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7 things about content writing your schoolteacher never taught you

7 things about content writing your schoolteacher never taught you

7 things about content writing your schoolteacher never taught you.

In the beginning itself I would like to say that content writing is not taught in schools, at least not in normal, conventional schools. What I’m writing here is about “writing” and not necessarily about content writing. But, since content writing is mostly writing, they can be interchanged without losing the meaning.

I was just out of college and my first article was just published in a local newspaper. It was a humorous piece on how I kept falling at very odd times.

My early schooling was done in a special school for children with disabilities (I have cerebral palsy) and due to the emotional and social connections that I had made over there with other students and teachers, I regularly visited my school even when I had started my business after completing my college.

When I bumped into my old English class teacher, she exclaimed, “Hey Amrit! This is not the English I taught you. Where did you learn to write like this?”

There was a look of pride in her eyes. One of her students was writing for a newspaper.

Ever since then I have come across expressions such as, people saying that the stuff they are writing, they never learnt in school.

Though, this can be applied to any field. Unless it is a professional course, the schooling never teaches you things that can actually make you money. Can you mention something that you learned in school and now it helps you make money? I guess not.

So, what is there in content writing that you never learned in school. I can think of 7 things. I explain below.

1. Avoid using difficult words when writing content

It is difficult to define difficult words. It depends on what is the state of your vocabulary.

For example, a word that is difficult for you may not be difficult for me. Maybe the word you have never used I come across it daily. That’s a different issue.

In school they always liked it when I used words that are not used in day-to-day language.

I remember whenever I used a new word that nobody else in the class knew, my teacher, knowing quite well that it was a new word I had used, would draw a smiley nearby. I felt more encouraged.

In real-world, difficult words, or the words that are not used frequently, put people off. Using difficult words can be counter-productive when you are writing commercial content.

The purpose of commercial content is to make people understand what you are writing as clearly as possible. They shouldn’t have to refer to a dictionary to understand your copy or the content you have written.

Though, I don’t completely agree, it is recommended that you should write for grade 6 kids when writing content for business websites.

2. Come to the point as fast as possible

In school you are encouraged to go on and on about a subject.

Something that you can express in one sentence, they expect you to express in 10 sentences. If you can express something in 10 sentences that you could have expressed in a single sentence, you attract praises, and your grades improve.

This is not good when you are writing content for websites and blogs. Although you are advised to publish very long blog posts and web pages, this length is regarding the content and the coverage of the topic, and not about prevaricating on the main message.

When people read web content, they are in a hurry. Yes, even if they are luxuriously lying on a couch, they are in a hurry. They may not be running around doing their chores, it’s just that there is so much content on the Internet that they want to browse through as much as possible.

Hence, by the time you come to your main point, they may already leave your web page or blog post and the entire purpose of writing that web page or blog post is wasted.

This is more important when you are writing sales copy or website content for business websites. Yes, to entice people to read further, you don’t show all your cards but as far as your message goes, come to the main point as fast as possible.

This is good for people, and this is also good for search engine crawlers.

3. Write search engine friendly content

Search engines were unheard of when I was in school. The only engines we knew of were the rail engines, and that too, steam engines.

Even if you belong to generation Z, it is highly unlikely that your schoolteacher taught you how to write essays and reports so that they rank well on Google.

As a content writer you need to write content that is search engine friendly. Your content is supposed to help your clients improve your search engine rankings and get them targeted traffic.

Writing search engine friendly content isn’t a separate form of writing. It is just that you need to be able to write in the language people use when they use search engines.

You need to be able to strategically use the keywords without overly using them or without seeming as if you are trying to “optimize”.

Most importantly, you need to write relevant content in a friendly language that is easily readable on all devices.

Every word you use, every sentence form, must make it easier for search engine crawlers to make sense of what you are saying.

4. Write short sentences and shorter paragraphs

Shorter sentences and paragraphs are not just easier to read, they are also easier to interpret by search engine algorithms.

Though, I have seen that on many blogs and web pages, people get carried away with the concept of writing shorter paragraphs, but however much possible, use simple sentences. Express one thought in one sentence, and just a couple of thoughts in a paragraph.

In school you were taught totally the opposite, although, this might not be the case with all the teachers. In school you were taught to write complicated sentences. Therefore, there is a concept of compound and complex sentences in which, multiple thoughts or multiple inferences are included in a single sentence with lots of conjunctions.

