Great content doesn’t write itself. It’s the culmination of research, time and dedication put into compelling narratives and fact-driven pieces. Here are some of our best content writing tips and tricks to help you become a better writer and deliver results.
Research, Write and Expand on Content Topics
The first step to content creation is choosing a topic. This should be crystal clear and encompass a single area. Your content needs to be focused, and you can’t do that while juggling multiple topics.
Other key questions include:
- Who is your topic intended to reach?
- Does this topic matter for your audience?
- What have we written previously about this topic?
Once you have a strong topic, you need to do research, find the right angles and learn what questions you can answer for your target audience. In some cases, this research will lead you to revise your topic.
There’s no shortcut here. See who else is talking about this topic. Look at articles, videos, podcasts and other resources with compelling information about your topic. These sources can help support what you write about this topic. Another avenue of research can be to imagine what your target audience is saying about the topic? What questions do they have that you could answer?
Likewise, see what people aren’t saying about the topic. Where can your content fill a gap in information, shed new light or counter the prevailing narrative?
There are countless ways to organize your research, so find whatever method helps you accurately track your findings and be able to draw from them later when you’re writing.
Remember, the goal is to create a new piece of content with targeted, high-quality information and resources for your readers.
Optimize Your Content SEO
You want the content you write to be a reliable and accessible resource to professionals and experts in your field. But what if your ideal audience can’t find your content? Fortunately, there are ways to surface your content for inquiring minds.
The solution lies in search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO is all about keywords. You need to find which keywords match the topic you’re writing about and the audience you’re trying to reach. Within that pool of keywords, you must figure out their ranking competitiveness and ensure that your content is appropriately optimized.
Use tools such as SEMrush’s keyword magic tool to do your keyword research and view rankings, competitiveness and more for your topic.
SEO is about quality, not just quantity. If you’re jamming a bunch of keywords in, or repeating them for no reason, you could be penalized for keyword stuffing. That’s when a webpage overuses keywords or numbers to manipulate its Google search ranking. Doing that can get your site penalized, which will eliminate any positive momentum you had with your SEO efforts.
Likewise, web traffic is great, but B2B sites don’t need everyone to visit them. They need the right audience. And that’s where SEO can really help your content shine.
As Viola Eva of Flow SEO writes, “B2B SEO is about precise targeting, qualified traffic and being the best answer to a sophisticated search query.”
Create a Strong and Detailed Outline
An outline can be a lifesaver when you are finally ready to write. A good outline provides structure, helps you organize your thoughts and is a gut check that you’ve got all the components you need, and in the right order. When you create an outline, you also spare yourself from having to remember every little thing you wanted to include.
So what do we mean by an outline? Well, it’s not just a few bullet points.
Take all the research you’ve done and organize it into an outline format. Think about each header and subheader (H1, H2, H3) and how you want your piece to flow. Map out the stats, quotes, lists and more you want to include in your writing.
An excellent outline includes these six elements:
- Your working title.
- Key headings.
- Main points of each header.
- SEO information (target keywords, SEO title, meta description).
- Links to sourced materials and proper citation of quotes.
- A review to ensure that the proposed content and structure make sense.
Write a Lede That Will Hook Them
After the headline, the primary way to hook people with your content is through the lede, or the first sentence.
Of course, we know it’s not always easy to write a great hook, especially on a topic you’re less-versed in or isn’t interesting to you. B2B content can be additionally challenging if you have to consider tone, corporate style and other factors.
Sometimes it’s helpful to go back to the basics of writing a lede — answering who, what, when, where, why and how. Not all written content has a lede that answers those questions, but these basics can offer a great starting point when you’re feeling stuck.
Some people will write everything else first, then come back to the lede. They find working backwards means that, when the time comes to write the lede, they better understand the topic and what will hook readers.
A good lede often requires revision. Sometimes that means fewer words or going beyond the obvious. As Ann Gynn writes, “If you’re writing a what-if or other question that elicits the same response from every reader, delete it. Use declarative or definitive statements instead and fulfill that promise in the article.”
The lede is your second shot at grabbing the readers’ attention; make it count.
Create Attention-Grabbing Headlines
The first thing a reader sees is your headline. A strong headline contains vital information about the content without going into too many details or telling the whole story.
You want your headlines to evoke emotions and curiosity. This is where clickbait can lure readers, but be careful. Your headline should grab people’s attention and inspire them to go further, but you still want it to be targeted and SEO-optimized.
And don’t use the same tactics every time. “Cheesy clickbait titles aren’t the only way to create emotionally engaging content. Instead of using worn-out cliches, build emotional connections in other ways,” writes Danielle Antosz.
The ideal length for any headline is between six and 11 words, or between 34 and 65 characters. That gives you some leeway to find the right combination of words that are compelling, relevant and truthful.
Understand Tone, Voice and Brand Style Guidelines
Content writers might have multiple clients and write about different types of content on many topics, which is hard enough to keep track of. Plus, each client has its own tone, voice, style guidelines and other standards. Your writing must simultaneously stand out for its ideas and freshness without standing out because it doesn’t mesh with the brand or publication.
Each client has its own writing style and content strategy, too. Don’t get frustrated by feeling like you have to guess what the client or brand wants. Ask whether there’s a style guide or branding document available, or even less formal guidance. When you align your work with brand guidelines and tone will ultimately improve the impact of your writing.
