How to be a content writer? A good one

If you’re looking for a post of the likes of 10 tips to be a good content writer, how to be a good content writer in 5 easy steps, 15 ways to become a good content writer – then don’t scroll down. This post isn’t about answers or easy, quick-fix solutions. Instead it’s about questions that’ll lead you to the right answers.

  • Do you love writing?

Without love and passion you can’t succeed in any field, and writing is no exception. Dig deeper into these questions – Do you write a diary? Do you carry a small notebook to record ideas? Did you enjoy writing when you were at school? You feel more comfortable expressing yourself when you’re writing? Your thoughts become clearer when you write? All’s not well with you until those blank pages are filled with words that echo your thoughts – does it happen with you? If you’re nodding yes to each of these questions then let’s talk further about the job description.

      Content Writer Job Description

writing quoteThe first thing you’ve to understand about the job profile is that it’s all about writing. Period. You’ve to write, write & write – THOUGHTFUL copies. Content that strikes a chord with the readers; copies that speak to them and convince them to take an action.

From the love of writing to understanding the science of it

  • Are you willing to learn the science of writing?

      • Does research interest you? You might love writing. A lot of people do. But that doesn’t mean each one of them can be a good content writer. I know many writers who love writing for themselves. But that’s not the kind of writing a web content writer does. You’ve to write copies for your customer’s customer – your end reader. Content that he/she can relate to. It’s more than studying demographics, interests, and behavior + more. You’ve to check what kind of vocabulary they use; what’s their opinion on the product/service, how does the product/service address their pain points – in a nutshell you’ve to put yourself in the reader’s shoes.
      • Do you have the power of analysis?  Research without analysis is nothing. Study the data & leverage it to write copies.
      • Can you turn data into a powerful copy? It involves 3 things-

1) Coupling information with marketing message – Check the copy; you’ll know what I am talking about.

think small  2) Connecting with the reader – An engaging copy connects with the reader and compels him/her to take an action – whether it’s subscription, purchase, downloads, social share, brand awareness or brand recall.

3) Presenting the copy – According to a study by Nielsen Norman Group the web readers don’t read they scan. So, how to write scanable copies?

  • Short paragraphs
  • Relevant subheads with attention grabbing captions
  • Bullets/ numbered list
  • Images.

But the real trick lies in presenting the information the reader is looking for as quickly as possible. The inverted pyramid format works the best. Start from the conclusion – write the most important information that you want the reader to know at the top. The remaining part ( not-so-important information) can come later.

  • Does the word testing interest you? The content you wrote is approved by the client & is published. But your job doesn’t end there. A good content writer is always curious about the performance of the copy. So, how do you go about it? The social numbers (likes, retweets, shares, comments, pins, +1s) can give you an idea about the virality part. BTW more shares don’t mean more readers (data by Tony Haile of Chartbeat). I’ll suggest dig deeper into the Google Analytics data – time spent, bounce rate, conversions – these numbers will tell you how’s your content performing in terms of engagement. Information on unique visits, device readership (desktop or mobile), location+language will help you fine-tune your content & its presentation for future. Another great tool is CrazyEgg which shows heat maps giving deeper insights into what sections of a page are getting the most views. This is just a brief overview. I’ll write a detailed post on the KPIs & the tools to measure the performance of a web copy. To remember: If the copy’s not giving you results as expected, change it and test again.
  • Do you love reading?

A great writer is always a voracious reader. If not always, 9 out of 10 times it is.

Reading—the good and the bad—inspires you. It develops your palate for all the tricks that writers have invented over the years. You can learn from textbooks about the writing craft, but there’s no substitute for discovering for yourself how a writer pulls off a trick. Then that becomes part of your experience. – Roz Morris

Read the work of the very best writers. Pay attention to how they use words, how they construct sentences, what kind of language they prefer, how they create their characters, what’s their style of building up paragraphs. Read each line to understand how different elements of language are used to create unique and memorable stories.  Also, don’t forget the bad literature. Bad books can be as helpful and instructive as good books. They show you the mistakes to avoid while writing.

Don’t limit yourself to novels or books. Check out amazing ad copies, magazines, feature stories- basically any text that’s captured reader’s attention. Here’s one of the recent examples of the kind of text I’m talking about. It’s a self-written obituary by an adman. It’s funny. And it’s become viral.

