With more brands embracing content marketing, the demand for online content writers continues to increase. Whether you’re a veteran journalist looking to pivot or a graduating English major who can’t stand not having a better answer to the dreaded question “so what are you going to do with that?,” digital content writing could be your ticket to a blossoming career.
Adapt your writing to the Web
While anyone who has written for a print publication can transfer their skill set to digital, there are some nuances of writing online that you want to keep in mind.
1. Think visuals
Writing online should look sleek and easy to read. Paragraphs should typically be kept to three to four sentences each. Lists, bullets and headers to break up the page and allow for quick scanning are crucial. Take a look at the Buffer and Social Media Examiner blogs for good examples.
No matter what you’re writing about, visuals like screenshots, images, videos and embedded SlideShare presentations help to keep readers drawn in and convey your message more clearly. One of the major advantages of using a CMS is being able to drag and drop different visuals easily, so take advantage of how even if you’re a writer with limited artistic ability, you can make something visually appealing on your own, as long as you cite sources properly.
2. Embrace voice and tone guidelines
While writing online for certain verticals such as healthcare or education might mirror the research papers and essay writing you did in college, most formats you’ll see will be more like creative writing pieces. At first you might feel like you’re breaking every rule you were taught about not using opinion and first person in what seems like a more factual article, but really most platforms want to convey a certain personality and style.
Always ask for brand guidelines and notes on voice and tone, and review them thoroughly so you can get into character when you’re ready to sit down to write. If a company doesn’t have a written guide, do your best to ask questions and poke around on the site to figure out what types of messages are conveyed and what kind of readers visit the site. Look out for the most popular pieces that drove social engagement and comments and think about the common elements of those posts to see what you might want to include in your writing.
The most important points to keep in mind are the goal of the content—should the reader be informed, entertained or some combination of both, and what type of format and style will achieve that goal for this particular audience?
3. Understand basic SEO
Another unique feature of digital content is its ability to help sites come up in search engine results when people are seeking out information. Understanding how sites like Google rank pages will help you produce stronger content for a few reasons, so getting familiar with the terminology and how it all works can set you apart from other writers. There are plenty of resources and online classes that will teach you what you need to know about SEO, but one of the most used resources is Moz’s Beginner’s Guide.
Two main themes that you want to have a grasp on when it comes to SEO are:
- Creating informational content around keywords and phrases that people search for every day and using those same keywords and phrases in your writing so that your content serves as a useful resource.
- Linking to relevant content on trusted sites and within your own site also to help boost SEO.
Finally, you’ll want to know what metadata is and how to incorporate it into your content. Metadata is a title and summary that tells users what your content is about when it comes up in search results or it’s shared on social media. All types of metadata have short character limits so you should practice concisely getting your point across while enticing a user to choose to click on a piece of content. For a more in-depth look at the importance of metadata in search and social and how to write and implement it, check out this Hubspot ebook for more detailed guidance.
4. Create a portfolio
A portfolio is no longer something formal and rigid with specific guidelines. Just start writing. Create a blog and chronicle your passions. Write for your current employer’s or school’s blog. Blog for organizations in which you’re involved, industry publications and brands you love. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you can show off your skills with a high-quality piece of content you’d be proud to share.
When you have a collection of content, you have a few options of where you can house it all:
- Make a website: If you have coding skills or can pay someone or ask a friend to create something for you – go for it. If not, there are tons of free and paid options you can use like WordPress, Wix and Squarespace.
- Use a portfolio site: There are plenty of sites that are specific to helping you make a beautiful portfolio, including Carbonmade, Behance and Crevado.
- Add links to your LinkedIn profile: You can add links to your work under the “Publications” section of your profile, or if you wrote something for one of the positions you have listed, you can also add the content as a project under the relevant job.
- Claim your profile on ClearVoice: One of the greatest features about our site is that every writer has a profile that’s automatically populated with content he or she has written that has proper authorship attribution. You can claim your profile by signing in with Twitter or Google Plus. Once you do that, you can add links to other stories you’ve written.
Use as many of the above options as you’d like. It doesn’t hurt to get your name and work out there.
5. Make connections
Digital writing often starts with digital relationships. As with any other job, personal connections and networking can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals.
First, optimize your social profiles to include relevant hashtags and a link to your online portfolio or personal website. When that’s all set, follow relevant brands and online publishers you’re interested in writing for. As you read more of their content, you’ll get a good sense of the type of posts they like to publish and what performs well for them.
Interact with brands and publishers by sharing their content and responding to their posts. Make yourself known so that when you pitch to write for them and say, “I’m a fan of your site and feel that I would be a great fit,” you come across as genuine and know that you can contribute something that would mesh well with their site.
Many sites will have a form to fill out to get in touch about writing for the site, but also consider following up on social media with contacts you’re connected to.
Now that you know what to do, go forth and start writing for digital! Don’t fear rejection, just put your writing out there in the world and keep practicing and building up your portfolio.