The Writer's Resource: Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Becoming a Better Writer

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5 Back-To-Basics Tips For Better Web Content Writing

 

Your website is your storefront, the repository of your company info, the hub around which your web contentsocial media revolves and—most importantly—a vital lead generation tool. And your web content is the axis on which it all turns. As a writer, you simply can’t afford to get it wrong, especially on your own site. By paying attention to just a few basics, you can get your website copy to the point where it’s not only pretty good, but achieves the goals you want it to.

Here are my top 5 back-to-basics tips for writing better web content:

Tip 1: Stay Out of the Spotlight

The number one mistake inexperienced writers tend to make is to focus on what they can offer, rather than the benefit of the offering to the client. Instead of writing web content that speaks all about you, focus on your reader and what they will get from using your services. Replace most instances of “we” or “I” with “you.” If it doesn’t make sense, you need to rewrite it so it does.

Example:

Replace “our writers are qualified, professional native English speakers who craft perfect copy” with “use qualified, professional native English speakers to provide you with perfectly-crafted copy.”

Tip 2: Use “Doing” Words

The old way of writing business copy that’s impersonal is done. Over. Kaput. Passive voice, indirect speech are big no-nos. Speak directly to your reader through your web content using active, direct voice and “doing” words. This makes your copy actionable and motivates your client to get moving.

Example:

Instead of “We provide simple, affordable solutions that scale to your needs” use “Get simple, affordable solutions that scale to your needs.”

Here’s another, very easy change: Replace “Generates copy that sells your products and services effectively” to “Generate copy that sells your products and services effectively.”

See the difference? In the first, you’re saying what YOU do for THEM. In the second, you’re encouraging them to do it. With your help, of course. The difference is one letter!

Tip 3: Keep the Format User-Friendly

People don’t read on the web, they scan, according to long-established research from the Nielsen Norman Group. So those big blocks of long-winded text you’re so proud of just ain’t gonna cut it! 

Make it scannable with easy-on-the eye formatting, such as:

  • bulleted and numbered lists
  • use of meaningful, captivating subheads,
  • LOTS of line breaks.

Example:

See above! Use short chunks of content, broken up every couple of lines and interspersed with images, headings, paragraphs and lists.

Tip 4: Speak Human

Your readers aren’t all going to have college degrees. No sir! So writing web content that sounds like academic textbook copy is a sure-fire way to lose their attention. Keep it simple, use layman’s language and write as if you’re speaking directly to a real person.

Example:

“Research indicates that the informative material produced for the masses delivers excellent ROI. “ Seriously? Couldn’t you just say “Research shows that the useful info you write for users gives you great results.”

Tip 5: Mince Your Words

We’ve all fallen victim to the foibles of search engine optimization over the years. Yesterday, it was keyword stuffing; today, it’s web content that needs to be between 600 and 800 words for Google to “find” it. Sure, you need a fair amount of content on your website if you’re going to be able to thoroughly describe your service offering, but “rattling on” aimlessly is a cardinal sin in the Internet world.

Keep your copy brief, get to the point and state what each page hopes to achieve right upfront in the intro paragraph.

Example:

We aren’t all Ernest Hemingway, unfortunately, but in my opinion his “Story in Six Words” is still the best example of concise copy the world has ever seen:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Imagine the story that these six words tell, and how long it could have been. And yet, it isn’t.

Take-Aways

None of these tips are rocket science. They’re all fundamental principles of good copywriting, adapted for and applied to web content. Write your copy, then go through it applying each of these ideas, one at a time. You’ll be surprised at how different—and better—your finished piece turns out to be.

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5 Tricks for Writing Captivating Email Newsletter Content

 

With all the attention given to the advent of social media and new forms of social media, it is easy toemail newsletter writing view email as somewhat dated and passé. However, the facts tell a different story.

According to the Radicati Group, email is now the dominant form of digital communications:

  • Total of global email accounts is expected to be 4.9 billion by 2017, up from the current 3.9 billion
  • More than 100 billion business emails were sent daily in 2013
  • Business emails are projected to reach 132 billion daily by 2017
  • Workers spend as much as 28 percent of their time on emails

Standing Above the Clutter

In other words, email is here to stay for the foreseeable future. However, you have to make a real effort with your email newsletter writing to stand out from the massive number of such emails.

