Making the Complex Clear: The Heart & Soul of Technical Writing

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_46111306Do you love taking complicated ideas and presenting them in an easy-to-follow manner? Do you know how to explain a complex topic without dumbing it down? These are two of the most important skills you can have when working in the world of technical writing services.

It’s Different, And It Ain’t Easy

Bill Gates once said that “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it.” Explaining difficult concepts isn’t always easy, but it’s essential when offering technical writing services. Technical writers are a special breed in that they love creating great content, but also have the exceptional ability to help people grasp information quickly.

If you want to start working as a technical writer, a love of in-depth research and extensive knowledge in one or more industries is a must. Here are some other ideas for building the skills, knowledge and experience you need to confidently offer technical writing services to clients.

Learn What Technical Writing Services Involve

Many technical writers work in the software, hardware, and cloud computing services, but technical writing is needed in just about any industry. No matter what company you’re writing for, technical content generally falls into two categories:

  1. Support content like online user guides that help customers use a product or service. You help people navigate new software features, put something together, or operate hardware, including everyday appliances.
  2. Corporate guides help employees understand technical concepts and procedures they need to do their jobs.

Build Your Technical Writing Skills

The quickest way to find out what those are? Look at job postings for technical writing services in the industries and topics that interest you most. Pull the required skills and experience each job calls for and then list the top 5 that are common to most of them. If you already have these skills, great! If you’re not up to speed on one or more, make it your goal to learn them. Here’s what your list might include:

  • Strong verbal and writing skills. This is a given for technical writers. While some companies prefer a writer with a communications degree, it isn’t always a requirement. What matters most is your ability to write clear and concise content on often complicated topics.
  • Experience in the industry or topic you’re writing about. Want to write about cloud storage? It helps to have intimate knowledge of coding.
  • Research skills. We live in a constantly changing world and that sometimes means hours of thorough research, particularly in fields that are rapidly evolving, like tech.
  • An understanding of your audience. It takes some sociological skills to be a good technical writer. Before you begin to write, you must understand who you are writing to. Knowing how the reader thinks and figuring out the best way to deliver content to them is one of the most needed skills for a tech writer.
  • Technical writing tools simplify the process of technical writing. Learn which ones other technical writers rely on and work to become proficient in one or more of them.

Resources to Check Out

Before you can educate others, you need to educate yourself. There are plenty of resources available to help you do just that. Many colleges and universities post free technical writing guidelines on their websites. Read up-to-date technical writing guidebooks. Take an online or on-campus course – the certification is a nice addition to your resume! And check out sites like the Society for Technical Communication, which offers online courses and certification programs. Finally, read lots of examples of content that simply explains complex ideas.

Bottom Line

Technical writing services are a highly-prized commodity, and skill in technical writing can give your career a real boost. Use these ideas to start planning and writing top quality tech content. It won’t be an overnight process, but the investment you make now will reward you many times over in the years to come.

Tags: Technical Writing

Everyone Can Be a Web Copywriter! Um, No

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_696222286The classic definition of a professional web copywriter is someone who creates content that has an impact on the reader, inspiring them to take some action. But what does that really mean? Is someone a good copywriter if they can write information-filled paragraphs that are grammatically correct and nicely formatted? Of course not.

A good copywriter is one who does the necessary research to truly understand a client’s intended audience. And then they work with them to develop a client-centric voice that builds brand awareness and provides real value to the target audience.

If you’re serious about being the best copywriter possible, here are the traits and habits you should develop and adopt starting now.