Use Credible and Relevant Sources
Even if you are an expert or thought leader in your field, you should still find other credible sources to support your content. Credible sources not only validate your topic but also can improve your SEO. Typically, credible sources are authors who are respected in their field of study.
To ensure that you have credible sources, you can vet them by using the CRAAP test. The test consist of these five components:
- Currency: How current is the source?
- Relevance: Is it relevant to your topic?
- Authority: Who wrote it, and where? Is the source an expert who is respected in their field?
- Accuracy: Do the claims have evidence to back them up, and can they be verified?
- Purpose: Why did they publish this work?
Connect with other experts or thought leaders who have spoken or written about your subject matter. Securing quotes, studies, white papers, thought leadership pieces or other content from experts helps your content build credibility and become a valuable information hub that other professionals can use for reference.
Another useful way to find and vet credible sources is by using tools such as social media, industry forums and groups, academic journals and more to find reliable sources and build your content authority.
Keep Readability In Mind
You’ve completed all of the above steps, and now you are well into the writing process.
As you write, focus on the readability of your content. Knowing who your audience is — who you are writing for — helps determine the sophistication level of the piece.
Great written content flows. It’s easy to understand because the writing is clear and concise. Anyone reading such content will stick around longer and retain more of your message.
Beware of Redundancy
B2B content is bound to contain a lot of information, especially for longer-form pieces. One risk is that your content has too many and unnecessary details. Focus on relevant and critical data to make your case, to demonstrate credibility or to debunk a myth, but consider how much you’re including and whether you’re repeating yourself.
These are just a few of the phrases that you should avoid:
- “Basic fundamentals”
- “Collaborate together”
- “Raced hurriedly”
- “Evolve over time”
- “Small in size”
- “Advance warning”
- “New Innovation”
- “Adequate enough”
Redundancy can be a tempting tactic because it can bolster an argument or emphasize the importance of a particular piece of information. It’s a powerful tool, so use it wisely and sparingly.
As you write your article, here are some pitfalls to watch out for:
- Don’t overemphasize. Use intensifiers that add meaning.
- Avoid saying the same thing. It’s OK to say “essentials” without saying “basic essentials,” for example.
- There’s no room for double negatives or triple negatives. I cannot say that I do not disagree with you. (See what I did there!)
- Be specific. Rely on precise and up-to-date statistics or other data to give your article authority.
As author and futurist David Brin says, “Redundancy is blessed, but efficiency is divine.” Redundancy is an easy way to bore readers and drive them away. Get to the point, say what you need to say, and don’t overdo it.
Use Action and Power Words
We produce content to inform people, to get them to think differently and learn something new.
One significant outcome of successful writing is that people want to share what they’ve read or learned. One way to encourage sharing is by using action words and power words throughout your content. These words provoke action from readers to apply a new method, a new way of thinking or some other reaction. These simple words can have a significant impact on your writing, SEO and content reach.
While these words can increase traffic to your site, the priority for content marketers is customer conversion. Like we’ve said, these words provoke action. If you want your target audience to interact with a new podcast episode or a webinar centered on solving a problem, for example, using the right action words can compel your audience to take action.
Achieving those outcomes depend on these words being properly integrated into your content. Be consistent with active voice, place such words in headlines (without being cheesy) and have a clear call to action.
It should go without saying, but never steal anyone’s content. It is a cardinal rule of writing. Copy-pasting someone else’s words or taking credit for their ideas or work is ethically wrong and won’t help you build authority or credibility.
The topic you’re writing about might have been covered by countless thought leaders, journalists, company blogs and other sources. While the focus of the content may be similar, there are many ways to write originally and with your unique style, tone or perspective. And if there’s a data point or a quote you must include, credit the source properly.
If all this weren’t enough to deter you, plagiarists are increasingly likely to be caught by plagiarism-detection tools such as Grammarly, Duplichecker, Copyleaks and more.
Use an Editorial Calendar
Stay organized by charting the content you plan to write and on what schedule. An editorial calendar helps you stay on track with your writing and makes sure your content adds value to your overall content marketing objectives.
When you’re part of a bigger team, an editorial calendar is also a strategic tool. What you’re publishing represents what the brand is trying to accomplish in line with larger goals. The editorial calendar also serves to keep everyone organized, show who’s working on what and avoid scheduling mishaps.
Editorial calendars also are a great way to track timelines and where each piece of content will be published, whether you’re working on blog posts, white papers, social media posts or something else.
Visuals Are Your Friend
Whether your written content is long or short form, including a visual representation of what you are trying to explain can elevate your article from good to great.
Tools such as Canva can help you create content visuals that can enhance your content without needing to possess advanced graphic design skills. Leveraging visual content such as an infographic, short video or interactive widget is an excellent way of keeping your readers engaged with your content.
Practice, Practice, Practice
We saved the most important tip for last: Practice and repetition are your friends.
Content writing skills need to be nurtured consistently to improve. Yes, even those snarky social media captions must be written and edited repeatedly by social media marketers to get the hang of the format.
The more you write, the easier it will become, regardless of what type of written content you’re working on. Learn from each assignment, too: Take note of what tactics are working, what kind of edits you receive and what audiences appear to respond to. You can always learn from how people react to your writing, and you don’t have to sacrifice your voice or point of view to do so.
Find ways to practice with each of our content writing tips and tricks, and you’ll be on your way to creating better content in no time.