Creating Content for Business!
From someone that has been writing professionally since 2009, I can tell you that whether you’re writing a Tweet, a blog, or a novel, the rules of great writing don’t vary much. Sure, the themes and ideas might differ, but some rules don’t change. Here are my top five tips for creating great content and a bit of insight into how my process works…
1, Stop faffing – just write some words!
If you only take one of my tips, then make it this one. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to exist!
It’s so easy to get trapped in the pursuit of perfection. But, this is a massive distraction, and is the most common reason for people not finishing a piece of writing. So, don’t worry about whether it’s good or not, the aim is to just get something down on paper.
Once you have something, that’s the time to make it better. But, don’t faff with it too much. Content only has to be good enough to prompt an action. If you can write well enough that someone will click a call to action button on your ad, turn the page in your novel, make a phone call to your business, or scroll past the headline, then your content is plenty good enough.
2, Write with purpose
Before you start writing you need to know what your aims are. Content for the sake of content is not likely to be compelling. So, consider what you want to say, and what you’d like the reader to do or feel.
Do you want them to feel inspired, or hungry, or anxious? Do you want to excite them or reassure them?
Maybe you’d like them to go to your blog so you can teach them something useful, or go to your online store to buy your product? In this case, the action is likely to be to click a button.
Perhaps, you’d just like to raise awareness about your latest service, or read the next chapter of your book!
Whatever it is you’d like them to do and feel, keep your content focussed on that.
3, Show don’t tell
In marketing, this means “don’t tell me your product is good, show me”. It’s so much more powerful when people are given room to make their own assumptions based on the clues you give them.
It’s the difference between saying: “6 yummy dark chocolate brownies” and “6 insanely gooey brownies made with real Madagascan chocolate!”
Using the word gooey allows the reader to decide if they will be good or not. Mentioning a detail about the ingredients implies a high quality product. They are exactly the same brownies, but I know which ones I’d buy, and pay more for!
Marks and Spencer do this really well. They know how they want their customers to feel when they think about their products. If you haven’t seen one then check out a recent M&S food advert on YouTube for ideas. Check out some premium airlines for ideas too.
If you haven’t already, take some time to think about how you want your customers to feel when they think about your own product or service. Note down some words and phrases that are associated with those feelings and save them. They’ll be handy in all your content writing including writing taglines, social posts and adverts.
4, Less is more
Keep it short! People don’t have a lot of patience for endless reams of content, so you’ll need to grab people’s attention in as few words as possible.
Only 20% of readers will scroll past the headline, so make it compelling. People scan headlines quickly and will usually only notice the first three and last three words. Make sure your key words are at the beginning and end, or, even better, cut the whole thing down to just 6 words.
Of those that do read past the headline, less than half will continue past the scroll line. The scroll line, or fold line, is at the bottom of the screen or the middle of a newspaper (where it folds). To continue reading past the scroll or fold, you’d have to swipe the page or unfold the paper. This is premium space so try to get as much of your message here as possible. If this content is good enough, people will look for more, but if you don’t grab them here, they’ll not bother. On Facebook you get about 24 words before the “read more” button, this is Facebooks version of the fold.
While you are keeping is short, also keep it simple. When I open a website I want to know what you do and how you can help me. I don’t want to be baffled with jargon, or your whimsical use of a thesaurus! If you specialise in “online booking systems for dog groomers”, then just say that!
5, Edit your work
Start by reading your work through and checking for any obvious, initial errors. This is a good time to re-read your original brief to make sure you remained on track.
Once you’ve done a quick edit, the next step is to see if you can reduce the number of words. Also, check for unnecessary jargon and the tone of the piece. Is it what your audience would expect from you and your brand?
Next, check for flow and potential grammar issues. Reading it out loud is great for finding these kinds of errors. If you can’t read it out loud, then changing the font or printing it out will make the content look different, and help you spot errors you wouldn’t normally see. Both these methods will force you to read what you actually wrote, and not what you think you wrote.
And finally, check your spelling. You’d be amazed at how many people skip the spelling check. It’s such a simple thing to do and only takes seconds. But, it makes your work look so much more professional, so why wouldn’t you run it through a quick check before publishing it?
Don’t know how to start – here’s my process!
This method works great for blogs and articles, but it can be fast tracked for shorter pieces of writing, or repeated over and over as your work grows . Eventually, your sections will become chapters and your headline will become a book title.
Start by writing down some random notes and ideas. You can add to this anytime you get an idea for a blog, just open up a blank document and note down any words that come to mind. Include a headline or title, if you have one, and any other keywords or sentences you think you might like to include. Update this anytime you have a new idea. You might have several of these on the go at any one time. I currently have 18 draft blogs which are no more than a title and a random bunch of words. I’ll come back to them all later.
When you come back to work on your draft blog, the next stage is to do your research. Read books, articles and blogs that are similar to yours, and take plenty of notes, especially look for interesting facts and new perspectives. Take some time to find useful photos, create graphics, and source videos. Don’t forget to note down your sources in case you need to check something later or reference a quote. Also, make notes of a few keywords and phrases that will help your content to be found when you come to publish. I often take an afternoon and do this for a few draft blogs at a time.
When you are ready to start writing up your blog, pick just one from your researched drafts, and concentrate on that one. Start by creating your headings and subheadings, then organise your existing notes into the right sections. If you use WordPress, or another writing tool, this is easy to do as you can create blocks of text that can be moved. Next, expand your notes into rough sentences and paragraphs. Don’t worry too much about getting them perfect, you’ll do another edit once you have finished this rough draft.
Now take a break, a quick cuppa will do, or you can come back to this another day. In the final session, the work is almost done. All that’s left now is to edit your work – a fresh pair of eyes will really help!
How long should it be?
This is such a common question. The answer is: as long as it needs to be and not a single word longer. Don’t add words just to meet a word count, diluted content is usually pretty boring to read.
There are always exceptions, but, if you are interested in averages, aim for the following word counts…
Tweet – 240 characters max
Adverts – between 6-40
Facebook Post – 24 words or less
Newsletter – 80-120 words
Flash Fiction – 500 words
Short story – 1000 – 10,000 words
Novella – 10,000 – 40,000 words
Novel – 70,000 – 120,000 words (depending on the genre)
Blogs should be at least 350 words. If you are writing content to be enjoyed by a reader a perfect length is around 1500. If you are writing specifically for google/SEO then aim for 2000 – 3000. For a pillar blog you’ll need a minimum count of 5000 words. A pillar blog is one, very detailed, central blog, that smaller blogs feed to.