If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, there’s a good chance you have many roles in running your business. If content writing for your blog or website happens to be one of them, these 8 Content Writing Fundamentals can help you get started.
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Why Content Writing Matters For A Small Business
What is content writing? Content writing is basically everything you read on web pages, blog posts, video scripts, white papers, ebooks – any information that is directed to a specific audience. To do its job well, great content writing plays a large role in SEO and in generating a website’s organic traffic. You need high-quality writing that serves your audience well. A clear and concise message is a must-have in today’s content laden world. Without it, you might as well be wearing an invisibility cloak.
“Much of the advice given to copywriters, journalists, editors, and other content creators for SEO writing is dangerously out of date, leaning on practices that were once tried and true but that could now get your site penalized.” Moz.com
In light of this, a back to basics approach helps content writing does its job. Here are 8 Content Writing Fundamentals to make sure you’re writing content that works for your small business:
Content Writing Fundamental #1 – Identify Your Target Market
Who’s going to see the content you create? The best content answers the most pressing pain points of your target audience. Empathy for their situation goes a long way.
To get the process going, start with the things you can measure such as age, gender, location, job title, etc. From there, you’ll want to define other attributes you can’t measure such as attitudes, belief systems, values or interests. You may ask yourself questions such as:
- Values. What’s important to them? What values matter to them?
- Sources. Who do they trust?
- How do your competitors tap into the same market?
- Habits. What do they usually read?
- Pain points. What do they need or want?
- Problems. What do they need help with?
- Motivations. What motivates them?
- Needs. What are they searching for online?
- Likes. What do they like?
- Resources. Where do they look for it?
Content Writing Fundamental #2 – Create Your Audience Persona
With this in mind, you’ll develop your Audience Persona, which is a general representation of your ideal customer. A well-crafted persona is a key component of your strategy. Think of it as a composite sketch of an individual person. This helps you visualize to whom you’re targeting your message. You may also want to include a picture of this fictional character using stock photography to solidify your vision of this person.
Get To Know This Person
To that end, give this person a name and write their story. Describe this person’s traits. Describe their environment, feelings and daily activities. How will this person find your content? How does this person usually find answers to problems? Do they search on Google? Do they use community sites such as Quora or Reddit? Are they Facebook users? Pinterest users?
A buyer persona helps you understand what kind of content you should be writing to attract your target customers. By taking the time to clearly write out your persona, you have a consistent guide for everyone who creates content for your business. You can write specifically to that audience and make sure all of your content aligns with the solutions they’re looking for or the problems they’re trying to solve. It provides a vivid image of your potential customers and helps you understand how to communicate with them.
Content Writing Fundamental #3 – Brainstorm Topic Ideas
At the same time, when you brainstorm topics your audience is interested in, you can come up with specific topics and keywords to use as the foundation for all of your content. You can also brainstorm ideas for new products, collaborations, and social media ideas. It can be a way for you to organize your mind, especially when you have a lot of ideas flowing.
You can start your brainstorm by answering these questions:
- How can you provide what your audience is searching for?
- Does your business match up with the needs of your target audience? How?
- How are you different?
- In what ways can you deliver the answers or solutions to your audience? Is it through blog posts, courses, email newsletters, ebooks? Write down every method you can think of to deliver your message. Remember, you can provide the same content in multiple formats.
- What kinds of problems do you solve?
Also, brainstorm ideas to define the voice of your blog or business. Write down as many adjectives you can think of that describe your brand. Is it quirky? Encouraging? Friendly? Sassy? Professional? Fun? Irreverent? Knowledgeable? This will help you more clearly define your voice for your Content Style Guide.
One way to brainstorm is to use a mind-map, which is a visual tool used to represent the different parts of a given topic. For example, you could use a mind-map to brainstorm themes to cover on your blog.
Ask For Input
Ask people who interact directly with your audience for their input, such as customer service reps or sales reps. Plug those words into Google’s Keyword Planner or Merchant Words and see what comes up.
Finally, ask family or friends what they think or feel about your website or blog. If their impressions don’t line up with the adjectives you have in mind, then you know you need to improve your message to make it more clear.
What’s Your Main Message?
Remember, a confused person will not buy from you. That’s why you must clearly and succinctly convey your message. The moment your audience is confused, something else will grab their attention, and they’re gone. To build the necessary trust, your audience must understand exactly what you do and how it will help solve their problem.
Content Writing Fundamental #4 – Streamline Your Brainstorm List
For your content to be successful, you need to remain strategic in what you’re creating and avoid the trap of reacting to the latest hot topic or trend. You want your content to be directly related to your business goals. The key to never running out of content ideas is having a repeatable system to follow for generating ideas. Great content writers have a process which they rely on to consistently produce high-quality content ideas. Sometimes ideas aren’t always apparent. They take some time and creativity to develop.
