As I have written in one of my previous blog posts, for the past few months I have been working on a book on how to establish a successful content writing business.
In one of the chapters I have discussed how empathy is very important to become a successful content writer.
Empathy means the ability to understand what the other person is going through. No matter what you are feeling, no matter what your intellectual disposition is, you should be able to understand how the other person feels, what is his or her situation, why he or she behaves the way he or she behaves, and what pains him or her or makes him or her happy.
Why is it important to empathize?
Effective content writing is all about solving problems. Someone has a question; you provide the answer. With your writing, you are offering solutions. You want to make life easier for customers and clients.
This requires you to understand people. It requires you to empathize with them. You should be able to listen to them or read between the lines if you are reading their feedback.
Before working on an assignment, I always ask the client about the target audience.
Often, I need to prod. Most of the clients are too obsessed with their product or service and assume that every person on the surface of the planet should want to use his or her product or service.
There is nothing wrong in having such an opinion about your proposition because it makes you enthusiastic. But sometimes it also blinds you towards the pain points your prospective customers and clients have.
This is where empathy helps you.
Suppose you’re promoting a cloud-based CRM system. You need to carry out an email campaign. You have a list of contacts you have been gathering for a few years.
While targeting big organizations, your email may reach the inboxes of CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, managers, accountants, IT heads, marketing managers, and such.
You cannot send them the same message because their concerns are going to be different even if the product is the same.
If you can empathize with them, a CEO would like to know how your cloud-based CRM would help the company grow faster and even help him or her in his or her career.
A CFO would like to see the financial aspect. Will your cloud-based CRM system help the company save money on operational costs? Will it be able to plug wastage?
A marketing manager would like to know how your CRM system would help retain the organization more customers and generate a greater number of leads.
And so on.
I’m just using an email campaign as an example. Even when you are writing web content, you need to understand what your customers and clients are looking for. And then write content.
Translating content – thanks to Google Translate – is quite easy and enjoyable. As a result, I often take up translation assignments when clients approach me.
Sometimes people are not looking for simple translation services; they’re looking for a good writer who can capture the essence of what they want to convey, and then convey it.
This is why, many businesses, instead of approaching a general translation service, contact me.
Previously I have written content for a Norwegian business, a French business and a German business.
These days I’m writing content for a Chinese website. The content is written completely in the native Chinese language. I copy/paste the Chinese text into Google Translate, get the gist of the content, and then write it in my own style.
Sometime back I published a web page offering my translation services. On the page I have suggested that I can translate from any language, provided the text can be translated using Google Translate. Since then, I’m regularly getting translation work although my website primarily offers content writing services.
I uploaded the page on a whim. I had a feeling that when people want their websites translated, they either use automated services (a plugin that may be using Google Translate API) or they contact a professional translation service.
The problem with using a plugin is that the translation is done by the API and sometimes the original meaning is lost. There is no feeling. There is no personal touch that can be only brought by a human right.
The problem with typical translation services is that people who are translating are not necessarily writers. Hence, they simply translate. Again, there is no personal touch. There is no personal input.
When I am translating, I write the text as if I’m writing it originally. I rearrange messages. I sometimes add my own sentences if I feel that the original content doesn’t convey what needs to be conveyed. I think this is one of the biggest reasons why some clients contact me for translation services even when on my website they can see that I provide content writing services.
A few years ago, who would have thought that I would be translating for a Chinese company? Or for that matter a Dutch company.
Pretty much at the same time I also published my Hindi to English or English to Hindi translation services. I have good command over both the languages. Although I have received a few queries from my website, up till now, no Hindi to English or English to Hindi translation work has materialized so far. This is also because people talking about Hindi content don’t expect to pay a professional fee. This is a mindset thing.
Titles are important. They can have a big impact on your search engine rankings.
Although many renowned SEO experts claim that it is debatable whether creating “optimized” titles can improve your search engine rankings, there are different reasons why the quality of your titles is directly and indirectly related to your overall search engine rankings.
What is a blog post or a web page title? It is not the headline. It is the text that appears between the HTML tags <title> and </title>. This is the text that is picked by search engines and social media websites when you simply insert your link on your timeline.
I have personally observed that your title does matter. Your title is an indicator of what your web page holds. Hence, it naturally gives the needed information to the search engine crawlers. Again, that’s debatable. But there are certainly logical reasons why your titles matter.
Studies have shown that when people see a search term that they have just used appearing in the hyperlink of the search results, they are more likely to click it. Isn’t it natural?
