Whether a brand is looking to generate brand awareness, leads and sales, or retain and improve the adoption and usage of their products and services, they need to deliver a great experience to your target audience.
And a crucial component of that experience is the content a brand uses to communicate with their audience.
- A Salesforce/Pardot survey found that consumers consider trust in a company's content to be 3x more important than trust in the brand's actual employees.
- 97% of the same survey respondents also said that bad content negatively affected their trust in the name of a brand.
Your content represents your company. If your website content is sloppy, bloated or confusing, so will look your brand.
On the other hand, writing great content can make you stand out and boost your business online. Great web content writing makes for a better website as well as search engine rankings.
With this comprehensive introduction, you’ll finally be able to understand what content writing is, along with the different types of content and skills a business needs.
What Is Content Writing?
It’s quite surprising really, that despite there being so much information about content writing on the internet, I couldn’t find a complete and accurate formal definition. So I’ll try to define it for you on my own.
Content writing is the discipline of writing and editing material for a business, for the business to be able to communicate on scale with its target audience.
It is also often referred to as web writing, website writing or writing for the web. This is because most of the material written as part of content writing either lives on the company website, or distributed via other websites and online channels, such as email and social media.
Examples of this material include information on the company’s website about who they are, their products and services, blog, latest updates, product documentation, email newsletter and more.
Let’s break this definition down further so you really understand the true nature of content writing.
Voice Of The Brand
First, no matter who writes the web content, it is always written to be coming from a brand. It’s the voice of the brand speaking to its audience.
The brand can range from a solo blogger to a large organization with thousands of employees, including the ones writing the content.
Communication On Scale
Second, you must have noticed that my definition said the content is written for a brand to communicate on scale.
This is one of the major factors which differentiate the content writing for the web from other types of material written in an organization.
For example, work related emails and slack messages within teams fall out of the umbrella of web content writing. This material is written to be consumed by just a few members of a department or organization. It is not produced to communicate on scale.
On the other hand, material written for a company website, blog, email newsletter, knowledge portal and more comes under the scope of content writing.
In content writing for the web, any piece of content is written around a specific topic or purpose, and is meant for mass consumption.
It is then published to make it discoverable and available for the audience it is meant for, and distributed through the brand’s content funnel by some kind of automation mechanism.
For example, almost every company’s website has an About page. This page has written material which introduces the story, value proposition and people behind the brand.
It’s published and available for anyone with an internet connection who might be interested in learning more about the company.
In addition, there’s also material which is not necessarily published but distributed or scheduled to be sent according to predefined criteria. Email newsletters, product updates, blog notifications and more come under this category.
Finally, the 3rd part of my definition is the target audience. Without a doubt, the primary target audience for content written by a brand are prospective and current customers.
The purpose of web content writing is to really understand their informational needs, and then create material to educate, inspire or entertain them, based on what their intent could be at a given time.
However, the content is also used by internal staff and any partners/vendors working with the organization. The larger an organization gets, the harder it is to stay connected and be in the loop for major decisions and updates.
So the content published or updated on the company website/blog helps the staff know their company’s products and services better, stay updated on events, and develop a single voice within the company.
The website content also allows the employees and partners to work among themselves more efficiently, and serve prospects and customers better. A great example of this type of content is information on company’s terms, conditions and policies.
Content Writing Benefits & Scope
Content writing started as a way for brands to set themselves apart from the competition. But it has now become a part and parcel of how any business operates.
Behind every successful company is a ton of useful and relevant content which resonates with their audience. Here’s why more and more brands have been investing in writing great content for the web:
- Content marketing provides conversion rates about 6 times higher than other digital marketing methods. (ABG Essentials)
- Though content marketing costs about 62% less than traditional marketing tactics, it generates about 3 times as many leads. (DemandMetric)
- Inbound marketers are able to double the average site conversion rate (from 6 to 12%), in part due to their content marketing efforts. (HubSpot)
- According to 74% of companies surveyed, content marketing has increased their marketing leads, both in quantity and quality. (Curata)
In addition, having more content on different topics gives your brand the chance to rank in search engines for more keywords. It also increases the likelihood of visitors sticking around longer on your website.
As a result, brands are increasingly taking content writing more seriously.
- The 2018 B2B content marketing statistics from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) show that 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers.
- CMI’s 2018 B2C content marketing stats reveal that 86% of B2C marketers think content marketing is a key strategy.
As companies increase their spending on quality content year after year, good content writers are more in demand than ever. In fact, it’s also a great time to start a content writing business.
This means that while there are a lot of writers competing for the same writing jobs, very few have the actual skills and domain knowledge to be able to write good content.
