Think about the last time you encountered a sales pitch that felt like way too much. Maybe you had a reaction along the lines of, “Okay now, calm down.” Fair — the average consumer rarely, if ever, wants to be marketed to aggressively.
Instead, bringing in customers is a long-term game based on relationship-building. Compelling — but not over-the-top — content is essential to that. Sure, part of why you’re creating content is to drive sales, but content simply isn’t a bombastic push to the closing table. You’ll make greater strides if you figure out the types of people comprising your audience (called personas) and what kinds of content and topics they’d find interesting.
From there, though, how do you write content that gets your target audience’s attention and nurtures relationships between them and your brand? The below content writing tips offer great starting points.
9 content writing tips to take your copy above and beyond
1. Always know your goals and audience
Great content hooks an audience that mostly includes consumers dealing with the pain points that your products and services address. Determining these pain points, as well as your expertise areas and niches, can help you narrow down your target audience. It can also help you set goals for engaging this audience through content.
You can review analytics on your published content to get a sense of what’s most interesting to your audience. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) makes this especially easy — there are tools within the “Audience” section that directly show your readers’ interests.
You can also review engagement rates on your social media posts to see which pieces of content have most strongly captured your audience. Any trends you identify can be great springboards for future content ideas. You should review these metrics every quarter — your audience and its interests can change, and your content and goals should change in tandem.
After that, you can create buyer personas based on your analytics. These personas are rough estimates of common customer types based on their actions, motivations, and goals. Direct customer feedback, sales or customer service team knowledge, and analytics can inform your personas. Once you’ve developed personas, you can set SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound — for your content.
For example, let’s say you run a meal kit company, and one of your meal kit brand’s buyer personas is a busy parent who prioritizes healthy meals but lacks cooking time. You can then set a goal to write content listing 10 ways to save time and energy on healthy family eating. You can pair this with a deadline and a strategy for sharing this content on social media. This goal meets all the “SMART” criteria. It fits your audience, it’s realistic, it has a deadline, and you can measure your success with social media analytics tools and GA4.
2. Cover unique topics and angles within your niche
Let’s keep going with that “10 ways to save time and energy on healthy family eating” idea. This blog could be great for generating interest among people who haven’t previously considered alternatives to cooking from scratch. At the same time, your list could be long and broad, and it’s general enough that others have likely written content like it.
Your content might stand out more if you cover topics and angles within your niche that few others are addressing. A content gap analysis can help you identify these topics. Your content should connect these topics to your audience’s wants, needs, and interests. For example, “feeding your kids gluten-free without added sugar” can be more effective than “gluten-free cooking ideas.”
When you write about narrower yet more in-depth topics, you can offer more meaningful, actionable, and relevant advice. For instance, you could tell readers to look for meal kits that balance gluten-free options, nutritious meals, and major time and money savings. Tell your readers how to find these meal kits as well, and they’ll really start to see your brand’s value.
Presenting this value can help you stand out from the competition, as can filling your content with intriguing stories and illuminating visuals. Pairing advice and ideas with robust, unforgettable anecdotes and examples can transform great content into truly excellent content.
3. Build — and write from — an outline
Content creation goes best when you have a clear plan from the jump. This typically takes the form of a content outline with headings and a general idea of what should go where. These headers may serve different purposes in different types of content, depending on what you’re writing and for which audience.
You can use keyword research and competitor research to create your outlines. These outlining approaches factor in your readers’ needs and the content they’re currently reading. They require advanced search engine optimization (SEO) tools, the data from which can take hours to compare, contrast, and assemble into an outline. Content writing agencies devote whole teams to this process (and with the right touch, AI can help sort through all this data!).
4. Write a strong headline and intro
Previous research has found that the average consumer sees thousands of ads each day. That’s a whole lot of content! A strong headline and intro for your content are among the easiest ways to prevent it from getting lost at sea.
The strongest headlines capture people’s attention and get them to click links and keep reading. You may want to come up with at least five potential headlines and consider which one might best achieve these outcomes.
