What would a life without content be like? Just imagine it… If there was no content, what would happen to all the websites on the web? What if marketing campaigns were running without content?
What if the newspapers started coming out with visual news only? And, most importantly, on what would Google assess the legitimacy of the websites? I know it is hard to digest…yes, it is.
Additionally, what if there were no content writers on this planet? Who would be able to write content and make an impact with a combination of words? The fact is, content and content writers are both interrelated and essential for us to move on with anything like blogs, websites, marketing campaigns, news, etc.
Content writing and being a content writer is not easy. It requires a lot of practice before you can claim to be a successful content writer. I personally feel that anything without content is like a car without a driver. If there is no driver, then the car cannot be driven in the right direction. I am quite sure that, up until this point you have completely agreed with my point of view.
Now, let’s discuss what a content writer actually is. A good content writer is someone who can write and provide you with any type of well-written content, the essence of which is unique and engaging. Writing, in and of itself, is a vast topic, but today I’ll be sharing 20 essential skills you need to have to be a successful content writer.
To be a good content writer, you need to be obedient. In fact, being a successful writer is all about being good. You need to be GOOD at:
1. Knowing Your Reader
Communication is a two-way activity and any writer who ignores any one of the ways and writes deliberately without knowing anything about the reader is a flop writer. If you don’t know who you are writing about or who your audience is, then it is like shooting an arrow without aiming. You need to conduct a study and market research on your audience, just like marketers do, by using a buyer’s persona and other methodologies.
Understanding the needs of your readers and being able to align your content in the same manner desired by your audience and readers is one of the most important factors and an amazing skill in being a good content writer. For example, you should not write a love letter to your boss and a memo to your wife. Does this make sense? Yes, because in this case you actually know who your audience will be - i.e. who will be receiving your piece of paper. The same is true with content writing. You need to know who your reader is so that you can create content that won’t just get accepted, but will get shared as well.
2. Knowing What You Actually Want to Say
It is really easy for the writers when they know what they actually want to say. It makes for a clear-cut topic and subject. And, as a result, the writer ends up with good and interesting content. Once you know who your readers are, it is quite easy to decide what you are willing to say.
For example, if your primary audience is men, you cannot write on a topic related to natural beauty. Likewise, if your target audience is women, you can’t write a title like, “How to Get Biceps like John Cena”. I am sure this makes sense to you. This is where you will decide what to say and in front of whom to say it.
If you get stuck while writing a paragraph, the reason may be that you don’t know what you want to say.
If you are getting confused and are unable to express a sentence to your reader, then be assured that you most likely still don’t know what you are writing about. To overcome this, you need to be great with your analytical and communication skills. You need to know how you can convey the ideas in your head and explain the relevance between them.
3. Following the Readability Principles
Your content should speak to your reader in a manner that can be easily understood. This isn’t easy but is essential for being a successful writer. The High-Five Readability Formula is:
Be Direct with Your Readers
Speak to your readers like you are having a conversation with them. For example, if your readers use the word ‘you’ but as a writer, you use the word ‘we’ or ‘I’. This ensures that you are talking directly to your readers and that everything happening is in a direct tone of speech. It will also allow the reader to continually and consistently read your content.
Use an Active Voice
Using an active voice makes your topic clearer and more specific with your readers.
Keep It Optimized and Simple
You may have repeatedly heard that simpler is better. Be simple wherever possible, but don’t talk down or ramble on in your content. Readers enjoy long write-ups, but if they detect that you are dragging the topic they will quickly navigate from your content to any other content.
Stick to a Single Idea
It is an absolute art to remain consistent with the topic you are talking about. For example, right now you know we are talking about the essential skills for being a successful content writer. You need to set up an idea in a manner that makes it looks singular (i.e. don’t overload or confuse the reader with other, interrelated ideas).
After you have completed the content, proofread it as an unbiased reader would. We will discuss this point in more detail in #10 below.
4. Always Being Original
Being unique is the essence of being original, especially when it applies to content. Being unique is a mandatory quality, not just because of reader demand, but also because it is essential for SEO purposes.
Posting duplicate content on the web will increase your chances of Google detecting it, and the result is that you may get penalized. Not just that, but if you copy someone the postings of someone in other fields, like marketing, you could be sued for trademark and copyright infringement. These are serious and costly crimes, so you need to be original - not just with your words but with your ideas as well.
Here is "Matt Cutts, a software engineer from Google, describing how duplicate content identified by Google is handled and killed:"
5. Providing Answers to the Questions
Asking questions throughout your content and providing your readers with the immediate and proper answers is a great way to keep your reader engaged with your content.
The ultimate purpose of content is to increase the knowledge of those who are reading it. And just so you’re aware as a reader, I met that purpose with this content by using the first several paragraphs of the introduction.
That is the main reason you, as a reader, are still here and continuing to read. Those are the types of questions people have running through their minds. In the image below, famous author and entrepreneur, Neil Patel, has answered a frequently-asked but very broad question about what online marketing is. Then he answered it with just a few words that are accurate and on point.
6. Connecting the Dots
Again, one of the most tactical skills a good content writer should have is knowing how to connect the dots - i.e. actually inter-related topics and paragraphs within the content. It is vitally important because if my next point starts discussing how to boil an egg, you will leave my page. But don’t worry, I won’t do that!
7. Summarizing Words
The ability to sum up an idea, like an ocean in a cup, is the art of content writing. You need to remain precise with your wording throughout your content and then clearly conclude your content with the right words in every section and paragraph.
Not doing so is very serious. You simply need to learn how to summarize content, which includes an overview of the main ideas using keywords and themes.
8. Sourcing Information and Citations
Readers will only believe what your content says so long as you provide them with correct and accurate information. You must be brave enough to link your content with its original sources and to mention them wherever required.
