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All About Content Writing: Your Definitive Guide

CopyPress

Published: April 27, 2022 (Updated: May 9, 2022)

One of the best ways to get noticed by your target audience is by implementing a digital marketing strategy. Having a strong online presence helps business owners attract new clients and increases brand loyalty. Like many professionals, you may wonder where to begin, so reading through a guide to content writing can bring some insight. In this article, we discuss:

What Is Content Writing?

hands over keyboard for all about content writing

Image via Unsplash by @glenncarstenspeters

Content writing is a type of professional marketing writing created for an online audience. Marketers and business owners publish content, or copy, online for many reasons. They may look to increase the traffic to their website or to inform their customers about a new product or service. Business professionals often hire content writers to produce high-quality messages for sales copy, blogs, articles, and social media posts. The writer must understand the audience to write successful copy that appeals to them.

Why Does Proper Content Writing Matter?

Businesses should view content writing as an investment that can yield conversions and customer loyalty. It sets the foundation for a strong online presence, which is crucial in the digitally driven world. Your business can benefit from engaging in high-level content writing because:

Quality Is Key

The information you include on your website should benefit your audience. People find value in content that is well-written and well-researched. Because of the extreme amount of information available online, people are pickier about what they choose to read. If you want eyes on your pieces, then your content must be good enough for people to stop scrolling and start reading.

Strategy Is Important

Experienced writers understand the many variables at play when creating digital content. For instance, people who aren’t familiar with SEO strategy don’t realize that the actual words you write and publish on a website factor into your overall online visibility. If you neglect to optimize your content with the right keywords and quality information that appeals to search engines, your site gets lost in the millions of websites online competing for a click.

Competition Is Everywhere

Whether you have several competitors with a large online presence or none, take steps to ensure that people know your brand name. The people who may be interested in your products and services have to find you first. That’s where content writing comes in. Another way to stay ahead of your competition is to request your content analysis report from CopyPress. This report tells you how your existing content stacks up against your top three competitors to provide insight into the market and areas where your content can fill knowledge and solution gaps for your audience.

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SEO Best Practices Change

Search engines like Google update their algorithms constantly to ensure users receive the high-quality content for which they’re searching. SEO-savvy writers understand how these changes affect business content and adjust their strategies accordingly. They employ techniques that drive results, and when best practices change, they go back and make modifications to existing copy to make sure it’s optimized for the latest set of standards.

Revenue Depends On Good Content

B2B companies that spend 40% or more of their budget on content marketing are more successful than those that spend less. Why? Because they generate more visitors to their site through organic search. These people become qualified leads and eventually bring in valuable revenue. The more attention your website and other content get, the more they return. The important thing is to keep building momentum with unique copy.

Search Engines Love Authority

Establishing yourself as an industry expert lends credibility to your brand. With content writing, you can provide the audience with tips, tutorials, and advice within your pieces. The more you talk about relevant topics and the more your audience responds to them, the better your content looks to search engines. Establishing authority through credibility and a healthy backlink profile are just two of many priorities of content writing.

Types of Content

Different content reaches leads and potential customers at various stages of the sales funnel. It’s important to learn the stages where each type is most successful so you can slot it into your strategy in the best possible place. Some options include:

  • Email newsletters: Allow you to connect directly with subscribers, like potential leads and current or former customers, through their email accounts
  • Social media posts: Let you share updates and information about your business with a community of online followers
  • Video scripts: Let you share specific informational, sales, or promotional content in a video format
  • Web page copy: Serves many purposes, such as explaining more about your company, the products and services you offer, or acting as a hub for your other content
  • Landing page copy: For sharing information about an event, product, service, or special initiative worthy of a landing page rather than an entire website
  • White papers: Allow you to share industry-specific information, like the features of a product or service, or explain ways your company can solve client problems with targeted solutions
  • Blog posts: Let you provide information of value to your audience with short-form content
  • eBooks: Long-form content that serves as an informational guide or resource on a specific topic in your industry
  • Informational articles: Let you provide knowledge of value to your target audience with long-form content
  • Product descriptions: Let you share information about your products and services online, through websites, eCommerce stores, or third-party services
  • Press releases: Let you share promotional content or company updates with news outlets

How To Navigate the Content Writing Process

It’s surprising, but much of the content writing process happens before you even record one word in a document or post. Much of it focuses on the preparation, research, and development of ideas and topics for the audience. There are important steps to consider in each phase of the content writing process, including:

Research and Planning

Research is important to make sure you’re providing the audience with factual, current, and vetted information. Doing so can increase people’s trust in your business. If you lie in your content or misrepresent facts, how are people supposed to trust that your product and services work?

