Writing better content: 15 practical tips for beginners
To some writing seems a very scary prospect, but it’s impossible to do effective digital marketing without it. Master the beast with our 15 point practical guide.
Content writing tips for beginners: Impressona’s guide to writing better content
Content marketing is a great way of helping raise your company’s visibility online, and can be a solid method of generating new business leads and enquiries. The idea is to populate your website, marketing materials and ad campaigns with effective writing that is well-researched, relevant to your target audience and optimised for search engines. This should include keywords that are carefully written into the content so that your company is found more easily online for those particular words.
You can also write content to be published on another website with good online authority, and then make sure that post or page links back to your website, giving you more credibility in the eyes of Google and potential customers. This is called outreach marketing, and is another important part of a content marketing strategy, because it helps build natural links into your site, which Google sees as healthy SEO practice. This is why you see so much talk about content marketing online these days- marketers know that a good content approach is more likely to result in raised awareness of a business or brand, if done properly.
So with this in mind, you need to know how to write simple, effective, and compelling copy that helps reel customers in, and portrays your brand or company as an authority figure in your particular field. Easier said than done, however, particularly if you are a beginner level writer. Our practical tips for content writers should help you produce a better quality of content and copy, and don’t forget, we’re also available at any time to talk, should you need further assistance!
1. Read it out loud
This might sound silly, and isn’t always practical in an office environment, but a really good and simple way to ensure your copy makes sense is to read it aloud once you have written it. Reading aloud often helps you catch errors you don’t see on the screen the first time around, and helps give you a better idea of pace, and readability, from a user’s point of view. Printing things out also helps with this, but might not be very ecologically sustainable if it is a long piece.
2. Use a plugin to help with grammar
Spelling, syntax and grammar are the foundations of well-written copy. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to keep on top of the grammatical details when you are trying to finish an article or blog post on time, especially if it is a detailed, long piece of writing. Getting another pair of eyes on something to proofread is a good idea, but not everyone has access to a good proofer. Fear not, there are tools to help with this. Word has its own system of spell checking, as does Google Docs, which also offers grammatical tips as you write. Various plugins are now available to monitor your writing as you go- Grammarly is a particular good tool that is easy to use, keeping pace with you as you write and making suggestions for improvements you can make to tighten the copy as you go.
3. Don’t be your own editor
This goes hand in hand with the point above, but is less about spelling mistakes and more about making sure the content is tightly written, relevant, and meets your objectives. Try and get your content signed off by someone with authority, who can spot what you might have missed and point out anything that is off-brand, or any incorrect information about your business.
4. Do your research
It goes without saying that the most engaging content is that which has been well-researched. Facts and statistics can lift a piece of writing from being too ‘sales-y’, and make it more useful to readers and users looking to learn more about a certain topic. Plus, interesting, relevant facts can help you to better structure your content. Try and use information from reputable websites and news outlets if possible, and always use more recent information to ensure maximum relevancy.
5. Use a content calendar
You might want to consider reading our guide to content calendars after this post- once you know how to write, the next step is to plan your future content with a calendar. Our in-depth guide has some great info why, and how to go about doing this. Having a calendar not only keeps you on track timewise, but also reminds you of what your objectives are as you write, meaning you will be more focused and to the point.
6. Keywords are important, as are meta descriptions
Ideally, everything you write and place on your website- and externally- should be written with a focus keyword in mind. If you can think of several related keywords, phrases and longtail variations, that’s also great practice. These keywords should then be naturally worked into your content as you write. It is important to ensure you don’t go overboard with this- google does not like content that is ‘stuffed’ with keywords. For more information on how to research and choose keywords for your content, take a look at this article from Search Engine Journal.
Meta descriptions are also extremely important when it comes to publishing your content on your website. Again, each page or post should have a unique meta description that is a good length, summarising what your content is about. If you can pop your keyword in there too, that’s also a good idea. Yoast has some great advice on this, and also has a very useful plugin that allows you to tailor your meta descriptions easily.
