Published on December 1st, 2017 | by Editor0
Is Content Writing Really About Content? How to Spot the Professionals
One of the common mistakes people often make is to confuse content writing and content marketing. Every digital marketer who knows their craft understands that the success of a campaign depends on how well one feeds into the other. It is therefore critical to know the difference between the two.
What is content marketing?
This is the creation and sharing of relevant free content to attract and turn prospective audiences into customers and satisfied customers into loyal buyers. Content marketing focuses mainly on blogs, email auto responders, podcasts, social media and more.
What is content writing?
Content writing aims to make the reader take a desired action. Sometimes, it could be buying a product, downloading a template, subscribing to an email list or calling your customer service line for further information. Content writing is the act of writing ads, crafting sales pages, direct mails, newsletters and so on.
While content marketing is an umbrella process that combines various content types to engage the target audience, content writing is the process of crafting the written bits of the content. In a way, content writing is a sub-set of content marketing.
According to Jim Cummings, CEO of dailyposts.co.uk, a brand may be writing articles with great ideas that people enjoy reading, but not getting the volume of traffic it deserves. “Sometimes, poor web traffic can be attributed to poor quality content writing,” he says. “Content quality has become a key search algorithm metric, and Google has got really good at judging quality.”
Now that we have cleared the common misunderstanding between both concepts, we can address the title question.
The nitty-gritty of content writing
Most people regard content writing as merely writing content for marketing purposes. They are not wrong, but content writing is a little more than that. It requires the copywriter to understand the reader’s behaviour, their language style and general response to contextual cues. Simply put, content writing is a combination of psychological and written processes that guide a prospect towards a specific action.
If you have ever tried convincing someone to do something they didn’t originally plan to, you will understand how critical the job of a content writer is. It is even more challenging because they do this in writing, without ever meeting the prospect.
Content writing is not just about the content, it pre-empts the reader’s needs, crafts out a compelling message addressing those needs and urges the reader towards a solution that satisfies them.
Seems like a Herculean task? Well, it is. How do content writers achieve this?
The process of effective content writing; spotting the professionals
The magic of content writing is not in the result, but in the process. The professionally-crafted piece will convince the prospect, but only because a lot of work has been put into it.
Here are some tips:
Always research your audience and subject
It is hard to convince people to do anything if you don’t know anything about them. It is like trying to sell a gourmet burger to a vegan. If you don’t do your homework, you would probably never know their dietary preferences. Research shouldn’t only be for planning and writing activities. The professional content writer is always in research mode.
Find out what your prospect’s pain-points are. What interests them? Are they professional, laid-back, quirky or a combination of personas? Read their comments to get an idea of what makes them tick. Also, study diverse topics and how to provide an angle that interests them. You could also organise polls and competitions to obtain additional information. For more on knowing your audience, read this article by Marketing Land.
Write in your own tone of voice
By tone of voice, I mean the brand communicating with its audience. Every well-built brand has a personality. Some brands may sound authoritative (medical, insurance, finance), while others come across as adventurous (travel, hospitality, theme parks). Some brands are laid-back and even speak with an accent! A good example is the Compare the Market meerkat.
Whatever tone of voice you choose, make it sound relatable, something your prospective customers will enjoy reading. The more people identify with your content’s tone of voice, the more likely they are to be convinced by the message. If you are an individual connector, like a food blog, simply write as you would speak – as if the reader was sitting right in front of you.
Right sentence structure and grammar
One thing about content that can quickly put off potential customers is poor grammar. You could have a great message, rib-cracking humour and a strong case, but if the reader keeps stumbling across typos or bad sentence structures, they will zone out. If an insurance company published a press release for its policyholders that was filled with errors, it would likely reduce their credibility. A few customers may even be tempted to close their accounts.
For the sake of SEO, Google demotes content with typos and bad grammar. The web crawlers automatically tag them as low-quality and places them below competitors with better content quality. Avoid unnecessary jargon. If people constantly reach for a dictionary to read your article, they will eventually lose interest. Keep it simple and sincere.
Tell a story
People are naturally conditioned to listen to a story. Savvy content writers can work a story into their piece and engage the reader all the way. Some brands use this for their content marketing. A typical example is Innocent Drinks®. The brand started in 1999 as a two-man smoothie company, selling drinks at a music festival. The founders put up a big sign asking people if they thought their juice was worth giving up their regular jobs for. At the stall exit were two bins for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. By the end of the concert, the ‘Yes’ bin was full of empties.
Today, Innocent Drinks shares the story on their branded collateral, including the website, juice packs and bottles. Even their CSR activities reflect the playful nature of the company as it began in the early days. Loyal customers admit that the brand’s love for storytelling has made them a favourite. How you choose to tell your story is up to you; make sure it resonates with your business’s offering.
Learn to write magnetic headlines
There is an art to writing headlines that works magic on your prospective readers. On search engines, the title could be the deciding factor that makes a user click your content and land on your website. According to SEO expert, Neil Patel, spend as much time on your title as you would on the main content. The title informs reader what to expect, so make it as witty and informative as possible.
A good title is neither too long nor too short. Consider using a combination of numbers and words in your title. The juxtaposition of both characters has been shown to make it more effective. Consider starting your headline with ‘How to’ and ‘Why…’. Other tips for an attractive headline include the use of alliteration and power words.
Finally, always test your content with a selected group of people to see how they perform. You can choose the A/B or multivariate testing techniques. After publishing the content, continue to make changes in the Call-to-Action (CTA) until you observe the best results. You will see that content marketing is a lot more than just the content.