing. Want to know more? Let’s talk.