THE 8 GOLD NUGGETS OF CONTENT WRITING
Words have power.
They transform and transcend. Teach, inspire and shape our thinking.
When it comes to connecting with our audience, it’s our words that tell our tribe what we’re all about and if we’re worth paying attention to.
It’s been said before and we’ll say it again:
Content is king.
And when it comes to our personal or business brands, content can be a powerful marketing tool:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Good content engages readers and turns them into repeat visitors and eventually customers or clients.
It helps us connect.
The thing is, there’s no shortage of content out there. It’s in our face, all day, everyday. In our social media feeds. On the TV. In our inbox.
So how do you write content that actually stands out amidst the noise? How do you make your audience privy to a solution, idea or product you might have?
There’s so much more to writing content than simply churning out a newsletter, article, blog post or about page.
It’s about research, good editing, compelling copy, and harnessing the power of SEO.
It’s about knowing your subject inside out — and believing in that subject.
It’s about knowing your audience and what they need.
Alexandra Franzen puts it best:
“The whole “point” of writing is to inspire your reader to feel, know or do something. (Sometimes, all three).”
The content you’re creating has to have a goal: to connect and cause a response.
To add value.
Killer content is the key to your brand’s success and by brushing up on the way you get your message across, you can improve the way you interact with your audience — be it through your website, blog, newsletter, social media or eBook.
Here are our eight nuggets of wisdom when it comes to writing hard-hitting, triggering content that takes your message to the masses and makes your audience react.
Before you can even begin to write clear copy, you need to get clear on the purpose of your message.
Is it to make a sale? Get a new client? Boost your social media following or gain newsletter subscribers?
Do you want to inform? Entertain? Sell?
Or do you simply just want them to come back again, sometime?
Whatever the purpose, have it in mind before you start writing.
Plan first, write second.
Do some brainstorming. Churn out some research. Map out your framework. Identify the key messages, or the main ideas you need to get across. Figure out your Who, What, Where, When, Why, How and So What.
Ask yourself the following:
What is my message?
What do I need to say?
What do I need to accomplish?
What is my goal?
Let us give you a hint: Your first goal should always be to add value of some kind.
How can you add value to your reader? What information would be helpful to them, right now?
You can answer these two latter questions by getting crystal clear on who your reader actually is.
Define your target audience and get to know them, intimately.
Take a step outside of yourself, or your brand, and look at it from the perspective of your ideal customer or reader. Create a persona for them — a single representative of your collective target audience.
Get inside their head. Figure out their needs, wants and desires so you can then tap into them with your words.
Always write with your audience in mind. Write to them — for them.
Alexandra Franzen has four brilliant practices to help you get focused and clear — before you start writing. http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/2014/09/19/before-you-start-writing/
Whether it’s in love or in business — first impressions count. This rings true for content too — you only get one chance at a good first impression.
This means, if you’ve confused your reader or bored them within the first few lines, chances are they’re already clicking their way outta there before you get a chance to redeem yourself.
In fact, you only have a matter of seconds to hook your reader, pique their curiosity and let them know what they’re in for.
So, given the short time frame, it’s usually up to your headline and first sentence to introduce your reader to the main point and then have them sticking around, begging for more. Yep, even the most well-meaning, useful content will go unread if that first snippet of content doesn’t captivate your reader in less than 10 seconds.
Be bold. Be punchy. Be compelling.
Clock’s ticking. Go!
Your words might be potent and your message, on point. But if your content is full of embarrassing typos and dodgy grammar, all of your credibility is shot.
Down the drain.
Out the window.
See you later.
Poor English dilutes the potency of what could potentially be hard-hitting, game-changing content.
So proofread, spellcheck, then proofread and spellcheck again.
And if impeccable, polished and pristine paragraphs just aren’t your strength, don’t beat yourself up. Delegate this task to someone with a fresh set of eyes and a good command of grammar and spelling.
Did your teacher tell you to “keep it simple, stupid”?
Simplicity and clarity reign supreme when it comes to creating readable content that hits the spot— especially in the online world.
Your reader is busy, you see. Their attention span? Minute.
As they’re scanning their eye over your newsletter/website copy/blog post, chances are they have a more important email to read, phone call to answer, meeting to attend or Instagram feed to scroll through.
Make your content worth their while.
Write simply, write clearly — just get to the point, already.
If you’ve successfully commanded their attention with your headline or lead sentence, you need to follow through with digestible —but gripping — snippets of information.
Don’t overwhelm or overload. Keep it short, sharp and simple.
