Consumers are increasingly “online,” with the average U.S. adult spending eight hours a day using the internet and connected services.
With the web, so front and center in people’s lives, it makes sense for marketers to meet them where they are at, with relevant, useful content that not only introduces new products and services but actually solves problems.
Have you determined your brand strategy is lacking in quality content? Here’s what you should know about content writing, including the forms most used by marketers today.
What is content writing?
Creating written assets for the purpose of marketing or achieving set branding results is considered content writing. It’s ideal for attracting and nurturing leads in all parts of the sales cycle. And it can be designed for various platforms with different audiences in mind.
Content writing is also a great way to stay connected with customers once you make the sale, such as through education and troubleshooting. There are many different content formats brands can utilize. Plus, content can be written by the company or outsourced to agencies or professionals that focus solely on writing content.
Some companies choose the hybrid approach of writing some of their own content and hiring others to do more specialized work.
What are the different types of content?
Content marketing is a potentially $66 billion dollar business worldwide, and it includes many types of content. While we can’t list every type here, these common content categories cover most of what the typical company may want in a given marketing campaign.
1. Web pages
Ideal for: Everyone.
You will be hard-pressed to find any legitimate brand or company without a web presence these days, and even those with a one-page overview should think carefully about how their words come across online.
Web pages can be short and sweet or offer pages of detail on services offered, teams, customer service advice, and job openings.
While the website can be a larger container for other content types, such as blogs, eBooks, or even the e-commerce storefront, web page writing generally focuses on the core content of the website’s mapped pages.
Writers specializing in web pages look to get the thesis of each page across with the fewest words possible and with an eye for SEO.
2. Blog posts
Ideal for: Brands who have something to share with their customers who want control over messaging.
Blogging has had quite an evolution since it formally started in the 90s. It started as a personal, digital diary of sorts to the more formal landing page style.
Brands now use it like a magazine or newspaper where they can post announcements, product updates, information about the industry, or answers to customer questions.
Blog posts are also uniquely positioned to capture search traffic since they are easy to update with new information as search trends change.
3. White papers
Ideal for: Brands hoping to reach decision-makers through thought leadership.
Looking for a way to distill data and more technical information into a cohesive sales message? White papers may be your best option. These are generally written for business leaders and not the general public.
White papers, like eBooks and case studies, are often presented as free downloads in exchange for contact information, making them excellent lead magnets. Length varies from a few pages to dozens of pages or more.
4. Case studies
Ideal for: Brands wanting to use customer success stories as part of their “social proof” strategy.
Case studies, at first glance, look similar to white papers, but they can be less technical and highlight customer success stories as the core of their messaging.
Creating a case study requires setting a goal, reaching out to customers, and getting measurable numbers to include (or other demonstrable “wins”). Case studies should feature one client at a time that brands can use as testimonials of their products and services and how well they worked for others.
Ideal for: Brands who want to cover specific topics in detail and want to attract new customers.
eBooks are incredibly popular and may be short (just a few pages) or as long as a traditionally-published book. They can cover almost any topic, including product information, solutions to common problems, or corporate news.
Additionally, they are one of this list’s most flexible content types. One of the most popular ways to use an eBook is as a free download to get prospects added to your contact list.
6. Social media posts
Ideal for: Everyone.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are just a few of the top social channels brands use to engage their audiences. While social media posts require fewer words, writing them takes a bit more skill since each platform has character limitations and best use practices.
Content writing for social also requires the writer to keep up with the changes for each platform as they happen. And coordinate with other members of the content team to make sure their text matches videos or photos being shared in the same post. If you plan on using social to promote ad content, sales copy experience is essential.
7. Newsletters and emails
Ideal for: Brands with robust email lists or who need to nurture their subscribers with quality information.
Do people still read emails? Over 90% of those in the U.S. use emails, and that number contributes to the 319.6 billion emails sent and received worldwide each day.
So, yes, email should be part of an overall brand strategy, and this will require someone who knows email marketing tactics to craft the just-right message to get good open and click-through rates.
The benefit of handling this content with care includes a captive audience of subscribers who you can communicate with at any time and personalize your message to their unique demographic.
