10 Content Writing Tips Every Writer (and Brand) Needs to Know
As a content writer, you hold a big responsibility for the brands you write for. It’s your job to accurately capture their brand voice, personality, and value proposition in the content you create. Given that content does much of the work to engage audiences throughout the buyer journey, you’re also responsible for how well they connect with their potential customers.
The content writing tips that follow can be applied in any niche or industry and for any company you write for. They’ll help you gain:
- Higher visibility and rankings on Google results pages
- Better engagement with readers
- An optimized writing process to make your workload easier
Let’s get started!
- SEO is the key to making content visible on search engines and earning organic web traffic.
- Headlines must capture reader attention, create urgency to read the content, and promise value that your content actually delivers.
- The best content is clear, concise, and does not contain extra fluff.
- Writers should take time to get to know their niche by reading their clients’ existing content and that of their competitors.
- Content should always be written for humans first. Search engine crawlers use AI to recognize value for human readers.
Content Writing Tips for Writers and Brands
Know your SEO
Your content won’t — can’t — perform without search engine optimization behind it. SEO is how you earn the search engine rankings that drive organic web traffic from results pages (SERPs) to your website. Given that 93% of web users will never go past the first page of Google results, SEO is truly essential if you want your content to be seen by its target audience.
But what exactly is SEO by definition?
It’s actually a combination of tactics that, when implemented together, grab the attention of search engines so that they can find, crawl, and rank your content.
Common SEO tactics include:
- Keywords – the words and phrases that define what your content is about
- Link building – earned links from other reputable websites back to your site
- Metadata – HTML elements (like titles, tags, and alt-text) that tell search engines what your content is about
- Image optimization – aligning image qualities (like size, alt-text, etc) with SEO standards
- Long-form content – longer content (typically 1500-2000+ words) that establishes authority with search engines
- Mobile optimization – optimizing content for viewing on mobile devices
- Featured snippets – crafting content intentionally to earn featured snippet highlights at the top of Google SERPs
SEO is so important to content marketing success that smart companies are now creating a comprehensive SEO marketing strategy to streamline their tactics and maximize their content marketing ROI. As a writer, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with every client’s SEO strategy so your content aligns with it appropriately.
Nail your headlines
Did you know that you only have about 10 seconds to make an impression on your readers? If your headline doesn’t draw them in (AKA get them to click) and demonstrate the value they’ll get from reading your content, they’re likely to leave and keep browsing.
When you’re developing your headlines, think about exactly how your content delivers value. What problem is it helping your readers solve? What interesting topic is it covering? Which must-have information does it include? It’s often helpful to finalize your headlines after you write your content so you have a better sense of the answers to these questions.
Note that Google only displays 60 characters of your headline. Keep them to 6-10 words, and put your most interesting words at the beginning.
Beyond that, you can use the cheat sheet below to be sure your headlines are checking the most important boxes:
- Use trigger words to evoke emotion and catch interest.
- Convey urgency that makes people feel like they need to read your content.
- Make a promise on what your content will deliver (and of course follow through on it).
It can be tempting as a writer to show off our vocabulary chops, but the truth is that fancy words and extra fluff have a negative impact on content performance. Well-cited research from Nielson found that web users actually only read about 20% of the text on any given webpage.
There’s a clear solution here, and it’s to always get to the point.
When a user clicks on your content, it’s usually to solve a problem or get a question answered. They’re there for the main ideas, and they don’t need or want much beyond it. This doesn’t mean you can’t write in your own unique style or voice — you can and you should — but also be sure that every section and sentence in your content actually adds value to the topic.
Get to know your niches
One age-old debate in the world of content marketing is whether or not writers need to have a niche to be successful. I say it’s somewhere in between. You don’t need to specialize in one single niche, but you shouldn’t spread yourself so thin that you don’t have enough expertise on the topics and industries you’re writing about.
Fortunately, getting up to speed in any niche is pretty easy these days. One great place to start is with your client’s existing content, and then with their competitors’ content. Once you have a good idea of the important topics and keywords in your niche, do some searching and read the articles that rank high on Google.
Once you’ve got a good foundation, make sure you stay up to speed. You can:
- Subscribe to newsletters and emails from leading brands
- Read about industry news and current events
- Attend webinars or online events about important topics
Support your text with visuals
Visuals give your content performance a serious boost. More and more, they’re becoming essential if you want your content to compete. Cisco research predicts that video content will account for 82% of all web traffic by the end of this year, and blog articles with images are viewed 94% more than those without them.
Not to mention that people remember 80% of what they see, compared to only 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read.
Visuals do a few important things for your content:
- Call out important key takeaways and data points
- Present complex information visually for easier understanding (infographics are a great example)
- Make long-form content and/or heavy text more digestible
A common myth about visual content is that you need professional designers to include them. While it’s true in some cases (like a branded infographic, for example), there are plenty of other opportunities to source images from reputable sources (like we’ve done in this article) or create them yourself with user-friendly apps like Canva.
