Getting started in content writing is a little daunting for newbies. So here at Content Writers Australia, we developed this in-depth beginners content writing guide. It’s worth starting by looking at what content writing is and what it isn’t.
Content writing is not just about writing
I know, right? It’s obvious, but despite the name ‘content writing’ there is so much more to consider.
I think the way I was taught to write a blog post is pretty common, and it goes something like this:
Write the headline. Write the first paragraph. Write the second paragraph. Write the third paragraph. Write the conclusion.
The thing is, that’s a very basic guide, and not what I think of when I think of content writing.
I think the first thing to consider is that content writing includes a lot more than just putting words on paper. It’s about content strategy. It’s about storytelling. It’s about reputation management. And much more besides.
Content writing is about many things, all of which are very important.
But that’s not to say you can’t write a blog post without thinking about the above. But it doesn’t always produce the best results. More often than not you usually get back in proportion to what you put in. So the more thought and care you put into it, the better your results will be.
Think about content writing like a chef: the food isn’t always going to taste great, but if they’re putting in the effort, they’re likely to produce something delicious.
The following guide will go into several sections we believe you need to concentrate on so that you can write amazing content.
These sections are:
- Planning your content
- Keyword Research & basic SEO practices
- Create strong headlines that hook search intent
- Content Design and Structure
- Visuals, Diagrams, Image and Video to support written content
- WRITE A LOT
- Copy Editing
Brainstorming and planning your content
The first step in the process is simply to figure out what you are going to write about. If you haven’t started writing content yet, it all starts with the topic or idea.
To create an amazing article is to distil and focus down the idea that you are trying to explain into a simple, easy to understand statement. Obviously, this step is dependent if you are writing content for a client or yourself.
The topic or idea in essence it summarises what you are going to write about. If it’s from a client they may know what they specifically want you to write about or they may be rather vague.
If it’s a vague requirement start with a brainstorming session to come up with something relevant that you can provide back to your client to approve to write.
Some tips to brainstorm a topic to write about:
Use associative brainstorming techniques
This is basically brainstorming words or ideas that are connected to the topic you are writing about. Think of it as a shortcut, you can do this with your clients too. You can write the answer to their question without having to go through the process of finding out what they mean.
Mind mapping – mind maps are a great tool for generating content ideas. You can do this in any way you want, either on paper, on a whiteboard, using post-it notes or in an app such as brainstorm for the iPad.
Word storm – this is where you choose a keyword from your topic. Start thinking of other words, either in the same context or related to it.
Word banks – try using a dictionary or word bank to come up with other words that are similar to the topic.
The second step is to brainstorm a list of measurable words. Instead of just writing things down on a piece of paper, you should write down the words in ways that you can measure them.
Pros and Cons – in this example you list both the good and bad aspects of your topic idea. This is great to choose between topic ideas so you can rate them.
Pros and Cons (weighted) – this is similar to the above idea but you are rating the pros and cons of each topic idea and assigning points based on how important they are.
Use a Google spreadsheet to do this, it’s a fast way to rank your ideas.
A new view to change your perspective
Sometimes you get stuck or are repeating what has already been saying. A handy tip to break the cycle is to ask a friend or colleague what they think. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t a writer as long as they can write down some ideas.
Start with a what if – “what if” questions can be used to change your perspective. Instead of writing about what something is, try writing about what it isn’t. This is the same as changing your perspective on a topic.
Think of the preposition – This is a very simple tip that helps you focus on a topic at hand. Simply start with the preposition in front of your topic. Sorry this sounds a bit odd but the idea is to put the preposition in front of your topic. An example of this is:
I am going to write an article about how to do…
I am going to write an article about how not to do…
Creating great content starts with defining a great topic. Hopefully the above gives you an idea of some techniques to come up with a topic. If you want to test yourself, choose a random topic and see what ideas you can come up with.
If you are looking for a topic idea, you can use the above tips to get a good topic to write about.
Content Writing Guide – Research
Probably the most important part of content writing is the research. Every article needs a beginning and an ending but before that, you need to have a great idea. You need to take this idea and research it properly. You need to try hard into find the right information or source of information as well as the right way on how you can convey it properly.
Here are some steps you can take to do epic research:
- Do a tonne of reading on your topic – This is a method used by some of the best freelance writers out there. It really is amazing how much writing you can get done when you just open up Google and start searching for articles. This is also good if you want to see what else has been said about your topic.
- Ask experts on your topic for help – if you’re struggling with finding that source or information that you need to finish off that article then just ask someone who probably knows a lot more about it. If not, they can probably recommend you a good source or point you in the right direction.
