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  • The Ultimate Content Writing Guide

    Ultimate Content Writing Guide: How to Write for Online Readers

    It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, who your customer is, or what type of marketing strategy you’re running, you need content.

    In fact, it’s impossible to build a competitive brand that effectively engages customers without content.

    The only question is, do you know how to create quality content that moves the needle for your brand?

    Why Content Writing?

    Content can take on any number of shapes, sizes, and mediums. And while video, graphics, and even audio (such as a podcast) qualify as content, we’re specifically looking at content writing in this guide (along with our other ultimate guides).

    Content writing refers to the creation of content that’s developed for the expressed intent of connecting with an audience, engaging them, and pushing them further down the sales funnel until they become customers.

    Some content writing is salesly in nature – like direct-response style copywriting – while other content writing is much more organic (like a blog post).

    Either way, content writing (especially when starting a new blog) plays a key role in helping your brand communicate ideas, build trust, and connect with your target audience.

    Why Content Writing

    Research shows that 87 percent of marketers currently use content as a key piece in the buyer’s journey. Here are a few other curated data points that emphasize the importance of developing quality content:

    • 72 percent of marketers believe content marketing increases engagement.
    • 72 percent of marketers believe content marketing brings in more leads.
    • 69 percent of consumers say they’ve purchased something because of a tweet.
    • 94 percent of people plan to make a purchase from a business they follow on social.
    • 95 percent of internet users only look at the first page of Google search results.
    • Blog content creation is a top priority for 53 percent of marketers.
    • 79 percent of B2B buyers share case studies with colleagues.
    • Email marketing generates $40 of value for every $1 spent.

    We could rattle off dozens of data points like this for every single content medium, but hopefully this sampling of statistics gives you an idea of just how important good written content is to your brand.

    Types of Content Writing

    Types of Content Writing

    Content writing takes on any number of shapes and forms. And while your brand certainly doesn’t have to tackle every single type of content, it’s smart to at least be familiar with what’s out there. Here are some of the most common:

    • Website. Every website has “static” copy that rests on its website for months or years at a time. Whether it’s your home page, about us page, or a service page, this copy brings your website to life and relays your message to visitors.
    • Blog. If website copy is “static,” blog content is best described as “dynamic.” In other words, you’re constantly adding new and fresh blog content over time. And while older evergreen posts can certainly still add value, you’re constantly producing more in an effort to keep your audience engaged.
    • Social. Most people are going to spend a ton of time on your website. But do you know where they are spending time? Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. By including social in your content marketing strategy, you can connect with your audience in profound ways and dial up engagement a notch or two.
    • Lead magnets. If you’re serious about creating a marketing funnel that moves people from awareness to action, you need some grease to help them slide down. Lead magnets are an excellent way to engage a prospect with a free offer and simultaneously add them to your email list. Lead magnets include things like ebooks, PDF downloads, white papers, etc.
    • Email. Speaking of email lists, email is a highly effective content investment. As mentioned previously, research reveals that for every $1 a company spends on email, they generate an average of $40 in return. Not bad!

    Quality is far more important than quantity. While there are large brands that are able to excel with each of these elements, they typically have entire teams dedicated to each medium. If you’re running a small business or solo practice, you won’t have those same internal resources available. In light of this, pick just one or two of these and go hard after them.

    Content Writing Prep Work

    content marketing strategy

    Before you can actually go all-in on content writing, you need to do some prep work to ensure you have a strong foundation in place. Here are a few steps we recommend completing in advance:

    • Target audience personas. Your content isn’t about you – it’s about your reader. Unfortunately, this is a concept that many brands don’t get. As a result, their content falls on deaf ears. If you want to develop content that moves people to action, it starts with clarifying who your target readers are and distilling these details into vivid personas that can be leveraged to develop crisp and engaging content.
    • Value proposition. What makes your brand different? What is it that your brand is focused on above all else? What’s your mission and driving motivation? You must have a clear value proposition in order to develop authentic content that hits the mark.
    • Style guide. Armed with audience personas and a clear value proposition, you’ll create a style guide that clarifies what your content will look like, how it’s written, and what your voice is. A good style guide includes elements like editorial standards (including grammar and punctuation), stylistic elements (colors and typography), tone of voice, etc.
    • Content calendar. Finally, you need a plan of action. A content calendar is an excellent resource for planning out your content ahead of time so that you know precisely when content is being created, published, and shared. If this is your first time implementing a content strategy, avoid planning too far out. Start with one to three months and see how things go. Once you get into a groove, you plan farther ahead.
    • Content Gap. Perform a content gap analysis to figure out where you are deficient compared to your competition and put a plan in place to bridge the content gap.

    Most brands skip these all-important steps. (But then again, most companies have paper-thin content strategies that add little-to-no tangible value to their brands.) If you want your content strategy to generate a positive return on investment, take the prep work seriously.

    Content Writing Tips and Tricks

    With the proper foundation in place, you’re ready to write content. Here are some useful tips and techniques for effective content writing for each major content medium:

    Website Copy Content Writing Tips

    • Remember that website copy has a longer shelf life than almost any other content medium. Try sticking to evergreen topics and statements that will remain true indefinitely. (Unless you plan on regularly updating your website copy.)
    • Avoid massive blocks of chunky text. Big paragraphs are a huge turn-off to readers. Try synthesizing your biggest value points and beliefs into punchy, salient points.
    • Your website copy isn’t about you. It’s about the audience. Stop positioning yourself as their savior and make them the hero of their own story. You’re simply the guide who is there to help them along.
    • While you should always write with the reader in mind, you can’t ignore the power of SEO. Perform keyword research and naturally integrate long-tail keywords into your pages to help Google understand what you’re all about.

