The Misfit’s Guide to Content Writing
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Throughout this Misfit’s Guide to Content Writing, you’ll find clickable text and images. These will take you to articles that explore the subject further. Mazin’!
What is content writing?
Content writing is a marketing strategy. It involves writing engaging words that get people interested in your business. The main goal is usually to create brand awareness. It’s a long-term commitment to promoting your products and services.
“Long-term commitment”—terrifying for those who can’t commit to anything. If that resonates, you might need therapy before you start writing for your biz.
Brand awareness is usually the reason marketing types give when they tell you to write content. In this guide to content writing, I’ll show you that brand awareness isn’t the only thing content writing can do. The main reason to do it is so obvious, you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it.
Engage! Engage! Engage!
You’re probably pretty fed up with buzzwords (I know I am). Sadly marketing is full of them. Hearing the phrase ‘engaging content’ makes me want to cut out my own pancreas.
In this guide, you’ll understand the meaning of quality content—ok Karen, you’re right, quality is subjective. Even the folks within your target market won’t agree with what makes your writing top-notch so lemme put it this way: I’m going to help you write words that a lot (but not all) your audience will enjoy.
Writing your way.
The tone will be unique to you. If it’s very distinct, it will become your signature. But that won’t be the only thing that screams your business. How you style your headings, bulleted lists, and the glorious em dash will all be unique to you. All this stuff relates to a style guide. You can choose to use an established style guide (for example, the AP Style Guide) or create your own.
Be the best writer you can be.
Well, sure, you wouldn’t try to be the worst writer—that would be silly.
What I’m trying to say is you don’t have to be the next Truman Capote. Weaving a story is a device that will help engage your people but that comes with practice. And like almost anything the more you do it, the better you’ll get. If you know who the content is for, you’re on the right (or I should say, write) path (LOL).
“Write how you speak.”
Er, about that…
Being all conversational is very ‘in’ right now, look, here I am, writing how I speak (innit). But it’s not a universal truth and unlike other marketing absolutes bandied on the socials (blogging is dead/selling is dead/everything’s dead), I would suggest writing how your audience speaks. Let them be the barometer by which you measure everything you create.
But also this: don’t obsess over style.
Your vibe won’t sit right with everyone in your audience—that’s normal. Remember you’re dealing with real-life personalities, it is impossible to please them all. (So don’t try, it will only make you miserable and lose any hope you had for humanity.)
Content writing that sells.
So we know content writing shines the spotlight on our organisation and shouts, “Hey, over here! Look at us! We do this!” but that kind of content marketing takes time to build trust and trust is so important when people decide to buy.
Thankfully, there are different kinds of content; content that creates a buzz and content that sells (and content that does both).
Your blog is your website’s online library, a mini search engine where you curate all those useful posts around your specialist subject.
Do you need to blog?
In my opinion, if you own a website, you absolutely should blog—bloody yes to blogging!
And here’s why:
- It attracts clients
- It answers their search queries
- It demonstrates your expertise
- It wows them with engaging content
- It informs to help make a decision
I’m not gonna lie, writing a blog is a lot of work.
If you’re taking on the blogging baton, gird your loins for consistent long-form content creation. Failing that, you’ll need a big budget to hire someone on a retainer (because you must blog on the regular).
Blogging is bad if you have no clue. There are plenty of reasons not to start.
And here are some of those reasons:
- You don’t understand the value
- You have no idea who you’re writing for
- You lack the skills
- You have no time
- You have no budget
Blogging for business.
If, like me, you love to write, blogging isn’t a chore. But your business can’t begin to benefit from blogging until you learn how.
Business blogging sounds like the worst, doesn’t it?
I get it, it sounds awful. Not to mention extremely uninspiring. But there is no legitimate reason why it should be.
But if you really cannot be arsed to write but want to blog, you can use AI software, but before you do…
Blogging is the long game of selling.
You want to be remembered and you do that by being a constant reminder. Always there, nudging your ideal someone about what you do to make their life easier.
Writing human-focused content is your priority. And Google wants you to do that. Please stop writing for bots, we are done with that shit. Visitors won’t stay on your website for very long if you churn out content that sucks.
No one wants problems, do they? Some actually do. Bloggers love problems because they make great ideas for blog articles. If you know the struggles your clients face, you can be the answer to them in the form of a blog. The problem might be that initial pain point or the stumbling block that is stopping them from buying from you.