8. Press releases
Ideal for: Companies using media coverage to promote their brand.
From announcing a new product category to sharing a giveaway sponsored by your brand, press releases have a place even in today’s crowded online media landscape. Writing a press release is a bit of an art, and you’ll want to follow proper formatting guidelines, as well as keep interest throughout.
If you want to grow your brand reach through online news outlets, this is one of the best content formats to keep at top of mind.
9. E-commerce content
Ideal for: Brands with an online storefront.
If you sell things online, you’ll have a need for content, from your product descriptions to the wording used on your customer support pages. E-commerce writers are well-versed in communicating the differences between two types of similar purses or how gourmet mustard tastes. A little bit copywriter, a little bit web writer.
This content also requires a working knowledge of some basic SEO and an understanding of how character limits and consistent formatting contribute to a webpage’s clean look and feel.
10. App UX
Ideal for: Brands with mobile or desktop apps.
Every word in that game or activity tracker has to be written by someone. App UX writers specialize in creating the perfect words for the very small spaces they have to use, making sure users understand, and taking action within the app easily.
Working with a writer well-versed in UX and also copywriting can help you get content written quickly for your upcoming app launch and tweak messaging as the app updates and adds new content, too.
What is SEO content writing?
All types of digital content benefit from SEO (search engine optimization). Because search is one of the top ways people discover content and seek out new product and service solutions in their lives.
While you don’t have to have an SEO expert go through every piece of content you create, using an SEO-focused framework to guide new content can be very useful. Plus, it will save you time refreshing your content down the road.
At a minimum, SEO-aware content should:
- Support a set of keywords that your content has a chance of ranking for and that a healthy number of searches are using in their queries.
- Sound natural, not written with SEO as the priority.
- Be authentic, original, and engaging, since search algorithms favor this type of content.
- Contain plenty of Google-friendly elements, such as snippets or reviews.
- Follow the markup for your website, including metadata and title tags.
SEO professionals may focus solely on technical SEO (how the website is designed and functions), content SEO (the keywords and content that supports them), or a combination of both. When working with a third party, be sure to ask what strategies they use to achieve SEO proficiency.
How to write content
Each format has some specific best practices, but all types of content creation work somewhat the same in how they initially get created. Generally, you’ll follow these steps, enlisting help along the way for any step you don’t have the knowledge, experience, or staff to fulfill.
1. Form a plan
Before that first word ever gets written, a plan must exist. It can be simple, with a goal, an outline for the content, and what call to action (CTA) you want the content to include.
This is also where you will assign roles for creation, editing, and publishing on your site or social channels. If you are collecting data and measuring for effectiveness, get that sorted beforehand, too.
For content that is going to support your SEO goals, make sure these parameters are laid out well in advance. Generally, the content brief or outline will include this additional data, such as the keywords to support, content length, and competitive analysis.
Brands can get pretty excited at this point and want to start writing right away, but researching effectively now can save a lot of trouble down the road.
Content written with factual errors or typos aren’t just a bad look for your brand; it can lead to legal issues. So know that you are getting data and information from reliable sources by identifying them ahead of time.
Other things to research include:
- What experts or SMEs can speak to this topic, both inside and outside of the company?
- Who is likely to engage and share this content?
- What other purposes can you use the content for?
- If the content is “up to the minute,” how will you check in to update the content to meet changing news cycles, laws, or scientific data?
- What style of citation or source referencing will you use to let readers know you did your research?
All relevant data is found in this stage, as it makes it easier for the writer to do their job. Unless your writer is also an engineer, data scientist, statistician, etc., more complicated data should be researched, reviewed, and summarized for their use. You don’t want writers caught up in the minutia of things outside of their job.
3. Write with the end in mind
With a plan and research in place, it’s now time to write! A content brief should keep the writer on target with the basic information and calls to action. But be sure that you don’t wander too much with your content or drive traffic away from the site with your choice of links.
While you want the reader to feel educated, supported, or encouraged, you have to keep them on the page (or at least on your site), where they will be more likely to follow through on your choice of action.
Whether it’s to get the reader to purchase right there, research their next step, or become more familiar with your brand as a possible product or service they might want to eventually pursue, your content should keep that as its goal.