Traits of a Powerhouse Web Copywriter

  • Check your ego. Just as there are people who love to hear themselves talk, there are copywriters who fall in love with the cleverness of their own words. A good copywriter knows the web content she or he is producing is about the target audience. It’s quality over self. It requires a critical eye that is willing to review, revise, and remove wherever it’s necessary, even if it means cutting otherwise excellent verbiage.
  • Grasp human psychology. The best copywriters learn what makes people tick so they can create content that positions the product or service they’re writing about as the reader’s best solution. From simple rhyming to the oft-forgotten P.S. line, educate yourself on a variety of psychology hacks that help you write content that converts.
  • Follow trends. Most web copywriters produce content on a variety of topics, which translates into a lot of research. Even if you specialize in one or two niches, it’s important to stay on top of what’s trending in the industry you’re covering. Ask a client who their top 3 competitors are and check out what they’re talking about. Sign up for updates from industry thought-leaders so you’re always on top of the latest innovations. While you’re at it, also subscribe to several blogs that feature current trends in content creation, marketing, and web design.
  • Be curious. Look for inspiration everywhere. Strive to make your work stand out. Look for ways to put a fresh spin on much-covered topics. Keep good notes and look for associations between diverse thoughts and subjects. Learn what a unique selling proposition is.
  • Solve problems. And learn to express complicated solutions clearly and concisely. People love entertaining, original content, but if you want them to choose the product or service you’re offering, what you write must also touch them on an emotional level. This is why putting yourself in the reader’s shoes is so valuable. To come full circle, empathy is a powerful trait that helps you check your ego.

Practice Makes Perfect

There’s always something new to learn and more to discover when mastering the art of copywriting. Need some ideas on how to become a master copywriter? Try integrating these 3 easy steps and exercises into your daily writing routine.

  1. Skip your opening. Don’t get hung up on how to start a post; just start writing. When you reach the end, reread your content and then write your first sentences or opening paragraph. This is a great exercise for keeping your mind open to wherever your writing takes you. If you feel compelled to stick to a point you make in your first sentence, you can end up with writing that reads forced.
  2. Copy the masters. Painters do it and great writers do it, too. Head to some pro copywriting sites and use their posts for inspiration. Many prose writers learn their craft by typing verbatim books, short stories, or scripts by writers they love. Do it often enough and you’ll start to absorb the flow and style of the writing. Then move on to rewriting the original. Take a cue from advertising copywriters and start a swipe file so you always have a go-to source for new ideas.
  3. Exercise regularly. Use 5 to 10 minutes a day on a writing workout that improves your creativity, clarity, and storytelling skills. Free write, edit someone else’s work, rewrite an earlier piece of your own, write as many headlines as you can in 3 minutes or less.

Writing is a skill that can be learned by just about anyone. But not everyone is willing to do what it takes to stand out. Make time for perfecting your craft. Be disciplined about learning and practicing. Become a copywriting force to be reckoned with!

Tags: Web copywriter

6 Easy Tips for Great Website Copy

Posted by Alyssa Wolfe

shutterstock_1017576184Website copy plays a central role in a business’s online presence, and unlike other marketing content, it needs to be more evergreen. Think of website copy as the heart of your content; it should set the stage for who you are, what you do, and convey your style, brand, and voice. If you’re in the process of developing website copy, here are some essential yet easy tips to keep in mind to make it readable, engaging, and persuasive.

Tips for Creating Readable, Engaging, and Persuasive Website Copy

Website copy is crucial. On average, a consumer makes a decision about your website within a few seconds of landing on a website page. This means you have very little time to convince visitors to stay a little longer. Here are six easy tips to help you do just that:

  • Realize that your copy is scanned – Most people aren’t going to actually read your website copy, at least not right away, so important tidbits and optimized presentation is highly beneficial. A subtitle will draw the eye, and it needs to be clear and concise as to what it’s about. Quotes and other highlighted sentences can also be helpful. Make sure that the most important information “pops.” It should be easily scannable, and then website visitors can decide if they want to know (and read) more, or take action. Some ways to make copy easy to read and digest is by communicating information with headlines, using subtitles to add more information, using bullet points, and clearly communicating sales messages in these more noticeable areas.
  • Keep all copy in short, readable increments – You love your business—you know your business. You want to go on and on about how amazing your business is. Most people don’t care about the excess; they want the bare bones laid out clearly and concisely. Editing is your best friend when you write website copy. Your mantra should be short and simple. For example, short paragraphs, short sentences, short words.
  • Important information should always come first – If you know readers are going to drop off by the second or third paragraph, it makes sense to offer the goods up front. Your most important information should come first. You can achieve this by utilizing a more journalistic style. Answer the who, what, where, when, how quickly and efficiently; then expand.
  • Avoid passive tense, repetition, and over-complicated jargon, and speak directly to the visitor – When writing website copy, stay out of passive tense. You’ll want to keep it active, which is more action-inspiring. Also, repetition gets old quickly. Try not to use the same words over and over, or sell the same things multiple times on one page. Lastly, talk directly to your visitor using words like “you” and “your,” and talk to them in plain, simple language. Unless you are a highly-technical business with an extremely technical audience, there is no need to get ove-rcomplicated or overuse industry jargon. Think about what the customer wants to know and answer it as concisely as possible. Don’t make the audience guess by trying to be clever or witty or overly-academic.
  • Realize that visitors may land anywhere – There is no guarantee that visitors will land on your home page, so each page should let people know where they are and who you are, have a call to action, and be easy to scan.
  • Create an inviting visual balance with copy, font, white space, colors, and graphics – Nothing puts visitors off faster than a cluttered website. If there are lengthy blocks of words, jumbled images, loud fonts, or too much of anything, chances are your visitors will jump ship. While copy is an important part of the overall scheme, how it’s laid out is just as important as what it says. Make sure your fonts are stylish and readable, and that your website copy is placed thoughtfully in an inviting visual layout that encourages people to peruse and learn more about your business, or allows them to absorb the information swiftly.

Website copy will remain the same most of the time. Although it’s important to update or refresh it every so often, realizing that it is the core of what a business is. Today’s audience wants a website to answer their questions about a business. Think of your website copy as a way to do that clearly, concisely, and in a way that lets them know exactly who you are.

Tags: Website Copy

That Sucks! How to Spot Your Own Bad Writing

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_229859209Even the greatest writers write badly. Not just bad first drafts, but poorly constructed sentences, verb-tense errors, and run-on sentences, too. It’s easier to see mistakes in someone else’s writing than it is your own. Learning to catching your own mistakes and weaknesses, though, will help you improve your writing. That naturally leads to more work and greater success.

Tell-Tale Signs of Bad Writing

Just about everyone can write, but not everyone writes well. The irony, of course, is that while those whose writing is adequate are pretty happy people, those who write well are always looking to do better.

If you do a lot of content writing, it’s easy to fall into some bad habits. In the race to meet deadlines, there can be a tendency to fall back on what always works and be done with it. Up comes the next title, and the same missteps are repeated. If you have a nagging feeling your writing isn’t its best, check it to see if you might be making one or more of these common mistakes.

  • Vague, unclear writing that has no direction or, worse, too many of them. Good writing has a strong purpose. That’s why it’s so important to have a deep knowledge of your topic. If you don’t, you’ll be tempted to fill your piece with clichés and generalizations. Readers looking for relevant content will be left dissatisfied, never to return. If you simply don’t have the time to research an unfamiliar topic, find another writer who can do the piece justice or pass on the assignment.
  • Ignores the reader. The style may be stellar, but if your content doesn’t address what the reader needs to hear, it’s of no value. Make sure the reader’s problem, or pain point, is clearly stated.
  • Failure to edit. Truman Capote once said “I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” The same applies to keyboards. Most writing can be improved by multiple rewrites that trim away the excess.
  • Awkward transitions. Or worse, non-existent ones. From emails to white papers, it doesn’t matter what you’re writing. You must connect your sentences and paragraphs. Nothing’s more confusing for a reader than ideas that aren’t clearly explained or are left hanging. Don’t force your readers to make leaps of logic or assume they understand what you meant to say. As the writer, it is your responsibility to get the point across.
  • Filler words. Learn how to cut the padding out of your writing. This is different from editing. Don’t use words like “um” and “ah.” Eliminate superfluous words and use readability metrics to ensure you’re writing in way most people will understand. There are plenty of free readability tools available online and if you work in Word, it’s included as part of the spellcheck function.
  • Clichés. This is an easy writing trap to fall into. Clichés are clichés because they’re true, but that doesn’t mean you should overpopulate your writing with them. Overusing clichés can irritate the reader and distract her or him from the important point you’re trying to make. Use metaphors or real-life anecdotes instead.