This could also include external linking. By linking out to great sources, it means you are telling search engines that you have something really great to show. Here’s "Cyrus Shepard, from MOZ, explaining the importance of linking to external sources from the SEO perspective:"
9. Being Patient with Research Skills
This is the decision-making point - if you have patience and excellent research and analytical skills, you’re your chances of becoming a successful content writer are higher. In content writing, the research element is very important.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re referring to keyword research, topic research, niche research or any other type of research, you simply need to remain patient without getting overactive, because doing research on the web is not an easy task and can sometimes become depressing and frustrating.
10. Reviewing Your Content as a Reader Would
Once you have completed your content, you need to step back, take a breath and review your content without bias. You need to think about a reader identifying mistakes in content. By doing this, you end up with error-free content not just from a grammatical standpoint, but also from ideas one as well.
11. Swapping Writing Styles
Always writing on the same topic and in the same niche is not good for your health. It can also kill your creative skills. A potentially-successful writer must switch the writing genres and niches to different topics to enhance their ability to think outside the box, as well as to increase their knowledge. Practice writing on 360-degree opposite topics to gain these skills!
12. Writing on Relevant and Vibrant Subjects
As an all-in-one content writer, you must be able to instantly adapt to any trend, whether it be from the news or social media, and be able to start writing on it.
Readers will always search the web about relevant and interconnected stories to whatever content they were reading. That is why a content writer needs to be able to use this skill, to keep readers engaged.
13. Knowing About WordPress and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Don’t get depressed, you only need to know the basics. There are a variety of WordPress themes available with default automated functions where you only need to install a plug-in to fulfill your needs.
However, you must know the crucial SEO basics if you intend to be a star content writer. The algorithms that determine how search engines work are constantly being updated and the best content writers need to understand them in order to successfully take advantage of them.
The one focus that remains consistent constant is the high quality of the content. If you can successfully write good, quality content, then this is something you needn’t be concerned with. Here is Matt Cutts describing the relationship between WordPress and SEO:
14. Using Social Media
Social networking sites function more like a tool than just a hub for meeting different people from a variety of places. Many business owners view all social media as a whole market. Many marketing agencies invest great sums of money on promoting products and brands using social media marketing. Social media is a great way to create a word-of-mouth.
With respect to content, social media is a valuable tool for conducting viral content marketing. The recognition of your name and work is important and the use of social media sites in the appropriate ways makes it possible. You need to be good at building personal relationships with people.
Pitching your ideas to people in this way not only builds your audience and grasps user attention, but builds relationships with niche-related people and bloggers. Additionally, social media and SEO now function like 2 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - if you perform well on social media, then your content will show up in search engines as well.
15. Language Skills
You need to have good language skills if you want to be a good content writer. These skills should consist of:
- Word Usage
If your language skills are weak, don’t just sit back. Continue writing critically because it will improve your language skills. You can also participate in any of the free language training courses that are available online.
16. Generating Ideas and Grabbing Attention
Generating ideas is one of the biggest challenges of the current era. Not everyone can come up with new ideas that trigger the minds of readers and grab their attention. But that being said, you should never be afraid of failing with the ideas you do have.
Continue brainstorming them and then analyze which ones were well-accepted by the readers and which ones went viral by means of a shared trigger - i.e. content that stands out and is shared, mostly on social media. You need to know how to use attention grabbing techniques, like the article and blog titling tricks.
For example, below are two titles written to grab user attention. Decide for yourself which one you would choose to click.
- How to Increase Website Traffic?
- 10 Proven Ways to Bring 110,928 Visitors to Your Website for Sure!
17. Being Persistent
Whether you are a freelancer or a staff writer, you need to remain persistent with your writing. It is completely normal to sometimes get fed up and frustrated with everything related to writing. During those times, you might even decide to quit in the middle of a project.
But, for someone who wants to be a professional content writer, this is something you just need to suffer through in order to overcome it. You won’t succeed if you continually quit in the middle of your projects, so you must have the skills in place to face new challenges and deal with the unexpected.
18. Performing Frequent Content Updates Without Hesitation
Search engines usually don’t favor sites that don’t update their content on a regular basis. If you own a website or blog, you must continually update your content so that the crawlers keep getting the signal that you are alive. Don’t hesitate in doing so, because continuous updating helps you to maintain higher search engine rankings.
Many of the best content websites are updated regularly so as to maintain their rankings and position. More importantly, these writers desire to provide their readers with the most up-to-date information. So, how often should you update? This is completely at your discretion, depending upon the nature and niche of your website. Usually, making monthly content changes is sufficient!
19. Making Calls to Action
Calls to Action (CTAs) are one of the most generic ways to grab user attention and increase viewership. A good content writer should know how to create engaging CTAs which provoke users to respond willingly.
Here is an example of a CTA technique adopted by the famous e-commerce website, Shopify, which increased their sales ten-fold because they started offering free trials to their customers.
You need to work hard as a content writer, whether you have good communication skills or not. You should know the best ways to communicate with your readers. Whether it’s by adding images, infographics, videos or statistics. you need to do it because ultimately, you want to communicate what you’re thinking in the best way possible.
Some readers understand better by reading, some by listening and some by viewing. You need to ensure you can keep your communication alive with a variety of reader-types. Just stay away from unnecessary stock photography!
To summarize, you need to ensure you are comfortable with the 20 previously-listed skills. If you feel that none of your skills are lacking, then why wait? Get going and hit the market strong with your amazing content writing skills. Believe me, there is no one who can stop you from being a successful content writer within your industry so long as you are confident with the skill-set described. Here, we sum up the article and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for reading it. And if you feel this piece was worth reading, please share it! J
Written by Muhammad Hasan, and Edited by Sawaram Suthar