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5 Tips to Content Writing

Anyone who owns, operates, or works at a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business has had their ears ringing with one of the hottest marketing buzzwords at the moment: content. Everyone from Gary Vee to industry giants, HubSpot, has preached about the importance of writing content and how doing so helps grow the bottom line. Despite all this talk about writing content, there still is a lot of confusion on how to do it well. That being said, writing content well should be pretty straightforward.

Before you start punching the keys on your laptop, remember to tell yourself that writing, in the simplest terms, is a form of communication. The rest, the pageantry of it, is presenting whatever needs to be said in the best possible light. The heart of what you want to say is what makes whatever you write worth reading. One thing that surprises many first-time content producers is how little writing actually goes into writing content. You’re following, right? Most of the work is done behind the scenes — researching, building an outline, creating a plan of action, and so on.

Before I go on and on, let me take a step back. Here are five tips for writing content that wins readers.

1. Establish a Goal

Any marketing activity should always be tied to a key performance indicator (KPI) or metric; writing content isn't any different. Identifying the primary purpose of a piece of content — whether that's generating sales, boosting brand awareness, building relationships with customers, or adding SEO value — will make it easier to create content that reaches specific marketing goals. Additionally, tracking the performance of content over time can help uncover trends that could inform future content goals and decisions.

For example, if a D2C brand is introducing a new product to market and wants to build awareness for it, they could focus on writing content (e.g., blog post) that talks about the product. If the blog post doesn't perform well (this could mean a low average time on page), the D2C brand can use that information to create different forms of content. This can include everything from case studies, video testimonials, and so on.

2. Settle on the Main Idea

Before you start writing, you’ll need to identify what you’re trying to communicate. What’s the main idea that you want people to walk away with? Establishing this is vital to writing content that is focused, tight, and has no wasted text. A great piece of content should be metaphorically similar to a Jenga tower, where removing one block (or section) can bring the entire structure crumbling to the ground.

For example, the subject of this blog is about how to write quality content, so that idea should be supported by every section, paragraph, sentence, and word. The main idea impacts everything that is written. Figure out what you want to say, and the rest is as simple as 1-2-3.

3. Research, Research, Research

Many of the things that I learned about writing came from my US history class in high school. Every Monday, the class was required to handwrite a two-page essay in 20 minutes that covered the reading that was assigned over the weekend. No matter how talented a student was, if they didn’t complete the reading, they’d be toast.

The thing that always stuck with me from that experience was that research makes writing content possible. Researching the subject at hand will help you uncover little nuggets of information that would have otherwise been missed and help you avoid writing content that's too "fluffy" and general. Also, supporting content with facts — whether that’s with stats or quotes — will help make your case. For example, according to a report from Heinz Marketing, 50.5% of marketing decision-makers stated that the biggest issue with the content they receive is that it's too "fluffy."

We live in a world of data, so having something to back up your argument will give you ample ammunition to keep you detractors at bay.

4. Create an Outline

It’s all about structure. Knowing how to frame an idea is as essential as having an idea in the first place. In my opinion, creating an outline is the most crucial step when it comes to writing content. So, how do you create a quality outline that makes writing content easier? Well, depending on the type of content (white paper vs. blog post), the way an outline looks can vary. However, most written content should follow a traditional outline. As an example, let's go over the outline structure I use when writing content:

  1. Introduction: Main idea is introduced

    1. Introduce the main idea

    2. Provide context into the subject matter

    3. How it relates to the audience

  2. Supporting Section #1

    1. A sentence that connects the section to the main idea

    2. Stat, quote, or example that brings validity to section

  3. Supporting Section #2

    1. A sentence that connects the section to the main idea

    2. Stat, quote, or example that brings validity to section

  4. Supporting Section #3

    1. A sentence that connects the section to the main idea

    2. Stat, quote, or example that brings validity to section

  5. Conclusion

    1. Tie the entire piece together with a nice bow

Once you’ve done that, you can start doing the real work — actually writing content.

5. Find a Second Pair of Eyes

Writing content is a solitary exercise; it's just you and the glow of the computer screen. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Speaking from personal experience, I understand how challenging it can be to be objective of your own work — especially after reworking a sentence for what feels like an eternity. When you've hit that wall, that's when it's time to call in for reinforcements.

Getting a second pair of eyes that you trust to review your work will always make your content better. Obvious grammatical mistakes can often be overlooked due to the fact that a writer is too close to their work. If you don't have anyone that can review your work, writing tools, such as Grammarly, can be a huge help. Grammarly offers a freemium version that helps spot errors, grades for readability, and does so much more. I'm a big fan of the tool and use it almost every day.

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