Content writing is one of the most important parts of curating your online brand and presence. A good bit of writing can elevate you above the competition, secure an audience, and boost engagement. No pressure.
But it’s not easy to know where to start, and, later, which direction to head in if you are a copywriting newbie.
So here are 7 top content writing tips for beginners that will be sure to boost both your engagement and your SEO optimization, no matter your subject matter.
- Do your research
- Find a niche
- Design a catchy headline
- Know your target audience
- Create a consistent brand voice
1. Do your research
Researching your competition
To be an effective content writer, you need to know who you are up against for that top spot on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). To do so, you need to survey the market and identify your top competitors.
Type in various keywords and phrases into your search engine and see who comes up on the front page: these will be your main rivals. Take a look through their web content and note down how they have laid out their website. How easy is it to access everything? Is all the information you want readily available? What sort of colors and additional graphics are they using?
Your competitors are on the front of the results page for a reason. By taking inspiration from them (as long as you’re very careful not to plagiarize anything), you can get a head-start in launching your way to the top.
Your main competition is almost certainly where they are because they understand how the SERP works. Digital marketing and getting noticed rely heavily on Google’s algorithms and the web-crawlers that they employ to scan millions of websites in a limited amount of time.
Keywords are your friend. There are many content writing tools and packages that you can use to analyze keywords, such as Semrush, Moz, or Ahrefs. An understanding of keywords will allow you to fine-tune your search engine optimization strategies.
A go-to for my writing is Clearscope, which is compatible with both Google Docs and WordPress. Clearscope provides a list of keywords and suggestions on how often they should appear in your work. It also grades your content and analyzes your readability.
The suggested keyword list helps you avoid keyword stuffing. You can identify and integrate words naturally into sentences rather than cramming them in sporadically.
2. Find a niche
If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank or Dragons Den, you’ll know the importance of filling gaps in the market. By that, I don’t mean finding completely unexplored territory. That becomes increasingly more difficult to do on the internet every day. Rather, find areas in a pre-existing market that have not been touched upon much by your competitors; areas which have no real depth to them.
This content writing tip for beginners means asking: what are these topics and where can you expand on them?
Hopefully your keywords and competition research will have provided some insight into this already. Depending on what services you are offering, you can look at which questions consistently remain unanswered or which ones crop up time and time again.
Especially if you are just starting as a company, without many assets or additional providers of help, wriggling your way into a niche and expanding is an excellent way to grow. Particularly when it comes to unusual keywords, your SEO content is already going to rank higher on the results page because you will have fewer main competitors using similar keywords.
Don’t make life unnecessarily hard for yourself, though. Sometimes a niche may not exist in the sector you are trying to build your business in. In that case, use a similar technique and try incorporating more unusual keywords into your branding to appeal to a different type of audience. Alternatively, make an active effort to appeal to an underrepresented demographic. Do you think there’s potential people are missing out on within a certain age group or country? Target your media towards them instead to try and get them on board.
3. Design a catchy headline
The frustrating thing about clickbait is that it works. You feel compelled to click on an article, then realize that the content has nothing to do with the caption. You’ve been duped. But your click has already been registered – that blog’s popularity has increased.
This content writing tip for beginners isn’t to use clickbait. You may receive attention to your content, but overall reception will be negative and your SERP score will suffer as a result. You need to find a balance between creating a super catchy, compelling title and including relevant, interesting information.
Instead, take the tactics that clickbait titles use, but actually deliver on your promises.
Your headline will be the first thing your audience sees. If you don’t have the right information in there, people will move on. Here are a few things you need to remember:
- Your main keywords should be in your headline. What will people be looking for specifically?
- Is your headline accessible? I.e. Does it use specialized language that might be inaccessible or off putting for beginners? At the end of the day, this comes down to knowing your target audience. If you require more complex jargon in your work because it’s aimed at more experienced users, so be it.
- Keep it snappy. You don’t have much space for a headline, so make every word count.
- People like lists. Having a numerical figure in your title garners more attention.
If you are someone who frequently writes white papers (informational or educational documents which discuss problems in a given market and their solutions; or insight into new technology) then good headlines are essential. You need people to be interested in what you have to offer. No one wants to slog through an essay. So disguise it as something else. Crafting a catchy headline is the first way to do so.
Assessing your headline
There are many tools that you can use to help analyze your potential headlines. Headline Studio by Coschedule is a free website that allows you to check the performance of your headline.
Recently, I have been looking for a new keyboard for my laptop, so I created a fake title with my search areas in mind: “Top 10 easy to use mechanical keyboards for typing beginners”. Whilst I am not a typing beginner, I am new to high-quality keyboards and believed this would provide the best results.