7. Read your competitors’ stuff
Not so that you can copy what they are doing, but to help give you ideas about what you can write about, and how you can make it unique and tailored to your brand style. Also, keeping an eye on the competition is a healthy way of spotting any opportunities they have missed. Perhaps there is an article about a certain topic they haven’t yet covered- look for the gaps in their strategy, and make sure yours provides what they lack.
8. Think about your objectives
Every single thing you write should have a purpose attached to it. Don’t write blog posts or web pages just to fill your site with content. Don’t jump on bandwagons with trends and special dates unless you have a good, solid business reason to do so. Think about what each piece that you write is trying to achieve, and make sure you craft the words to suit those objectives. For example, if your article is supposed to entice people to get in touch with you about something, make sure you state this clearly throughout the content, with obvious ‘contact us’ calls to action (CTAs) that can’t be ignored. Think about your goals when you read the content back to yourself- is the message clear enough? Is there enough information? Have you included the right keywords? Objectives are important, and a decent content marketing strategy will tie each piece you write back to those top level goals.
9. Brainstorm with others
Stuck for ideas? No idea what to write? Brainstorm with a colleague or manager, if you can. Your editorial calendar should be full of good ideas for stuff to write, and bringing others in on the creative brainstorming process means you’ll produce content with better variety.
10. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes
Try and think carefully about what your audience’s needs are as you write. What sort of questions are they asking? What information do they need to reassure themselves that you offer the best service or product available? How do they prefer to read and digest information? What tone will they respond best to? Coming up with a well-rounded audience profile or persona profile is a good way of making sure you stay focussed as you write.
11. Always remember to link
Links are important with onsite content. Internal links, where you link from your current post to something else relevant in your website, help visitors on your site to navigate around it more easily. Google attaches importance to internal linking, so it is a good practice to get into as you write. Try and remember to include title tags too, when you upload your content. External links are also worth thinking about. These are when you link to something outside of your website, like a news site, or another blog. They provide extra, useful information for your client. Don’t stuff each paragraph with links, but do try and scatter a healthy number of them throughout your copy.
12. Headers are also important – break up the flow
Huge chunks of unbroken content can look daunting on the page, and be more difficult to read. It’s far better to split your content up into sections by using headers, which also act as signposts to readers, indicating what they are about to digest. These headers can be in different styles, to ensure the page looks good, but also to send signals to search engines regarding your content. Good practice is to have one H1, one H2, and as many H3s and H4s as you like on each page. Having more than one H1 will confuse Google and send out mixed messages as to what your content is actually talking about.
13. Be authentic
Find a brand persona and stick to it. Humorous and witty? Do it consistently. Serious and business-like? Make sure you maintain the tone across all channels, and try not to waffle. Brand guidelines are a good way of making sure others in your company know what sort of tone and approach to take when writing on behalf of your business. Consistency aside, this helps you to develop a strong identity and ‘voice’ when it comes to your writing. This in turn can help lend an air of authenticity to potential and existing clients interacting with you.
14. Write first, tidy up later
A lot of writers get so hung up on the quality of what they write, that they stop writing, fearful of creating something substandard. Pride in your work is an excellent quality, but it shouldn’t stop you writing. Remember you can always edit and improve on poorly written stuff, but you can’t improve what isn’t actually there! So stop worrying about how good it is, get your first draft down. You can tinker and polish once the words are on the page.
15. Hire an expert
Done all of the above, and still struggling? That’s okay, it’s a common business problem to lack the time, resources and capabilities to continuously turn out good quality business content. That’s where it can be useful to hire an expert content creation company like Impressona. They take the pressure off your marketing team by producing the content on your behalf, in line with your objectives. Impressona can also help you by designing your content marketing strategy and coming up with a content calendar or editorial diary to help keep things orderly and objectivised.
Any questions? Impressona are always on hand to chat about content. Get in touch today, and see how we can help you with your content marketing needs.