You don’t have to be a professional to know what good content writing looks like. If you’ve ever searched for something on Google and found a page that’s actually been helpful — congratulations, you’ve experienced good content writing Tips!
But here’s the thing: if you’re here, you’re not just looking to write good copy — you want to write great copy
While great content writing certainly gets clicks (and keeps people on your page), it has the power to do so much more. Good copy answers someone’s question. Great copy answers their question — and a few they didn’t even know they had.
Ultimately, the best content doesn’t just get people to click — it gets people to trust you. That trust inevitably leads to more shares, more backlinks, and more sales.
23 Content Writing Tips
1. Good content writing begins with keyword research.
Before you even start to write content, you need to know what you’re writing about — and you can kill two birds with one stone if you combine search engine optimization with your editorial calendar planning.
Keyword research tells you what topics Google (and your target audience) finds relevant.
It illuminates your competitors content strategy, and highlights the strengths and weaknesses in your own. And it allows you to optimize individual articles and your content strategy as a whole to bring in more traffic.
The ROI is unbeatable. TCF’s site generates over $400,000 worth of organic traffic each year (as in, we’d have to spend more than $400,000 dollars in AdWords to get the same number of site visits). And all it takes is a little extra research time, and occasional tweaks to update the content and keyword targeting.
2. Keyword stuffing is never okay
Keywords are a means to make your content valuable, readable and search-friendly. But when you start cramming in keywords, it does the exact opposite.
A web page stuffed with keywords looks dubious and untrustworthy — to both Google and human readers. Your conversion rate and SERPs rankings go down, along with your page views. Readers start to see it as a low quality page and bounce quickly, and over time search engines slap down your domain.
Search engines are smart these days. You don’t have to work in grammatically incorrect keyword phrase just because searchers use it. You don’t need to work in every conceivable variation of a search term for Google to understand what your page is about.
3. Drive toward powerful calls to action (CTAs)
What do you want readers to do with the content you create? If your only answer is, “Well, read it, I guess,” you need to go back to the drawing board. Before you even start writing a blog post, you need to know what your call to action will be, and you need to make it compelling enough that readers can’t help but click. That’s how you connect content writing to marketing goals and prove ROI.
Which calls to action should businesses use in their content?
Here are some examples of calls to action you can incorporate in just about any blog post or landing page:
When writing calls to action, put yourself in the reader’s shoes: what would it take for a company you’ve never heard of to convince you to do something, even something as simple as sharing the article with a friend? Now, connect it to your goals: how can you craft a CTA and content specific to your company’s marketing and sales KPIs that actually persuades readers to take action?
4. Email vs. e-mail, Internet vs. internet and other style debates
Language always changes, and web writers need to be hip to the trends to appeal to modern audiences. For example, many organizations would never use the singular, gender-neutral “they” as recently as the early 2000s. Now, the only language authorities that make you write out “he or she” are middle school English teachers.
Similarly, “e-mail” was considered the correct term for a long time by major authorities like the AP and The New York Times, but one by one they gave in. The same goes with the lowercase “internet.” There are people that still treat it as a proper noun, but none of them work as editors in The Guardian, The Economist or the BBC. There are many more content writing tips.
The bottom line is, whatever your language pet peeves are, your online writing is for your audience, not for you.
Play it safe by following the conventions of the AP or another respected style guide, or creating your own house style guide that adheres to modern usage rules. Be consistent, and be modern.
5. Always hyperlink to your sources
When you reference another website’s content, make sure you hyperlink back to that site. It’s good internet etiquette, and you’d want the same courtesy. Always cite your sources, even if you’re afraid it’ll send your web traffic to another site — and you can always choose the “open link in another window” option if you’re that concerned about keeping your traffic.
6. Make the reader feel something.
There are a lot of factors that go into viral content. Promotion is a huge factor, and brand identity, timing and plain luck all play a role. There are many more content writing tips.
But almost all viral writing shares one thing in common: emotional impact.
In a recent article, Hub spot interviewed three different marketing experts on why content goes viral. Although each emphasized different factors, all three emphasized the importance of creating web content that evokes an emotional response in the reader. Megan Conley, Content Marketing Strategist at HubSpot, put it this way:
So the next time you’re crafting a piece of ad copy or web writing ask yourself, “What’s good about this story? How can I give this more emotional impact?” Find it, and you might just have viral website content on your hands.