A complicated sentence may have lots of “ands”, “ors”, “buts”, and other types of conjunctions. I’m not saying avoid them altogether, but use them only when they are unavoidable.

5. Write to convince, not to impress

In school, you are supposed to impress your teacher with your writing. When you are writing content for your website or blog, you need to convince the readers into taking an action.

When people come to your website or blog, they don’t come to be impressed or to be blown away by your writing prowess. For that they would rather read the New Yorker or a novel by their favorite author.

They are reading the web page or the blog post to get informed, to get educated, and to get convinced. Yes, they are looking for you to convince them into acting.

How do you do that? There are many emotional triggers that you can use. You can use a sense of urgency. You can use the fear of missing out. You can cater to the lazy or greedy sides.

The moot point is, when you are writing professional content, you need to sell. Hence, avoid words and expressions that may confuse people or prevent them from understanding the advantages of buying that product or service.

6. When writing professional content, you need to fight for people’s attention

Isn’t it totally the opposite of your schoolteacher who may had been chasing you around to submit your assignments?

People hardly care about you on the Internet unless you are an influencer, or a celebrity, and people read you just to get associated with you. You need to fight for people’s attention.

How do you get their attention? By using attention-grabbing headlines. By making sure that every sentence they read encourages them to read the next sentence and every paragraph they read, encourages them to read the next paragraph.

You want people to open your email marketing campaign? You must come up with a compelling subject line. Most of the email messages are lost because the subject lines fail to inspire them.

Hence, when you are writing content as a professional content writer, you are not just writing, you are writing in a manner that people are drawn to your writing, and they are captivated by its style and content.

Also, as explained above, people are always in a hurry when they are reading your web page or blog post. They are either in the middle of something – watching a Nyan cat rip off – or hundreds of notifications are distracting them away from you. If despite all these distractions and stimulation if you are able to hook them to your writing, you are a talented content writer.

7. Write in a conversational style

When you are writing content, you are talking to people. When they read your web page or blog post, they must get a feeling that someone is talking to them.

In schools, this is often discouraged. Your writing must sound pedantic. It must sound “scholarly”. It must contain long-winded jargon, phrases, and expressions that are difficult to pronounce if you need to read them aloud. People don’t hold conversations in such language, and those who do, are often ridiculed.

You must be easily able to read aloud web pages and blog posts.

The best way to find out whether your content writing is easy to read is to read it aloud and see if you can read it smoothly or you need to halt repeatedly. If you need to halt repeatedly, rewrite it.

Over the years, I have learned to adapt my writing according to different industry needs. I can write conversational, market-side language, and I can also write pedantic language.

As I have often written on my blog, more than a content writer, I am a writer, and most of my clients appreciate this.

It doesn’t mean I always do my own thing and don’t care about the concerns that my clients have. Their websites need to convert. They need to improve their search engine rankings. I deliver on both the fronts.

Other than that, whether it is web content or scholarly content, I think as a writer, you should write in your own style. Yes, cater to the conventions as per required by the institution for which you are writing (web or otherwise), but ultimately, once you have mastered the art, stick to doing your own thing.

How to give your best when writing content?

How to give your best when writing content

How to give your best when writing content.

I don’t get to visit Seth Godin’s blog regularly, but whenever I do, I feel thankful. He always shares great wisdom.

In his latest blog post he has shared the importance of giving your best effort when creating something, whether you are creating a business, delivering a service, or just doing something for yourself or someone else.

In my book that I have just published on Kindle – This is how I built my content writing business – I have given an example of how they make tea in the Japanese and the Chinese cultures.

Brewing tea is a spiritual activity. Everything from boiling the water, putting the leaves and other ingredients, letting the concoction brew, and afterwards, to pouring the prepared tea from the teapot into the cups, is revered and appreciated. It’s beautiful to watch the entire thing.

Don’t just do something “sufficiently”.

It is so easy to deliver something functional.

I will confess. Even I do that with some projects because a client is paying a lot less, or he or she is doing something to annoy me. My connection with the content writing process gets disembodied.

It’s not that I don’t like writing content – I enjoy it – but this is my way to disconnect myself with a client who doesn’t appreciate my services. Do I endorse it? No.