For example, if you search for “content writer for web design service”, and there is a hyperlink that actually contains the phrase “content writer for web design service”, what reason do you have to not to click it? You have a big reason to click it.
Then, there is a direct relationship between the number of people clicking your link in the search results, and your search engine rankings. When more people click your link, Google takes it as a good sign.
It can be a double-edged sword, though.
If lots of people click your link and then immediately come back to Google, it means your bounce rate is higher. It means although you’re able to get the clicks, you are not providing valuable content for the search term for which your link is appearing higher. Your search rankings for that search term begin to go down.
Nonetheless, it is your title that brings people to your website, whether your title appears in Google search results, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media website that creates a thumbnail out of the link and uses the title to highlight the main point of your link.
The point is, no matter what the search engine experts say, as a content writer, I know that your title has a big impact on your search engine rankings.
How to create web page and blog post titles that improve your search engine rankings?
For this, I always suggest my clients to get written highly focused web pages and blog posts. This way, your web page title directly represents the body text.
For example, if I publish a blog post titled “Top 12 tips for writing content to improve your SEO”, Google and search engine users know what to expect from this blog post. All those people who want to read about how to write content that can improve their SEO, are going to find this link worthy of clicking.
If you stick to the core topic, that is, explaining how to use content writing to improve your SEO, people are going to stick around. They’re going to spend a few minutes reading the blog post as much as it appeals to them. They may also check other links on my website or blog.
This tells Google that the title for which my this particular link is ranking high, appropriately represents what my blog post contains. It takes it as an indicator of quality content and consequently, it raises the ranking of this particular link further.
Hence, when writing titles to improve your SEO, keep the following in mind:
Let the title exactly represent what the main body content contains.
Include the main phrases in the title for which you want to optimize your web page.
Don’t needlessly or randomly stuff keywords into your title. This decreases the quality of your SEO. You only have limited number of characters – 60-70 – and within those characters, you must represent a complete phrase, a sentence that can stand by itself.
Taking the above example – Top 12 tips for writing content to improve your SEO – it wouldn’t make sense if you simply use the keywords as your title, “content writing, SEO, top tips, writing content”. People are not going to click it.
Hence, try to represent the complete phrase, a long tail keyword that people actually use to look for your content.
When you’re sending regular office emails the recipients, normally, have no choice but to open your email because it is work related. But when you’re sending emails to people who are not expecting to hear from you, who may not even know you, it becomes difficult to make them open your emails.
One of the biggest challenges faced by people who want to do email marketing is getting people to read their emails. Here are some helpful tips:
Use a familiar From name
The “From:” field tells your recipient from whom they are receiving the message. Messages from companies are usually ignored. Messages from strange names are also ignored. Nonetheless, using a name is far better than using a company name
You are more prone to opening an email from “Amrit” than “Credible Content”, or even from “Google”.
Use compelling subject lines
After the “From:” field, it is the subject line which is the biggest factor in people opening your email. Research shows that 47% of people base their decision of opening your emails based on the subject line (source).
There are some tried and tested formulas for writing compelling subject lines such as invoking the fear of missing out on a great opportunity, catering to the vanity of people, expressing curiosity, making people laugh, retargeting (sending emails to people who have abandoned your shopping cart), and such.
Send the emails at the right time
When are your recipients most likely to open your emails? There are different ways of finding it. You can use your common sense. You can use analytics data provided by your email marketing service such as MailChimp.
This may take some time. You will need to send multiple campaigns and then note during which time period your messages are opened the most.
Be regular on delivering value
Even if people open your email message the first time, they won’t open the subsequent messages if you don’t deliver on your promise. If they expect some value from your email messages, make sure you deliver that value. If they want to learn from your email messages, make sure that they learn something each time they open your email.
Make emails easy to read on mobile
59% of the millennials use their smart phones to check email. 67% of the generation z check their email on their mobile phones (source).
Whether you are enamored by the mobile or not, make sure that your email is easy to read on mobile phones. It is not even very difficult. Just keep your emails straightforward.
So, if you want to make more people open your emails, when you’re sending the email for the first time, the subject line plays a very important part, but after they have opened the email, and have become familiar with your name, it is the quality of your messages and the email content that is going to make them open your emails again.
The short answer will be, he or she should be able to write well, convincingly, and just the way you want him or her to write.
The long answer is that you need to take certain facts into consideration before settling for a particular content writer.
Of course, you’re not just going to hire anyone. You will visit a few websites. You may also scour through freelance websites where many content writers have created their profiles. Some people prefer to hire from LinkedIn. That’s your choice.