- Translating your complicated subject into an accessible piece of content. Just because you know your topic inside out, doesn’t mean it isn’t foreign territory for your reader.
- Keeping your ideas well-organised and logical.
- Cutting to the chase early on and including only what’s relevant. Don’t have your reader trawl through a bulky and cumbersome brick of text, only to be left with even more questions. Avoid the fluff. Always come back to your original goal you identified in the planning stage and only include information that supports that goal.
- Don’t feel obligated to write line after line of prose. Use lists, short paragraphs and snappy sentences — white space is your friend.
Your content ultimately needs to be a true reflection of you, your voice or your brand — so tone is everything.
Who or what are you? What image are you trying to project? What’s your personality?
Professional? (And by professional, we don’t mean boring or dry. You can still project that smart ‘white-collar-executive’ image and be compelling and engaging.)
Think about the tone you would use if you were speaking with your reader in real life.
Would you be sleazy-salesy? Saccharine sweet?
You’d be genuinely friendly and approachable, right? So carry that same voice into your written content and write in a way that is relevant and resonates with your target audience and invites them in with a warm hug.
Remember, no one likes a pushy salesperson.
Which leads us to our next point: authenticity.
Authenticity is the key to connection —and connecting with your audience is really what your content is all about, isn’t it?
The swiftest way to lose a reader is to take yourself out of your writing and leave them with lackluster, uncharismatic dribble. Words that have no personality — or worse still —pretend to be someone or something you’re not.
You’ll never attract the right supporters for your brand when you’re a carbon copy of everyone else out there.
Be 100% you — and nothing less. Insincerity is blazingly obvious — readers are allergic to same-same, heard-it-all-before copy. They can read between the lines of B.S and overused buzzwords. The last thing you need is a suspicious, skeptical and eye-rolling audience.
Finding your authentic voice starts with being comfortable with yourself and your brand. With who you are, your mission and what you have to say.
If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, neither will your audience.
So stand up, show up and own those words, baby.
A few more tips on authenticity:
- Honesty and vulnerability equals resonance equals connection. In other words, the more you reveal of yourself — quirks and all — the more your reader will ‘get’ you. And the more likely you will succeed in attracting and connecting with the kind of like-minded readers you’ve been searching for.
- Give your audience something new. Contribute to the conversation. Don’t repeat it. If it’s a trending hot-topic, find a unique angle. Otherwise, find something else to talk about.
Ahhh, Search Engine Optimisation.
For online content, SEO is paramount, because your content needs to not only resonate with humans — but with the Google robot too.
You need to incorporate SEO key words into your copy to help search engines and the people who use them, actually find your website content. Just because you’ve hit ‘Post’, doesn’t mean people will be easily led to it.
So do your homework and think about the specific keywords that are going to boost your Google search ranking and ultimately see more visitors clicking through to your site.
What keywords would people be using to find this content?
What would best describe to readers and search engines what your post or page is about?
List them and then weave them into your copy (especially, your headlines) — but do your best to make it sound natural!
Your audience reads your content, nods its head and is off on its merry way.
Is that what you want?
Err — no.
You want your tribe to click through. Read more. Comment here. Buy this. Subscribe to that.
Think about the purpose of your content and then tell your readers exactly what you want them to do, right now. Don’t leave them guessing and definitely don’t let them leave before it’s too late.
In the last paragraph of your content, include a polite call to action — suggest the next step in their journey.
Often, the spoken word comes more easily than articulately stringing words together on a page or screen. Usually, we don’t have to think twice about how to get our message across in verbal conversation. Indeed, even professional wordsmiths struggle at times with what to write and how to write it.
Don’t beat yourself up if the words don’t come freely.
The truth is, there’s no secret to becoming an effective content writer. It just takes practice.
Writing about what you know best, helps, of course. Loving and believing in what you’re writing about is golden.
Find a quiet, inspiring space where you can sit down at your keyboard, without distraction and pretend you’re having a conversation with your reader.
Just write. Focus on getting everything you need to say to them, onto the page.
Don’t delete. Don’t judge. Don’t correct yourself.
Writing and editing should be two different stages of the content creation process.
Put it all down and once it’s written, then you can edit, cut the fluff and make it sound cohesive.
When you’re in content writing mode, always come back to these eight nuggets and ask yourself:
What’s my point?
Have I commanded attention?
Have I done a grammar and spell check?
Is my message clear and simple?
How’s my tone?
Am I being authentic?
Is it SEO-friendly?
Where’s my call to action?