If you don’t give your best to your content writing, it shows through.

Writing is a communication, just like any other performing art. Teachers of performing arts like singing and dancing often tell their students that if they don’t enjoy the performance, neither does the audience.

They can make out the lack of enthusiasm or the presence of it.

When you are writing, if there is a disconnect, it shows through. Maybe you are writing the perfect words, the perfect sentences, and erudite phrases, but if there is no connection, if there is no strong desire to give your best, it shows through. The readers can feel it.

How do you give your best when writing content?

Don’t let the others define your capabilities. Just because someone is paying you less or doesn’t appreciate your ability to write high quality content, it doesn’t mean you yourself start thinking about your abilities on the same terms.

Your brain actually works on the philosophy of “your wish is my command”.

Your brain delivers what you ask of it. If you tell your brain that you love what you’re doing, you actually do it as if you love it.

Seth’s advice is mostly business-related but it is also applicable to the art of content writing. Pay attention to finer details. Pay attention to the individual words, the individual sentences and the individual phrases that you are using.

You are not just writing because you are being paid. You are writing because hundreds of people may read what you have written and get affected by it.

Otherwise, my suggestion is that you don’t take up the assignment. Of course, if you are financially or otherwise hard pressed against the wall then the circumstances of exceptional, but if you can afford it, only take on assignments you can make an emotional impact on.

Is your ability to research very important as a content writer?

Doing research is an integral part of content writing because often, clients don’t give you all the information you need to write convincingly.

What does research for content writing mean?

I will give you a small example.

I don’t have an accounting background. My search engine rankings for “content writing services for accounting businesses” have suddenly come to the first or second position on Google. Lots of accountants are approaching these days.

Top Google rankings for my content writing services

Top Google rankings for my content writing services.

Most of the clients expect me to find relevant information on the net from other websites and then come up with the relevant content and make it “unique”.

Of course, I make it unique, but I need to find the meanings of all the services that are alien to me, for example SMSF auditing or BAS accounting, or different ways of accounting in Australia, Canada and the UK. How do I find that information? I research.

There is another company, or a group of individuals, who have gotten hold of some scripts, who want to build DEFI platforms (decentralized finance) or NFTs (non-fungible tokens), or general blockchain applications. Sometimes I feel that the terms that they want me to use in the content, even they don’t know them, but maybe it’s just my skepticism. The thing is, whenever I ask for some clarification, they ask me to look up on the Internet. I research.

There are no special tools for researching. Yes, if you want to research keywords to write optimized contents, there are many specialized SEO tools such as Ahrefs, but if you want to find information to write content, you need to use the good old Google or Bing.

I use Google for research purposes. I set it to various countries to find diverse information. In Firefox I open a “Private window”. I go to google.com. Then I go to settings. In the settings I change the name of the country for displaying the results. This way, suppose I set the country to Australia and then search for “crypto wallet development company”, it is going to show me companies from Australia and not India, from where I’m doing the search.

Your ability to research as a content writer must also include your ability to recognize useful information. How do I do that?

When I’m looking for information, my main purpose is to find information that would be useful to my client’s readers (customers and clients). I look at the information from their perspective. If I feel that they would find the information useful, I use it. Otherwise, I keep looking.

Do I charge extra for research when I’m writing content? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It depends on how much time I need to spend researching. If I feel that I need to research a lot, I add it to the time that I spend writing content. I let the client know, and if he or she is not ready to pay for the extra time, I insist that he or she give me the right information.

How to keep visitors longer on your website with your content?

How to make people stay longer on your website with content writing
How to make people stay longer on your website with content writing

It is important that when visitors come to your website, they spend longest possible time there. This is important for lowering your bounce rate as well as increasing your conversion rate.

Studies have shown that the longer people stay on your website, the greater are the chances of them becoming your paid customers and clients. This is because they become familiar with your presence and grow comfortable with what you represent.

In different forms I have explained on my website how to lower your bounce rate, which means, how to keep people on your website longer. How long people stay on your website or how fast they leave your website, is a reflection on the quality and relevance of your content. The quality and relevance of your content and your lower bounce rate go hand-in-hand.

It’s very easy to bring people to your website. Any SEO company or content marketing company can help you with bringing as many people as possible to your website. The real feat is turning those people into paying customers and clients. The content that you have published on your website accomplishes that, or must accomplish that.