The challenge you face in this objective has several elements. Those include:

  • Getting into the inbox
  • Having the email opened
  • Generating ongoing interest

Overcoming these hurdles requires you to develop an effective email strategy. Long gone are the days of simply jotting down a few ideas and blasting off an email to your contact list. Each email should be part of a consciously and carefully developed plan to achieve specific objectives over an extended period of time. That means producing email newsletter writing and content your contacts are pleased to see and that brings some form of real value.

Your type of business and objectives, along with your customer expectations, will define that value proposition, from a discount to market space news to valued data or information. Whatever it is, it must be delivered in a creative and captivating manner.

Below you will find 5 tips and tricks to make your email more appealing and appreciated. However, the first thing you should do for the success of your own efforts is to carefully scrutinize your own inbox.

You probably receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails daily. Ask yourself why you open any email that is not specifically from a business associate. Think about why you sign up for different newsletters and which ones you regularly read. Try to capture the essence of that successful newsletter in your own creations, and judge your own communications by a very demanding standard of valuable and interesting content.

A newsletter is, by definition, intended to be a source of relevant and timely information. Creating newsletters that captivate start with content that meets those criteria. Beyond that fundamental requirement, you should focus on:

5. Get the Frequency Right.

While the right frequency for your newsletter will depend on the nature of your business, there is a sweet spot where, like Goldilocks, your customer will find your communications just right, not too much or too little. Test your customer base and ask for feedback for the right timing for sending out your new emails.

4. Make Your Emails Distinctive, Appealing and Readable

While you don’t have to overdo it with fancy graphics, you want to focus on developing a recognized style and brand in your email newsletter writing. Your subject line should be recognizable and always catchy. Also, pay attention to the email newsletter writing process. Make it professional with good grammar and spelling. Many find it advisable to get several key headlines bulleted at the very beginning of the newsletter.

3. Focus on Uniqueness

Even if you’re providing information available elsewhere, add a special twist or additional insight. For example, you might include your own survey results on a hot or trending topic.

2. Be an Authority

Work hard to be an authority in your market space. Include your interviews with industry leaders, conduct some proprietary research, include news of your speaking at industry events, etc. Brand yourself as a source, not just a reporter

1. Have a Personality

Develop your own point of view and personality in your email newsletter writing. You can be cute, thoughtful, funny, or analytical depending on your goals and branding. Whatever your choice, ensure you create a persona that, again, helps your newsletter stand out from the clutter. You don’t want to be just another marketer or dry source of information.

Emails continue to be one of the most effective and efficient marketing tools every created. Use these tips as part of your ongoing efforts to make your email newsletter writing as engaging as possible.

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Sincere Selling: 5 Secrets To Crafting Honest Marketing Copy

 

One obstacle that marketers will always have to overcome is the fact that people do not generally marketing copyenjoy being pitched to. This is even more true in the realm of content marketing as people on the web have very little patience in general, let alone patience for advertising.

What people do want is to become informed and educated before they make decisions about what to buy. It helps if they can be entertained while they're learning, too. How, then, does one eliminate all the marketing prattle and sleazy sales-speak and deliver content that is educational, entertaining and persuasive? 

1. Increase Your Credibility

If you want to be persuasive, you have to be credible. Showing your readers that you've done your homework and that you're presenting problems and solutions based on facts rather than your opinions will make your pitch more compelling. Otherwise you'll sound like a used-car salesman talking about all your reliable cars. 

Use statistics that back up your claims and make sure they are from a credible source. Trying to sound like you did your homework by reading a Wikipedia or Yahoo! Answers page will probably have the opposite effect. Citing sources like reputable publications, research institutions, and industry leaders will boost the reader's confidence in your numbers. 

In other words, instead of saying “this car is very reliable,” say “the Toyota RAV4 made Forbes' list of 10 Vehicles That Can Run For 250,000 Miles.” Not only is that an impressive statistic, it's backed up by a respected publication.

2. Skip the Sizzle

While you want your content to be interesting, stuffing it full of unnecessary adjectives and fancy wording isn't the way to get there. For one thing, adjectives can slow the reader down and distract from the point you're trying to make. They can also make you seem less credible, especially if you're using buzz words or tired phrases like “state-of-the-art” or “world-class." Trying to get through a few paragraphs stuffed with these words is too exhausting and possibly even confusing for the reader.

If you can get to the point without using adjectives at all, do it. Save your sizzle for when you truly need to add to the object you're describing or when you want to appeal to the reader's emotions in a specific moment. And then, be sure to use words that get the job done like "crisp copywriting" or "glittering lights" and not "very nice writing" or "very nice lighting."