Don’t Bore Your Readers

Just about all bad writing is boring writing. Whether it’s too confusing, too disengaged, over-the-top, or goes nowhere and offers nothing, if people don’t want to read it, it’s sucky writing.

The good news is that bad writing is not the same as being a bad writer. Bad habits can be broken. All it takes is a willingness to listen to criticism and recognize good feedback when you get it. Resign yourself to the fact that first drafts tend to suck and do what you must to improve it.

Even the best writers find the work difficult. No writer is perfect, and every writer can improve. Recognizing your own bad writing and finding ways to better it is an ongoing process. Fortunately, like most things, the more you do it, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going!

Tags: Advice for Writers, Bad Writing

10 Great Tools for Business Blog Writing Services

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_608208689By now, most businesses know that adding a blog to their website is a brilliant way to connect with new and potential customers. They understand it’s one of the best ways to strengthen their brand and a cost-effective solution to broadening their reach and becoming known as the go-to provider for what their readers are looking for.

What they’re not so sure about is writing it. That’s when business blog writing services can be just what the search engines ordered. If you’re writing business blog posts for SMBs, you also know how challenging it can be to consistently come up with good ideas, catchy titles, and consistently engaging content.

To help you out, here are 10 great tools to help make the process easier.

Top Tools for Business Blog Writing

Two well-known and two lesser known tools for writing are a good place to start.

  1. The Hemingway App promises to make your writing bold and clear. Since the goal of content writing is to be clear and concise, use this app to identify redundancy and run-on sentences. The different color highlights make it easy to figure out your “weak points” as a business blog writer.
  2. For checking contextual spelling and grammar rules, nothing beats Grammarly. The popular app scans content for common and complex mistakes including modifier placement, article use, and subject-verb agreement. One nice feature: there are detailed explanations for suggested changes which over time can improve your writing skills.
  3. The Writer’s Diet takes the objectivity out of reading your own writing and shows you whether your content is “flabby or fit.” The free online tool evaluates your use of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions and points out how any or all of them may be making sentences too complex and difficult for readers to understand.
  4. Copy and paste content into Tone Analyzer to learn if your writing is engaging. Developed by IBM, the service relies on linguistic analysis to detect different emotions like joy, anger, confidence, and fear in written documents. Based on feedback, you can then edit your content to improve readability.

Top Tools for Business Blog Editing

Most writers are familiar with Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and Thesaurus, but there are three others worth using.

  1. AP Stylebook is often called the journalist’s bible but is a must-have reference for all types of writers. It provides invaluable guidance on language, usage, spelling, punctuation, and style. The app is not free ($26), but can be well worth it, especially when the writing instructions include “AP style, please.”
  2. If you typically come up with headlines, CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer helps you create ones that drive traffic, shares, and search results. It’s also great for composing email subject lines, press release headlines, and white paper titles. Particularly helpful is the tool’s ability to give tips on individual components of the title – it even shows you how the headline will appear in search results.
  3. Many content writers find themselves falling back on familiar ways to say things. The problem is, hundreds of other writers are using the same phrases. One of the most non-fussy tools available, Cliché Finder is just that – a way to rid your writing of overused sayings.

Top Tools for Business Blog SEO

The best way to optimize blog posts for better search engine optimization is by doing your research before you start writing. To ensure more natural prose, vary the way you use results throughout your post, including them in the title, headlines, sub-headlines, content body, and hyperlinks. In addition to the well-known (#8) Google Keyword Planner, try:

  1. The free version of Keyword Tool gives you over 700 long-tail keyword suggestions for every search term you enter. The results are based on Google’s autocomplete search suggestions, so it’s a good idea to use this tool in conjunction with one of the others listed here.
  2. Not as familiar a term as most others, latent semantic indexing, or LSI, is used by search engines like Google to identify context and synonyms. LSIGraph generates LSI keywords that help search engines better understand your content. For example, if you’re writing about the new Microsoft Surface, you want to include enough words and phrases that let Google know you’re talking about a computer, not another type of surface, like flooring or countertops.

