Living in this day and age, we’re all oversaturated with one word.
Content this, content that, it’s so widely used that it’s beginning to lose all meaning. And this is completely understandable since the term is used in a myriad of different contexts – creative content, sales content, functional content, etc.
Yet, real content writers, people who know exactly what this type of writing demands – both content-wise and formally – need to keep their focus very sharp. They need to know what the priorities of content marketing really are, and to stick to them.
In this post, I’ll go through both the content side of things – the actual substance of what you should be writing, and the “marketing” side of things – the way it needs to be organized, formatted, and marketed, in order to be accessible.
Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll know exactly what you need to do in order to become a high-quality content marketing writer yourself.
YOUR CONTENT: KNOWING YOUR FINAL AIM
I’m here to remind people what content marketing really is, how to differentiate it from other writing formats, and, in addition, how to actually create it. To make things clear, we’re starting out with the single most basic piece of information which will help anchor all other tips to follow.
What is content marketing? What is it all about?
Simply speaking, content marketing is about education. Your main role is to write different kinds of texts which will be useful to online readers.
Whether you’re educating your audience about particular practices, introducing them to a professional sphere they haven’t been acquainted with, providing a how-to guide to executing a certain action, or anything else, your main goal is to transfer your knowledge to other people.
This is one of the basic things which separates content marketing from, say, copywriting. Copywriting tries to sell you a product, while content writing tries to actively help and teach you something.
If you bear this in mind, you’ll immediately understand everything else that follows. Organizing and structuring your content serves the purpose of making it readable and accessible, but also useful.
Knowing how to present it allows the written text itself to achieve online exposure and capture people’s attention. That way, you’ll benefit by having your text read, and the readers will benefit by learning something new.
Do Some Research
Before I describe the double benefits of well-written, useful content, I need to discuss one thing. The amount of knowledge you possess.
In other words, you can’t write content without knowing your subject thoroughly. Ignoring this is likely to result in low-quality generic content.
To solve this you must spend time doing thorough research. How much research should you do? Simply put, you need to be very well acquainted with what you’re writing and teaching people about.
Even an expert on a topic doesn’t know everything, so keep in mind that you need to research, read some more, revise your own knowledge, and check if there has been new development and advancement in the field you are considering writing about.
Once you feel that you have a steady grasp on the entire topic, you can actually start preparing your content and putting it on paper, step by step.
CREATING YOUR CONTENT
At this point, you should have done thorough research and you are now ready to actually start writing. The first step is to work out your content structure.
Outlining and Structuring your Content
The process of organizing your content before actually writing it is useful in two different ways.
Firstly, it helps you structure your own thoughts. It allows you to select the information which you need for your piece and helps you to arrange it in a logical sequence.
Is it an introductory text about a certain machine, or an online program? If so, first write a clear explanation of what it is. Then, explain exactly what it does, who uses it, etc.
This will help you deal with the chaos of your thoughts, especially if the quantity of information that you want to convey is overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.
Think rationally, and organize it in a way that makes sense. Not only will you be faster and more efficient in your writing, but you’ll give the impression that you are a confident expert in your given field.
Good Teachers Divide Information
The second reason why you must outline and structure your content is it makes your content easy for your audience to digest. Since your goal is to transfer information onto them, like a good school teacher, you need to make it interesting and informative in a clear manner.
Being chaotic and flooding people with information, without following a clear outline is a recipe for failure. Not only will they struggle to understand what you have written, but they’ll also feel as if the topic itself is so unapproachable, that they may never return to it.
For that reason, segmenting your text carefully allows for it to reach as wide an audience as possible. Hence, it’ll be much more helpful.
Keep Your Focus and Know Your Audience
In this sense, the final thing that you need to keep in mind, content-wise, is to stay focused on the point.
Writing a content marketing piece isn’t like writing an encyclopedia – you need to have a narrow focus from the very beginning. You can’t, for instance, aim to explain an entire discipline.
Pick a very particular aspect of a certain topic that you want to cover. That way, you’ll be able to exhaustively cover it, while also making it clear and understandable. Your text shouldn’t wander around, distracting your audience. That would lead them to lose any interest and just stop midway through.
However, if your focus is sharp and you know exactly what you’re talking about, and in what order, the text will be engaging and understandable.