From there, you should write an intro that hints at your narrative or argument in a way that makes the reader want to learn more. Tugging at emotions can help, though there’s a balance to strike among not using sales-y language, not revealing too much upfront, and setting the scene. Content writing pros excel at walking this tightrope throughout a piece of content.
5. Establish — and follow — brand voice guidelines
Often, your customers will build a human-like relationship with your brand. This means your content needs to sound like it’s coming from a person, which is where your brand voice comes into play. This is true whether you’re just writing a blog post every month or marketing more aggressively.
Establishing your brand voice guidelines can be among the most challenging parts of content marketing and writing. You can hire a brand voice consultant or build your own brand voice based on some company fundamentals. All the below can inform your brand voice.
- Your mission and vision statements
- Your company culture
- Your target audience
- Your competitive advantage
- Your existing content
For example, let’s say your mission and vision statements focus on a sustainable approach to sportswear. Let’s also say your company culture encourages transparency, openness, and flexibility. A brand voice that posits you as approachable, friendly, and in tune with nature would tie into both your mission and culture. It would feel like you, and that builds trust with current and future customers.
6. Back your ideas up
Strong content serves as more than marketing material — it introduces unique ideas to your audience. These ideas can come from your own thinking or from collating and understanding key points in others’ content. The latter approach involves lots of research, potentially including interviews with experts. Backing up the former may require citing your own proprietary data or examples.
In both cases, supporting your ideas can take a lot of work. Plus, how exactly do you go about research when so much information exists? How do you know which sources to trust and which ideas and facts to include in your content? How does one properly interview an expert and meaningfully contextualize relevant data or examples?
Content writing agencies spend all day, every day, thoughtfully addressing these challenging questions. In fact, these questions have become newly important given Google’s helpful content update, implemented in Q3 2022. The search engine now prioritizes content that thoroughly answers questions for which people search. Properly backing up your ideas is thus paramount.
7. Optimize your copy for SEO
Let’s say you’ve written a whole blog about a topic you care about that’s relevant to your audience. Congrats — that’s a major step! But one question remains: Have you optimized it for SEO? This is easy to overlook when you’re just doing a paragraph-form brain dump of all the ideas in your head.
Copy optimized for SEO will naturally incorporate relevant keywords. This means avoiding keyword stuffing in favor of sentences where you might barely notice the keywords. It also means writing short paragraphs and sentences that can boost your search engine readability scores. Proper internal and external linking practices, with a focus on copy that could earn you backlinks, are key too.
Further, you’ll need to write a title tag and meta description for your content. These appear as preview summaries when people see your content in search engine results pages (SERPs). Optimizing outdated content to reflect the keywords you’re currently targeting and the latest SEO best practices is key too. Adding images, infographics, and other visual elements is yet another part of the puzzle.
That last one is easier than you think to check off your list. Just place visuals that pertain to both your business and your content in spots that neatly break up your text. The rest — optimizing copy for SEO and making it exciting and interesting to read — requires skills that come with years of experience.
8. Proofread and edit — then proofread and edit again
You should never publish the very first draft you write. To you, your rough copy might be clear, but to others, it could be dense and disorganized. You might also be circling around key topics without actually explaining them. On top of that, typos or missing words are all but certain on the first go-round.
There’s an easy solution to this all — proofreading and editing. A day or so after you’ve finished your first draft, read it from top to bottom for clarity, typos, word choice, and grammatical errors. Then, after that, someone else who writes content and knows your subject matter well should edit your copy.
It’s always better for edits to come from someone other than yourself. After all, you could think something you’ve explained is clear when it’s actually obtuse to others — this happens all the time in everyday communication. Editors read your copy with an outside perspective and can thus more easily identify unclear moments. They’ll also know to send your copy to a second editor for another proofread and edit. After that, your copy should be good to go.