Whoever can write, is not always a content writer you can rely on. As mentioned above, there are multiple factors. You also need to remember what’s your requirement.
Why do you need a content writer?
Do you need a general content writer whose services you can use for writing blog posts, social media updates, email campaigns or website content?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring the right content writer for your business.
Carefully analyze your requirement
This will definitely have an impact on the performance of your content writer. What are you looking a content writer for?
There are writers, and there are content writers. A person who is a good writer should be able to write for any requirement. At the cost of bragging, I can give my own example. I write content for all sorts of writing requirements. Even if a client needs a copywriter and not a content writer, I can fit the bill. This is because of two factors:
I have written content for many years now (almost 2 decades) and I have lots of experience writing for different businesses and for different requirements.
I’m a writer first, and then a content writer. It means I’m good at expressing myself. Provided I know what is to be said, I can say it well through writing.
Therefore, clients hire my content writing services for all sorts of needs, but this may not be applicable to the content writers you are evaluating.
Hence, analyze your content writing requirement carefully. If you’re not sure, don’t try to cast a wide net. Look at your immediate requirement.
Do you want someone to revamp your website content alright your website content from scratch?
Do you need a blogger?
Do you need an email writer?
There are some clients who unknowingly are looking for a stenographer who will simply write what they want him or her to write, and yet, they want to work with a content writer.
Whatever are your requirements, look for a content writer accordingly.
Do you need a content writer or a copywriter?
There is a fine distinction between a content writer and a copywriter. A content writer is supposed to inform and educate your visitors. A copywriter is supposed to sell.
Both are important. A content writer brings traffic to your website and a copywriter converts the traffic to paying customers and clients.
Many clients commit the mistake of mixing them up. They think that just because someone can write, he or she can also write to generate sales.
No, it is not as simple. There is a reason why copywriters charge so much money. They have the ability to turn casual visitors into paying customers and clients.
Hence, when you’re looking for a content writer, make sure that you’re looking for a content writer, and not a copywriter, and if you’re looking for a copywriter, make sure that your content writer can wear that hat too.
Ask for writing samples
Every professional content writer should be able to show you some writing samples. They can be websites. They can be blog posts. Anything that gives you a sense of how the content writer writes.
You will need to pay close attention to how the content writer writes for your industry. If you are in tech industry, you must be looking for someone who can comfortably write about technology. If you’re in the fashion industry, then the content writer should be able to comfortably write about haute couture. For a food related website, the content writer should be able to write about, of course, food.
What if the content writer is good but does not have samples related to your business or industry?
Again, I will give you my own example. Sometimes I don’t have the appropriate samples. I offer to write a few hundred words for the client and if he or she likes what I have written, we go ahead and decide to work on the project.
You will need a content writer who can write for the web. Sentences should be crisp and clear. The writing style should be convincing. The writer must know how to use your keywords strategically. He or she must be able to pack the maximum punch in as few words as possible.
Look for consistency and commitment
Although, on the Internet it is quite easy to find content writers who may fit the bill, looking for new content writers repeatedly can be a hassle. It adversely affects your content quality. Hence, when you are hiring a content writer, make sure he or she can commit for at least a few months.
How can you know that you can depend on a content writer?
There is no scientific formula for it. Use your own judgement. In my case, you can see that I have a website to offer my content writing and copywriting services. This at least tells you that I’m serious about my business and I’m constantly putting an effort to promote my work and get new assignments.
You can also check social media timelines of a content writer, preferably LinkedIn. Is he or she active over there? Most of the serious content writers consistently post on the social media accounts they maintain.
Even if you find your content writer on freelancing websites, the ratings should be able to tell you if he or she is consistent. If he or she has worked on many assignments, you can safely assume that he or she will be able to commit.
What about the charges? The content writing rates?
Although rates matter, if your decision to hire a content writer depends on paying a few dollars more or paying a few dollars less, then the writer is not important.
Set a budget in advance. This is not a government tender where you need to hire a content writer who charges the least. Remember that you are building an asset – the content for your website or blog. It’s the quality that matters. When you are building a home or an office, do you go for a talented contractor or who charges the least no matter how lousy his work is?
Again, I’m not telling you to spend more than you can. Set a budget and then scale your content writing requirement accordingly.
Hire a content writer in a manner that it is a mutually beneficial partnership. Just as you need to grow your business with the help of the content being written by your content writer, a content writer needs to grow financially and intellectually while working on your project. Keep that in mind.