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August 25, 2017

How to Take Your Content Writing to the Next Level

Incorporating Simple Sales and Copywriting Techniques Into Content Marketing

If you’ve ever tried your hand at sales, telesales or charity fundraising, you’ll know there’s a whole lot more to it than acting like Don Draper. You know, spending your time hoping to overpower the would-be customer with your wit and je ne sais quoi. It boils down to  myriad things: your warmth, your trustworthiness and the pitch structure. Always keep these in mind during content writing.

Move over into written sales and copywriting and you’ve got a whole new bunch of disciplines to conquer and techniques to incorporate. Written sales distills it down to a fine recipe for persuasion and if you can pull that off you’ll see returns.

Those techniques are not only useful for copywriting either. They’re all centred on creating readability, authority, persuasion and entertainment value. These are things you could use to seduce someone, if you lived two hundred years ago and were into letter-based dating.

So it follows that you can pretty easily use these techniques to effectively craft high quality written content for any site. Create the kind of content that people share, and bookmark, and search for, all of which boost a site’s rankings, perfect for your content marketing strategy.

Written Content is King in SEO, Still!

You’ve probably have heard this phrase; ‘content is king’. Unless of course, they’re black hat SEO marketers. In that case, they’ll probably just gibber evilly, repeatedly using the same two or three words, then get shut down by Google.

Content is king, because the web is very deliberately optimised for the user nowadays. Content, in its many forms, is why the web users bothers to be a web user. A great content marketing strategy needs great content.

You’ll see that people are starting to extol the virtues of video, photo, infographics and apps as vehicle for quality content and SEO. And it’s true, people like videos, photos are easy to look at, infographics convey information easily and apps can be very useful. But it’s also true that they’re expensive to produce well and can be difficult to direct in terms of meaning and aim.

And when they go wrong, they go badly wrong. We’ve all been on a site and noticed a couple of typos, or a bit of English written by someone who clearly wasn’t using their mother tongue. However, that’s permissible. Maybe it’s not the most professional thing but it’s not obscenity of obscenities; the poorly edited, low quality or simply bad video. That sets the bar pretty high in terms of making a website look low budget, unprofessional, or outdated. Same goes for apps, photos and infographics.

Posting irrelevant rich content isn’t the answer either, as Google sees and penalises duplication. On top of that, an irrelevant app probably isn’t going to be all that useful to the user. That’s why well-written, targeted and crafted text is always going to be key. If you can throw other content on top, go for it, but first you need a solid base. You can take content writing pretty far, as skills go.

Write Right

First of all, make sure your content is on point. Focused, sharp and readable, with solid English and no mistakes. Do not underestimate how much seeing a misspelled word or a messy sentence will lower your appearance in the eyes of the user, not to mention Google. You’ll drop instantly from a potentially respected font of knowledge, way down to ‘just another nonsense article’.

Key points to bear in mind are purpose, spelling and grammar, then structure. All that’s pretty self-explanatory, apart from purpose. Too often online you see a long-form article (articles over one-thousand words offer the best bang-for-buck in terms of SEO purposes) that simply loses its way halfway through, and starts rambling about something irrelevant.

The deadly combination of going off on a tangent and waffling is going to send any reader to the door. You want to be sharp and concise, and you want to refer to your title and aim frequently. If you’re finding yourself wondering what to say next, you probably didn’t do enough research prior to planning the piece.

3 Proven Structures

Structure is hugely important. The way you deliver the information the reader has searched for or wants to hear is a defining element of your writing’s success. A quality structure also stops you waffling off in a random direction while struggling for something else to say.

It lets you know what you need to research and read up to deliver a potent and useful piece of content. Here’s three proven structures, known to get sales rolling in, sure to focus and enhance your content writing style and skill:

The Classic – Problem, Agitation and Solution

This is the timeless sales rap. Demonstrate an issue, make it personal and solve it. How can this work in a content writing context? Take a persuasive piece ‘Why *Brand* Lawnmowers Just Aren’t Cutting It’.

In this, you could break down the problem (they’re poorly manufactured,\ and overpriced to boot), ask rhetorical questions and speculate about the readers lawnmower use (how would YOU feel, finding yourself making weekly use of a lawnmower that “Lawn Mowin’ Magazine” accused of being downright explosive?), and then suggest other reasonably priced mowers, or even grass alternatives. Whatever your angle.

This kind of structure works very well for any kind of persuasive piece and has great flow and direction to it.

The Fortune Teller – Give Your Readers an Edge

This is more for informative articles. This centres on expanding on existing trends to make insightful conclusions. This leaves your readers feeling like they’ve got an edge in the future. Plenty of clickbait type articles follow this kind of reasoning, so make sure you’ve got an actual thing to say.

Winners and Losers – Which do They Want to Be?

This is all about making the point that the vast majority of people either fail or are average at any random area, and here’s the key to stepping beyond that. There are entire YouTube channels and careers built around this kind of ‘life hack’ mentality. You can definitely use it to great effect in your content writing.

Formatting is Crucial

Web content is easy come, easy go. People have absolutely nothing forcing them to stay on one page, apparent from your writing, title and formatting. Formatting is a big one, you need to make things as easy as possible for the reader, which means a pretty simple, solid check-list of things to do:

  • Readable Font Size – Generally sizes 14pts to 16pts are ideal.
  • Plenty of Subheadings – People scan read more than they give things proper attention.
  • Bullet Points and Numbered Lists – This gives people the information they wanted, in a neat and easy format.
  • Wide Margins – You want the text to be in as narrow a column as is possible. The narrower the column, the easier the text is to follow and read.
  • No Colours – I don’t care what your web designer thinks, black on white text is always going to be the easiest option to read.
  • One or Two Sentence Paragraphs – Don’t ramble on for nine sentences in one paragraph. It’s boring to look at.

Formatting is an easy change to make, so don’t allow this be the hurdle that trips you.

Title Creation is an Art

Titles define whether or not you click on something, so like it or not, they’re important. If you’ve got a long winded titles, filled with tangential, unnecessary verbiage, people are going to struggle to quickly ascertain meaning and move on. Worse, they could be put off, feeling the article or content is going to be bloated and tangential too. If the title is too undescriptive, they won’t know what the content is.

So you need a balanced, concise title. On top of that, there are certain words which get more attention. Words like ‘Proven’, ‘Free’ and ‘Shocking’. These are power words, they grab your attention and instantly forge connections to other things you feel strongly about, like success, money, and getting ahead of the crowd.

There’s a book out there, titled “Word’s That Sell”, by Rick Bayan, that’s literally thousands of these power words listed for you to peruse and use when needed. It’s a useful investment, if you’re looking to write more compellingly long-term.  

Curiously, odd numbers in a title also are more alluring. Titles like “7 Ways to Grow Out Your Toenails” will perform better than “Here’s How To Grow Your Toenails” (obviously, the article you now want is “3 Shocking Reasons People Are Growing Their Toenails”).

Getting your title right is the first stage to getting the customers in the shop. Mess up the title, and the front door’s broken. No customers are going to walk into that shop and all that time spent writing the valuable content is wasted.

This is Not Sales Though

An important thing to remember is that this is not sales. This is content writing. The act of creating something either useful, informative or entertaining. You’re free to write however you like, provided people enjoy it and will read it.

You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, stick to boring formulas if you’ve got better or more entertaining ideas. For most of us, however, the formulas and techniques are the place to start. This isn’t sales, go wild and create amazing content. Quality content should generate traffic, and not just through sterile SEO techniques. Without quality content, even the best content marketing strategy can fall flat on its face.

About the expert: Liam Wells, Guest Writer

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