For content marketers, the aim is clear. In order to boost your SEO rankings and gain traffic and leads, you need to be creating great content. But anyone who writes regularly will be familiar with the fear factor an expectation to repeatedly produce great content can bring.
Not only does your content need to be high-quality, compelling and relevant to the audience it’s trying to reach, but it also needs to stand well apart from the myriad of mediocre content floating around the digital sphere.
Every now and then, we all need a little inspiration and motivation to up our writing game. When you’re on the hamster wheel of generating content after content after content, it sometimes helps to sit back and give yourself a fresh reminder of some of the ways you can make your writing just that little bit better.
1. Write a strong introduction
Having a strong start to your blog post is key to getting that bounce rate down and extending readers’ time on the page.
HubSpot explain that a great introduction should have three key components:
- Grab the readers attention - e.g. with a story, a joke, an interesting fact or statistic.
- Present the purpose of the post.
- Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it.
First impressions are so important. In those opening lines, you need to deliver on the promise made in the title - and add a little more. You want the reader to be thinking: yes, this is why I should read this. This will help me.
2. Take on the role of explorer
A good piece of writing isn’t clunky, shallow, blathering, arrogant or formulaic. A good piece of writing should be simple. It should read like you’re speaking with your keyboard.
The only way to do that is to truly understand what you’re talking about. Be an explorer - an investigator. Read and absorb everything you can until you can write naturally and fluently without the need for nonsensical jargon.
This is what being a good content writer is all about. It’s about taking the technical, the complex and the superfluous and moulding it into something that is readable, digestible and engaging.
3. Use analogies to bring ideas to life
The art of great storytelling comes from an ability to connect with an audience, in such a way that they reach their own understanding of the point you’re trying to make.
You’ll remember times you’ve listened to a great speaker, when something they are describing really hits home with you, and you are completely clear of exactly what they are trying to say to you.
That moment of elucidation often arrives as a result of an analogy.
An analogy is a linguistic device that’s hard to beat for creating effective understanding in your audience. Writing for Copyblogger, Brian Clark explains it like this: “Rather than a figure of speech, an analogy is more of a local argument. The structure of the argument leads to a new understanding for the audience.”
Winston Churchill’s 'Iron Curtain Speech' is a prime example of the power of the analogy. His words, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Triests in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent”, projected an image so simple yet so powerful that it took hold worldwide and became the defining language to describe European geopolitics up until the late 1980s.
The analogy convinces, provides clarity, encourages empathy, and furthers our understanding. So why not use them more in your writing?
4. Read more
Reading isn’t just good for the soul, it can also help to widen your vocabulary and increase your understanding of topics.
The thing is, reading and writing are inseparable. A writer who doesn’t like to read is like a filmmaker who doesn’t watch films. How can you possibly write well without knowing what good writing looks like?
If you’re ever feeling disillusioned when in the middle of writing a blog post, an eBook, or new copy for your website, then look around for inspiration. Re-read the books or articles that make you want to be a better writer. Look at what your favourite writers or authoritative voices in your industry are talking about. This will not only help motivate you but might also offer some fresh inspiration for your content.
5. Banish your fear of the blank page
As a content writer, there are few things less daunting than tentatively typing out the first sentence of a blog post - or worse, an eBook. There’s so much you want to say, but where do you start?
Robert Bruce at Copyblogger once described this fear of the blank page as greater than "evil spirits, wasting disease, and visiting in-laws". But now compare that feeling to the elation that follows once you’ve crafted a flurry of words that will lift and transport your reader…
So how do you get past that fear of the blank page?
It involves two things: research and planning. You’ve got to know what you’re talking about, so do your research. Then why not jot down on paper a list of core ideas that you want to get across.
If all else fails, just start typing. Type anything. Your plans for the weekend ahead, a short review of the movie you watched last night. Seriously, anything. Sometimes you just need to get yourself into the rhythm of writing first.
6. Be authentic
Authenticity is a buzzword that’s thrown constantly thrown around the marketing sphere, but being authentic in your writing is so important. Your prospects are people, after all - people you want to build connections and form relationships with. And you’ll struggle to do that if you don’t make your content human.
There’s a tendency to view B2B writing as serious, but there are few instances where it isn’t possible to inject a conversational tone or a dash of humour into your writing. Sharing personal stories can also be a way of connecting with people.
In a recent podcast for journalism.co.uk, Robert Cottrell, editor of online newspaper The Browser, explained that you want to make readers feel like they’re having a conversation with the most interesting person they’ve ever met in their lives. And that they’re speaking from a position of intense, first-hand information.
But how do you find your authentic voice? Try reading your blog post out loud, does it sound like you? Does it sound genuine? Are you coming across as warm or cold?
Plus, don’t be afraid to show your personality or share your opinion. If your readers feel like you truly believe in what you’re saying, they will trust you.
A great piece of content can help you to build trust and credibility with your audience. Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward formula for creating great content - you have to put in the effort to create something new and original to drive traffic and generate leads.
Ultimately, success comes down to understanding the needs of your ideal customers and creating content that helps them through their problems and towards a solution. But a refresh on how to make your content more compelling and engaging is never a bad idea. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect writer. And a great writer will always be looking for ways to improve.