Magazines, newspapers, billboards, mailers, the Yellow Pages… traditional advertising might still have its place, but with every passing year it occupies a smaller and smaller piece of the puzzle.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, businesses know that to remain relevant they need to shift more of the marketing budget and creativity online to extend their reach and influence with today’s audiences – and that means producing compelling web content.
Content writing is a catch-all phrase for writing digital content. If you’re writing for an online audience with even a little bit of search engine optimization in mind, chances are you’re involved in content writing.
The big ol’ World Wide Web is where most of us get our information on – well, everything, This means companies must ensure they’re publishing digital content that provides the right kind of information and gets the right kind of attention.
Content writing doesn’t just mean that you’re writing for an online audience. It means that you’re writing content optimized for social media, websites, or online marketplaces to increase traffic and develop a strong, online presence. It’s most often done with the ultimate goal of converting readers into customers, but does so by answering consumer questions and guiding readers to the right solution rather than trying to overtly push a brand or product on them.
When done properly content writing results in a strong, online presence that increases conversions and customer loyalty, and that ultimately boosts sales.
Content writing is:
Informative – Online competition is fierce, so content writing is always focused on providing a high-quality experience that makes the reader stop scrolling and take notice. Content writing should be informative, engaging, accurate, and fun to read. Great content writing lends credibility to a company’s brand, so content writers are always on the lookout for content that provides the intended audience with tips, tutorials, advice, and new information.
Search engine optimized – Search engine optimization (SEO) is the name of the game if a company wants their website to appear at the top of Google’s search results. Content writers are well-versed in the intricacies of SEO and can produce content that piques the attention of the Google algorithm just as much as it piques the interest of the reader. Even the highest-quality content won’t get you far if you can’t get your website in front of the intended audience. Content writers follow best SEO practices to ensure the web content they produce drives results.
Different Types of Content for Different Platforms and Purposes
Content writers are tasked with producing various types of digital content, including:
Copywriting – Copywriting establishes a company’s unique voice, helps build its brand, and provides users with accurate, informative, and engaging content that describes the company, its purpose, its people, its vision, its products, and more.
Technical Writing/Long-Form Content – Content writing isn’t all about marketing copy; sometimes it includes technical writing pieces that are designed to inform, educate, and provide detailed instructions, guidelines, strategies, plans, and more. How-to guides, instruction manuals, and guidebooks are some examples of technical writing.
Blogging – Blogs are an excellent way to keep a website’s content fresh and new, which not only provides the user with a better experience, but also works wonders when considering SEO rankings (in certain instances, the Google algorithm may reward those sites that frequently publish new content). Blogs may cover any number of topics related to the website and are a great way to educate, inform, and keep customers up to date about new topics of interest.
Social Media Posts – Social media is where it’s at. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter – they all capture millions of sets of eyes every day, so producing content for social media platforms is a no-brainer for companies interested in improving their online reach and presence. Content writers skilled in social media writing understand the constraints of the platforms (Twitter’s character limit, for example) and the type of information and news that pack a punch. Social media writing is all about achieving relevance and providing content that inspires reader to take the leap and click on a link.
Emails – Sometimes content writing involves a more targeted approach. Emails are directed at current or prospective customers who have already shown an interest. Most email writing is designed to entice the recipient to become a customer or remain a customer. Therefore, they often include special offers, promotions, and discounts.
Press Releases – Press releases don’t just have a place in print advertising. Exciting and engaging press releases are a great way to increase your online presence by sharing your company’s value or promotions with online news outlets and related companies.
The Role of the Content Writer is to Understand the Intended Audience as Much as the Product
Content writing is highly targeted and thoughtful in its approach. Before any writing can take place, marketing teams spend a lot of time thinking about the type of content to be published and its purpose or goal, along with the technical/factual information to be conveyed, the style and tone of the content, the best way to connect with the target audience, keywords and keyword phrases to be used, and all the little nuances that tie it altogether.
While it’s both necessary and important to consider these issues when creating content, it’s not usually up to the content writer to pin down all the strategic elements. Instead, these decisions are left to digital marketing agencies who are tasked with driving awareness, sales, and traffic to a website.
Content writers are given instructions for producing content that targets the goals of the company and the marketing effort – and those instructions always includes a clear understanding of exactly who the audience is and what they’re looking for.
For larger projects, content writers may be called in to be part of the planning process, hashing out all the fine points with marketing strategists so the objectives and methods are crystal clear.
Whether they’re part of the white board meetings or not, all the standard duties involved in producing high-quality content will land squarely with the writing team:
Envision new and interesting ways of providing information – You may be tasked with writing about a topic that has been covered ad nauseum. As a content writer, your job is to consider new angles and new ways of presenting information to keep the content fresh and interesting.
Edit yourself – Content writing should be jam-packed with useful information to keep the reader engaged. You must be able to edit yourself by cutting out any sentences or sections that don’t add to the content’s overall goal.
Conduct research – Your research efforts may include searching trusted news sources, scholarly journals, and government sites for relevant information and statistics, as well as reading competitor content to see what the other guys are doing right and not so right. The research process could even include interviewing experts in the field. It takes a good working knowledge about a topic to develop content that conveys the confidence readers are looking for to trust you as the source.
Add visual appeal – Create visual interest and break up large blocks of content with images, videos, graphs, charts, tables, etc.
Write for SEO – Writing well-optimized digital content always involves using a variety of keywords and keyword phrases, interlinking between pages, including call to action (CTAs) phrases, and ensuring all content is original and free of plagiarism.