3. Be Useful to the Reader

Take the time to find out who you are writing to so your readers will feel like you're personally paying attention to them. Once you know who they are, find out what their problems are and how you can solve them. Every piece of content that you deliver should exist to solve a reader's problem. If a reader thinks that their individual needs are being met, they won't feel like you're selling something they might not need.

4. Write Informally

Using a conversational tone helps readers to personalize you – it makes you sound like an individual having a chat rather than an anonymous corporation releasing a statement. Using the language of the reader will also make you seem like “one of them” rather than a salesperson trying to fake the part.

Take some time to learn the lingo of your readers and know where it's appropriate to use acronyms and abbreviations and know when extended explanations will sound like you're talking down instead of being informative. On the same note, knowing when you should explain some concepts or spell out terms instead of abbreviating will make sure you don't lose the reader or sound arrogant.

5. Tell a Story

If you've cut so much out of your writing by getting rid of bad statistics, sizzling adjectives, and mundane formalities that there's nothing left but a few bullet points, then your content may be in need of a story. Stories have a way of drawing the reader out of defensive positions and into a comfortable place with relatable people and happy endings. They also compel people to read all the way to the bottom to find out what happens.

A good story can help the reader identify with the problems you are presenting and should lead them naturally to draw the conclusion of the solution you are presenting. Whether you spell out the solution or leave it unspoken, by the time the reader gets to your call-to-action, they feel like they simply must click.

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The Copywriter's SEO Checklist: How To Optimize Content The Right Way

 

Content marketing is about a lot more than simply using some predetermined keywords in an article SEO content marketingas you write it. In fact, that's the easy part--all you have to do is worry about strategically placing your keywords for the search engines. The rest is all about creating quality content. Content is one of the most effective methods of building brand recognition, so it has to be unique in a way that people want to share what you have to say with their friends and family.

The goal you should have when you sit down to write content is to make it so good that it goes viral. Regurgitating the same information that is found on other websites isn’t going to get your content the attention it needs to make a marketing impact for your clients.

You have to bring something big to the table, something readers can’t help but to consume. It is optimal to present brand new information within your content, but let’s face it- the Internet is filled with literally trillions of websites. The chance of being able to present brand new information every time you create content is pretty minimal.

So how do you get around this? You think outside the box and come up with a unique spin on quality content that has depth and meat to it. Here’s a 3-step checklist you can use to make sure you’re on the right track to creating killer marketing content that’s optimized for both readers and the search engines:

Intertwine Yourself with Ideation

Coming up with a unique idea for your topic can be tough business, especially if you’ve written about the topic several times already. Just because you happen to be writing content for an animal hospital doesn’t mean that you have to stick with ideas that are based around the hospital itself. The idea is to create content that could be written by experts in the animal care industry, but that are related to the industry as a whole.

You can write about a variety of ideas:

  • Keep Fido Free of Fleas With These Natural Treatments
  • 3 Steps to Free Your Feline of Fur Balls
  • Snack Smart With Your Pets: 5 Veggies They’ll Love
  • Don’t Miss Out on This Heartworm Prevention Plan

These ideations, or titles really, provide the whole concept for your articles. They all offer valuable information that will make readers want to learn more about the animal hospital that posts the written content. In the end, the animal hospital gains authority by offering valuable advice to pet owners while also gaining new clients that find themselves in need of veterinarian care.

Author With Authority

If you expect readers to take your content seriously, you’ll need to build some authority within each and every piece of content you write. This is done by being clear and concise throughout the content, and by linking to credible sources to help back up the information you are providing. Always research your sources to ensure that they are a trusted website with valid expertise. It’s a good idea to link to sources that can expand on your own ideas for added value to the reader.

Engage With Passion or Rage

If you don’t feel something for the content you’re writing, it most certainly won’t have the vibrancy it needs to go viral. Don’t start writing your content until you’ve found the fire in your belly somehow. Maybe you’ll come up with an angle that outrages you, or one that makes you literally weep.

