How does more organic traffic sound to you? What about more leads and better conversion rates? And how would you feel about improving your brand awareness, authority, and trust?
These are the rewards in store for any business that takes content marketing seriously.
But to get content marketing right, you’ll first need to master the art of content writing.
Our goal in this post is to give you a crash course in writing high-impact content. We’ll explain the different content formats available to you, provide a step-by-step breakdown of the content writing process, and offer some valuable tips for getting the most out of your content.
But first, what do we mean by ‘content writing’?
What is Content Writing?
Content writing refers to the creation of written marketing material designed to educate, entertain, or inspire a specific online audience.
By producing valuable content, businesses can build a reputation for quality and expertise within their target market, attract better-qualified leads, and ultimately convert more prospects into paying customers.
Written content can be used at all stages of the marketing funnel, from top-of-the-funnel content that creates awareness around your brand to bottom-of-the-funnel content that helps prospects finalize their buying decisions.
Why is Proper Content Writing Crucial for Success?
There are no shortcuts to achieving sustainable success in content marketing.
The reason for this is pretty simple. Countless other businesses also use content to draw customers’ attention, and so only carefully-crafted and high-quality content has a chance of cutting through the noise.
But the extra effort is worth it!
By producing stellar content and adhering to a thought-out content strategy, you’ll end up maximizing your returns from one of the most cost-effective marketing channels out there. In fact, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing but drives three times the number of leads.
A commitment to writing high-value content also makes you more likely to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs) and pull readers away from your competition. And as we’ll see later in the post, the best way to maximize your ranking potential is by ensuring you create content both for people and search engines.
Types of Content Writing
Text-based digital content comes in all shapes and sizes, with different formats being better suited to audiences at different stages of the marketing funnel.
Even though each content format requires a specific skill set on the writer’s part, we’ll see that some common rules apply to all types of content writing.
And remember, if your team lacks the knowledge or bandwidth to create high-quality content on a consistent basis, you can always seek the help of content writing services.
With that said, here are a few of the most common digital content formats.
The good old blog post is a versatile content format that lets you provide readers with anything from short-form updates about your brand to interviews with industry experts to in-depth breakdowns of core topics (just like this post!).
Web content refers to most of the content you’ll find on a website outside the blog section. For example, the content you see on a home page, services page, or about us page all counts as website content.
How-to posts provide readers with comprehensive and easy-to-follow instructions for achieving some desired goal.
Listicles are articles presented in list format. They usually contain a series of numbered entries relating to a common theme.
Social Media Posts
Brands can find various uses for social media posts, such as commenting on trending topics, promoting upcoming product releases or events, and keeping followers updated on the latest company news.
A press release is a piece of promotional content that an organization shares with third-party media outlets hoping they’ll write a story about it.
Category Page Content
Category pages occupy the middle tier of a site’s hierarchy and tend to contain content describing a particular group of products or services.
Product descriptions present the specifications and features of individual products and often contain a dash of persuasive copy to urge users to make a purchase.
White papers are long-form, detailed reports about a specific topic. They present a problem, explain its solution, and typically draw on more research than other types of content.
Landing Page Copy
Landing page copy is designed to persuade readers to convert and so plays a key role in the sales funnel. You might use a landing page to encourage visitors to sign up for a newsletter, register for a webinar, or buy a particular product.
Newsletters provide a way of communicating directly with subscribers via their email inboxes. Newsletters can be sent daily, weekly, monthly, or on an ad hoc basis and tend to contain things like company news, content roundups, and product or service updates.
Video Content Scripts
An important part of video production is writing video scripts. Without a well-crafted script, marketing videos can seem unprofessional and directionless.
The Content Writing Process
Now that we’re familiar with the value of proper content writing and the different types of written content available to marketers, it’s time to look at the content writing process in more depth.
Below, we’ve broken down all the essential steps involved in writing a standout piece of website content.
Identify Relevant Topics
First, you’ll need to identify topics that your audience will find interesting.
But to do that, you’ll need to build a clear picture of who your audience is. You can achieve this by creating a buyer persona – a detailed representation of your ‘ideal’ customer that includes information about their motivations, habits, and preferences. Once you understand what makes your most valuable customers tick, the task of identifying content topics that resonate with them becomes much more manageable.
There’s no shortage of places to find topic inspiration. You can discover worthy topic ideas by analyzing customer surveys, consulting feedback from your sales or customer service teams, looking through social media accounts and forums popular among your target audience, scouring the comment sections of competitor content, and, of course, by searching Google.
One free and straightforward way to gather ideas is to use the topic-generating tool Answer The Public, which, given an input phrase, spits out several related topic suggestions.
Whatever method you use to gather your ideas, you’ll ideally select a topic relevant to your buyer persona that hasn’t been addressed in considerable detail by any of your competitors.
Conduct Keyword Research
Once you’ve picked your topic, it’s time to find related keywords to use in your content.
Conducting keyword research is an indispensable part of the content creation process if you want your content to rank on Google. After all, search engines rely heavily on keywords to determine what kind of search queries your content should appear for.