9. End with a call to action (when appropriate)
The content you create is a major tool for your marketing team. For example, social media marketers often post their company’s or clients’ newest blog posts on socials to keep content flowing on each channel. This also serves the key purpose of getting more eyes on your content. Often, this increased posting yields more sales when your blogs direct your readers to use your products or your services.
For example, let’s say your company sells pizza stones and you’ve written a blog on the 10 best pizza peels. That’s great for capturing an audience interested in making pizza at home. But your blog is focused on pizza peels — the ones with the long handle meant for pulling pizzas out of brick ovens — not pizza stones, so you need a way to connect the topic to your products. A call to action (CTA) in your content’s conclusion driving readers to purchase your products can solve this problem.
There’s a catch, though: A CTA done wrong can pull the curtain back on your whole content operation. Giving advice or helping the reader only to suddenly pivot to an aggressive sales pitch could imply that you’re only making content to drive them to buy. Professional content writers know how to drive sales through subtle CTAs while reminding the reader of the value your content has given them.
Content writing vs. copywriting
Copywriters may also find the above content writing tips helpful. That’s because, though two different disciplines, content writing and copywriting require some of the same skills. Key to both are strong communication skills and the ability to write copy that really grabs a reader’s attention. However, where copywriters sell, content writers convince.
Copywriters drive connections between consumers and brands through compelling calls to action, such as buying a product. While these calls to action can be part of content, the vast majority of content writing is informational. Content writers educate their audiences and bring them around to a viewpoint, often one that persuades the reader to buy a product or service. The trick is that explicit calls to action come quickly and subtly at the end, if at all.
7 types of content to use in your content writing strategy
You can write the following types of content to power your marketing strategy.
- Blog posts. These are articles you write about a relevant subject and then post to your blog or another website. They’re great for establishing your authority and capturing potential customers who conduct relevant web searches.
- Case studies. These are detailed, evidence-backed stories of the positive outcomes your offerings have generated for a customer. Posting these on your blog or gating them behind lead generation forms can help you identify and connect with strong leads.
- Ebooks. These are longform pieces of content you write to give extensive detail about a topic. You can package an ebook as a downloadable PDF accessible through a lead generation form to identify promising leads.
- Email newsletters. You can send these marketing emails on a recurring, regular basis to inform your audience of your latest developments, deals, blog posts, and other news. These emails are great for engaging consumers who have already expressed interest in your brand.
- Press releases. In press releases, you’ll detail a newsworthy recent company event or form of recognition. You can distribute your press releases to a list of journalists and influencers to persuade them to cover your brand.
- Social media content. Anything you post on your social media channels counts as social media content. This content can keep your current audience engaged with your brand and show people who find your social pages that you’re active and relevant.
- White papers. In these documents, you’ll provide an in-depth solution to a notable problem and explain it at length, authoritatively and with evidence. These are also great to gate behind lead generation forms to pinpoint high-quality leads.
The best content writing tip of all: Don’t do it alone
One of the best tips you’ll hear anywhere — not just within content writing — is that nobody can do everything alone. This very much includes content writing. Generating content ideas, writing great copy, proofreading and editing it, and leveraging your content for your marketing strategy can take a village.
The writing portion and topic ideation aspects of content creation especially require such a refined set of skills that entire agencies devote themselves to both. Working with these agencies to generate your content may be the smartest content writing tip of all. It’s a much smarter and more cost-effective approach than diverting your energy from the tasks you already do best. It’s how you expand your content operation from the work of one to the work of many.
When you outsource your content writing to The Stellastra Effect, you bring the masters into your court while getting time back for your main tasks. In partnership with us, you’ll meet — no, exceed — your content goals month after month without so much as typing “the.” With an award-winning former journalist at our helm, we balance the nuances of storytelling, information, and marketing. We create content that our clients have leveraged to significantly improve their website impressions, page-one search engine placements, and quantity of ranking keywords.
When you use The Stellastra Effect’s content writing services, you’ll get clear, compelling copy that looks and sounds like you. Then, you’ll put it out there — and the consumers who encounter it will immediately see your value.