The Bottom Line

All tools, whether they’re for business blog writing services or another content-related purpose, have their pros and cons. Choose the ones that work best for the way you work!

Tags: Business Blog Writing Services

Get More out of Your Web Copy Now

Posted by Ryan Lym

shutterstock_315382934Writing copy for web use can be a tricky thing. When we were taught how to write in school, we were writing for a very different audience than most web visitors. It's one thing to read a white paper or a book, but if someone is visiting a website, they're looking for specific things and want easily accessible information they can digest quickly. Here are some top tips to make your web copy shine.

Keep it Short

Longer isn't necessarily better, especially as our attention spans are waning. If you want to write compelling copy for the web, you should keep paragraphs to about four sentences long (if that) and use five and ten-dollar words sparingly. Most people who come to your website are looking for something in particular, and aren't reading for completion. Therefore, make it easy for them to skim and find what they want, or they'll leave for someone who does it better.

Simple Beats Complex

Don't try to be too impressive or creative. While there is a time and place to make your writing shine, copy for web needs to be easily accessed. You want to put the most important information first, so people can grab that easily, and then add supplementary information as needed. You don't want to go all out with fluff and frills -- this tends to drive readers away, rather than impress them.

Break it Up

Because you're mostly writing for scanners, you'll usually want to split your content into different sections with subheadings. This not only makes it easier for readers to grab information; it also makes it simpler for search engines to figure out what you're talking about. So using sections is a win-win in that aspect. Bulleted lists are also a great thing to try if you can. They jump off the page and give simple and short information to your reader.

Choose Familiar Keywords

It might be tempting to use keywords that are more obscure when writing copy for web, considering that you can achieve better search engine results this way. However, you want to use familiar words for the most part when you're writing. The reason is pretty simple: even if you end up further down the page, vastly more people search with simple words that are familiar to them, rather than more complex ones. For example, people don't really search for "cost effective plumber," but they are likely to search for "cheap plumber."

Use Active Voice

You're probably familiar with Calls-to-Action at this point, but you might not be aware that you should use active voice throughout all your web copy. When you use passive voice, it takes away some of your authority. By choosing active verbs instead, you're subconsciously signaling your readers that you know what you're talking about. That's not to say there isn't a time and a place for passive voice. But usually, if you're doing copy for web, that's not the time.

Write Killer Headlines

While this may seem more important for your content pages, using headlines that grab attention is important for all of your pages. Your headline is what shows up on your search engine results, and if it's lack-luster, readers are less likely to click through. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you create engaging titles, but one of my favorite methods is to go through and see what your competitors are doing. Then, see how you can improve.

Go Positive

It might be tempting sometimes to use negative language to describe something, but by using positive language instead, you can foster a better feeling between you and the reader. When people read things that are positive, they are more likely to feel active, something you definitely want to encourage. For instance, you wouldn't want to say "Don't Delay," and instead try something like, "Act Now!" It's a small tweak that can make a big difference.

There's a lot you need to keep in mind when you're writing copy for web, but once you've spent some time reading over how to do it, go ahead and write your first draft. Then, set it aside and look at it a bit later. You might be amazed to see how much you can improve. By incorporating these tips into your web copy, you'll find that you get better engagement rates and that your customers will get more out of your website.

Tags: copy for web

You've Been Hired! Here's What to do Next

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_462347941You take an audition, spend hours researching it, and write a great piece of content. You hit “submit to client” with fingers crossed and hope your hard work will be rewarded. And then you get the inbox message you’ve been waiting for:

“Congratulations! After reviewing the custom piece you wrote below,one of our potential White Glove clients has decided to add you to their writing team!”

Happy days! But a few weeks later you still haven’t received any jobs and you’re left wondering, what was that all about?