So it gets harder for a brand to separate the good from the bad, and have a smooth process to be able to consistently generate good content.
Content Writing Materials
There are a number of different types of web content, based on their objective, format and mode of communication. As a result, there are different forms of content writing.
As such, a content writer could be a generalist - good at adapting to varying forms like blog posts, ebooks, sales copies, social media posts, emails, user documentation and more.
Or he could choose to specialize and establish expertise in only one form. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
A blog post is by far the most commonly written piece of content for the web. And for good reason, as consistent blogging is an effective and low cost way to grow a brand.
A blog is a section of a brand’s website where they publish articles on topics which their target audience would be interested in. Each such article is known as a blog post.
In other words, a blog is a collection of blog posts, usually listed in a chronological order. The latest posts show up near the top, followed by older posts at the bottom.
For example, this article that you’re reading right now is one of the many blog posts published on my company’s blog.
Web Page Copies
This type of content writing comprises most of the material written for all the standard pages of a website.
The purpose of website content writing is to provide all the information a prospect may want to know about the business, their products/services, and how they benefit the prospect.
These include homepage, about us page, products and services pages, and contact information page, along with terms, policies and frequently asked questions.
Social Media Posts
In this day and age, social media is a big part of our lives. It’s also a big way for businesses and customers to connect and interact with one another.
By posting interesting content regularly on social media, brands have the opportunity to influence and build a relationship with their target audience.
From Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn & Instagram, there are a number of different social media platforms, with their own formatting and visual specifications.
That’s why the ability to write engaging social media posts for each type of platform is highly sought after.
Social media content writing involves scribbling short paragraphs, blurbs or rants (along with attention-grabbing visuals) to show a brand’s authentic side, promote an event, share inspiring ideas or extend an offer.
Copywriting involves writing content intended to make people interested in a brand’s product or service.
In addition, it aims to steer people towards a certain action. This action could be:
- Clicking on an advertisement and visiting the brand’s website to learn more.
- Subscribing to a brand’s email newsletter.
- Enquiring about a service by filling in a contact form.
- Adding a product to cart and completing the checkout process.
The kind of marketing copy to be written for the web is also determined by the platform where it will be published or distributed.
These include email newsletter, social media advertising, landing pages and paid search campaigns.
In some industries, it’s impossible to produce good content if the writer doesn’t have formal education or experience.
In fact, there could be serious consequences if the content is misleading or inaccurate. These include niches like:
- Finance and banking
- Healthcare and medicine
- Legal rules and regulations
- Deep technology and science
Because of the complexity and risks involved, only content writers specialized in an area write content associated with it. They are also paid more than generalist content writers.
The more features and complexity a product or service has, the deeper need for thorough documentation.
When you buy a toothpaste, for instance, you don’t need a user manual to use it. But when buying something more sophisticated, like business software, just a quick-start manual may not be enough.
You may need detailed tutorials on using all the features. So this area of website content writing deals with documenting product features, updates, use cases, guides and tutorials.
In a way, this is similar to technical writing as a writer will need proper knowledge of the product and industry it operates in. Only then he or she will be able to write usable content.
Content Writing Skills
There are more aspects to being a successful content writer than simply writing words on a page. You need to craft compelling content that will engage readers and compel them to take action.
Are you wondering if you have the skills to be a great content writer? Or perhaps you want to hire a content writer and don’t know the skills you should check for?
The most essential skills expected from a master content writer include:
Strong Research Skills
The best website content writers know how to conduct research on a deep level. This helps them on two levels:
- To understand and know more about their target audience.
- To get more information on the subject matter they write about.
Well-researched content tailored towards an audience is one of the greatest tactics to build a brand’s authority.
Adaptability To Different Styles
There are many different forms of content writing, with their unique tones, voices and styles.
To succeed as a content writer, one needs to be able to adapt to and master a range of content writing styles.
SEO, CMS and HTML
Just possessing strong writing skills isn’t enough. You also need good knowledge of SEO, CMS and HTML.
- SEO will help you write and optimize content better to be discovered and ranked by search engines.
- A knowledge of content management systems (like WordPress) will allow you to be able to publish and manage the content you write for a brand.
- A good understanding of HTML is essential as you’ll often need to make small fixes when publishing content on a brand’s website.
There are more skills to be covered but that’s beyond the scope of this article. To learn more, read my post on all the top skills one needs to be a web content writing expert in this day and age.
The more you practice a particular skill, the better you’ll master it. With every step a content writer takes toward honing these skills, they will be able to stay in-demand and command a higher rate for your services.
