Many new entrepreneurs hear the term “content marketing” or “content writing” when they first start their businesses, and it can be a little confusing. They know that it’s the best way to promote their business online, but that’s about it.
When someone mentions content marketing, you immediately think of blog posts or writing articles. But it’s much more than that.
Whether you’re just starting an online business or focusing on offering content writing services for other companies, it’s a critical part of marketing any business online.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in This Post:
- What is content writing?
- Why entrepreneurs need to learn how to write good content
- Great content writing tips for beginners
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What is Content Writing?
Simply put, content writing, also known as content marketing, is the planning, creation, editing, and distribution of great content. It’s not just about writing and publishing amazing blog posts; content writing is an essential process for all forms of content such as:
- YouTube descriptions
- Video scripts
- Landing pages
- Keynote speeches
- Website copy
- Social media posts
- White papers
- Case studies
- Podcast titles
Writing is the basic foundation for just about any content you publish online, no matter what format. Most of it all starts with the written word.
Many of us know how to write, but not everyone understands how to create content that readers read and share online.
Why Should Business Owners Learn About Content Writing?
Online writing is different than writing college papers or professional business letters. There are many grammar rules you can throw out the window, which confuses many new writers and business owners.
As far a brand loyalty, 64 percent of customers surveyed said that authentic and helpful content are primary factors when choosing to stay with a solution or service provider.
The difference between weak and strong content is that it can substantially impact your web traffic, conversions, and brand perception either negatively or positively. That’s why share-worthy content is so critical for a business’s success online.
You can either hire a content writer or do it yourself; either way, your online content needs to be on point. So, here are some content writing tips for beginners and more information on what content writing is. But, first, do you want to be a content writer, or do you own a business and want to write your own engaging content?
1. Start Your Planning Process with Keyword Research
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I learned from Debbie Gartner and her free SEO email challenge that Keyword finders are not the critical factor that makes or breaks your SEO success. They are helpful tools.
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2. Keyword Stuffing is a No-No
Say what? Didn’t I just tell you to do keyword research as part of your content planning strategy? Yes, I did, but there is something called keyword stuffing.
Keywords are supposed to make your content easy to find in search engines, valuable, and readable. But some people take that to mean you cram keywords in everywhere.
Keyword stuffing doesn’t build trust with your audience and doesn’t read well. The Google Gods don’t like keyword stuffing, and people will leave your site quickly because it makes for a poor user experience.
See, Google is smarter than you think. When you make your content awkward by inserting keyword phrases that aren’t grammatically correct or sound natural, Google knows.
Try inserting your long-tail keyword or phrase into your content naturally, and Google will know what your page is about.
3. Update the Links in Your Content
Internal links are part of any good SEO strategy. Interlinking to other posts and pages on your site improves your SEO, increases time on your site and page views by providing readers with helpful information.
If you’re a content writer for businesses, this may or may not apply to you, but if you’re writing content for your own business, make sure to go back and update older pages and posts with links from new articles. It helps your ranking in search results and ensures that your content is always fresh.
4. Make Them Slow Their Scroll with a Catchy Title
Writing a compelling or persuasive title is one of my favorite content writing tips for beginners. Why, because I was so bad at it, and it’s something I continue to struggle with.
Your title needs to stand out enough for people to slow their scroll as my friend Cate Rosales over at Sweet & Simple Life would say.
You only have a few seconds to get a reader’s attention, so it should stand out from the rest. For example:
A Behind the Scenes Look at Working for a Content Mill OR Why You Have to Be Crazy to Work at a Content Mill
Which one grabs your attention first? The second one, right? It makes you curious or strikes an emotional reaction, so you just have to see what it’s about.
Besides grabbing the attention of readers, your headline needs to summarize what your content is about and meet the search guidelines, so Google ranks you higher.
Now, I know it’s a lot to throw together in one phrase, especially since the ideal title should consist of 55 to 70 characters, and that includes spaces. The general consensus is that a good title has 6 or 7 words.
Thankfully, CoSchedule has an awesome free headline analyzer that helps me hone my title-writing skills. Here is also a list of power and emotion words you can use to write better titles. It goes with the headline analyzer.
Most people say a score of 70 and above is fine, but I’ve struggled with one in the 60s forever. Just don’t get too hung up on it if you can’t seem to get a specific score. The critical point is to think of your audience first.
Put yourself in their shoes and think about why certain headlines persuade you to click on them.
5. Use Short Paragraphs and Plenty of White Space
Your readers’ attention spans are short, so your paragraphs need to be short too. You need to break up your paragraphs, so they are short and sweet.
As someone who has plenty of formal education, the idea of one and two-sentence paragraphs was just insane. It’s just one of the many differences between academic writing and online content.
Be daring and use one-sentence paragraphs occasionally.
The shorter, the better and make sure there is plenty of whitespace. Readers get overwhelmed with long paragraphs, and white space makes your writing easy to read or scan.
6. Wait to Edit Your Writing
In a perfect world, you’d have an editor proofreading your content, but most of us can’t afford one in the beginning. I have someone that edits the content I write for my clients, but I still do my own articles.