- Search forums – You can get quite a lot of information from forums. Forums are a great place to ask questions and find answers to questions. Places like Reddit and Quora are a great place to ask questions and find answers.
- Case Studies – This is a really good way of doing research. Do you know a successful business or website? Find out if they have any case studies on their website. A case study is basically a story of how that business has done well and it’s great because you can just copy and paste the information into your own article. You can also find out why they are successful.
- Find opinions on social media – This is a great way of getting opinions and perspectives on your topic. You can also find information about the truth behind whether or not you should run with your article.
- Statistics – Statistics are always a good way of backing up your articles. For example, if you’re writing about a certain disease, it’s a great idea to know how many people in the world have this disease and what countries they are from. This is a really good way of getting statistics and backing up your work.
- Google Scholar – This is a really cool tool because it lets you find all types of academic resources. This can be really helpful if you’re trying to find information on your topic. You can then use this academic content as part of your article or as a reference point.
Planning your content
Ok, so you’ve got your topic nailed and punched out a whole bunch of research. Now it’s time to start writing. The first thing we need to do is think about planning your content. Most people are horrible at this and it makes the writing process so difficult.
In every piece of content, you write there are things you need to say that your readers want to know. It might be that they want to know what a certain technique is before they invest the time to do it. It could be that they want to see an example or learn a concept before they get into it. Or it might be that they just want to understand something better.
Your readers want to know this stuff and you make them wait for it if you don’t plan it out first.
This means that we need to plan out the points we want to cover in our content. This is also what makes planning your content so important. It’s not just about writing a bunch of words and hoping they connect. It’s about understanding how you will get readers involved with your ideas.
Keyword Research & basic SEO practices
Having your topic nailed now is the time to look at the competition, find topics that no one’s covering yet and write about them.
Keyword research will be helpful in defining what those topics might be.
It’s surprising how much SEO has changed since its early days. If you’ve been in the game for a while, you’ll probably remember when keyword research was done by key word association.
This isn’t really a good idea anymore. There’s been a huge shift in how people think about searching and how they use search engines.
Keyword research is almost like marketing in itself. In a nutshell, keyword research is discovering the keywords people use when use search engines and then writing content that ranks highly on those keywords using SEO.
SEO basics is the same as having your topic nailed. In a nutshell, SEO basics is understanding how search engines work, what ranking factors are important and how to use these to your advantage. The main search engine optimisation areas are:
- Page title
- Meta description
- Alt Image Tag
Questions and answers
Content writing has a lot in common with content marketing and there’s no better way to learn to answer questions than there or so online forums. There are questions on every topic imaginable with the answers underneath. These are great areas of content to cover. Even if they’re not the ones you’re looking for, it’s a great place to get inspiration for click-throughs and social shares.
Understand the audience and search intent
Reviewing the search results will help you understand what search engines through their learning believe people are wanting. Finding topics that haven’t been covered – Reviewing the top-ranking articles for your topic will help you understand what topics have been covered. Researching them can give you a good idea of what people are looking for when using search engines.
As per the above, you can see what your competition is doing. Then you can either choose to follow what they’re doing or think outside of the box and do something new. What they are doing does demonstrate what works.
Length of content review
As part of your competitor analysis also note the length of content that your competitors are ranking for. This is a good way to gauge how long your content is going to be. Low-key competitive analysis will also make you realise that writing a short article isn’t always the best idea.
Create strong title tags and headlines that hook search intent
Some may suggest that the page title is probably the most important part of your content piece. This is for several factors:
- As explained in the previous section SEO Title Tag on the page with the content piece in question will aid search ranking. All other factors being equal if your title is more accurate and focused on a specific keyword phrase, your content piece will have an easier time ranking in that specific search query.
- Your title tag is the first thing readers will see on search results. So having one which is luring to the click is important. It is your first opportunity in getting the click.
Tips for writing a good page title:
- Include as many relevant keywords as you can in the title
- Include numbers where possible, for example, “How to write an article in 5 easy steps”
- Include the name of a specific place or organisation where possible
- Keep it short and snappy!
- Make sure your title is not unnecessarily similar to an existing piece of content that already performs well.
- Use capital letters where appropriate.
- Use a headline analyser tool to review it for feedback.
Content Design and Structure
Content design is an important aspect of producing a successful piece of content. A well designed and structured piece of content is the cornerstone to convert readers into customers or users. Readers need to understand the purpose of your content so that they can process the information quickly and efficiently.
It is important to remember that your readers are not interested in all the things you are because they are reading content written for a specific purpose. Therefore the best content is the one that is written directly for the readers.