If you can draw your own emotions out, you’ve probably got a great idea on your hands. Now use that idea to engage with your readers. Ask a question here and there to keep them involved. Ask them to imagine the scenarios that have you fired up yourself. It’s important to involve your reader throughout each section of your content by keeping things emotionally charged when possible. Other ways to engage with your readers include:

  • Give instructions for a DIY project that ties into your topic
  • Suggest specific tasks that can be done at home by the reader
  • Create a call to action at least once throughout the content (for example, ask for feedback in the comments section from readers)

These tips and tricks will help you to optimize your content for both readers and the search engines, which for your clients, is the most important aspect of driving traffic to their websites and gaining new customers.

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Word Count Requirements: Fact Or Fiction?

 

Most writers are asked to fulfil word count requirements when engaging in SEO content SEO copywritingwriting.  So, how important is it?  Is word count still relevant to search engines?

Good question!  After all, Google’s recent algorithm updates have kind of turned SEO on its ear.  If keywords hardly matter anymore, why should word count?

Well, there will always be differing opinions about this.  But in the end, there is no hard-and fast rule about word count.  Writers need to keep in mind that the new rules of content marketing dictate that content must be relevant, targeted and engaging.  If it takes 250 words to get to that goal, so be it.  If it takes 1,000 words to achieve marketing greatness, well, great. 

The important thing to remember is that the right amount of words is the amount it takes to answer your readers’ questions, solve their problems and address their concerns.  It’s the amount of words it takes to encourage consumer action.

SEO copywriting guru Heather Lloyd-Martin has something to say on the subject.  Check out her article “What’s the ‘Best’ Word Count for Google?”.   She makes some good points about whether or not writers should stress about word count, and what they should really focus on.

So, next time you get an assignment with a tight word count range, go ahead and follow instructions.  And at the end, ask yourself the following questions:

  •  Did I give readers all the information they need to know?

  •  Did I fulfil the client’s specific requirements?

  •  Did I anticipate and overcome objections, questions, concerns?

  • Did I avoid adding "fluff" in order to get to the max word count?

Whether you went to the upper limit, or barely met the minimum, your content is successful if you can answer “yes” to all of these questions.  So, are word count requirements fact or fiction?  You decide!

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Freelance Writers: Find Your Niche!

 

One of the most attractive aspects of freelance copywriting is the freedom to explore virtually any freelance copywritingtopic under the sun. Many of the freelancers we know are the kinds of people who love learning and have endless curiosity, but if you never settle down into a niche, you may find that your career doesn't develop and advance like you want it to. Why is that?

Each time you begin writing in a new niche it's like starting over as a freelance writer. You have to find new stories, new sources for statistics and background information, and new clients. And as you start over in a new niche your pay rate will be that of a beginner for a while until you prove your expertise in the subject matter.

With niche expertise, however, your freelance copywriting life gets easier. Sources catch on to the fact that you write about a certain topic, and they send tips your way about breaking news and coming trends. You meet people in your niche, and your network grows, bringing you new clients and better paying jobs. 

So how do you find your niche?

Start by Taking Any Job You Can Get

If you're new to freelance copywriting, now is not the time to be picky. At the beginning, take any job you can get, but be mindful of the process. After each job ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was this job interesting?
  • Did I do a good job with it?
  • How did it pay compared to other jobs?

When you pay attention to the development of your fledgling freelance copywriting career, you'll see trends emerge. Maybe you don't like writing about healthcare after all, but you realize that your interest in small cap stocks is a freelancing gold mine and those small cap stocks assignments paid better.

Pay Attention to Supply and Demand

When freelancers first start out, they often look for writing gigs they feel comfortable with. That's why so many freelancers look for assignments in arts and entertainment. Sure, it's fun to write about arts and entertainment, but the problem is competition. If a client has 100 writers to choose from for an arts and entertainment job, he's not going to have to pay very much. On the other hand, that credit union who needs someone to write about auto loans will be willing to pay higher rates for good quality, well-written content.

This doesn't mean you have to choose a boring niche in order to make good money; in fact, you'll find that niches with more depth lead to all kinds of interesting work once you become established as an experienced writer in the field. Don't sell yourself short by settling for a niche that is too broad or too low paying.

Build Your Network

Once you've found a niche that appeals to you and that provides a steady stream of work, start building your network. Your network shouldn't just consist of potential clients, although you'll need plenty of those. You also need sources for ideas, people you can interview in a pinch, and websites and blogs for collecting statistics and breaking news. Find a few local sources you can call on the phone, but don't overlook social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to find thought leaders in your niche. Comment on industry-specific blogs when you have something interesting and thought-provoking to say. Don't be afraid to sound like you know what you're talking about. With each writing assignment your expertise grows.

