Written by Lieze Groenewald
It’s time to start writing your own content and you are either apprehensive on how to approach the tricky art of writing or you are like an adventurous puppy who jumps in feet first and just start running with it.
But for most of us content writing is scary! I’ve been writing all my life. The first time I can remember being singled out for exceptional work was in grade four when my teacher read my sentences out loud to the class. In high school my creative writing was handed out to fellow pupils as inspiration. After a stint as an English teacher, I found my happy place as a reporter at a community newspaper.
So, writing content should have been a breeze, right? Wrong!
Making the switch from articles to writing content was a harrowing process – my first blog took weeks to write and it was too technical, too long and too … boring.
I decided to go back to the basics, and things went better from there. I threw in what I had learnt about headlines and keywords and tried to keep it interesting and that helped me to produce something that didn’t leave me cringing.
In this post I will share some guidelines to help you get started with content writing, focusing on:
- Brainstorming and Planning
- Writing Style
- Proofreading and Editing
10 Hints and Tips to write content:
It is a good idea to do some keyword research to improve your content SEO and how to use them wisely. But as Hosting101’s SEO expert, Lourens Tredoux, points out: “The most important thing is to remember you are writing for Google AND people. Use your keywords regularly, but never too obvious. Content must still read easy and make sense”.
- Brainstorm and Planning:
Decide what you are going write about and very importantly who is going to read what you write. It must be relevant to your business and interesting enough that people would want to read it. A good place to start is frequently asked questions about your business. One of Hosting101’s most popular blogs is How to Understand your Google Adwords Report because it is practical and can assist people to manage AdWord campaigns better. Quality is also very important. Ask yourself how this content will enhance your business.
After you have decided on one subject, brainstorm on what you should write about that specific issue.
I use a ‘spider’ – the body is the topic and each leg represents something I want to address: The first leg is the introduction where I tell my audience what I am going to write about and the last “leg” is my conclusion where I provide solution or answer posed in the introduction.
It is important that the introduction is creative and interesting to grab the reader’s attention. If you are struggling to write an introduction, try to imagine that you need to tell something what your blog is about. You are excited, you run op a few flights of stairs to find that person. Blurt out the first thing that comes to mind about the blog or content when you see that person. That should help you to write an introduction.
Each of the other ‘legs” of my spider represents a new sub-thought that I want to address and these usually become my headlines.
The last leg of the spider is the conclusion, the final paragraph or paragraphs that draws the entire piece of writing together. It addresses whatever you used as your main objective of the article in the first paragraph or answers the question that you asked or ends with an open-ended question that draws the reader into a discussion or debate to encourage comments from your reader.
Now that you have a basic idea and structure for your writing there are other things to consider.
- Writing style:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and concise. Use the KISS principle- Keep It Short and S
- Don’t make spelling mistakes and use the correct grammar.
- Write conversational so the article is not too technical and easy to read. Also read other blogs and see what writing style appeals to you. Use that knowledge to find your own writing style that you are comfortable with.
- Keep your audience in mind – are you writing to inform people who know nothing about the subject or are you writing for experts?
- Remember that not everybody is going to read the article from start to finish, so start with the most important information first and funnel down to less important aspects later in the article.
- Use headlines to break up the information to make it an easier read.
- Images are also important to make content more appealing.
Headlines are the crowd teasers and pleasers that can draw in your audience or push them away. If you don’t want readers to move on to other content, you must pay special attention to your headline.
- It must be short but pack a punch
- It must always contain an active verb
- It is always written in the present tense
Research has shown that
- Promising a List: “5 Things you must do to keep customers happy” or
- using Why: “Why you must backup your data every day” are the most effective headlines to ensure people read your posts.
It is also important to keep writing concise so that you don’t bore everyone to death, but at the same time keep in mind the correct length for Search Engine Optimisation.
- Don’t plagiarise other people’s work:
If you quote somebody or use their ideas, always acknowledge them with a quote, footnote or in your bibliography at the end of your content.
- Proofreading, editing and spelling:
Spell check and language programmes are great, but it is very important to have someone – a real live person – to proofread all content before it is published. After you have written something, leave it for a while and then you read through it again. I usually read a printed copy and to “old school corrections” with a different colour pen and then I do my corrections digitally. But the most important step is to then send it to one or more people to read through my work. Only after they have corrected mistakes of made suggestions to improve the article, the content will be published.
Writing your own content can be satisfying and rewarding for you and your business. Using simple writing guidelines can go a long way to bring out the writer in you. Happy writing!