What is content design? Simply put, it is about creating an outline that tells a story through the use of lists, images and paragraphs. The purpose behind this is to tell a story to your reader and make them active participant in the process of learning.
Here are some tips:
Actionable – A well-designed piece of content gives the readers a specific purpose for reading your content. The more actionable your content is the more likely the reader will be to complete what was asked of them.
Subheadings – Subheadings are essential as it gives your reader an understanding of what they will be reading next.
Bulleted lists – Bulleted lists are the best way to give your reader an overview of your content, but should not be too long.
Action steps – Adding action steps at the end of each main section is a great way to encourage the readers to take part in what you have written.
Short paragraphs – Your paragraphs should be short and to the point. The shorter the better as this will allow your reader to understand you and not become bored.
Formatting – It is important that all formatting is consistent throughout your piece of content. Do not use too many fonts or colours.
Bolded text – Bolding your text gives the reader a sense of importance and shows that you want to stand out from the rest.
Use power words – Using power words gives your content a certain sense of gravitas and helps to hook in the reader.
The golden ratio – The golden ratio can be considered one further thing you must consider when writing your content. The golden ratio is the optimal measurement of where the width to length ratio should be between your paragraphs.
Visuals, Diagrams, Image and Video to support written content
When you have well-written content, but no visuals, it can make your content writing seem flat. This is why visual aids are important. It’s not just to make your content more appealing to your readers, but also to support the meaning of your written content. Visual aids are even awarded importance in search engine ranking algorithm. When and how should you use visual aids? Whenever! Anytime you can use visuals, just do it.
Here are a few examples:
Photos – There are a raft of places you can get free photos from such as pexels. Finding relevant images and using them to support your writing is a great way to get people engaged.
Charts – Charts are nice to use to compare things or rank stuff. It’s especially great when you’re writing a top X list.
Diagrams – Diagrams and infographics are useful in supporting your writing, but they’re also great for showing off your knowledge when you’re standing up or presenting a talk.
Video – Video is a great way to deliver information, especially if you have an interesting story to tell. Video’s add engagement, especially for social media. Video is great for providing visual references
Infographics – Infographics are great as they make the information more visual and easier to understand. They’re also great for social media because people love to share them.
Tables – Tables can help to break down complex things, but they’re also great for promoting a visual concept.
Timelines – Timelines are a great way to show people the progression and how things evolved over time.
Flow charts – Flow charts and process diagrams are really useful for presenting a complex and intricate concept in an easy to follow way.
Screen shots – Screenshots are great for illustrating the point of a written piece.
Write a lot
It goes without saying that once you have a topic and structure to what you are going to write that smashing out a whole lot of content is key. The more content you write the better chance you have of producing a really good article. It’s also important to remove any self-doubt at this point and just focus on the process of writing.
In this process of writing, you will get all your thoughts down and you will be able to read and re-read your content which helps you iron out any rough edges. The more you write the more gold you will produce. It’s like anything – the more you work at it the better you will get.
Tips to writing more:
- Use your outline as a basis for content.
- Collect your own information.
- Write 300 words a day, that will give you a rhythm.
- Don’t use a writing schedule, write when you can.
- Go through and delete any words you don’t know or that might not be used in the English language. (This will give your writing a professional edge.)
- Don’t get stuck on one topic until you have a full article written.
- There will be time to structure your article once you have written it.
- Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, write just about things that are important and relevant to your topic and get it down on paper in as much detail as possible.
- Don’t worry about getting each sentence right, just get it down!
- Take notes on points you want to add.
- Record your notes in a format that you can go back to when you are writing your articles, so it increases the chance of consistency.
- Write as much as possible, don’t get bored of writing or anything, just keep going!
- Remember what you don’t keep can always become recycled content
If knocking your page title out of the park is the most important part (albeit a tiny part), then polishing your content ought to be right up there too.
Good writing is essential for users to understand what you’re offering. This is ‘copy editing’, and it’s the process of making sure that your content is both engaging and informative, whilst being free from errors of any kind.
Making sure that your spelling and grammar is elite will boost your credibility and authority in the eyes of both your users and your competition.
You don’t need to be a copy editor from a newspaper or magazine, but you do need to know how it’s done. A few online sources are:
There are three main techniques for copy editing your content:
Proofreading: Look for consistent spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation. It’s especially important to check these throughout your article.
Editing: Is your article detailed enough? Are there sections that need to be fleshed out and expanded?
Tailoring: Are there parts that just don’t work with your business’ message or the client’s needs?
Some Copy Editing Tips
- Make sure that you check all your facts. This is very important as it will assure the readers that you have done thorough research to provide them with the most accurate information.
