Content Writing – 7 Ways to Get It Right

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: May 11, 2014

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Believe it or not, there is no magic formula for writing great content; it requires a lot of hard work, a little bit of know-how, plenty of research, and, of course, a knack for putting the right words together.

With that said, there are some things you can do to increase the effectiveness of what you write, so here in no particular order, are seven things you should know about writing effective content.

Be original

This is one of the most difficult things about content writing, because you can be sure that no matter what your topic is, countless others have written about it before you.

In order to make your content stand out, you need to figure out how you can add value to the topic or at least take a fresh approach to it.

For instance, there is probably already a lot of information about weight loss out there, but how many articles line up commonly made mistakes, list the need-to-know research findings or provide original commentary or advice from an expert?

Don’t skimp on the headline

The headline or title is the first and often only chance you will get to reel readers in. If you botch it up, your post is not going to have the desired effect, no matter how well researched and eloquently written it may be.

According to a research by Takipi, titles with numbers, such as “8 things you didn’t know about...” or “15 ways to…” tend to do well, and it’s always better to use digits than words.

If your article isn’t in list format, the research suggests taking on a teaching tone with readers, because who doesn’t want to learn something new?

Titles along the lines of, “How to…,” or “A beginner’s guide to…,” tend to work well, but if you want to make your title even more effective, you will need to get more specific.

For instance, rather than saying “A beginner’s guide to writing good headlines,” you could say “A beginners guide to writing headlines in 5 easy steps,” or “The 5-minute guide to writing better headlines.”

Using the right words can also help, and a few examples of words that are often present in the titles of popular posts include:

  • Smart
  • Surprising
  • Science
  • History
  • Hacks
  • Huge/big
  • Critical

Even if you think you know what you want your title to say, spend some time coming up with a few different variations and then come back to them the next day to see what stands out the most.

Find your hook

Whether or not someone will want to read an article through to the end depends a lot on what information you give them first. With this in mind, every article needs a strong introduction or hook that will make the reader want to find out more.

The hook could be anything from a question that readers want to know the answer to, a controversial quote, little-known fact, new finding, or anecdote that sparks curiosity or amuses the reader.  

Whatever route you decide to take, make sure the content that follows actually lives up to what was promised in your intro, or you’ll have a lot of angry readers on your hands.

Make it ‘skimmable’

Whether your readers are teenagers or business professionals, you can be sure that they have plenty of other things vying for their attention.

The best content is succinct and easy to digest, which is one reason why lists tend to be so popular; the reader already knows that you are going to provide a certain number of easy-to-digest tips or facts on a topic they are interested in.

But, of course, this isn’t the only way to make your content easy to skim. Try to structure your content in such a way that a reader can see at a glance what you are going to tell them.

This can be done by including bullet points, subheadings, short paragraphs, summaries, and key takeaways.

Read what’s already out there

Aside from keeping up with what’s happening in your industry, reading what others have written on a particular subject gives you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

If a particular piece of content is very popular, try to identify why it works, and how you can recreate that success in your own writing by answering a few questions about it.

What is the headline like? Is the article structured as a list or in a Q&A format? Does it have interesting subheadings? Is there a call to action? What is the tone like?

Also, remember that it’s often possible to take an already great idea and expand on it.

If someone has written a thought-provoking article on a particular topic, but left a question in your mind or brought up a point that you’d like to know more about, you can take that idea and craft a whole new article around it.

Inject some personality

Just as everyone has their own special way of talking and expressing themselves, every writer has their own unique voice.

While you may need to tone down your style and personality somewhat, depending on who you are writing for and where it will be published, you shouldn’t allow your style to become so watered down that your writing becomes dull and tedious.

Similarly, trying to copy a style that isn’t really ‘you’ can often make your writing come across as forced or awkward.

Keep it professional, but use a tone you feel comfortable with so that your writing will flow more easily. Another way to liven up your narrative is to incorporate analogies or anecdotes that stem from your own personal experiences.

Don’t get carried away

Big names like Salon or Vanity Fair can get away with publishing in-depth features of 3,000 words or more because they’ve built up a loyal following; but for most us, short and sweet is best.

You want to give your reader enough information to make the post useful, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed.

According to research by Medium, the ideal length for a blog post is somewhere between 1000 and 1600 words. This is not a hard and fast rule (most news articles, for example, are much shorter) but it can be a good guideline to keep in mind.

If you have a lot to say about something and feel like 1,600 words just wouldn’t do it justice, you could consider spreading the information out into a series of posts. This is also a good way to keep readers coming back for more.

 

Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger

is a journalist and education writer for Open Colleges with over four years of experience in writing for publications, online resources and blogs in the education industry. She believes that online education is the way of the future and is passionate about promoting online learning tools and the use of new technologies in the classroom.

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