Here’s the important thing about editing your writing. You should wait at least a few hours after you write an article to edit it. Ideally, I wait until the next day, but I understand that’s not always possible.
The reason is that after you first write something, it’s easier to read over typos and mistakes since it’s fresh on your mind, and you know what it’s supposed to say.
One of the best investments I make in my blog and business every year is Grammarly Premium. I wrote a review about the benefits of using the free and paid version of Grammarly that you can read for more information.
If you’re not ready to invest in Grammarly Premium, definitely check out the free version and read my review.
7. Create an Outline First
I admit that I’m not a huge fan of outlines. In college, I rarely used them because one of my gifts is being able to format a paper easily and logically. The one exception was probably my master’s thesis.
However, outlines are helpful in online writing. It forces you to organize your thoughts on paper and makes writing content faster.
The most important reason is so you can structure your content correctly. When you’re in the middle of writing an article, you can’t see the entire piece of content as a whole. But with an outline, you’re on the outside looking in.
Think of the articles that get the featured snippet. Google takes those points directly from the structure of your content.
Consider the layout of this post. First, I tell you what you’ll learn, and then I tell you what content writing is and why entrepreneurs need to learn it before I start in on the tips.
The best way to present your topic is to define it and then use evidence to explain your points. So, you start with an Intro and basic definition, then each point further explains it. Creating an outline is the best way to plan your content so it flows logically and you don’t miss anything.
8. Always Site (Hyperlink) the Sources You Use
The golden rule of academic writing is always cite your sources to avoid plagiarism, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do this in online writing when I started.
Not all internet writing is the same. I do a lot of technical writing and have written complex science and medical articles in the past.
These types of content follow the same principals of online writing, but they are like academic writing with plenty of references to scientific theory and processes, so citing is a must.
However, for online writing, you hyperlink your sources most of the time instead of citing them like a paper. Some scientific sources may actually use footnotes as well.
This type of content isn’t the only kind you need to reference your sources. It’s just more prevalent in medical and science content writing.
Anytime you refer to another website’s content, you should cite it by hyperlinking to that page.
9. Don’t Forget a Call to Action
I’m famous for forgetting calls to actions (CTA) at the end of my posts. Yet another reason to use outlines. If you make a blog post template and add a call to action to it, you won’t forget it like me. That is unless you forget to use your template.
Don’t worry; I’m not judging you if you forget. ?
A CTA literally tells your readers what you want them to do with the content. Do you want them to comment on a post, share your content, or buy something? Businesses may also want someone to sign up for their newsletter or get a demo of an app or software.
No matter what the CTA is, always make sure to include one at the end of your content, so readers know exactly what to do.
10. Use Active Voice
You probably keep hearing that you need to use active voice in your online writing, but do you know what it is? The Grammarly Blog has a great definition of active and passive voice. “Active voice means that a sentence has a subject that acts upon its verb. Passive voice means that a subject is a recipient of a verb’s action.”
Passive voice isn’t incorrect, but it should be used moderately.
Here’s an active sentence. “Cows eat grass.” Now here it is in passive form. “Grass is eaten by cows.” In the first sentence, the cow (the subject) performs the action. In the second, the cow is acted on by the verb.
Do you see how active voice makes the sentence clearer and more concise? The second sentence kind of makes you want to go to sleep, which is why whether people know it or not, they prefer to read active voice.
It’s one of the best content writing tips for beginners because it can transform your whole sentence. One of my favorite parts of Grammarly is that it checks for active and passive voice.
11. Make Your Content Easy to Read by Keeping the Reading Level Low
I recently wrote about making sure your articles are easy to read by writing your content at the 8th-grade reading level in my article on the best blogging tools for beginners.
The Hemingway Editor is free to use and gives your content a readability score or grade level. The 8th-grade reading level is the perfect level to try to write all your content for because it’s not too simple or too complex.
The editor also identifies passive voice or when your sentences are too complicated. Additionally, the Hemingway app tells you when you’re using too many adverbs.
12. Don’t Get Too Fancy with Your Wording
Use terminology familiar to the audience you’re writing for. The best content writers understand that overly complicated wording doesn’t win you any rewards for being the best writer.
If you think you’re going to impress your readers by writing over their heads, you’re wrong, even if you do have a Ph.D. in English Theory.
Of all the content writing tips for beginners on this list, take this one to heart. It will mean a slow death for your business or your client’s business.
If you really want to take your content writing to the next level, you can check out this AP Stylebook. It’s the style guide for journalists and content writers, and this version of the style guide is the latest edition that came out in 2020.
Content writing doesn’t have to be hard whether you’re writing for your business, clients, or both. That’s why I wanted to create a list of the most helpful content writing tips for beginners.
The content you create for your business can either help it succeed or run it into the ground. So, make sure to invest in a good SEO course like Stupid Simple SEO or at least check out this free SEO training.
Follow these content writing tips for beginners, and you’ll be well on your way to creating content that converts and turns readers into raving fans.