- March 12, 2023
- Posted by: Anna Rosenkranz
- Category: Blog
Hard and Soft Content Writing Skills
With content marketing costing significantly less than traditional marketing while having better lead generation results, content writing skills have never been more important. As such, whether you’re a business looking to increase lead generation or a person looking to have a freelance career in content creation, you’ll need content writing skills at your fingertips.
Like most other skills, content writing can be gained with the right information and practice. If you’re interested in learning, the tips below should prove invaluable.
Who Is a Content Writer?
Content writers are content creators who specialize in the written word. Often, their job involves carrying out the research and then writing informative, engaging articles on the same. This can help brands build trust with their consumer base or help sell some of their products.
For instance, think of the last time you tried to make a major purchase. If you’re like most people, you like to compare different products before making a purchase decision. However, most people aren’t knowledgeable enough to accurately compare available products, which is where content writers come in.
Let’s say you’re looking to buy a car in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range. All you’d have to do is type “the best $20,000-$30,000 cars” on google to find written content comparing the available options.
You can also find articles from sellers that give accurate descriptions of the vehicles in this price range, including their benefits and downsides. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know enough about the cars to make an informed purchase decision.
1. Research Capabilities
Often when you start writing about a particular subject, you may not be as well informed about it as necessary. This is where your information-finding and research skills come in. You’ll need to find the right data to include in your article. Remember, you’re also trying to build trust, and not knowing what you’re talking about is a quick way to lose it.
2. Grammar Skills and Logical Flow
Of course, trying to edit won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to word your sentences as well as basic sentence structure. Notably, if you get the grammar wrong, you might not even be able to impart the message you’re trying to share. This makes grammar one of the first things you should prioritize when you sit down to start a writing project.
A few mistakes in syntax, punctuation, and choice of words may also ruin your credibility as a subject matter expert. This is despite the language having nothing to do with whether you know what you’re talking about or not. Notably, some of the editing tools available can help you word your sentences better, although they can sometimes get it wrong. This is why you need impeccable grammar skills.
In the case of logical flow, what you write needs to make sense from one sentence and paragraph to the next. This is especially handy in informational articles where you’re teaching about a complex idea. If the content doesn’t make logical sense, you won’t keep the reader engaged for long. This ultimately means your work will suffer in terms of rankings.
The process of writing is often riddled with mistakes that may not be immediately apparent. Examples include misspelled words and missing punctuation marks. However, by editing, you can ensure that none of these mishaps make it into the end product. There are a variety of editing tools available to help you, such as grammar and plagiarism checkers.
4. Technical Writing Skills
Technical writing skills come in handy in specialized fields such as tech, engineering, architecture, etc. One example of technical writing is when you write an instruction manual for operating a complex machine or home tool. Support documents and research journals can also fall under technical writing.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While businesses are trying to build trust with their regular consumers, they’re also trying to increase website traffic, which is where search engine optimization comes in. There are various aspects to SEO, including on-page SEO, off-page SEO, keywords, meta-descriptions, technical SEO, white hat SEO, etc.
All these help your posts rank on search engine results pages, so whenever an interested party searches for information, your article appears at the top of the listings. After all, most people rarely go past the first page of Google, let alone to the third, fourth, and others. That said, SEO should not come at the cost of high-quality content since you still need to offer value to the reader.
6. Creating a Content Strategy
While coming up with random pieces of content and posting can help you achieve some success, it isn’t going to work as well as having a congruent content strategy. As such, if you have the skill to build a content strategy with user experience, brand focus, and content distribution at its center, you can achieve much more business success.
A good content strategy should keep your target market engaged at every stage of the funnel, including after purchase, so its importance is not to be understated.
7. Knowledge of Social Media
Social media is an excellent marketing tool for content writers; therefore, you need constant awareness of what’s happening on the different platforms. It can be a window into your target audience, which provides insight into what topics you should cover and how you should word your sentences.
The fact that you can reach the past, present, and future customers is another asset. You can share your posts on social media to see how they do, and that will tell you what you can improve and what you need to change.
8. Knowledge of Web Data Analytics
Also, just because you have to wait a year or two for your content to rank doesn’t mean you can’t check progress in the meantime. Web data analytics provides actionable information on how your write-ups are performing. You can see which are performing worse than others and make data-based adjustments.
9. Delivering Quality
One of the main keys to successful content writing is providing value by delivering high-quality work. Think of it this way: If potential buyers come to your website looking to buy a product and the information included has spelling errors and is grammatically incorrect, they’re likely to change their minds.
This might also happen if the information provided is factually incorrect. However, if they go to a different website and the information is up to date, accurate, includes the pros and cons, etc., they have more trust for the brand. Ultimately this means more sales, even if it’s not for the initial intended purchase.
Consequently, delivering quality is a must on all fronts.
As mentioned above, content writing comes in various forms, including blogs, long-form content, copy, emails, etc. While specialized content writers exist in each of these spaces, you may need to be adaptable enough to tackle a few by yourself.
For instance, if you’re doing content marketing for your business, you may need to write blogs or product descriptions to teach consumers about your products while at the same time writing marketing emails. The rules for writing blog posts and marketing emails are slightly different, and you need to be adaptable enough to do both.