It’s Not About Your Writing … Really

Here’s the good news: a new client takes you onboard because they like your style of writing. What sometimes happen, though, is that a client adds you to their writing team but may already have a different writer they use and are comfortable with. And as long as that writer is working out, the client may not feel a need to spread the writing wealth around.

It’s up to you, then, to make sure the client has you on their radar. In other words, if you want the assignments, you must do the work to set yourself up for success.

How to Engage New Clients

Marketing oneself isn’t always easy, but for writers, the stiff competition makes it a priority. So, what’s the number one thing to do after you’ve been added to the team? Contact the new client and sell yourself to them. Let them know you’re ready to get started and look forward to working on their assignments.

Use the client’s Private Message Board to send a brief note explaining what you bring to the table. Emphasize the value you offer and avoid using ambiguous words and phrases like “if” and “maybe” or “just wanted to follow-up.” The point is to remind the client why they chose you.

Begin with a simple “thank you” and let the client know you’re excited to begin working with them. Then illustrate your best traits to convince them to start assigning you work. Here are some points you may want to include:

  • Timeliness: Good writers don’t procrastinate but do work hard to meet deadlines.
  • Responsiveness: The core feature of successful relationships, responsiveness lets the client know you are open to feedback and that you understand their needs and will do your best to meet them.
  • Experience: Refer to previous work you’ve done in the client’s industry. Be sure to personalize your note by specifically referring to the client’s area of expertise.
  • Ability to adapt voice: Let the client know you excel in a wide variety of tones and approaches.

Keep your note friendly and conversational and avoid being pushy. If it helps, think of it like an in-person meeting over coffee.

What to Write

Here’s a great example of a short and sweet message that hits all the right notes. It was written by a real Zerys writer who recently landed a new client. And don’t forget, these notes work equally well with clients who chose you as their lead writer or who add you to their favorite writers list. Happy writing!


ACCOUNT ID: AG-5321
COMPANY NAME: [companyname]
CONTACT NAME: Philip
ACCOUNT USER ID: Robert-15962
WRITER: Jessica - 79818

MESSAGE TYPE: Private Message Board


MESSAGE SENT:

Hello, my name is Jessica and I am so grateful to get the opportunity to work with you.

I feel writing for you will be a good fit as I have a passion for creating quality-rich and engaging articles on a wide array of topics. I also have my own blog that I use to develop my blogging skills. I'm adept at researching and writing on almost any topic.

I’m a stay-at home mom, which means I’ll submit articles within 24 hours. When you hire me, you can rest assured that each article I produce will include, when applicable: an eye-catching headline, a compelling introduction, examples, stats and resources, and an engaging and entertaining voice.

Looking forward to working with you.

Regards, Jessica

Tags: Advice for Writers

Out of Ideas? 7 Tips for Creating New and Highly-Readable Content Blog Topics

Posted by Alyssa Wolfe

 shutterstock_123788683Sometimes you just lose that fire. You’ve squeezed every bit of juice out of your creative brain. What was once exciting seems mundane. That can easily happen in the world of content, and in particular, with your blog. If your blog is a primary source for drawing traffic, then you know the importance of having good topics, keywords, and organic SEO. But what if your team has drawn a blank? Here are some tips to get re-inspired and create new and engaging content blog topics.

7 Excellent Tips for Finding New Ideas for Your Content Blog

Tip #1: Use your most-read posts

Often, content blogs have a limited word count. That means you aren’t using them to go in-depth about a topic. Look over your analytics and find your most-read posts. From there, look at subtitles and sub-topics, and go deeper into each of those subjects. For example, maybe you did a content blog post about “6 Ways to Minimize Your Impact on the Environment.” Within that post, you touched on alternative energy for your home. Now you can take each of those subtopics—like solar energy or geothermal energy—and make them each its own topic. A new title could be, “4 Benefits of Solar Energy,” or “How Much Will Solar Panels Cost You?” Of course, your new topics and subtopics will depend on your industry, but popular posts are a great place to start—especially since readers seem to like them.