- If you are a factual copy editor then try to make sure that your facts are 100% correct. If you are a descriptive writer, then try to make sure that your facts add additional information to the copy.
- Again if you are a factual copy editor, try to use complete sentences whenever possible.
- Always try to have a good vocabulary as this will make your writing more interesting and engaging for the reader. But at the same time avoid using big words just to sound smarter.
- Before you submit your copy, make sure you read everything through. This will prevent any errors of any kind.
- Proofread your work to avoid any mistakes that might lower the quality of your writing and also make sure that it makes sense.
- Don’t make editing be the killer of tone. If you have written a piece that is engaging and enthusiastic, try to keep that feeling throughout the whole piece.
- In copy editing, always make sure that your writing flows well so that it can be easily understood by the reader.
- Use tools. Most copy editors use software like Grammarly or Spellchecker to help improve their accuracy
The final step publishing
This one is simple. Either hand it to your client to get published or get it done yourself. Now that you’re s conten writer, have fun.
Bonus Section: Content Writing Tools to make you a better content writer
Content writing can be tough, but there are tools out there that can make it a lot easier. Check out these awesome tools that will help you write better content!
Grammarly – a useful extension for Chrome that checks grammar and autocorrects while you type. If you use it, get the premium version for auto-correcting spelling, grammar check and plagiarism detection.
Hemingway App – probably the best editing app out there, similar to Grammarly, but a bit more technical and aimed at aiding editing. This will make your final edit elite. The best part its free .
Answer the Public – A good brainstorming site where you can ask questions and receive good answers. Great for generating ideas or just to keep your writing juices flowing.
Readability test by Webfx – a simple scan of your content to rate its readability. Good for checking if your content is written well enough to be read easily and to make sure you’re not leaving out important stuff!
Headline analyser by Coschedule – Most people write headlines before the body text, and yet we spend a bit more time on the headline than any other part of our writing. It’s important to know if it will click with readers. Use this tool to check for emotional words and how readable your headline is.
Semrush – it’s my favourite keyword research tool which will find the most popular and relevant terms for you. It will also give you the number of sites that link to your content as well as backlinks, perfect for finding new content ideas!
Pungenerator – struggling for clever content marketing ideas? Pungenerator is the best way to find new trends, trending topics and interesting words. You can also use its free version without ads or get its premium version which has a feature that analyses websites on your topic of interest.
Google Docs – The best way to write your content, as it’s the fastest and easiest way to keep everything organised. You can even edit your content with bullet points, images, and videos.
Typeform – A typeform is a great way to get feedback and interactions from your readers, allowing you to quickly create an interactive poll or survey.
Semrush Google Doc Plugin – Want to make sure your content is found and shared? Use this plugin to discover the most shared and linked to pages, posts and sites on the web.
Ideaflip – My most used app, and the best way to brainstorm content ideas. It’s a game which allows you to come up with as many ideas as possible within a certain amount of time. I’ve found it particularly helpful when trying to come up with new headlines or blog ideas.
Stackedit – A very handy tool for editing images, especially if you’re working with a lot of images. It allows you to arrange your images in stacks, and drag them around to different sections of the page.
Copyscape – This is a plagiarism checker which can be particularly useful if you have to write about others’ ideas. It will tell you if your work has been copied from somewhere else on the internet.
Powerthesaurus – for a quick boost of vocabulary, this will help you find the best word or phrase for that word.
Canva – A great tool for design, Canva is a great way to create professional looking templates for your content and blog posts. It also has some beautiful templates for infographic design!
Memegenerator – Coming up with content ideas isn’t always easy, but sometimes images and memes help to spark ideas.
Google Translate – This can help you if English is not your first language to understand what your content says. It will also translate things into the correct language to find any mistakes.
Trello – This is a fantastic way to keep track of your content ideas, research, and other things. You can use it for keeping track of things when you’re researching a topic or when you have a lot of work to do. It’s also perfect for scheduling tasks.
Feedly – A great tool for finding new content ideas. You can use its advanced search to find specific types of content or you can see what’s popular using its trending feature.
Google Trends – My favourite tool for discovering the most popular or trending topics.
Reddit – A good way to find niche ideas and topics for your content.
Writing content should be fun so when you are done writing your content, you can have a huge smile on your face. In this article, I showed some tips and tricks on how to write amazing content. Follow this guide to writing amazing content and you’ll be writing your great content in no time.
I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you can incorporate those tips in your next content writing project. If you want to read more check out our other resources.
Good luck with your writing and remember: good content is always appreciated. Be truthful, show character and most of all, have fun!
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