“Isn’t that just the same thing as content writing?”
Don’t make me come over there!
Sure, it is content and it is writing and actually, they share other things in common. Both techniques are all about your audience and the problem they need to solve.
So what is the difference?
As you now know, content writing is the long-term way of attracting your people but copywriting is the short-term way of converting those people into clients/blog subs/purchasers. You use copywriting on your sales pages or the areas of your site that ask the visitor to do something. If you want those visitors to buy a product or sign up for your newsletter, you’ll use copywriting to do it.
Bad copywriting is doing your website dirty.
Humans tend to overcomplicate things.
And complicated copy is an FBI (f–king bad idea). When you muddle your message, the audience is left wondering what the hell you want them to do. This usually happens when people who have no idea, write website copy. Those folks tend to use tired phrases that should be consigned to website-building history.
Knowing the rules means you get to break them.
I bet you’ve heard that before and I’ll be honest, I dunno how true it is. I quite often never know the rules to start with so I have no idea if I’m breaking them. (Is that bad? Probably.)
I’ll tell you what though, you can’t break the rules with Direct Response copywriting.
There’s a formula and without it, the copy you write can’t claim to be Direct Response. I’m sure experienced pros, monkey about with the rules—I know I would (If I knew the rules to begin with).
Sounds like the cohort of peeps who died young of heavy metal poisoning.
Lead generation is about attracting potential clients. (Not to be confused with prospecting. That’s the business of getting off your arse and finding new clients.)
It’s fair to say I do things unconventionally. I’m not your average SEO content writer and that’s my strength and my difference. That’s how I swim out from the sea of beige-optimised content (so I’m told).
I’m also a contrarian. I usually have something contradictory to say about the latest content ‘pearls’ of wisdom. I don’t think everything that’s published about marketing is trash but I do hate it when we’re all told to do the same thing to plug our business. It’s like clothes that have ‘One Size’ on the label. It’s absolute nonsense.
Does that make you come out in a cold sweat? I guess for the fellow introvert it might have you all anxious. I don’t have anything against getting on the socials and telling people what I’m flogging, that’s what I use social media for, but sometimes, there are certain aspects of so-called social selling that rub me the wrong way.
Vanity metrics: should you care?
Is it important to get as many ‘likes’ and followers as you can possibly amass, spending a crazy amount of time getting people to give you a virtual pat on the back? I guess it all depends on why you are posting content in the first place.
The influencer marketing guff hates on old-fashioned selling. Openly hawking your products or services is out of style. It’s so vulgar! And somehow, pretending not to sell (but still really selling) under the guise of relationship building is much more acceptable.
Glee. Salad Cream. Michael McIntyre.
What do those three things have in common? You either love them or you hate them.
Marmite is a good example of brand polarisation. And as a product, Marmite has really capitalised on dividing opinion—and it bloody works. That’s exactly what the ad people at Marmite HQ want. That strong opinion of their brand helps them stand out.
But some brands don’t set out to be polarising, it just happens. The question is, how do you deal with it if the unexpected occurs? Do you try to placate the haters or do you tease them? You could take advantage of the polarising attribute in solidarity with your die-hard fans. (I’m all for that last one).
My tone is polarising.
Some people don’t like it or they don’t get it (and often it’s both). I could win work trying to be universally liked but that’s so gross to me. I’d hate running a business if I couldn’t write as me.
But more importantly, the folks who love the way I write would be disappointed and they’re the only ones that matter. I waste no time trying to convince people who, in all honesty, don’t.
We don’t all LOL at the same jokes so humour becomes polarising.
Because of that, businesses avoid being funny. A lot of brands are terrified of offending someone (someone who most likely wouldn’t buy from them). Sure, humour is subjective but if you avoid doing something for fear you’ll lose a prospect, you’re in real danger of sounding like everyone else.
“That’s a no-no, especially in business content.”
Yeah, that’s usually true.
Although it can be a risky strategy, using a naughty word can be very effective in your content. Labelling something as taboo gives it power. But if you decide to wield that power, you will become polarising. Unless swearing is part of who you are (and who your brand is), I would steer clear. You’ll only sound like a little square trying to be a rebel.
Almost everything you write will be met with some negativity.
And people just love to tell you how much they hate something—we all do it. It’s true that we don’t need sarcasm, humour and swearing in our content writing to sell. Your business will still function perfectly well without any of those things.
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I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).