Tip #2: Ask your readers

Your readers can be an excellent source of ideas. Conduct a survey, gather comments on social media, or ask your customer service team the top questions or concerns your customers ask. Each of these questions, issues, problems, or feedback tidbits are great for creating blog topics. You can give your readers the solutions and information they are looking for.

Tip #3: Check trends in your industry and write about them

Let’s say you work in the landscaping industry. A great way to come up with new topics is to look at what’s trending. Pull up Google and ask a question like, top gardening trends of 2018. All of a sudden—Voila!—you have several things to write about. Now you have new topics like "creating an outdoor eating space in your garden," or "how to explore growing new foods." Again, tailor your search to your industry.

Tip #4: Add some guest posts

Maybe your voice has gotten boring, or you still can’t think of an idea. Luckily, there are lots of guest bloggers and industry supporters that would love to write for your blog. Put a call out there, or start emailing companies and blogs you like. If you need more information, there’s plenty of guidance on how to find guest bloggers and learn more about guest posts.

Tip #5: Interview someone related to your industry

Human interest stories can be popular if done well. Find someone related to your industry who will interest your readers or offer new and exciting information. Then, use some guidelines to conduct an interview before putting it into article form. Your content blog may benefit from having something a little different yet engaging.

Tip #6: Compile a list of favorites

What are 10 different ways to use your product, or 5 services your company offers? People love lists, and they can be great topics for your content blog. Think of unique ways you can use lists in your blog. If you’re a real estate company, maybe list the “top 6 coffee shops for families” in a specific neighborhood, or if you’re a wedding photographer, the “5 most unique local spots for engagement shots.”

Tip #7: Write for a secondary audience

It’s rare that a product or service only appeals to one demographic. You may be writing for IT workers for a software company, but maybe there’s a small audience of small business owners looking for help with using your software. Create some topics and present them in a way that your secondary audience will understand. Primarily, you’ll write for the main audience, but it doesn’t hurt to have some pieces mixed in for your secondary audience as well.

When you feel your well of ideas drying up, find new ways to get inspired. That way you’ll have a content blog that consistently produces fresh topics and highly-readable content.

Tags: Blog Topics

Content Development Tools and Apps Guaranteed to Make Your Life Easier

Posted by Nancy M Ruff

shutterstock_634286348-1Kudos! You’ve created a content development plan that is sure to attract, engage, and convert readers. Every great content development strategy starts with a well-thought-out plan. It’s the tools you use, though, that make it easier to execute that plan.

Helping you work faster without compromising your content’s quality should be the reason behind every tool you choose. Not every content development tool will complement the way you work, so give them a test drive and don’t be afraid to move on to the next if one falls short of expectations or needs.

Content Development Tools for Every Occasion …

No one said content development would be easy, but here are some of the top creative tools that will take your content from good to great in no time flat.

  • You’re probably familiar with Hubspot’s blog topic generator, but have you tried Portent’s Content Idea Generator? It’s a great resource for coming up with catchy headlines that are just the right blend of funky and clever. Headline generators are also good for sparking entire blog posts. Just type in the word you want to write about and see where the generated headline takes your imagination.
  • Have you noticed a lot of GIFs popping up on Twitter that have been made with GIPHY? GIFs are proving to be very effective for brands looking to be more relatable to their audience. GIPHY offers thousands of ready-made GIFs that you can repurpose, or you can make your own. Use them for tutorials, commentary, or to showcase products and services.
  • Google Trends is a free tool that gives you insight into how a keyword or topic has trended over time. You can also filter searches to a particular industry or geographic region.
  • Infographics display a ton of information in a visually appealing and easy-to-digest way. Piktochart is a user-friendly infographic maker with predesigned templates and layouts, design elements, shapes, fonts, and images meant to engage audiences and encourage shares.
  • Don’t forget about tools that focus on human interaction. Reedsy is geared towards book writing and publishing, but it also has a great writers’ community and a “live” segment that features top professionals who share their knowledge and experience. If you want to develop and produce better content, it pays to explore unconventional paths.
  • If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: great content is meant to convert. Sniply lets you add a call to action to every article or social media post you share. There are button snips that use backlinks, form snips that let you capture email addresses, image snips that attach custom banner images, and more.