The goal here is to gather as many potential keywords for your content as you can, along with their associated monthly search volumes and ranking difficulty data.
We recommend using Google’s free-to-use Keyword Planner to gather this information (note you will need to set up a Google Ads account to use this tool). You may also find it helpful to use a premium research tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to bulk out your keyword list.
Choose a Target Keyword
Now it’s time to pick a target keyword (or focus keyword) for your content.
A target keyword is simply the primary keyword you want your content to rank for.
Remember, when picking target keywords, the idea is to select a term with enough monthly search volume to attract significant traffic but a low enough ranking difficulty that your content has a realistic chance of appearing in the search results.
Identify Keyword Search Intent
Next, you’ll need to identify the search intent that underlies your target keyword.
Search intent refers to the information a user expects to find when searching for a particular query. Failing to cater to this search intent can only result in a disappointing user experience.
For example, suppose you Googled ‘Nike sneakers’ but were only given search results relating to Adidas or Reebok sneakers. In this case, the results would not have met your search intent, and you’d naturally feel confused or frustrated that Google didn’t serve you with relevant content.
Fortunately, Google is pretty good at only serving results that live up to its users’ search intent (no one would use Google if this weren’t true!). For this reason, you can easily figure out the search intent behind your target keyword just by analyzing the top results that currently rank for it.
Conduct Research on the Topic
When it comes to developing content that addresses search intent and provides readers with as much value as possible, you’ll need to do some extensive topical research.
Even if you’re already pretty familiar with the subject matter, it’s a good idea to study other content covering the same topic and note down all the major points you’d like to touch on in your own piece.
Also, try sourcing as many statistics and relevant quotes as you can to give your content that extra air of authority and balance.
Pick a Content Type
The next step is to figure out the best format for your content.
This will largely depend on the specific details of your chosen topic, how in-depth you plan on going, and, of course, what type of content is currently ranking at the top of the SERPs for your keyword.
So, if the top-ranking results for your target keyword are all structured as ‘how-to’ articles, it’s safe to assume that your content should follow suit.
Choose an Angle
Picking interesting angles for your content that resonate with your buyer persona is one of the most effective ways to separate yourself from the crowd.
So instead of writing a generic piece, consider sprucing things up by injecting a personal story into your content, taking a controversial stance, or offering a fresh perspective on an aging idea.
Create an Outline
Next, you’ll need to create your content outline.
The more effort you put into this step, the easier it will be to stitch your piece together when it comes time to write.
Your outline should specify all the different sections that will make up your piece and clarify which information will go where.
You should delineate your different sections by creating a clear and coherent heading hierarchy, incorporating your target keyword and secondary keywords wherever possible.
Write an Engaging Introduction
The introduction lets you reassure your target audience that they’ve clicked on the right result and get them excited about reading on.
An engaging introduction (also known as a “lede”) should provide a quick overview of the content and immediately make it clear to readers what the piece has in store for them.
To learn more about writing compelling introductions, check out this post by the Content Marketing Institute.
Create the Body Content
Now it’s time to write the main bulk of your content.
If your outline and research are thorough enough, you should be able to write content relatively effortlessly.
Be sure to make your content skimmable so that time-starved readers can absorb the information as quickly as possible. This means keeping paragraphs short, using bulleted and numbered lists where appropriate, and leaving plenty of white space between sections.
Use a Call-To-Action
It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal of all your content marketing efforts is to create new leads and move them further down the marketing funnel.
Accordingly, every post you write should encourage readers to take the next logical step along the buyer’s journey.
This is precisely the role of a call-to-action (CTA). CTAs are short and strategically-placed invitations for readers to take a specific action, like signing up for a newsletter, downloading a PDF, or clicking through to an online store. As such, they are essential for allowing you to convert readers into paying customers.
Just make sure that you use CTAs sparingly. An article littered with CTA buttons can be distracting at best and seem overly pushy at worst.
Develop a Title and Headline
You’ll need to nail your page title and headline (or H1 tag) to optimize your post for search engines.
Both elements play a crucial role in signaling to users and search engines what your content is about, and so you should ensure they both contain your target keyword and address the user’s search intent.
Write a Compelling Meta Description
Even though meta descriptions don’t contribute to your content’s ability to rank, they do play an important role in giving search users a taste of what’s to come if they click on your result.
The more compelling your meta description, the more likely it is that users will choose to click through to your content.
For tips on how to write click-worthy descriptions, check out our meta descriptions best practices guide.
Incorporating visual and audio media into your content doesn’t just make it easier to convey the nuances of your message; it also gives readers a second to pause by breaking up the text.
Be sure to integrate videos, images, screenshots, graphs, infographics, and audio clips wherever you think they will add value to your readers’ lives.
Optimize for Search Engines
Next, you’ll need to apply some SEO best practices to your post to give it the best chance of ranking well in the SERPs.
Once again, your post must address the user’s search intent so that the content ranks for your target keyword.
You should also integrate your target keyword into your URL, title, headline, headings, image alt text, and body content.
