What is Content Writing: 5 Types and 4 Important Writing Principles
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably fiddled with words long enough to consider becoming a professional content writer.
Unfortunately, the concept of content writing is more than just writing. It involves different skills than academic writing, creative writing, journalism, or other kinds of writing.
In this article, you’ll learn about content writing.
Content writing is simply writing for internet users. Rather than personal enjoyment, content writing serves a purpose for another party. If you’re writing for search engine optimization, your goal is to please the search engines. If you’re doing social media marketing, the goal is to make your social media audience happy.
Content writers follow a clear set of rules and requirements to match the content’s purpose and the audience’s intent.
Some forms of content writing include:
- Blog posts are also known as SEO writing.
- Web pages
- Social media posts
Content writing is useful to reach your target audience and establish authority.
Different types of content writing depend on the structure, audience, and distribution channel, among others. Here are some of them:
A press release is a compelling story a company sends to the media to announce vital information about its products and services.
Established businesses use press releases to manage their public image and highlight the value they offer. To offer this kind of content writing service, learn to research and find authentic information to back your client’s statements and events and promote their products or services in a newsworthy way.
Study existing press releases to see how they’re written and formatted. Pay close attention to catchy headlines and replicate them in your sample press release.
Press releases do well with a subheader — something similar to a ‘Too long; didn’t read” summary. It’s often a very short paragraph after the heading that provides additional information about what the press release will cover.
PR Newswire does an excellent job of it!
The rest of the press release should answer the questions: “Who”, “What”, “Why”, “When”, and “Where”. You may even include testimonials, statistics, or case studies to back your claims and drive home your points.
With this content type, you can publish content when you have something new and newsworthy to tell the public. Press release writers are in demand anywhere, as reputation management is key. So, you can join a private company in-house or a B2C or B2B PR agency.
Articles are pieces that are persuasive, explanatory, or instructive. Before the world went agog with the internet, writers published their articles in newspapers and magazines to influence readers.
Now, the game is the same, but the field is different.
Keep these tips in mind when writing articles:
This means researching topics your target audience will find helpful and providing solutions to their challenges. When writing, aim to solve a problem.
For example, the article above targets a specific audience — small law firms. When you read through the article, you’ll notice that the solutions discussed are tailored to small law firms, satisfying the reader’s intent.
Articles are usually long and tend to drag on. You want to avoid a snoozefest by breaking huge blocks of text under relevant subheadings, bullets, and illustrations. Why? Aside from being an important part of on-page SEO, it helps readers skim. So you retain their attention.
Keep your subheadings benefit-driven. Instead of “Top of the funnel content,” use the subheading “How to boost leads through the top of the funnel content.”
A properly optimized article has the following SEO headings and subheadings embedded:
So, a well-written article with subheadings could look like this:
But article headings are just as important and might take some time to craft. Like a press release headline, they need to spur interest immediately so readers know whether or not to go down the rabbit hole.
Use Optinmonster Headline Analyzer to check how headlines might perform on SERPs and adjust it until you have a high headline score.
Following closely in importance are meta descriptions. Search engines display these descriptions on the search engine result page (SERP) as part of answers to a query. While Google may rewrite your meta descriptions, optimizing them with the right keywords improves click-throughs and boosts organic traffic.
Use shorter sentences and a conversational tone to improve your score when writing articles. There are tools you can use to correct your grammar and provide suggestions on how to improve your score.
You can also use plain language software such as HemingwayApp to simplify your words so they’re easy to digest.
Internal links are links to other relevant pages on a website. They help visitors find relevant content that complements what they’re reading and help search engines better understand site structure.
By contrast, external links link out to content on a different website. Both link types are important for deploying effective online content strategies for on-page SEO.
Linking to credible and high-authority sources shows your article is well-researched and helps search engines index your content page as credible. Use tools like Ahrefs and Moz Link Explorer to find authoritative pages you can link to.
Technical writing provides complex information and breaks it down, so it’s easy to understand. You’ll need extensive technical knowledge of certain concepts to excel in this content writing. Technical writers help with software or product manuals, instructional documents, FAQs, etc.
The following tips will help you with technical writing:
Understand what your audience is already likely to know: Explaining the inner workings of a topic is no use when your audience has no basic knowledge of it. It’s like trying to teach division to a kid who doesn’t know numbers. You can write high-quality technical content they’ll understand and enjoy if you know their level of knowledge.
Simplify the language: It’s easy to overcomplicate stuff with technical writing. More often than not, you’ll be writing for a less tech savvy audience. So, skip the technical jargon to ensure your writing is accessible.
Also, avoid flowery language. It could bore your readers and distract them from the true purpose of the content.
Get a third party to review your writing before publishing: It’s a no-brainer, but editors must consistently churn out quality content. If you can’t afford a professional editor or aren’t privy to one, experienced writers may suffice.
They’ll act as a second eyeball to your work and catch irregularities, inaccuracies, and ambiguous terms in your content.
Copywriting is a short, persuasive type of content that sells to your audience. Experienced content writers in the industry often tell you: “content tells — copy sells”.
But that’s only broadly speaking. To excel in the industry, you must grasp the basics of both copy and content writing. Moreover, at its core, copywriting is just content writing with conversions as its sole purpose.
You must understand your audiences’ needs and buyer psychology as a copywriter. Think about their hopes, fears, and desires and how your client’s product or services addresses them.
Additionally, creating visually appealing graphics, such as social media graphics, can also help grab your audience’s attention and make your message more memorable.