Planning works with research to prepare your content for writing, editing, and publishing. Without a plan, you may miss opportunities to target the right keywords, search intent, or audience interests. Without proper planning, your content creation is a waste of time and money. Use these steps to carry out the research and planning phase of the content writing process:

1. Set a Goal

It’s important to know from the beginning of a content campaign what goal you want to achieve with each piece. Are you looking to collect more qualified leads? Can this content reengage former clients or customers? Setting goals can help you determine:

  • Content type
  • Style and tone
  • Audience segmentation
  • Effects on the overall business plan

Related: How To Set and Measure Content Marketing Goals

2. Develop or Use Client Personas

A client, customer, or buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal target customer for any piece of content. You use both qualitative and quantitative data from previous campaigns, market and competitor research, and current or previous customer profiles to shape them. These tools can help guide your research and writing. They help refine which types of content work best for different audience segments and which are most likely to lead to conversions and brand loyalty.

Related: How To Use Your Buyer Personas To Create Targeted Content

3. Conduct Keyword Research

No matter what type of content you write, it’s important to frame pieces around keywords. These keywords tell search engines what your content is about and they provide a theme for every piece. Choosing keywords can be tricky because it’s not an exact science. SEO best practices and search engine updates change regularly. But SEO tools can help you target high-search volume and low-content volume terms, meaning many people search for that content but there are few results.

Related: 17 of the Best SEO Software for Business

4. Understand Search Intent

To create the most helpful, impactful, and conversion-worthy content, learn what people search for online and why they look for it. There are four primary types of search intent, which include:

  • Commercial: The searcher is investigating options before making a purchase
  • Informational: The searcher is looking for knowledge on a topic
  • Navigational: The searcher is looking for a specific location on the internet
  • Transactional: The searcher is ready to make a purchase and knows what or from where they want to buy

You can ask yourself questions to narrow down search intent. For example, if you find the key phrase “quizzes for marketing” is something that interests your audience, ask yourself what people want to know about the topic and let that guide your research and planning. Another way to understand search intent is to become the searcher yourself. Conduct searches for the topics or keywords which you want to target, then look at the top-ranking content. It’s likely those pages appear highest because they provide the right answers to search intent questions.

5. Set a Content Strategy

Your content strategy helps you prepare how a piece goes from ideation to campaign review. It lets you plan how you intend to create, manage, share, and track each piece as it moves through the creation process. Content strategies are especially helpful when you’re running multiple content campaigns at one time. They can help you synchronize resources and teams to provide smooth, effective creation and distribution. Areas to include in your content plan are:

  • Content formats
  • Publishing channels
  • Content management personnel
  • Content development plan
  • Performance tracking

6. Create an Outline

Developing an outline for your content can help you visualize the flow and order of any content pieces. This is especially important for longer pieces like articles, eBooks, and white papers. Creating an outline can help your research and planning process. It forces you to consider the most important parts of your topic. It also helps narrow your research, as you already know what kinds of queries to search, interview questions to ask, or materials to create for each project.

7. Conduct Topic Research

Topic research is where you find the specific content information to fill your outline. There are many ways to conduct research on a topic, including:

  • Conducting internet searches
  • Reading competitor content
  • Running your own research studies or experiments
  • Conversing with leads, clients, or customers
  • Interviewing topic professionals

8. Create a Content Calendar

A content or editorial calendar allows marketing teams to understand where each piece of content is in the production process with a simple glance. It includes research and writing deadlines, publication dates, and other important information like publishing channels and team members assigned to each piece. Using a content calendar allows the team to understand the expected life cycle for each piece and how long it takes to get from ideation to publication. A content calendar lets your team develop and share pieces with more consistency, which can help better engage your audience.

Writing and Editing

After all that planning, it’s finally time to get to writing. You may choose to use an in-house writing team, freelancers and contractors, or outsource your pieces to a content agency like CopyPress. No matter the option, writers typically follow a similar format to develop great content, with steps like:

1. Pick Your Angle

There are many pieces of content that cover the same topics. Why should people read yours? What makes it different? Picking your angle is crucial not just for audience interest but also for SEO. The way you frame your content can help you target different keywords in the same subject or topic family to get better search traffic. For example, if you’re looking to rank for the term “hyper-personalization” and you find that all the top-ranking articles explain the concept without actionable steps on how to use it, you may frame your piece to cover that angle.

2. Create an Engaging Introduction

The introduction is one of the three most crucial elements of any piece of content, along with the title and meta description. Whether it’s one sentence or an entire paragraph, the introduction helps readers decide if they want to continue a piece or even if they want to keep engaging with your company. To create a good introduction, cut right to the chase. Avoid filler or fluffy sentences that don’t meet the audience’s search intent. Your audience, especially for business-to-business (B2B) companies, is busy. Provide what they need from the start.