So, I plugged my title into Headline Studio, and this was the result:
Overall, certainly not too shabby. The website provided an overall score and suggestions for how to improve certain words in the title. Moreover, it showed me a pie-chart of how the words in my headline were balanced, and where I could boost my score by adding more unusual words.
Not only that, it also showed me specific information about my keywords, providing them with a score of their own and information about their quality and density. From there, I could tweak and improve my headline until I got a higher score.
For beginners who may be uncertain about how to structure a headline, this writing tool is perfect for taking at least part of that pressure away. As a final bonus, the software is also compatible with WordPress, allowing you to access other tools to curate a more rounded content writing service.
4. Know your target audience
The next content writing tip for beginners is based on research. Knowing your target audience will make the writing process easier in the long run. In this instance, Google Trends and Analytics can help a lot, as they allow you to see the popularity of searches over time across the globe and which demographics are most interested in a search result.
You can also check up on your competitors and look at what strategies they are employing, who they are catering towards, or which demographics they are missing out on.
Social media can be your best friend in situations such as these. Advertising, getting some idea of a demographic split, can allow you to change your writing style to suit different audiences at different times. If you are your own target audience, connect with people via LinkedIn or get in touch with people you know to see if they share similar interests in whatever service you are providing.
Eventually, if people writing on similar topics see that you’ve already got a good grip on the market, they will be more likely to backlink to you. This is fantastic for SEO ranking.
Content marketing is as much networking as it is letting your website trundle along attracting attention. CTAs (Calls to Action) are another thing to consider. CTAs essentially implore your audience to do something, go somewhere on your website, for example, sign up to your mailings list to keep in contact.
There are many free templates online that can help you set up the perfect one for your website, whether they are simple social media buttons, “Sign up here” requests, or in-your-face pop-ups, if that’s more your style.
You should strike a balance between making sure people see your CTA, but not being egregiously annoying with your displays. Having to click through several ‘close’ buttons before being able to access your website is, on the whole, not very good for business, no matter how persuasive you may think you’re being.
Once you have a target audience, what is the best way to maintain contact with them if they have any questions about your content? Expand your horizons; what social media marketing do you see that you could imitate or use to your advantage? Many brands have a Twitter account (for better or worse) which they use to both advertise new products, piggy-back on relevant trending topics, or talk directly to their consumer-base.
5. Create a consistent brand voice
The writing process is hard work, throwing hurdles at you from the very first paragraph. An even tricker part is trying to keep your reader’s attention, keeping them engaged from beginning to end.
The next content writing tip for beginners is learning to maintain a consistent writing style and tone of voice. This comes back to knowing your audience and developing a piece of content that will appeal most to them.
Things to consider when creating a voice
- The types of words you use
- How you construct a sentence,
- Whether or not you use personal anecdotes to connect with your audience
- First, second, or third person
Is a major part of your content strategy to add witty one-liners to make your reader feel more at ease? Are you a straight-forward, tell-it-how-it-is blogger who states only the facts with no other opinion?
Your content creation can be structured and almost clinical, or loose and personal. The best content you can deliver will contain a unique character, something that reflects you as a person – particularly if you are writing for your own brand or business. So have a little moment of introspection to find out who you are and what it is you want to convey through your writing.
Note-making and bullet-pointing helps to get your preliminary ideas down, so you can look through and see where you might be lacking or forcing yourself. Conversational copy is always a win with the majority of internet users, but you may be targeting a more professional audience.
However, no matter your voice, always be sure to include (lots!) of relevant statistics. Add internal links to facts and figures that build up your argument, or showcase specific parts of your website. If you’re proud of the work your company has done, show it off in your website’s content via graphics or dedicated areas. Just make sure you’re not plucking numbers out of thin air.
Active and passive voice
Your tone should help to showcase that you know what you’re talking about. The active voice will give you more power, more authority in your statements. If you are writing in the first person, it shows that you are the one controlling the actions.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the active voice vs the passive voice and their differences, let’s review them briefly.
|Active voice||Passive voice|
|Emphasizes the perpetrator
“I wrote this blog”
“Authorities found the missing car”
|Emphasizes the receiver or an action
“This blog was written by me”
“The missing car was found”
|Clear and direct
“Keywords help SEO ranking”
|Longer sentences due to additional preposition
“SEO ranking is helped by keywords”
There are of course other and more in-depth differences, but these are some key elements that are likely to crop up more frequently. Good content writing will come from a place of understanding where to use each voice to its greatest effect (but proofreading, which we will come to later, can help as well if you are unsure).
There are brand voice exercises that you can practice to improve yours and keep it consistent if you have multiple platforms that you work across. Your voice works hand-in-hand with your marketing strategies to develop an image in peoples’ minds when they think of your business. Do so yourself, to begin with, and jot down what you want that image to be.