Content Writing Process
We have covered a lot of ground on content writing for the web. But we haven’t talked about the actual process. You might still be wondering about how all this works? How do content writers create content? So here goes:
Content writing is a significant long-term investment. Even more so considering the duration or months/years it takes to build momentum and deliver results.
It’s not like advertising, which you can turn on or off as you please. If something is not right with your advertising strategy, you can recover quickly by correcting it there and then.
But if you made the mistake of choosing the wrong direction for your organic content strategy, or worse, not even having a strategy, there are no quick fixes. It can again take months, or you may have to start from square one.
So the first step of content writing is to ensure that you have a strategy in place. For more information, read my article on essential components of a content strategy.
Content Briefing & Outline
Writing great website content at scale is hardly achievable by just winging it. Whether you are a solo content writer or a team, you need discipline, consistency and focus. Things can easily go awry in the absence of a single set of guidelines to adhere to.
When working on content creation for a business, what all stakeholders need is specific guidance to be able to understand the brand’s content strategy, mission and expectations.
This guidance is imparted in the form of two documents: style guide and content brief.
The brand’s style guide and copywriting briefs together act as the glue that holds the team together and helps in accomplishing the intended web content deliverables.
You can also think of this as a content writing questionnaire for your client or manager when they want you to write a piece of content. So you have complete information on exactly what you need to write to meet their expectations.
Content Draft Writing & Editing
As per a survey by CMI, 92% of marketers consider content as a business asset. But 60% say that their topmost challenge is producing great content. The kind of content that gets a ton of engagement, shares and backlinks.
Of course, creating an average piece of content isn’t hard. That’s why there is so much mediocre content online. But writing the same poor to average to good content like everybody else won’t cut it anymore.
A business will have to aim for great to remarkable content for the web, which is different from anything else out there. The world’s best content marketers don’t simply create content. They deliberately do it better or differently than others.
For more information, see my article on advanced ways to write content which is more likely to perform the best, gaining more backlinks and social media mentions.
Content Review & Publication
Once a piece of content has been created/edited by the writing team or person, it goes through a round of reviews.
Depending on the size of the company, it may be just one review by the owner, or multiple reviews by different departments (marketing, legal etc) in the company. Here’s what a typical content workflow may look like:
If any changes are required in the content based on these reviews, it goes back to the writers to revise. If not, it is approved for publication.
To publish content on the website, a company either relies on their IT department, or they use a content management software.
A content management system is easy to setup and learn. It makes it possible even for the non-technical people to publish content on the company’s website.
The most popular CMS is WordPress, powering more than 30% of all websites online. Other prominent ones are Wix, Squarespace, Joomla and Shopify.
More often, a brand will have website content objectives beyond producing and publishing content as just text, or in just one language.
For example, infographics and videos have risen a lot in popularity in recent years. So many brands are trying to convert their written content into visual content.
So once your written content is finalized, it may be turned into a script, and sent to a graphic designer or a team of video experts to be turned into a graphic or video.
In addition, if the company has international presence, it will also want to translate the content into the languages associated with the countries they operate in. So the web content will also be sent for translation to the appropriate staff member or team.
Content Marketing & Distribution
Once the content is fully ready and published, a brand cannot just let it sit there to be found by itself and used by their partners, staff members, prospective and current customers.
So in this phase, an organization puts in the efforts to adequately promote content to their target audience. This is done by mapping the content to the relevant stages of a content funnel, and distributing it accordingly.
A content funnel is a system designed to drive traffic, convert prospects into customers and then make them fall in love with your brand.
The purpose of the content funnel or lifecycle is to create the right content for each stage, and serve the content at the right stage. Learn more about inbound funnels here.
Performance Monitoring & Improvement
Blindly churning out content after content is a sureshot way to failure. As a company, you want to make sure that your content is resonating with your audience and achieving the goals set in your content strategy.
In order to do this, the goals are defined along with proper metrics associated with them. For example, if one of the goals in your content strategy is to get higher search rankings, then you’d be tracking metrics like average search position.
In addition, a brand uses a number of web analytics tools to measure and track these metrics. The most prominent example of such a software is Google Analytics.
From the analytics data, we can get insights on things like how much traffic the content is getting, demographics of readers, which content is performing the best and more.
This information helps inform and refine the content creation process on an ongoing basis.
Phew! I hope that was not a lot to take in for you. If it was, you can always come back again for reference. As you can see, content writing for the web takes a lot of planning, resources and efforts to get right.
But in the end, it’s all worth it. In addition, you also need to consider how you can best optimize the performance and ROI of your content.
Did I miss anything? Did you get all you needed to know? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.