This form of content writing requires you to use emotions to get your audience to take action. Use a sense of urgency to get your audience to act. Words like: “Now”, “Hurry”, and “Today”, let readers know the cost of ignoring the problem.
You may also use humor to write memorable copy. Ricola, a company that makes cough drops, did this in the example below:
The company ran a series of ads in 2014 about how a misplaced cough can ruin the meaning of a sentence. Emotion-like humor will make your copy relatable and create lasting impressions on viewers.
You can be an email copywriter, too. If you write content for email campaigns, you don’t just need to focus on your writing. Avoid email marketing mistakes, too, to ensure your copy converts.
Long-form content allows you to provide detailed information about specific topics. Like articles, they’re lengthy, usually above 1000 words. Examples include case studies, white papers, definitive guides, ebooks, long-form blogs, etc.
This type of content is usually written in formal and semi-formal languages. Sometimes, businesses use them as lead magnets to email subscribers in exchange for their contact information.
To write long-form content, you want to:
Use an outline. Because of the word count, you could go off-tangent when writing long-form content. Stay on track by writing with a content outline or content skeleton. Each word must add value to your reader and match the article’s theme.
Use visuals to break up texts. Readers could get bored and lose interest easily. Therefore, insert images. For instance, look at the article on law firm marketing on the On The Map Marketing blog below:
The long-form content above contains images and videos that make it easy to read and digest.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when writing long-form content. Project managers can help ensure you’re on track to meet your final draft deadline.
As a newbie content writer, your writing will get you into the door. Besides that, you can learn on the job and pick up other notable skills.
The following will help you become a better writer:
Perform market research to find out the audience you want to target.
Visit industry-specific forums, blogs, and groups to understand problems that keep coming up. This will inform you about what your content’s purpose should be and who your target audience is.
Your content will also be a hit with search engines if relevant to your audience.
You must pay attention to the key components of your content to ensure a high-quality piece. These components include your headline, accurate and logical information, content structure, and SEO keywords.
Another thing to consider is the content, of course. If prospective customers come across your content for the first time and you make it about you, you’ll come off as egocentric. It could put them off, and they will move on, which could quickly hinder your content marketing efforts.
Make the content about your audience. Writing in the second person using the word “You” can make them feel like you’re having a personal conversation. This creates a connection.
With inaccurate information prevalent online, it’s critical to research and publish facts with data-backed content thoroughly.
Use backlinks to support your claims by citing credible sources. Also, link to the original story for reference and quote industry experts.
You must keep your target audience and search engines at the forefront of every content piece you write. To do this, ensure each paragraph flows smoothly into the next. Introductions and conclusions should relate to the article’s objectives.
Then, edit until you’re satisfied.
During editing, insert keywords strategically. If your images have alt texts, ensure they’re accurate so search engines can understand what they are about. Doing this will enhance user experience and image accessibility and improve image SEO.
You can start by learning how to tell a great story. The best content writers know how to keep readers’ attention with storytelling.
Read nonfiction books and the work of professional content writers you want to emulate. It will give you a sense of how other writers use words to illustrate their reality.
Surround yourself with a community of professional writers to help you fuel your passion and creativity. You might lose your fire if you don’t spend time with colleagues who inspire and challenge you.
Finally, don’t forget to write. Writing regularly will help improve your skill.
After reading the above tips, you may still have some questions to help you understand how to get started. Here are the questions most frequently asked in this field:
Content writers need the following skills:
Writing skills: Your work must be clear, concise, and free from grammatical errors.
Research skills: You need topic and keyword research skills to find materials that will be helpful for your writing. You also need awesome research skills to find the information you need for relevant content.
Creativity: Creative thinking will help you develop fresh ideas that will make your content engaging.
Time management: Be consistent when meeting deadlines. Knowing how to manage time will help you complete your project on time.
Attention to detail: It will help you ensure that all required information is in the final draft of your article.
Technical skills: Most forms of content writing require knowledge of SEO and search engine algorithms. You might also get jobs where you’re required to know some content management systems.
Content writing typically involves the following steps:
Planning: Conducting research on the topic, identifying the target audience, and defining goals.
Content outlining: Identifying the main points and structuring the content.
Writing: Drafting the content based on the research and outline.
Editing: Checking for grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes and revising as necessary.
On-page SEO optimization: Incorporating keyword phrases and meta tags to ensure the content is search engine-friendly.
Formatting: Making content readable and visually appealing.
Publishing: Uploading the content on the website or another platform.
Promotion and distribution: Content promotion may involve sharing content on social media, via email marketing, or other means.
According to Payscale, an entry-level content writer in the U.S. gets an average of $39,964 annually. If you have 1-4 years of experience, you may earn an average of $48 204, while people with 20 years or higher make an average of $65,788.
However, in the UK, the average entry-level content writer’s salary is £20,489. But if you have 1-4 years of experience, you may earn an average of £22,885. Content writers with up to 19 years of experience can earn an average of £26,500.
Hopefully, my tips have inspired you to start your content writing career.
Once you start writing, curate a portfolio to showcase your works and land high-paying gigs. You’ll also have the opportunity to work in different industries and gather knowledge that will be useful in future jobs.
Focus on perfecting your content writing skills and racking up experience, as these are necessary to thrive in this field.
Author: Chris Norton is the founder of specialist PR agency Prohibition, former University lecturer, author of “Share This Too,” and his social media training blog, which has been listed in the UK’s top 10 PR and social media marketing blogs for more than seven years.
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