While you’ll find tons of advice in our SEO writing guide about writing content that ranks well, you can also check out our SEO content writing services if you’d prefer to outsource that work to experienced professionals.
Edit Your Draft
Once you’ve completed your first draft, it’s time to proofread it and correct any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. You should also ensure that none of the links in your post are broken.
This is also the time to double-check that you’ve included your primary and secondary keywords throughout your post.
Publish the Final Content
Now that your content has been finalized, it’s time to hit publish!
Be sure to promote it across your various marketing channels for maximum exposure.
Review the Published Article
Once your post is out in the ether, you’ll want to track its performance to see if it’s achieving the goals you expected.
Google Analytics will let you monitor key metrics like unique visitors and bounce rate, while Google Search Console will allow you to track how well your post is ranking for different keywords.
Once enough time has passed, you’ll be in a position to evaluate whether your content has met its objectives. If it hasn’t, you may decide to refresh the content or, at the very least, use the feedback to inform your next campaign.
Tips for Creating High-Quality Content
Here are a few additional content writing tips to help you produce better quality content.
Use Unique and Original Wording
It’s vitally important that your content is both unique and original to you.
Of course, plagiarism is unethical, but it can also lead to a manual penalty against your site if Google detects it.
Similarly, Google urges site owners to avoid duplicate content as much as possible.
The good news is that even if you inadvertently write a sentence or two that overlaps with content elsewhere on the web, tools like Grammarly and Copyscape can quickly alert you to the problem before you publish your piece.
Develop an SEO Strategy Before Writing
One of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your content creation efforts is to develop a sound SEO strategy beforehand.
This will establish the habit of integrating SEO fundamentals before you ever put pen to paper and take care of time-consuming tasks like keyword research and performance tracking in one fell swoop.
Match and Exceed What’s Already Online
The best way to ensure your content is of high enough quality is to try and improve upon what’s already out there.
Before sitting down to write your article, take a close look at the content that currently ranks highest for your target keyword and note down anything that impresses you.
What subtopics do they cover? How in-depth do they go? Do they present primary data, statistics, or quotes?
Your goal should be to take the strong points you find in these posts, find a way to weave them into your own content, and introduce new, extra value wherever you can.
An effective way to grab a reader’s attention is to introduce your topic with a story.
It doesn’t matter if the story is true or made-up, as long as it hooks your readers in and keeps them intrigued enough to stay with you to the end.
Build a Content Calendar
Creating an editorial calendar is another effective method for organizing your content creation efforts.
A content calendar is a schedule specifying when you’ll plan, produce, and publish the different pieces of content in your pipeline.
Write for Multiple Platforms
While our focus in this article has been on writing content that ranks well in Google, it’s important to appreciate that other search engines (like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo) can also drive considerable organic traffic to your site.
That said, search engines aren’t the only method people use to find content. Writers will also need to produce content for other channels like email and social media platforms. But to excel in these channels, content writers need to learn what works best on different platforms and integrate those strategies into their overall writing process.
Keep Writing Concise
Sticking to a short and simple sentence structure wherever possible will make it easier for readers to consume your information accurately and quickly.
Also, avoid using fancy words when familiar words will do!
Develop Content Templates
Content templates are another time-saving strategy that your content marketing team should use.
Having the same template style for similar content will also ensure your site offers a consistent reading experience for your visitors.
Tell the Reader Why The Topic is Important
When introducing your topic, take a moment to spell out what problem you’re addressing and why the reader should care.
The best way to do this is to tie the topic to a real and tangible problem that the reader faces in their day-to-day life.
Use a Consistent Brand Voice
You should try to maintain a consistent tone of voice across your content channels.
This will make your brand more recognizable over time, with your audience learning to associate you with a particular style and set of values.
Concrete examples are essential whenever you’re explaining abstract or complex topics.
They reinforce your message and make it easier for readers to put your words into practice.
Content Writing FAQ
Does Content Marketing Work?
Yes! According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing produces up to six times more conversions than traditional marketing methods.
Do I Need to Hire a Content Writer?
There’s no denying that consistently creating high-quality content is a resource-intensive undertaking.
So if your in-house team lacks the skills or time needed to make your content strategy a success, outsourcing content production may be a viable alternative for your business.
Since professional content writers already have the writing skills and experience you need, they can be a great option for scaling content production quickly.
Will Freelance Writers Know About My Topics?
Most professional writers have tons of experience researching and writing about a variety of topics.
Accordingly, a good freelance writer will be more than capable of writing an authentic and factually-accurate piece of content on most topics. This is especially true if you provide them with a detailed brief, a tone of voice guide, and guidance on where to find relevant data.
Moreover, many freelance writers specialize in writing content for particular niches but will tend to charge more for their services than generalist writers.
Here are a few more articles to help you develop your content writing skills:
- Copywriting vs. Content Writing: What’s the difference between a copywriter and a content writer?
- Fluff in Writing: Learn to avoid using filler content.
- Cornerstone Content: How to write your most important articles.