Many businesses know that regularly publishing great articles can help them stay relevant. They realise when their content solves problems for customers, their own business improves. The problem is the job of writing is often tacked onto another role as an afterthought, resulting in some fairly average output.
The difficulty for these businesses is the fact that writing high-quality, relevant content is a difficult skill to master. Businesses that have an onsite or outsourced marketing team are at a clear advantage. They can leverage expert writing and marketing skills and combine it with their own industry knowledge to create truly valuable content.
For companies who don’t have marketing assistance, it’s even more important to have an understanding of what will work online and in print to ensure any effort put into writing is not wasted. The skill of content writing can be developed and improved over time. Here are some simple techniques to keep in mind that can help non-writers make their work shine.
1. Attention grabbing titles
Headlines or titles serve two very important purposes for your article. They tell Google what your page is about, but more importantly, they tell readers what to expect. Writing good titles is as valuable as writing good copy. There’s nothing worse than an amazing article that never gets read because the headline stinks.
What do readers like in headlines? Power words like study, new, proven and that will all help to attract readers.
Numbers are always liked by readers, and not just in the way you’d expect such as in list articles (like this one). Titles with numbers such as Get 20 new customers in 14 days also do well with readers.
David Ogilvy, who many call The Father of Advertising, is said to have stated:
“The headlines that work best are those that promise the reader a benefit.”
A benefit could be anything from information, inspiration, solving a problem or teaching something. Of course once you promise a benefit, you’d better go ahead and deliver it.
2. Know your audience and write for them
A key factor to being able to deliver a benefit to your audience is actually knowing who you are writing for and what they need. You know who your intended audience and customers are, or at least you should. If you don’t, you’d be best to stop working on content and figure out who you are writing for.
A piece written for specialist engineers at a power station would have a different feel than a piece aimed at consumers of household electricity, even though they both may have similar subject matter.
3. Choose relevant topics
You might want to write about the impact of a full moon on the behaviour of children, but is this relevant to your readers who work in town planning? Put yourself in the shoes of your readers and stay on topic. An editorial schedule prepared in advance will help keep you on track.
Often businesses who don’t specialise in writing run out of ideas to actually write about. Once they’ve covered the low-hanging fruit of commonly asked questions, they’re stumped with what to do next and the content can quickly dry up. This is where a brainstorming session with someone outside the business can make a big difference and keep the schedule on track.
4. Proofread, spell check and edit
Simple errors can be really distracting in what would otherwise be a valuable, well-researched article. Depending on who you are writing for, it might be appropriate to relax some of the traditional grammar rules, but it is never a good idea to have blatant errors.
This is an area many people struggle with and it’s common to overlook your own mistakes. Don’t be afraid to outsource or get a second opinion on your work if you think it needs some polishing.
5. Don’t ignore layout and images
The layout of copy in both print and online can make or break your work. People spend years studying exactly what the human eye and brain like to see when it comes to articles online. It takes a lot of trial and error to optimise the layout of a great article.
Images can help your reader make sense of your message. They also make large slabs of copy look less overwhelming. From an SEO perspective, images can slow down the scroll rate, increasing dwell time and in turn improve your search ranking.
Make sure your images are optimised for web and include alt text to keep the search engines happy. For more tips on optimising images, check out this article.
Also pay attention to how your writing looks on the screen (or page if you’re writing for print). Make sure the font is legible for most people, and remember that white space is your friend. Modern times have seen us move towards more frequent paragraph breaks, as huge slabs of text is often off-putting for readers.
You don’t have to do it all yourself
If writing content isn’t your thing, you can always outsource. If you work in a specialised field, make sure you’re working with content specialists who also have a basic understanding of the topic. They won’t be as knowledgeable as you, but you’ll save yourself time and effort when you insist on dealing with people who know the right questions to ask.
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