Write for humans first
There’s an important balance that every content writer must maintain. They must optimize for search engines while also writing for humans first.
That’s right — write for humans first, not search engines or algorithms.
Here’s why: search engines are smarter than ever, and they’re not looking for content that takes SEO shortcuts like keyword stuffing. In fact, they’ll penalize you if you try them.
Search engines now use AI to identify which content adds true value for its human readers, and that’s the content that ultimately earns the best rankings. Your best strategy as a writer, then, is to focus first on authenticity and relevance, then factor in supporting SEO tactics.
Do that by “humanizing” the lens of your story.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard
In a post about the meaning of life my friend and colleague Mark Schaefer explains that how we handle our suffering is what provides the direction and meaning of our lives.
The thing is, when we transform pain into purpose we start to see the gifts in our greatest struggles. We can shed our own layers to feel what’s underneath our own skin so that we can create content with context.
I resisted this for most of my life. As I posted on my instagram, for decades I was taught to think, think, think. I acquired information, education (helloooo Master’s degree) and material things. Then one day I woke up and realized that none of it was real – it’s all in what you feel. Feelings are strength. They are meaning. They are your Truth. Sensitivity and passion are superpowers. When you endlessly unlearn how to think to release fully into this path, magic and synchronicity happen on the regular (and maybe unicorns, if you’re lucky).
Look for inspiration
Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to stop being a reader! In fact, you should be reading to find inspiration for your content. Trust me, the more you feed your content engine, the more ideas you’ll have to make your own great content. Find newsletters, blogs, and social media accounts about the topics you cover, and stay inspired by reading content you enjoy!
Remove your labels
“Labels are for filing, labels are for clothing, labels are not for people.” – Martina Navratilova
It’s fun (and often necessary) to maintain a certain image. But more than anything, I just want to be real. It’s all too easy to uphold the false image of yourself these days. But the more that I detach myself from the material world, the more I strip away the excess in my life. This often means unnecessary clothes, people, thoughts and ideas are regularly let go.
It’s not easy. It’s hard to let go. Your upbringing, background and culture (and the people you surround yourself with) make you who you are today. But when you start to strip away the layers of your own bullshit that you don’t necessarily need, you stop piling on clothes that are nothing more than lies (and attempts to make you fit into certain constructs of society).
It’s easier to distract yourself with labels. Because it’s safer to point blame at another name that covers our souls when we can’t find the courage to wear ourselves.
So let’s stop trying on labels, clothes, people on just “for size.” Because our bodies are pretty fearless naked without all of the layers.
It’s hard. This naked thing. We live in a world that tells you to masquerade in a mask. We’re told to wear fancy labels to shut the silence of our screams. So we listen to louder lies and use empty distractions to escape our Truths. And if we distract ourselves enough with vodka (guilty), social media, and shopping it makes everything temporarily ok – until it’s not.
Hearts erected on “fake” start to break. And we “play it cool” by plastering our fake lives into a perfect square while not even realizing that we’re going around in circles.
We are better than this. When we stop distancing ourselves from our own humanity, we can harness our human hearts to heal with empathy and understanding.
But first we need to…
Minimize mental clutter
When you minimize your mental clutter, you quiet your mind so your soul can speak. This energizes your content in a meaningful way that transforms your consciousness. Writing helps you evolve your ideas – and it can often inspire new creations.
As Asa Idoni, founder of Source Vibrations, revealed in a podcast on Jessica Ann Media, stripping away your thoughts (through meditating, yoga, and nature) is a way to minimize your mental clutter. When you meditate, you can see the deeper interconnectivity between all things. This allows you to unearth unique ideas which improves your content marketing strategy. And hey, it just might elevate the whole of humanity.
A side effect of minimizing your mental clutter is the ability to understand words so they can transform through experience. For example, in one of my favorite books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I came across a word that I had never heard before: kitsch.
Weird word, right?
Kitsch is most content that gets shared on social media today. It’s the opposite of art. Coincidentally, kitsch is an unavoidable part of being human (kinda like wearing clothes). Its only antidote is an awareness of it. Amid the clutter of today’s digital world, it’s crucial to know about “kitsch” so that we learn how to avoid kitsch in our content. This helps us to evolve into humans who have a holistic vision of reality so that we can…
Write from your core
When you write from your core, you start to rip down the illusions of your former self so that you can prepare yourself for what’s next. Dissolving your excess may be scary and uncertain but it allows you to align with who you’re becoming – instead of staying comfortable in who you were. While you may crave certainty, it’s the struggle from the uncertainty that will give you a fresh point of view. Use the struggle to write from your core.
Despite how it seems on the surface, when we find beauty in the freedom of the human experience, we can more gracefully evolve into who we’re meant to become.
So follow your heart – not people. Don’t let excess or distractions steer our lives. Let’s look into the core of ourselves to find answers. Sure, we may struggle like hell. But when we start to let things unfold from a strong core, we learn to unearth our naked Truth.
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