Diversify

If having one niche is good, then having two niches is better. Great-paying freelance clients can disappear overnight for a variety of reasons, and no industry is impervious to the volatility of the economy. When you develop two or even three niches simultaneously, you build a buffer between yourself and unemployment. 

In the world of freelance copywriting, strategy is important. If you randomly choose assignments that sound fun at the moment, you'll make a little money and have a little fun. But if you strategically build your presence as a niche writer, you'll develop a bona fide career, and soon you'll have clients who depend on you. They'll need you and your expertise as an integral part of their businesses. As your value as a niche writer grows, you'll be able to charge more for your work, and you'll develop a network of clients and contacts who are great resources and can alert you to better and better jobs.

So what's your niche?

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5 Pro Tips For New-School SEO Content Writing

 

Search engine optimization used to mean adding keywords every chance you could. Once everyoneSEO content writing caught on, though, the black-hat players took advantage and outranked quality content. Google has changed its algorithm several times to reward good content and punish bad, but some site owners--and writers-- have struggled with that as well.

You might be frustrated that the rules of SEO have changed yet again, but these changes will actually help your client's site - if you know how to navigate them. Here's a quick reminder of what content needs to be an SEO success.

Develop a Strategy

It's OK to jot down random ideas when you're brainstorming, but not when you're writing content. You should never create a blog or infographic just for the sake of creating content. Instead, develop a content strategy and always know what you'll write.

The specifics vary from one site to another, but every strategy should include:

  • Objectives: What do you want your content to accomplish?
  • Scope: What kinds of topics will be covered? What tone and voice will it use?
  • Calendar: When will certain topics be covered? How often will you post new content?
  • Measurement: How will you know if content is meeting your goals? How can you improve it for better results?

Create a set of rules for your content and you'll reach audiences with high-quality content every time. 

Write for People, Not Search Engines

As with all products or services, content is most successful when it meets customer needs. The search engines didn't always use this to rank pages, though. Now that they are, stop developing content the engines like and start writing what potential readers want.

Whatever you write about, make sure it hits the following marks:

  • Relevance: Write about what matters to the people you want to reach.
  • Value: Offer information readers can use, including next steps and calls to action.
  • Clarity: Avoid jargon and write short, clear sentences in a language readers will quickly grasp. 
  • Good Editing: Edit and proofread content to remove confusing phrases, misspelled words and bad grammar.

Create the most valuable content possible because under these new SEO rules, good trumps bad every time.

Make Content Shareable

Search engine marketing and social media marketing used to be two separate things. Nowadays, the two are inextricably linked. Upping social media activity is a great way to boost search engine rankings, and that means making content easy to share with social networks.

Your SEO efforts are more effective when you:

  • Write a succinct title that generates excitement.
  • Keep content short and sweet.
  • Put Share buttons in a prominent place.
  • Ask readers to share or retweet your piece.

As more people share your content, you'll see your web pages ranking higher and higher.

Stop Obsessing Over Keywords

Remember when all you had to do to rank high was stuff keywords throughout your content? Thankfully, those days are gone. Bad players started abusing this policy, which led to a lot of crappy content reaching the top of the list. Keep using keywords, but focus on quality, not quantity.

To get the most out of each keyword, you need to:

  • Write long-tail and descriptive key phrases.
  • Use phrases that match reader searches.
  • Place keywords in prime real estate like titles and metatags
  • Eliminate monotony by using keyword variations.

Good SEO marketers know that keywords should be built around content, not the other way around.

Add Visuals

Words and pictures aren't mutually exclusive. If anything, a few visual enhancements can make written content even more compelling. Consider adding them to make your content more valuable - and help it rank higher.

Visual elements enhance content in lots of ways:

  • Infographics make complex information easier to digest
  • Company logos and taglines reinforce brand identity
  • Videos and photos are easily absorbed and quickly spread across social media;
  • Brightly-colored buttons make calls to action more noticeable

If the right word can capture a reader's attention, the right visual can do a thousand times more.

SEO has changed a lot, and it'll probably change several times more. As long as you follow a few basic rules, including the ones above, your content will come out on top.

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The Writer As Storyteller: 5 Techniques For Crafting Compelling Marketing Content

 

The human race thrives on stories. Which would you remember better: a list of facts or a story that content for websitesweaves those facts into a meaningful narrative? When you write content for websites you must be a storyteller, drawing in readers with compelling marketing content and persuading them to stay awhile.