The fact that people stay on your website, explore various sections, and go through your web pages, means that they are interested in your proposition. Here are a few things you can do to keep people longer on your website through your content.

Provide definitive answers to definitive questions

Your bounce rate will be higher if people feel that they have been misled into visiting your website. Suppose they come across your link on Google, click the link, come to your website, and then, after feeling dissatisfied, leave within a few seconds. Why does this happen?

Take your own example. You are moving through an arcade of shops and there is a gripping banner offering you something that you have been looking for, for ages. With great excitement you enter the shop but to your dismay, it’s nothing like that. They are offering something completely different. Something that you don’t need. Disappointed, you come out of the shop. If possible, you may also give it a negative rating if it is listed somewhere.

Exactly this happens when people come to your website through a link they have found somewhere, expecting something, and then not finding it. They immediate leave your website. This is neither good for your conversion rate, nor for your search engine rankings.

All this while Google is quietly observing how people are reacting to the search results its algorithm is throwing up. If the search results don’t come up with the right answers, its performance deteriorates. In retaliation, it takes it out on you. It lowers your rankings.

Hence, when you are publishing content, make sure you are delivering exactly what is being displayed in the title and in the headline. Stick to the point.

Internally link to other web pages and blog posts

Even if somehow, your visitors are unable to find what they’re looking for, maybe they will find some useful information on another link within your website. For example, when writing about SEO content writing, I may have also written about SEO copywriting. Since you are searching for SEO copywriting, but you enter my website through something related to a SEO content writing, you might as well check the SEO copywriting link too, just in case. This increases your chances of staying on my website longer.

Make your content easier to read

Despite finding something valuable, just because you have grabbed everything in a single, large paragraph, your business may get frustrated and leave your website in a hurry, without reading the entire web page or blog post.

Use shorter paragraphs. They are also convenient to read on mobile phones. They also help your readers focus on singular thoughts. Don’t try to express a lot within a single paragraph. Whenever there is an excuse to create a new paragraph, create a new paragraph.

Use headings, subheadings, and bulleted points to succinctly explain complicated topics. This also makes your content easily scannable. Without reading the whole thing, if people simply go through your headings, subheadings, and bulleted points, they should be able to understand what you’re trying to say.

Use relevant and attractive images

Although images are not a part of content writing, they can keep people on your website for a bit longer because even if they are not reading the text, they may like to go through the images, and this increases the time they spend on your website. Even if it doesn’t help you with your conversion rate, it may send a signal to Google that you are providing good content and as a result, your search engine rankings may improve.

Use conversational style of writing

Everyone likes being talked to. Have a conversation with your readers. Use lots of “you” and “me” and “I”.

The good thing about writing in a conversational style is that you write as you speak. You use smaller, direct sentences and expressions. You don’t sound pretentious. Even you yourself feel as if you are in a positive flow of and this reflects through your choice of words and phrases.

Tell stories

Just like people like being talked to, they also love reading stories. This is because it is easier to relate to the characters in a story, whether they are anthropomorphic animals or human beings.

Stories also provide ready-made templates. For example, if a character is going through certain circumstances, one or the other reader too has gone through somewhat similar circumstances.

If I tell you the story of Peter who was reluctant to use content writing to improve his search engine rankings and due to that, he went through extreme hardships. It was almost too late when he decided to give quality content writing a chance, and that too, cynically and reluctantly. But then, he was swept off his feet when he began to experience the results after four months and by the seventh month, his business had taken a U-turn.

In the story you learn that just like you, there is a person Peter who doesn’t understand the power of quality content. He cannot figure somehow that content writing can improve his SEO. When he has tried everything, in the end, before completely giving up, he decides to give content writing a try. The story also tells you that the results aren’t immediate. In four months his search engine rankings begin to improve and by the seventh month, the fortunes of his business had completely changed.

Hence, these are some solid ways you can use content writing to keep people on your website for longer. Keeping your visitors on your website for a few minutes isn’t as easy as it sounds. As I have mentioned in the beginning of the blog post, it’s quite easy to bring people to your website. Simple SEO hacks can achieve that for you. What’s important is, for how long people stay on your website and how many of them convert due to that.

How empathy makes you a better content writer

Learn to empathize to become a better content writer
Learn to empathize to become a better content writer

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.