From your brainstorm list, break your ideas into similar groups. What makes sense to your business goals? Determine which ones will best serve your goals and the needs of your audience. Make sure everything aligns with your brand voice and the needs of your customer persona.
Content Writing Fundamental #5 – Walk In Your Persona’s Shoes
To that end, your writing must resonate with your audience so they trust you as their go-to source. You want to care about the same things they care about. That’s why it’s so important to create your audience persona. You want to write directly to that person, not to a general group of people. To do this you’re going to need some inspiration. Read articles and books, watch documentaries – consume information the same way your persona would.
As you do this, look at every piece of content you encounter through the lens of your unique brand perspective. How does it relate to your mission statement? How does it fit with your brand identity? How can you fuse this topic with your perspective? When your writing is unique to you and your brand perspective it will stand out.
Content Writing Fundamental #6 – Organize and Curate Topic Ideas
At the same time, while you won’t use every idea you come across, you’ll want to organize your topics in a way that helps you determine if you should explore a topic further. You can use Evernote to clip articles from the web and save them. There are some other useful tools to keep track of topics as you come across them. Feedly organizes your online article subscriptions in one location. Similarly, Pocket makes it easy to collect and save online content across the web that you may want to refer to later.
When researching topic ideas, make sure you select subjects you can compete in. By doing a quick Google search, you can determine if a question has already been answered effectively. If you find several recent articles on the subject, then it’s probably too competitive for your article to be discovered. That’s when you do more research to hone in on different variations to find a topic that is less crowded.
Content Writing Fundamental #7 – Decide On The Content’s Purpose
Finally, keep your audience persona in mind when thinking about the type of content to create. You’ll want to make sure you’re reaching your audience in one of these ways:
First, you’re getting their attention and educating them about a problem your product or service solves.
The content you write for this purpose must…
Bring attention to the problem. It needs to highlight the pain points that exist. Don’t simply list the benefits. You must evoke feelings they understand before they’ll listen to you. What are they going through?
Here are some examples:
- “8 Reasons Why Your Teen Never Listens To You”
- “Why Your High School Student’s GPA Sucks and What To Do About It”
Second, you’re gaining their interest and earning their trust. You teach them more about how to solve the problem. They still have a lot of questions.
In this case, you write content that…
Maintains their interest and answer more questions. It also needs to solidify their trust in you. They’re becoming more educated about the problem, but they have more questions you need to answer.
Here are a few examples:
- “The Lazy Student’s Guide to Straight A’s”
- “A Skill Every High School Student Should Have and Why”
Third, you want to build their loyalty so that when they’re ready to buy, they buy from you. They are aware of the problem, and they know that your product or service can solve it.
This content should…
Tell a story that brings your message home and helps them relate to the solution. Your message must instill a desire for your product or service. Share case studies of how it solved the problem for one your clients, or even for yourself. Describe the experience before and the experience after.
Here is an example:
“5 Questions You Should Ask Your College Counselor”
Explain why they need to consider these questions and then highlight how your product or service can help address these questions.
Fourth, they’re ready to buy, but they need some encouragement or incentive to take action. They may have a few lingering questions.
To inspire action, your writing should …
Reassure them that your product or service is the right solution for them. Highlight the benefits in a way that inspires action. You can do this in the following ways:
- Share “Frequently Asked Questions” and showcase the solutions in the answers.
- Conduct a “Question and Answer” webinar.
- Respond to questions posted on social media, blog comments and emails in a timely manner.
Finally, they’ve purchased from you and are ready for more guidance.
To build a tribe, your writing must…
Guide them down the path to learn more about how all of your products and services can help them. You need to create strategic content that highlights related problems. Here are some examples:
- “Why It’s So Difficult to Create New Habits”
- “The High Cost of Not Taking An SAT Prep Course”
In this case, this goes back to understanding your customer persona and valuing the relationship over the sale. When you take the time to nurture people who come in, they will keep listening to you. By showing you’re the right person for them, they’re far more likely to keep buying from you.
Content Writing Fundamental #8 – Follow SEO Best Practices
In the final analysis, whether you write your own content or hire a professional copywriter, it’s important for all writers to follow current best practices for SEO writing. The experts at Moz say that “the practices that were once tried and true could now get your site penalized.” In today’s world, the keys to great content are quality, consistency and writing for human beings – not algorithms. That means, the most important goal of your content should be to effectively answer the questions that people are asking. If your article is relevant to what they’re searching for, they’re more likely to click on it and read it. Always evaluate your content by asking these questions: Are people likely to stay on the page and continue reading this article? Is there a better answer elsewhere? Make sure you’re doing a superior job at writing your content, and it will work for you.
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