Most of you are already storytellers; you just forget how to do it when you sit down to write marketing content. You have been so inundated with advice about formatting, fonts, and color selection you lose sight of content as a narrative device.

These 5 techniques for crafting compelling marketing content for websites will guide you back to your storytelling roots.  

Know Your Audience

This is at the heart and soul of any writer’s craft. You must know who you are addressing before you can develop content that will be meaningful. Marketers build a buyer persona to provide a specific target, or audience, to directly address.

By knowing your audience you will know what level to write at, where to start, and what type of details to put into the story. This information will change from one step in the buying process to the next but the basic needs of the audience won’t change.

Select Frame and Premise

The frame is the audience’s world view. A strict vegan will have a difference world view from a barbeque aficionado. A 16 year old high school boy looks at the world differently than the 45 year old mother of a 16 year old high school boy. If you know your audience you will know how to present the story so it fits within its frame of reference. Who are you writing to?

The premise is how to tell the story. This is what provides the dramatic tension by delivering the framed story to the audience in a way that draws it in and brings it along for the ride. How can you present the story so it makes logical sense to your target and fits within their worldview?

Determine a Focus

What is the kernel of your story? Boy meets girl? Bo knows baseball? Without a focus a story risks scope creep. Pretty soon you are trying to address everyone at the same time and have lost the momentum of a personalized experience.

You should be able to tell your focus in three words using a noun, a verb, and an object. These words imply what the customer wants.

Create a Character

Stories are always more interesting when they are about someone, preferably someone like your target audience. Your character is your buyer persona expanded to human form. You give it a name and use it to give your story a human perspective.

Example:

Bob Businessman received a query from a potential client that would really put his business on the map. But it took him 3 days to put together a proposal and the client went with a company that completed a proposal in just a few hours.  Bob wondered if there was a way to streamline his proposal process.

Follow a Dramatic Arc

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. The dramatic arc drives the narrative forward bringing the reader with it.

  • Beginning = Exposition: This is the starting point where you give the reader context and a beginning for the action.
  • Middle = Conflict and climax: The middle is where the problem is presented. You are telling the reader about the change in circumstances that creates a problem that must be resolved.
  • End = Conclusion: The end tells the reader about the resolution to the problem and ties the story up. It is a logical and/or emotional stopping point.

With a great hook and a dramatic arc your reader can’t help but go along for the ride. At the end give them a satisfying conclusion.

Presenting content for websites in the form of stories is the most successful way of attracting readers and converting customers. The human psyche is already wired to understand and remember stories; it’s how the world passed along knowledge before the written word was created. Putting experience into a story made it memorable and sharable.

Memorable and sharable are two of the most important characteristics of effective content for websites.

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Your Content Writing Strategy: Keep It Simple

 

The content marketing machine is voraciously hungry, and with the concept having really taken off content writing strategythe past couple of years there’s a golden opportunity for writers to make a killing. If you can get it right, that is. And getting it right means producing content for clients that makes you an indispensable asset for them. It means producing content that gets results, generates leads and builds up readership.

Here’s how to simplify and streamline the process so it becomes lucrative and viable for you.

Interpreting the Client’s Instructions

Some clients really don’t know how to give instructions, do they? Often, that’s because they don’t understand what works, or because don’t know how to ask for what they want. So, sometimes you have to interpret. I always ask for the following info, if it isn’t included upfront:

  • Where is this content going to be published (e.g. website address, blog, online publication etc)?
  • Who will be listed as the author, and where can I read other work by this person (for tone etc)?
  • What’s the primary purpose of the content? Sounds simple enough, but clients often don’t tell you what the call to action is going to be, and that’s important to help you produce a balanced piece that supports what they want to get out of it. So, I want to know if the purpose is to drive traffic, encourage downloads or generate commentary and discussion.

If anything is unclear, ask! I’d rather ask stupid questions than make stupid mistakes, even if they are legitimate ones (i.e. the client forgot to tell you something important). Here’s an example: I’m currently writing for a proctology client, qualified to deal with colorectal issues. The client neglected to tell me he specializes in rectal conditions, not colonic ones! Who knew… So now I have to review everything and remove all references to colorectal. There’s no way I would have even thought of asking whether a colorectal specialist actually does, well – colorectal stuff!

