Just like any other desirable skill, great content writing does not happen without due diligence. While some people might be able to write a catchy headline or a basic press release, effective content writing meets – and ideally exceeds – a company’s marketing and business goals. A content writing guide can be a valuable tool to help you understand the basics of research, developing a style, and driving your message home.
A Content Writing Guide
Digital Vidya has a to-do list for content writing that is helpful for beginners. Once a topic is chosen, it is no surprise that they claim the next step is to thoroughly research the topic. While you are working, be sure to save your information sources by bookmarking the websites or entering the information into a separate document. Just like preparing to write a research paper, the sources should be read and studied, with the important sections highlighted.
When doing any kind of writing, it is critical to avoid plagiarism. Grammarly.com explains that this refers to using someone else’s work and passing it off as your own, without crediting that source. Not only is it unethical, but it can also lead to legal problems. Always cite sources, include quotes, and use a plagiarism checker (some are available at no charge).
Headlines and Introductory Paragraphs
When given a choice between a juicy cheeseburger and a celery stick, most people will go for the gusto. This theory about food also applies to content headlines. If there were two articles written about the same toothpaste, which one would grab your attention first?
· Pasty Toothpaste Works Well
· Get White, Bright Teeth with Pasty Toothpaste
While neither of those may be “killer” headlines, the second one is more interesting and likely to draw in readers. Not only that, users are also more inclined to continue reading when headlines have more of a “wow” factor. The first paragraph that follows should continue in the same vein, to keep the flow going. In essence, these two first components should be the highlight of the content.
Staying on Topic
Content writing has three main parts; the topic, the idea, and the view. The topic is often a product or service, and ideas can be familiar or fresh. Incorporating a new idea into an older topic is not that easy, but there are many places to look for inspiration. As an example, a company that sells cleaning services might want to introduce a new service, such as a free curtain steam cleaning (the idea) for clients who sign a one-year contract.
This content piece should focus on the topic at hand, and it should not start deviating to other things like how to change linens. Instead, the writer can incorporate their research and personal views into why it is important to steam clean curtains, how valuable the free service is and maybe a few tips on getting stains out of curtains. Experienced content writers understand the importance of staying on point.
Show Some Personality
Other content writing guides like the one posted by Walker Sands advise using a unique voice that is aligned with the company’s brand, business goals, and audience. While some stick to more traditional and formal styles, others are more casual and some are really out there! The audience research that is done ahead of time will be an important part of your own content writing guide, and it should feel like second nature after a while.
Complex vocabulary words and sentence structures can be hard for many audiences to understand, and flowery prose is usually discouraged. If the audience is new to the topic or younger, it is often best to explain the concepts in detail. Those who are familiar will enjoy reading more detailed information. It is also important to stick to the facts, no matter what the topic is. Exaggerating or writing inaccurate content will damage your credibility, and it could also get you into trouble.
The Finishing Touches
After a first draft is completed, it is time to optimize the content. According to Brafton, content optimization is when a copy is adjusted, updated and coded to make it more attractive to search engines and people who search the Internet. Pros write in short paragraphs with short sentences, and they use the most current SEO content strategies and best practices. Bulleted lists are also beneficial for content writing because they have visual appeal and can summarize a piece’s key points.
The final phase of content writing is proofreading and editing, and we are not just talking about spellchecking. A good eye can catch grammatical mistakes, poor flow and extra words that are not needed. Actually, the spellchecking should be done last, to account for any editing that was done.
Sometimes, it is best to take a break after writing the draft, do one set of revisions, take another break and then complete a second set of revisions. After that, give it one final read for clarity. Now, do the spellcheck and grammar check, make the fixes and you should be good to go.
Need Help with Content?
If you know your brand or business could benefit from some published content (and let’s be honest, most could), you may be wondering how to get started. Contact us today to get help from a team of expert content writers who can take the task off your plate and point you in the right direction.