Content Writing Explained in Three Minutes
Whenever I'm asked what content writing is, here's what I say: content writing is a form of writing that engages with an audience online. A prime example of content writing is blogging, like what I'm doing here. But while blogging may be just a hobby for most people, it's a great marketing tool for businesses.
So how does one write effective content for marketing? I don't have any formal training in content writing and I've only been doing it for about a year, but what I've learned so far is that it's important to apply certain best practices, such as the following:
SEO and Keywords
SEO (search engine optimisation), in a nutshell, is the activity of improving an article's online visibility and search engine ranking. That's where keyword placement and density come in. There's no definitive rule as to how many keywords you should include, but generally, the more relevant keywords (or key phrases) your article has, the higher it will rank in search results. So you want to make sure you insert those keywords. Try not to overdo it though, because from what I understand, it's also really important that your content reads and flows naturally. Include keywords, yes... but go easy.
Remember back in school, if anyone were caught cheating, their teacher would punish them? Well, Google is just like that teacher. It values original content, and publishing copied material will not go unpenalised. Google's algorithm will zero in on sites that have duplicate content and it'll rank those sites poorly. It even has a free plagiarism checker that helps site owners and writers look for plagiarised copies of their work online so they can report those sites to Google for removal. Not kidding. So it's best to try to produce quality, original content.
Style of Writing
Keep in mind that you're writing content for a brand. Therefore, your style of writing needs to gel with the brand. Let's say you're writing content for the web page of an upscale brand like Rolex. Clearly, their target audience is the luxury market so a more refined tone would be required. You wouldn't use youth slang like YOLO, duh or srsly! for Rolex now, would you? Of course you wouldn't. You'd reserve those for Millennial brands. So try your best to stick to each brand's language.
In order to grab attention, you need a catchy headline. But more than that, your headline should convey benefit and give people a reason to want to read your article.
The job of the opening paragraph is to introduce the topic, and in doing so, it needs to be as clear and engaging as possible so that your audience will have an accurate sense of what your article is all about, and you want to intrigue them to read on. Think of it this way: just as a film needs a great opening scene to set the tone for the rest of the story, so does an article.
Body Paragraph This is the heart and soul of your article. Here's where you dive into the topic and provide lots of information and points. Feel free to use sub-headings to help give clarity to each point. Obviously, you want to be persuasive as your goal is to try to sell a product or service, but bear in mind that people want value first and foremost. There's a saying that the best way to lose a customer is to hard sell. Better to focus instead on delivering enjoyable and beneficial content or people may not stick around to read the rest of your article.
Closing Paragraph To bring down the curtain on your article, it's important to include a call-to-action (CTA), i.e. an invitation for your audience to take action. Be sure to craft a clear CTA that communicates some sort of benefit if they respond, such as "Order now to enjoy our 50% festive discount" or "Visit our website for exclusive online deals". Yes, the CTA is a "salesy" bit and the article's conclusion is an ideal place for it.
So there you have it... my take on content writing. Explained in three minutes. OK, maybe five, but who's counting? I'm sure I'll learn much more about content writing as I go along. It'll be fun and I hope (fingers crossed) I'll get better and better at it.