Simplicity is Key

How often have you heard the phrase “keep it simple, stupid?” Users don’t want to read copy that requires a university degree to understand it, and far too many writers still use language that came out of the ark. Either that, or it’s too technical for easy consumption. How do you write using plain language? Simple. Just write it the way you say it.

I often sit down to write a piece of content and get tangled up in how to start it. When that happens I step back and forget about the introduction, and just write the body copy. Instead of trying to figure out how best to phrase something, I “just do it.” Just write it. I can always edit it later, right? Just get it down so I know what I want to cover. Then I go back and write the intro last.

Brainstorming Ideas

If you leave generating content subject matter to an inexperienced client, you’re going to be writing the same topic over and over again, every which way from Sunday. And each piece will be a promotion of the client’s product or service. With new clients I like to give them a chance, because there are some who know how it works. After the second or third attempt, I’ll know whether they need help brainstorming topic ideas. Then I’ll tactfully email them with a few suggested topics, which I find by researching their keywords, checking their analytics to see what pages are popular (if they’re available and meaningful) and setting up alerts based on their industry. Usually, they’re only too grateful to leave the process in my hands after that!

Fulfilling the Topic

Staying on topic is one of the hardest things for a writer to do, but it’s vital if you want to capture and keep the reader’s attention. And let’s face it, if they don’t get to the end of the piece and the call to action, the content you’ve written isn’t going to achieve its objective, now is it? Here are my tricks for fulfilling the title:

  • Outline first. When you know what you want to cover, you can flesh out the sections in your own time without getting lost in the topic.
  • Reiterate the title throughout the copy, at least once in each section. That will keep you from straying from what you—or your client—are trying to say.
  • Say what you’re going to say, say it and then say what you said. It’s an oldie but it still holds true.

Keep your approach as simple as possible and don’t let it become complicated. That way, you’ll satisfy your clients’ needs for easy-to-read content that achieves its purpose—and your own need to build up clients and generate income.

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4 Ways Professional Copywriters Can Make The Most Of Lean Times

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 120,000 professional writers professional copywriterworking in the United States. If you're one of them, you know that post-holidays can be lean times...and this year is no exception. Many clients are still re-grouping after the holidays and re-evaluating their budgets to see how much content they can afford for the new year.

If these clients enlist the help of an advertising agency to secure their content, that adds even more time before they start offering work to copywriters. If you work within writing platforms, you know that what that means for the job boards.

What's a professional copywriter to do? You could spend the month cleaning out your closets, soaking up the rays in Florida or working on that great American novel you started in 2005. However, if you want to be able to pay the rent during these lean times, you need to be proactive. Below are a few tips for doing just that:

1. Contact existing clients and ask for work. Your clients are busy, too, and sometimes trying to think of good topics can prevent them from posting orders for articles they need. When the job board is slow is a good time to run through your approved orders and send a brief message to clients you've worked with in the past, suggesting one or two article topics. You might be surprised how quickly such messages can turn into orders.

2. Send a thank you message to a client for the order. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (and isn't being a professional copywriter really a small business?), one of the most effective ways to get repeat business is to follow up with each and every client. On writing platforms, that means just sending a nice message on the private message board thanking the client for the order and telling them that you would like to work with them again (if you do.) If it's a new client and the platform you're working on has such a function, consider rating the client. Not only does that help other writers, but it helps the client attract qualified writers.

3. Make the most of the work you have. This one can be a little tricky. Certainly, you don't want to write fluff or be repetitious. However, if you can maximum the word count on your orders by giving the client the full maximum of quality words and content, you'll also maximize the amount of revenue you get from each order. If you're the type of professional copywriter who waits until the last minute to start an order and then just gets the minimum number of words written before the deadline, maybe it's time to re-think your approach, at least during lean times.

4. Work on your profiles. If all else fails, make sure that you're ready when the orders start pouring in come February and March by updating your profiles. On Zerys, for example, that means making sure that you've chosen all of the first, second and third level categories that you're allowed. On other platforms, it can mean making sure that you've completed all of the biographical and professional information and that it portrays you in the best light.

Having been a professional copywriter for nearly 10 years, I can say that the good news is that this job slump will pass. The new year will likely bring at least a few changes to the copywriting job front before it's done, but, if history is any indication, the number of writing jobs will start picking up about the time the weather starts to warm in the Midwest and Northeast. In the mean time, spend a little extra time on making the most of the clients, the orders and the writing jobs that you have.

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