If you’re a freelancer, you’ll notice that brand voice and tone differ from company to company. You can see this in the writing style, emotions, and mood of the content. One brand will prioritize humor, while another prefers matter-of-fact content. As such, if you’re not adaptable enough to switch between these different styles, you might miss out on a few opportunities.
2. Originality and Creativity
Creativity is another major asset when you’re writing content. While the information you write about may not always be new, you’ll need to find unique ways of presenting it. This includes finding new perspectives and connections. Unusual hooks may also help you catch and keep the reader’s attention long enough to impart the information.
3. Staying Updated
Also notable is that circumstances change often, and what might have been accurate last month may no longer be. Therefore, staying up to date on trends in the content writing field as well as in the fields you write about is important.
A classic example is where SEO is concerned. A few years ago, the most important SEO component was keywords. Therefore, writers would focus on including as many keywords in their write-ups as possible. That said, while keywords are still beneficial, changes to the Google algorithm have made them less important.
Now there’s more of an emphasis on value and quality. As such, you may find an article that explains what the reader wants to know in a concise, easy-to-read manner, which may rank better than a keyword-rich piece.
It takes some time for content to rank once it has been posted. In fact, 95% of published pages and articles won’t make it to google’s first page within a year, no matter how good the writing is. There are exceptions, such as when you post on websites with strong backlink profiles. These can shorten the time frame to about six months or even less.
Consequently, you need to be patient while waiting for your work to bear fruit.
5. Time Management
Whether you’re writing for a client or your own business, you’ll need to stick to particular timelines and deadlines. Consequently, you’ll need to manage your time effectively to factor in all elements that go into writing killer content, whether it’s keyword research, building arguments, or the final editing process. Submitting on time shows reliability and professionalism, not to mention it allows the client to have final input before posting the content.
Sometimes searching for information and unusual hooks and angles go beyond what you can achieve alone. In this case, you need to pick other’s brains for information before you can write. For instance, you may realize through research that information available on a subject matter is scanty while your client is an expert. In that case, you’ll need to get the information directly from them.
Good communication skills will ensure you get what you need for the project and allow you to complete the project.
How to Improve Your Content Writer Skills
Practice Writing Regularly
One way to get good at a skill is to practice often, and it’s the same for content writing. You can practice with different types of content, whether it’s social media posts, emails, blogs, etc. It’s also beneficial to ask for feedback from friends, family, and other more experienced writers in your space. That way, they can point out what they like and what you can do better.
Read Books and Online Articles
Also, you can take a page out of what other writers have done before you by reading their work. By reading and reading often, you get an almost intuitive idea of how language works. Additionally, you can see examples of concepts like flow and sentence structure while improving your vocabulary.
It’s a good practice to regularly read content that makes it to the top of the search engine results. That way, you can analyze what the writers are doing right and try to mimic that in your work.
Write With a Partner
If you start working out, some gyms and trainers recommend having a workout partner because it boosts performance, and people have a lot more motivation during their sessions. It also makes working out more fun. You can get almost identical benefits by having a writing partner.
You can motivate each other, and you’ll likely enjoy writing content more if you have someone else with you. They can also serve other purposes, such as keeping you accountable and helping proofread your work for some mistakes that you otherwise might have missed.
Keep the Language Simple
You may have come across thesis papers with complex, industry-specific vocabulary and signs that seem like gibberish to the layman. However, professors and highly-educated people in these fields may have little to no problem understanding them. Well, content writing is almost the complete opposite.
You’re basically trying to impart complex knowledge in the simplest way so that even a person who didn’t make it too far in education can understand. A great rule of thumb is to write content that 8th graders and lower can understand unless you’re doing technical writing. That way, you can reach a larger audience, and readers don’t have to go through the trouble of googling a new word every few seconds to understand the content.
Shorten Your Sentences and Paragraphs
Another pro tip to keep your audience engaged for longer is to shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences and paragraphs are significantly less intimidating. Big tasks like reading 40-word sentences in 10-sentence paragraphs can be quite intimidating.
However, according to the University of Georgia, breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable bits can help reduce the stress and procrastination associated with them. You can do this for your readers by shortening your sentences and paragraphs. In fact, most content writers try to keep their sentences less than 25 words long and paragraphs under four sentences.
Take a Writing Class or Attend a Workshop
If you want to go the formal learning route, you can enroll in a content writing class. It can help you build a community of writers that help each other with projects, proofreading, coming up with ideas, etc. You also get a structured way of learning the different aspects, and you may get specific tutoring lessons in proofreading, structuring content, best practices, etc.
With online classes also available, you don’t have to make a huge time commitment to learn content writing. After all, according to ThinkImpact, eLearning requires 40% to 60% less time than attending a physical class. Some of this time might be taken by the logistics of attending the class, such as driving to and from the school.
If you don’t have the resources to enroll in a class, you can take a seminar or attend a workshop. You get the same lessons but in a much more compact package and don’t have to commit as much time or resources.
Overall, content writing skills are becoming increasingly important, with Technavio noting market growth in the content marketing space to be worth about $487.24 billion in the next few years. If you’re a small or medium-sized business owner, you could save some of the cost of hiring content writers in the future by learning the skills required beforehand.
On the other hand, if you’re a freelancer having content writing skills can be a huge opportunity especially given the size of the industry. All you would need to do is learn the skills listed above and practice. Given that there’s a $486.24 billion opportunity learning all you can about these skills may prove worth it in the long run.