Obituary: Kevin J. McGroarty
WEST PITTSTON, Pa.—McGroarty Achieves Room Temperature!
Kevin J. McGroarty, 53, of West Pittston, died Tuesday, July 22, 2014, after battling a long fight with mediocracy.
Born 1960 in the Nesbitt Hospital, he was the bouncing baby boy of the late Lt. Col. Edward M. McGroarty and Helen Jane (Hudson) McGroarty, whom the New York Times should have noted as extraordinary parents.
He was baptized at St. Cecilia Church, Exeter, which later burned to the ground, attended Butler Street Elementary, which was later torn down, and middle school at 6th Street in Wyoming, now an apartment building.
He enjoyed elaborate practical jokes, over-tipping in restaurants, sushi and Marx Brother’s movies. He led a crusade to promote area midget wrestling, and in his youth was noted for his many unsanctioned daredevil stunts.
He was preceded in death by brother, Airborne Ranger Lt. Michael F. McGroarty, and many beloved pets, Chainsaw, an English Mastiff in Spring 2009, Baron, an Irish Setter in August 1982, Peter Max, a turtle, Summer 1968; along with numerous house flies and bees, but they were only acquaintances.
McGroarty leaves behind no children (that he knows of), but if he did their names would be son, “Almighty Thor” McGroarty; and daughter, “Butter Cup Patchouli.”
McGroarty was a veteran of the advertising industry since 1983. McGroarty was a pioneer in Apple computing, purchasing one of the first in the Wyoming Valley in 1985. He would like to remind his friends: “Please, don’t email me, I’m dead.”
McGroarty was a founding partner of Pyramid Advertising, and finally principal owner of award-winning Rhino Media until 2006. He was also an adjunct instructor at Luzerne County Community College, from 2005-2009.
He will be laid to rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery, section 7N. He asks to please make note of his new address. McGroarty’s headstone reads: “I’ll Be Right Back,” one of his favorite sayings. He leaves this world with few regrets, one being told in grade school, his adult life would see the Hershey candy bar rise in cost to over a dollar. He maintained given the resources and initiative, he would rally the good citizens of the Commonwealth to a revolution that would force that price to its original 35-cent market value, a dream he was not able to fulfill, by his own admission the reason: “I was distracted by many beautiful women.”
In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to please give generously to the Pennsylvania State Police Troop “P” Camp Cadet Fund.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Cecilia Church of St. Barbara Parish, 1700 Wyoming Ave., Exeter, following a brief rant of how the government screwed up all of the Bugs Bunny cartoons trying to censor violence. This will be presented by his attorney, Bret Zankel, Esq. Friends may call from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday in the church.
McGroarty leaves behind a thought for all to ponder, given years of gathering wisdom from different religions and deep study of the Greek philosophers: “It costs nothing to be nice” and “Never stick a steak knife in an electrical outlet.”
Arrangements by the Metcalfe-Shaver-Kopcza Funeral Home Inc., 504 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming.
Read bad literature as well. It’s going to expose you to different types of mistakes a writer must avoid.

I interact with different content writers – experienced and the aspiring ones. A large crowd of want-to-be content writers love writing but they don’t want to read. And the most common excuse I’ve encountered is that they don’t have time. Well, if don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. No. I didn’t say that. It was Stephen King.

  • Can you speak to the paper Word Doc?

writing

Do you speak to the blank Word Doc as if it’s the reader? Conversational style of writing is engaging, grabs the reader’s attention, makes them want to read on, and last but not the least, is the most popular form of web writing.

writingIt’s a snapshot of the one of the most shared articles on content marketing. It’s titled The Ideal Length for All Online Content. It’s conversational, tight, simple, & grabs your attention immediately. There’s a lot of data that you need to grasp but everything’s presented so well that you feel you’re breezing through all the numbers and charts. You can read the full article here.

The introduction written in first person narrative draws you in. Every writer can relate to the introduction – how much writing is too much.

  • Can you differentiate between a right & wrong word?

At XYZ Broker, we offer brokerage products & services to assist importers

dwelling from all types of industries.

 

Dwelling? Mosquitoes dwell, importers don’t. Simple. Words are the building blocks of your copy. Right words help you express, whatever you want to (ideas, message, information), in a clear & concise manner. They help you strike a chord with your readers.

David-Ogilvy-Dove-Ad

Did you notice the word Darling? David Ogilvy didn’t use it for no reason. He wrote in his book

I used the word darling in the headline for this ad because a psychologist had tested hundreds of words for their emotional impact & darling had come out top.

Wrong words confuse readers. And on web confusion means lethal. It scares away readers. Again quoting Tony Haile of Chartbeat you’ve only 15 seconds to capture your reader’s attention. So, what do you think you should do in those 15 seconds – help or confuse them?

Attention – Be aware of these commonly misused words. They can ruin your copy:

            1. Affect/effect
            2. Complement/compliment
            3. Irregardless
            4. Over/more
            5. Their/there
            6. From/form
            7. Literally
            8. Ultimate
            9. Ironic
            10. Criteria/criterion
            11. Adverse/averse
            12. Insure/ensure
            13. Fewer/lesser
            14. It’s/its
            15. Principal/principle
            16. Insure/ensure
            17. Who’s/whose
            18. You’re/your
            19. Lets/let’s
            20. Farther/further
            21. Me/I
            22. Decimate/devastate
            23. Dwell/belong
            24. Bring/take
            25. Into/ in to
            26. Who/who
            27. Invitation/invite
            28. Cope up with/ cope with
            29. Outside of/ outside
            30. Each other/ one another
            31. Actually
            32. Stationary/stationery

Have something more to add? Post it on the comments sections. I’ll add it to the list.

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