One other helpful hint here is to arm your writers with everything they need to reduce the number of revisions they may need. From brand mission to AP standards to style guides. Provide what you can to reduce guesswork and keep all content looking like it has the same writer, even if it doesn’t.
4. Review and revise
It can be surprising to those new to content writing that the revision process can take as long as the writing or even longer. That’s because this is the stage where the stakeholders take over for the writer and look to see that all of the goals laid out in step one are truly being accomplished.
Another possibility for this stage is that the content while meeting all of the original goals, is not quite the right fit. It happens quite frequently that, after seeing a message put down on the page, it’s not at all what the brand wanted. This writing exercise was then an essential part of helping their message evolve.
This is why it’s really important to set expectations throughout the process that the direction of the content can and will change over time. Writers must not get too attached to their words and be ready to adapt tone and topic as needed to support overall brand efforts.
So, you’ve created a piece of content that meets your goals, looks amazing, and everyone likes. The hard part of writing may be over, but the real work of putting that content to good use has begun. After all, a great written word means nothing if it doesn’t get read. How will you ensure that all that effort and planning go to your larger brand strategy?
While much of the promotional strategy may have been set in step one, you could have changed your mind on some things or even thought of new promotional avenues as the content took form.
It could also be that a new social channel has caught your eye, and you want to give it a try as a launching pad for your new content piece.
Whether you’ve created an eBook that needs a landing page and a way to reach 1000 inboxes, or you have a blog post series written by thought leaders that would make a great syndicated column in a national investing magazine. Don’t limit where this content can go even after it finds its original home.
Blog posts often become eBooks that can easily morph into white papers and then become the inspiration for Tweets to industry influencers.
The best content can be repurposed an infinite number of times to get the most for your dollar and effort. You’ll be surprised at how well reused content helps you keep uniformity in brand voice and tone.
Should you write your own content?
If all of this seems like a significant effort, it’s because it is. Yes, you could whip up a blog post in an hour, and it may even look on-brand and potentially go viral. This is typically the exception to the rule, however.
Just click on Internet Live Stats on any given afternoon to see that over 5 million blog posts are posted worldwide each day. To compete with that number will require strategy, experience, and a way with words.
Even if you think you have what it takes to wow the global audience, consider these pitfalls to handling your own content writing:
You probably have blind spots
This is especially true for startups and founders that have both created the product and are intensely involved in marketing strategy from day to day.
While you think you have the best way to turn a phrase to get readers interested in your offerings. Having an uncompromised third-party writing team at your service can help uncover gaps in key messaging and even bring in some fresh perspective.
Many writers are industry experts, creating content just for certain niches. They have a lot to bring to the table.
You don’t have time
Our research shows you can probably create a standard blog post in under four hours, but what about a well-researched one? What about an eBook?
Add up all those hours, including editing and revision, and you have days upon days committed to content that you could use in your other roles.
You may not have experience
Let’s face it. SEO is constantly changing. So is the best practice toolkit for content length, linking, and formats for online content.
Unless you want to spend even more time brushing up on Google’s developer updates (which totaled 10 in 2021 alone), you should probably hand it over to those that live and breathe SEO.
The same goes for writing. Since there are proven ways to keep readers on a page, help them scan to the bottom, and get them to click through to other pages on your website. While you certainly could learn to do all this, do you really want to?
You are short on staff
Ever since the Great Resignation took hold, employers aren’t so certain they can fill key roles. Even worse, those employees they do have aren’t likely to embrace taking on new responsibilities outside of their key competencies.
Often, the best way to keep current staff happy and productive is to let them keep doing what they do best and give new, demanding, and highly-specialized tasks to external teams.
This is a common approach for tech companies, which outsource everything from development to deployment.
Content can work the same way, including getting an agency on board for big projects, such as across-the-board refreshes, SEO optimization, a new website, bulk product description updates, or creating consistent UX across an app.
The bottom line
No matter how you personally define content writing, it’s essential to today’s marketer. Picking the right types of content creation, however, may be just as important as what you write.
This is where having a professional agency with experience in content strategy can give you the advantage.
Learn how ClearVoice can save you time in figuring it all out before you type that first word.