Things to avoid
Take online recipes, for example. Infamous for their long-winded spiels about the author’s trip to France, Italy, or the Caribbean, the bulk of their webpage is oversaturated with a story people do not care for. They are looking for a recipe, but will have to scroll past perhaps a thousand words of context before they reach it.
For those with more time on their hands, the reading can be quite pleasant. Food brings us together, after all, no matter where we are around the globe. But if you’re in a rush, or tired, or simply do not care to hear about a stranger’s holiday on the Côte d’Azur, they are a nuisance.
Don’t be like an online recipe. Separate your content with clear headings and subheadings, allowing your readership to easily look up what information they need. The aforementioned program Clearscope can help with this too, as several keywords listed have an ‘H’ next to them, indicating which ones work well as headers.
Things to include
As a general rule, short paragraphs are usually preferred. Again, it depends on the overall tone of your blog. But for quicker, more engaging content (as opposed to instructional manuals or detailed analyses) the easier your writing is to skim, the better.
Another useful way of breaking up big blocks of information is through bullet points. If you have several points to make, add a contents section with links to each section. This will save your audience time and hassle finding what they’re looking for, if they have come to your website for a specific purpose. It also makes it easier on people who are not familiar with the ‘Ctrl + F’ “Find” function.
Of course, there are many types of content that do not follow these guidelines. Don’t stress too much over checking off every little thing, but a good idea is to present your website to someone who does not have a lot of industry knowledge in your sector, and ask them to give it a review.
- Is your writing accessible?
- Can they find where everything is?
- Do they have any questions that need answering?
- What overall vibe does your content display? Playful, serious, legitimate, or something else?
Then, based on their feedback, go through and tinker with your content until everyone is satisfied. Try to keep your writing to a point where young adults or teenagers would be able to understand it – anywhere from a 7th to 9th grade level is the easiest to digest.
On a side note, your font and colors of your website also come into play here as well. Try to stay away from harsh, contrasting colors that strain the eyes, or fonts that look like they’ve been written in cursive. Basically, if you have to re-read sections because you can’t make out what some of the words are, you probably need to change it.
So, you’ve got everything sorted. Your website is full of great content, snappy, eye-catching, and interesting. You publish your content, sit back, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Then you notice it.
If you take away one thing from these content writing tips for beginners, then let it be this: proofreading is essential.
Don’t worry if you have no one to look it over – there are online tools for that. (Honestly, when aren’t there?) Services such as Grammarly or Hemingway are iconic, easy to use tools, but feel free to shop around a little bit to find ones that work best for you. There’s no such thing as fealty to one brand, so mix and match as you see fit.
Whilst Grammarly is fantastic for noticing typos and grammatical errors, Hemingway works better for enforcing an active voice in your content and evaluating overall sentence structure. Another proofreading tool similar to Grammarly is ProWritingAid, but it has been noted that this is better for fiction authors as opposed to copywriters. Nevertheless, if your content is catered towards storytelling, maybe give it a go.
No matter how good your content writing skills may be, no one is above a quick grammatical error. Even AIs make mistakes, and you should always be careful about what advice they give. You don’t have to act on every suggestion your proofreading software makes – a computer doesn’t know your final intent or every nuance of your copywriting.
Proofreading gives you that final affirmation that what you have developed is a good piece of high-quality content. It can be easy to read over your writing and immediately want to publish it, but hold on, and always double check just to be on the safe side.
Whilst there may be a plethora of step-by-step guides on the internet to help you build your business and improve your content writing, the truth is that there’s no one right way to go about it. You have to feel it out, get to grips with a multitude of different factors and research problems before you can launch anything.
Your main focus when it comes to writing should be your audience and appealing to them. After all, they are the ones who ultimately decide whether or not you are worth it. If you lose their appeal, everything comes crashing down… not to sound overly dramatic.
Getting to grips with your audience and slowly boosting that flow of organic traffic is essential. Ask them to leave reviews in your CTA sections. Interact with them via social media. Do whatever you can to make your brand personable, helpful, and accessible. Word spreads quickly on the internet and, unfortunately, bad impressions flurry faster than good ones.
Be sure to proofread and check over any potential mistakes. Leave your content airtight, the best it can possibly be. Color also helps – anything to make a usually dull, white screen eye-catching and exciting.
With the entirety of the internet at your disposal, there isn’t really much to worry about. Content writing can certainly seem scary at first, but there are many amazing writing courses around to help you. Once you dip your toes in, you’ll find the water a lot more pleasant than it first appears.
Do you have any other helpful content writing tips for beginners? Anything that you have learned from your time online that can hook a reader’s attention? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!