Your Audience Matters
In order to achieve this, you also need to know your target audience. Is it going to be a very basic text, introducing people to a topic, field, person, or application?
Is it going to be narrow – aimed at people who’re already acquainted with the topic at hand? Will you be focusing on the details of something, or offering a novel perspective?
Is it going to be marketed to a younger or older audience? Men or women? People from a particular country or region?
You need to know the answer to all of these questions before you start writing. Getting this clear will help you get a focused perspective and a well-structured outline of the text.
Having covered how to write content, you’ll essentially have completely mastered the content part of your text. What we need to focus on now is making it attractive and presentable. In other words the ‘marketing’ side of content creation.
MARKETING YOUR CONTENT
It’s time to focus on the marketing of your content. I’m not talking about promotion. In this section, I’m going to cover how to make your content attractive and attention-grabbing. If you get this right, your audience will be drawn to your writing and will hungrily devour your writing from beginning to end.
To get this right, the first thing you need to focus on is your headline.
Write a Headline That Sticks
And the first thing to start with is the title.
The title is the first thing the audience will be exposed to – whether they’re scrolling through social media or browsing Google. You need to be sure that yours stands out.
Your headline has to stand out in two ways simultaneously. On the one hand, it needs to be honest about what the text covers. On the other hand it needs to be quirky, interesting, and, if relevant, high-flown.
The headline has the ability to evoke emotions or provoke subconscious associations in the readers. You need to know how to play the right cards in this regard. A reliable, yet fun headline will definitely catch people’s eye – and the text which follows will keep their attention.
Follow Your Headline With a Compelling Introduction
Keeping their attention isn’t always guaranteed. If the catchy title is followed by a huge block of undifferentiated text, mumbling about all sorts of things, your reader won’t think twice about moving on to another article.
In order to both catch and keep your reader’s attention, you also need a good and interesting introduction.
The first sentence, especially, is recommended to be short and punchy. It has to be relevant, of course, but it also needs to be memorable. If you get this right, your readers will be intrigued and will want to read more.
In fact, if your headline and introduction are good and punchy enough, even disinterested people may end up reading your entire piece. Like it or not, interest matters. You are expected to spark people’s imagination and sell your knowledge in a manageable, easily accessible, and entertaining way.
Create Readable Paragraphs and Subheadings
While the rest of your text doesn’t need to be overtly screaming to get your reader’s attention, it still has to remain digestible enough and easy to follow.
Whereas I did cover the importance of outlining and structuring your text when it comes to content, you also need to make your content visually appealing.
The clearest way to do this is to divide your text into subheadings. Use multiple subheadings, each clearly stating what’s in the content. This will let your audience know what to expect as well as help them to scan your content and find specific information.
For example, if a reader already knows the basics when it comes to the topic at hand, but is interested in one, or two particular aspects, they’ll locate the relevant subheading and jump immediately to that.
Don’t forget that your aim as a content writer is to be useful and to teach. This means making the reading process as convenient for readers as you can. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.
Keep Your Paragraphs Short
They’ll also appreciate it if you try to avoid long passages of text. Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of three sentences. Breaking your paragraphs this way makes your text inviting and makes it look less intimidating than a large block of text.
The reason is that people have a relatively short attention span. They need to be told the relevant information in a snappy, matter-of-fact way. Long passages may result in their minds drifting, and your audience losing interest.
Short, to-the-point paragraphs, though, will keep them engaged and interested.
CONTENT MARKETING FORMAT EXAMPLES
Before wrapping things up, I want to provide a shortlist of the most common types of content marketing texts which you’ll come across online. Knowing them can also help you format your own text
- Product description
- Product comparison
- How-to guide
- Solving a problem
- Video script
- Social media content
- Feature article
Of course, there are many more as well, but these are some of the most regularly encountered types of content marketing out there. Find the one you resonate with most and start writing!
Having gone through this text, you should, by now, know exactly what content marketing is, how it works, what it focuses on, and how it should be presented.
In an era of us being bombarded by all kinds of information online, it’s essential to offer some quality knowledge, but also to know how to stand out from the crowd. That’s precisely where the art of content marketing lies.
Saying something useful, focused, and clear, while also making it engaging and memorable, can be the best of both worlds.
Source: Liraz Postan, Mar 30, 2022