    Blog Posts Content Writing Tips

    • Your headline is your sales pitch. If you don’t have a compelling headline, nobody will read your blog post. Learn how to write compelling headlines and you’ll see your traffic and conversions skyrocket. Good headlines use emotional language, evoke curiosity, and speak directly to your target reader.
    • Break up your text! The days of long paragraphs are done. Attention spans are shorter than ever before, and it’s up to you to keep people engaged. You do this by using short paragraphs, subheadings, line breaks, bullet points, lists, and graphics.
    • Every blog post should have a clear call-to-action. However, it’s important that you stick to just one. The human brain is easily distracted. If you ask someone to do more than one thing, you risk having them do nothing. It’s okay to include the same CTA multiple times in a post, but keep it focused!

    Social Media Content Writing Tips

    • The biggest mistake brands make with social media is treating it as a one-way street. They imagine they’re standing on a pedestal with a megaphone and thousands of people are waiting to hear what they have to say. But in reality, social media is like a crowded conference room. You have to engage in conversation, mingle, and build trust before expecting people to care about what you have to say.
    • It’s okay to let your guard down a notch or two on social media, but avoid getting lazy. Far too many brands have crossed the line because of a lack of conscientiousness. It’s always good to have at least two people reviewing social media posts before they go out.
    • Quality is better than quantity. It’s better to have one high-quality post per week – meaning lots of engagement and interaction – than a dozen posts that get no traction.

    Lead Magnets Content Writing Tips

    • A good lead magnet is something that people perceive as being valuable. And while the goal is to get them to take the lead, it doesn’t stop there. If you fail to deliver value after they opt-in, they’ll never turn into a loyal follower or customer. Give away your best stuff! (They’ll come back for more.)
    • When developing lead magnet content, you must be strategic with your CTAs. Remember, the lead magnet was free! It’s now your job to monetize the prospect. Add value. And then when you think you’ve added enough value, add a little more.

    Email Content Writing Tips

    • Email can be the most effective content medium. But it’s also the one that takes the most work and effort to perfect. To develop effective copy, you have to make it personal. Write in the second person, address recipients by their name, and don’t generalize.
    • Getting someone to open an email is 75 percent of the battle. This makes the subject line the most important part of the email. You have to evoke enough curiosity to get someone to open the email. But it’s equally important that you follow through on whatever you say in the subject line. If you make a promise or tease a particular point, it must be discussed in the body of the email – otherwise you lose trust.
    • The purpose of the subject line is to get the reader to open the email. The purpose of the first line of the email is to get the person to read the second line. The purpose of the second line is to get the individual to read the third line, etc. In other words, don’t save your best stuff for last. Lead with it!

    Where to Find Content Writers

    Knowing content is important and understanding what good content looks like is just the start. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution. This means actually writing the content. Here are a few sources for hiring good content writers:

    • Yourself. If you’re a good writer and have more time than money, perhaps you could write your own copy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. (In fact, it’ll help you produce authentic content that perfectly embodies your brand values.) However, this is not a scalable option. You can only write so much content before other areas of your business are neglected.
    • In-house. Do you have a marketing team or copywriter on staff? Or maybe you have someone who works on the sales side of things but also happens to be a good writer? Using in-house resources can be cost-effective in some situations. (And you’ll benefit from having writers who are intimately familiar with your brand’s story and values.)
    • Freelancer. Working with freelance writers is one of the most popular options. You can find freelance writers on LinkedIn, Upwork, Fiverr, or through your own personal and professional networks.
    • Content partner. While freelance writers are easily accessible and cost-effective, they aren’t always scalable. Every time your content needs increase, you have to go out and find a good copywriter. And this can be a time-consuming process. By hiring a content partner – meaning a scalable content agency – you don’t have to worry about capacity. As your needs increase, they’ll be met. Content agencies have stables full of high-quality, pre-vetted content writers who are waiting in the wings. Whether you need one blog post a month or tens of thousands of words a week, you’ll be taken care of.

    Content writing is important, but it’s also time-consuming. By understanding your options, you can architect an intentional strategy that empowers you to develop high-quality content without spending time or money you don’t have. The hope is that this article gives you a good starting point to do just that.

    Work With SEO.co

    content marketing challenges

    There are any number of ways to find content writers and create quality content. But if you’re looking for the most cost-effective and time-efficient approach to scaling organic traffic, generating high-quality content, and producing high-authority links that establish credibility and ultimately turn visitors into paying customers…well, you’re in the right place!

    At SEO.co, we believe in quality over quantity. In other words, we don’t try to be all things to all people. Unlike a lot of agencies that dabble in every single aspect of marketing, we know what we’re good at – and we stick the landing every single time! Our focus is high-quality content creation and stellar SEO link building services.

    Join thousands of other successful clients, including small startups and Fortune 500 companies, and find out what SEO.co can do for you! Contact us today for a free site assessment.

    Chief Marketing Officer at SEO Company
    In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. As a technical SEO strategist, Sam leads all paid and organic operations teams for client SEO services, link building services and white label SEO partnerships. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
    Samuel Edwards