… and a Few Apps for Good Measure

The Bottom Line

These tools and apps are just the tip of the iceberg, but they can open your mind to new and exciting ways to create content that is relevant, useful, and entertaining. If you write for multiple clients, they are a great way to quickly tailor content to various market and audience needs.

As trends or needs change, stay on the lookout for emerging tools that might improve your productivity. These always reliable “assistants” can bring much relief when you’re faced with developing new topics and creating new content. Yes, keeping the good ideas flowing can be a challenge, but the right tools and apps will help you meet those challenges head-on!

Tags: content development tools

3 Strategies for Creating Your Branded Content

Posted by Alyssa Wolfe

shutterstock_508336999There are still a lot of questions people have about branded content. It’s easy to confuse it with advertising, voice, and content marketing. However, when you can get a good grasp on what branded content is and utilize it to your advantage, it can be a very effective tool.

What is Branded Content?

Branded content is articles, videos, infographics, and other types of content designed to support or promote a product or service. Unlike advertising, it should serve as a tool to provide information or entertainment while also representing the overall brand.

To explain more in-depth, look at advertising as something that delivers the features and benefits of a product with story, while branded content starts with people first—in essence, focusing on the things that can help brands connect with their audience.

The good news is if you still don’t fully get it, that’s okay. Industry experts don’t always feel like they do either. Instead, they believe that branded content will never have a full consensus as to what it is. But the bottom line is, it’s more about the people (audience) than the product or service (features and benefits of). In your marketing plan, there is more than enough room for both advertising and branded content, and you can even weave the two together.

4 Strategies to Help You Create Branded Content

There are a few essential things to do to help you create branded content. Each is a step in designing your overall plan.

1. Get to know yourself (or your client) better – One of the places companies fail is not having a clear mission, voice, and vision. With branding, this is crucial. There are several aspects you’ll want to look at so you can define what the brand will look like. This will help you create effective brand content. Start by asking yourself (or your client) some questions:

  • Why do you have a business? What is its purpose?
  • Who is your business? Who are the primary players and their roles?
  • How did you form your business? How did you shape what you became?

From there, you can determine your voice. What is the company like? Is its voice funny, passionate, authentic, or intelligent? How can you get that characteristic across? For example, if you’re passionate, what are you passionate about: changing the world, improving people’s lives, protecting the environment? Create some statements about your characteristics and why you chose them. Then list some do’s and don’ts on how to get them across to your audience. A statement may say something like, be a cheerleader, or don’t be flexible in your stance—instead, take a firm position and hold it. Do everything you can to find out who you are.

2. Get to know your audience – Since your audience is who you are creating a brand and brand content for, you need to know who they are. You are trying to connect with them. Connecting with people is simple once you understand them, so ask some questions:

  • What are the buyer’s issues or pain points?
  • What do they want? What are their goals?
  • Where do the buyers hang out (online)?
  • What types of content do the buyers like?
  • How do they connect with you (or your client) or give feedback?

All of these answers can provide you more insight to creating branded content.

3. Explore your branded content options – Hopefully your audience has pointed you in the right direction of what types of content to explore. Maybe blogs are their preferred content, or social media posts. Whatever you discover, use it to research how others in the industry are doing it successfully. If you’re going with a blog or posts, what topics interest your audience? What are the customer’s experience with the product and services and how can you use those to create branded content?

Most importantly, you’ll want to understand how other companies in general use branded content. This is pretty easy with the extensive articles written about it. Use sources like Adweek to discover who they thought did branded content well and how they did it. Or you can simply Google “best branded content” to get inspired.

Branded content has a lot of potential. The more you adapt to today’s world of marketing, the better your chance of being successful. The key to doing anything well is to learn as much as you can about it and adapt it to create your own unique strategies.

Tags: branded content