7. Keep the action in your content writing
Writing for the web should be powerful, direct and punchy. To do that, your sentence structure, word choice and style need to emphasize action.
For example, let’s take the common writing tip, “don’t use the passive voice.”
The passive voice happens when you switch the subject and object in a sentence. Instead of “the lion attacked the village” you have “the village was attacked by a lion.”
Finally, remember to vary your sentence style.
Try using short simple sentences get attention, then longer more complex ones to flesh out ideas. Use interesting verbs to highlight important actions, then more conventional ones for variety. Even passive voice has a place sometimes — for example, to share background information or highlight whom a particular action affected. There are many more content writing tips.
These small changes won’t add to your word count, but they will make your content writing more exciting and engaging.
8. When writing for the web, chop it up.
If you’re writing the next Great American Novel, it’s okay to end paragraphs when pauses seem natural. Writing for the web, however, is a whole different world. Attention spans online are a LOT shorter than they are in Oprah’s Book Club, and your paragraphs need to reflect that.
9. Update your links
Most website content writers know the importance of internal links. Linking to other pages on your site boosts SEO, gives readers useful info, and increases page views and time on site. However, it’s not enough.
You need to revisit older posts and pages to update them with new links. This boosts your search results, makes your pages more useful and relevant to users and helps your content stays fresh.
It’s just one part of revamping older, evergreen content to improve SEO. (More on that later!)
10. Invest in a good SEO suite
You can do SEO keyword analysis with nothing but a Google spreadsheet and some free tools,but there’s a lot of data to crunch. And digging through all the keywords and traffic data makes it easy to get lost in the analytics.
Not all SEO suites solve the problem. Some bombard you with too much data, without providing the tools you need to sort through it and tweak your content strategy.
All of the important analytics are displayed in front of you: what keywords you’re ranking for, how many backlinks you have, what your competition looks like, and the total ad value of your keywords. Even if you’re new to SEO content writing, it’s quick and easy to learn.
Likewise, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of keyword research, SEMrush makes it easy to parse data: you can sort keywords by common metrics like CPC or search volume, find related keywords, compare competitors or narrow in on a specific subdomain of your site.
Whether you’re trying to build out a new blog for your brand, audit your whole site, or zero in on your competitors strategy, it’s an invaluable tool.
11. Don’t forget SEO best practices
Repeating your targeted keywords a couple times isn’t enough — you need to use your keyword (and related phrases) anywhere it fits: in the url, H2 headers, meta description and even in the alt tags of your images.
If you’re using WordPress, Yoast can help you nail the SEO.
Once you’re finished inputting your content, expand the Yoast box and check out the Content Analysis portion for some helpful hints about what you should improve before you publish.
12. Give your readers a reason to care from the first sentence
Good intros are hard. It can feel unnatural to skip right to the point. You want to provide some background, warm the reader up and then work your way to the main topic when you feel ready. There are many more content writing tips.
But by that point, your reader is long gone.
Your website isn’t literature. Site visitors aren’t there for your nuanced language or slow, measured flow. They’re there to get information or solve a problem (ideally by buying your product or service.)
13. Paint a picture
Give this paragraph a read:
“Is it just us, or do some people talk about gay dating like it’s an elaborate magic trick? Even unexperienced gay or queer persons may approach the idea of dating with the kind of abject fear one feels when opening the instructions for a new piece of IKEA furniture. ‘Am I doing this right?’ they may ask themselves, months, years and even decades into their dating careers.”
14. “Do’s and Don’ts” vs. “Dos and Don’ts” — which is correct?
The latter! Nothing drives us crazier than people putting apostrophes in pluralized words.
When in doubt about spelling, capitalization or grammar, Google it! Which brings us to…
15. If you’re not sure, look it up
There’s never been a better time to learn as you go. Double checking the words/grammar/spelling/etc. you don’t know about can help you catch mistakes and internalize the rules, so you can write correctly without looking it up next time.
If the finer points of grammar elude you, you can always download the Grammarly browser extension to catch issues in real time.
Soon, you’ll be writing your own blog posts about web content writing tips!