3. Pick Relevant Visuals

Writing isn’t just about the words. Including media and visuals like videos, charts, infographics, or photos can help add additional value to written content. They can also help make pieces more readable and scannable by breaking up large groups of text. The writer often picks the visuals and media for a content piece to illustrate their points or accompany examples in the text.

4. Insert CTAs

While you are creating content to inform your audience and provide solutions to their problems, it’s with the ultimate goals of building brand trust and eventually converting your leads to paying customers. Calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your content are ways to both blatantly and subliminally put the idea in the audience’s head that they need your partnership, products, or services.

CTAs are short phrases, buttons, or visuals that encourage the reader or viewer to take some sort of action. For example, at CopyPress we use interstitial ads for some of our CTAs, such as encouraging readers to sign up for our email newsletter.

5. Create a Title

To non-writers, it might seem counterintuitive to create your title at the end of the writing process. But actually, since the title or headline is one of the most important elements of the piece, waiting until the end can help you create a more engaging one. Titles have to be interesting enough to get people to click on them without being misleading. Otherwise, you could engage in clickbait.

If you make a promise with a title, such as “7 Ways To Boost Your SEO Instantly,” the content inside better follow through. Otherwise, it lowers your credibility and can damage audience trust in your company or brand. It often helps to write multiple titles before choosing one.

Related: Your Definitive Guide To Writing Attention-Grabbing Headlines

6. Write the Meta Description

The meta description is another important element in your content package. It works with the title on search engine results pages (SERPs) to give people a better idea of what to expect if they open your content and invest the time in reading or watching it. Meta descriptions should be 160 characters or fewer and include your target keywords in the brief description. This helps bots and crawlers find and index your content and display it to the right searchers.

7. Check Over the Content

Editing is just as crucial of a step as writing. At CopyPress, when writers finish a piece, they often do a self-edit to check for spelling and punctuation mistakes, missing content, or unclear segments. This helps save the editors and quality assurance (QA) specialists time in their reviews. Then these professionals review the content for grammatical mistakes, flow, and topic relevance to ensure a piece is ready for publication. They also fact-check information and review content for plagiarism to protect the reputation of your brand or company.

Publishing and Review

Review and publishing finish the content writing process. Publishing allows your content to go out to your target audience where they can see, share, and engage with it. It involves choosing the channels to distribute your content and following the proper uploading or sharing procedures for each source. Some places to publish content writing online include:

  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Social media platforms
  • Online advertisements
  • Industry hubs
  • News outlets

After you publish content, engage in its review. Monitor and track important metrics for each piece that relates to your content goal. For example, if your goal for informational articles is to increase organic traffic to your website, you may track things like unique visitors, bounce rate, and page views. The data you collect from these metrics can tell you if your content is performing the way you expected. If it’s not, you can do a content refresh to better target your keywords or audience. It’s also an opportunity to collect more information to perfect your next campaign.

Tips and Best Practices for Content Writing

Use these tips to perfect your content writing pieces:

Use Previous Content as a Template

When developing outlines for new content pieces, use your old, well-performing ones as a guide. Review the sections for old content to see if any of them apply to your new topic. For example, with our knowledge base articles, we often use similar sections in each one, like:

  • Topic definition
  • Benefits of the topic
  • Tools and resources for the topic
  • How to complete an action based on the topic
  • Tips or frequently asked questions about the topic

You can also use well-performing content from other sources, not just your own company, as a guide to see what’s popular and what information relates to search intent.

Use Your Brand Voice

It’s important to keep a consistent brand voice throughout all your content. Sure, some pieces may tempt you to be funny, maybe even crass, to get some quick attention. But if that’s not your typical brand voice, it’s going to come across as inauthentic to your audience. Rather than trying to win over your audience by being something you’re not, be honest with them and be yourself. Your company has its own set of values and a brand voice they know and expect. Use it.

Keep It Short

Even with long-form content, it’s important to keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Try to keep sentences under 20 words and paragraphs at 100 words or fewer. This helps with scannability for your content, making it easy for readers to skim what you’ve written and find exactly what they’re looking for. It’s also helpful for readability, making your content accessible to a larger audience, and for SEO.

Tell a Story

Storytelling can benefit even nonfiction content. Sharing examples, personal experiences, or a larger perspective than just the facts helps draw readers and viewers into the content. It keeps them interested and engaged to follow it from beginning to end. Learning how to hone your storytelling skills may not only make your pieces easier to read and more engaging but also make them easier to write.

Related: 6 Tips for Content Storytelling

Preview Your Content

If possible, preview your content before publishing on any platform. Previewing lets you see how your content looks to the public when it’s live online. Conducting one can help you see if your font choice and colors are readable, how text and images appear on screen, and how the content changes based on screen resolution. Test your content in multiple web browsers, if applicable, and on different screen sizes to make sure it’s optimized for both desktop and mobile viewing.

Repurpose Old Content

Not every piece of content has to come from scratch. You can repurpose old content in new formats to engage your audience in unique ways. For example, video content and podcasts are popular in marketing today. Consider taking an old blog post, such as one about clickbait, and discussing it on an episode of a podcast. This allows you to better distribute your resources, using previous research and content planning to produce more pieces on topics relevant to your audience.

FAQs About Content Writing

As you consider whether to include content writing in your marketing plan, you may have some specific questions regarding development and implementation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the field:

Does Content Marketing Really Work?

Yes, content marketing really works. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers. That’s because this strategy helps companies meet some of their most desired marketing goals, such as brand awareness, increasing sales, lead generation, and increasing engagement. When you curate your content in a way that appeals to your target audience, you have the greatest chance for success.

Does Content Marketing Decrease Sales?

No, content marketing doesn’t put you at risk of losing sales. Some people new to content marketing may wonder if educating your audience eliminates the need for your products or services, but it doesn’t. In fact, B2B marketers with blogs report gaining about 67% more leads than companies that don’t. There are many reasons to educate your audience about your brand, such as:

  • Providing distinction: When you educate your target audience about your brand, you’re showing them what makes you different from the rest of the competition.
  • Establishing value: Explaining how your company’s products and services can help the audience provides additional value to the purchase. When they have the results they want, they feel good about doing business with your brand.
  • Building credibility and confidence: Content writing is a key component of building a brand’s trust and authority. Through content, potential customers learn your level of expertise and can make decisions with less hesitation.

How Can I Grow My Brand’s Presence Online More Efficiently?

Brands can grow their online presence in several ways. Content writing helps establish your brand as an industry authority through posts, visuals, and other content. The more content you create, the stronger your business presence becomes, but only if that content is high quality. Developing content shows your audience that you’re interested in helping and teaching them besides making sales. Think to brand, not to convert. Developing trust comes before sales. Focus on the buyer’s perception of your brand by describing the benefits of your products or services rather than telling them what you want them to do.

Advertising original content on social media can help your content gain momentum and reach a larger audience. Other options include things like guest posting and content syndication. Look for options where you can get your content out to larger audiences in a reputable way. Avoid spammy tactics like clickbait or making promises you don’t intend to keep. This can damage your brand reputation and ultimately your sales and conversions over time.

How Long Does It Take for Content Marketing to Work?

Content marketing and other organic strategies, like SEO, can take more than just a few days to bring results. First, Google and other search engines must index your unique content. Next, work to get backlinks from authoritative websites. Studies and experts say small and medium-sized businesses should give their content marketing strategy between six and nine months to produce results.

How Often Should You Blog?

According to HubSpot, it’s best to develop a publishing schedule that works best for your writers and your audience. For small companies or teams, this may amount to publishing at least three blog posts a week. For larger organizations, you may publish up to five times a week to help your traffic gain momentum.

Typically, publishing at least once per week shows that your company is active in the online community and discussing relevant topics. Above all, you want to make sure your posts are the best quality and the most informative that they can be for your audience. Publishing 300 poorly written posts isn’t as effective as publishing 10 high-quality ones.

How Do I Measure the Value of Content?

Once you’ve invested time and money into creating content, it’s natural to wonder if it’s really that valuable. There are a few ways you should know if you’re getting the most from your hard work:

  • Metrics: Use analytics programs and build-in monitoring features for social platforms to view the content engagement rate.
  • Feedback: Watch for feedback such as comments, likes, shares and follows on social media and blog posts. You can engage in social listening to understand when and where people are talking about your brand, even without a tag or a direct mention.

Should I Outsource My Content Writing?

Outsourcing content means hiring a company, freelancer, or contractor to create pieces for your brand. While each company’s situation is different, there are a few things to consider when trying to decide if outsourcing is right for you. These include:

  • Time: Does your in-house marketing team have the time to create high-quality content?
  • Skills: Does your in-house team have the right planning, research, and strategy knowledge to carry out a winning content campaign?
  • Budget: Is it more cost-effective for your business to hire internal team members to create brand content?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, it might be time to outsource your work. Start a call with CopyPress to learn about our content creation solutions for marketing teams, agencies, and individual brands alike.

The better you understand the discipline of content writing and its process, the easier it is to create engaging, high-quality pieces your audience loves. This can increase your organic traffic, the number of qualified leads you receive, and your company revenue.

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