Looking for smart content writing tips? Aren’t we all!
It doesn’t matter what type of campaign you’re building, you need content to make it successful.
The truth is, we digital marketers depend on content, which means we need to be able to churn out valuable blog posts, lead magnets, videos, landing pages, and more—all of them well-written, and all of them delivering real value.
Trouble is, 95% of digital marketers don’t consider themselves writers. They start sweating bullets at the mere thought of writing content.
If that’s you, I’ve got you covered.
Because today, I’m going to give you my proprietary system for writing content that gets real results.
Mind you, these aren’t just content writing tips. Tips don’t help you put words on the page. What I’m giving you is better: the simple 7-step content writing process I use for every piece of content I write.
This is Better Than Content Writing Tips
I get it. You’ve probably read a hundred posts offering content writing tips that didn’t help at all. And a 7-step writing process may sound like overkill. But stay with me. It’s not.
In reality, there are just 3 stages of writing:
- Pre-writing, where you gather your ideas
- Writing, where you put your ideas into words
- Post-writing, where you edit and optimize your words
The 7 steps I’m about to give you are the tasks that fit into these 3 stages. And every writer worth their salt uses them (consciously or unconsciously). I’ve just broken it down for you, so you don’t accidentally skip any of them.
Besides, they get easier the more you practice. The first few times you use my content writing system, you may feel like you’re working through 7 distinct steps.
But it won’t take long for them to become second nature. When that happens, you won’t think of them as separate steps. They’ll blur together seamlessly, until 7 steps become just 1 simple writing process.
So forget content writing tips! Here’s the 7-step writing process you really need.
The Pre-Writing Stage
1. Know Your Goal
Content should never be produced for its own sake. In other words, “I have to publish 3 articles a week” isn’t the best reason to write a blog post. Any content you create should help you achieve a specific business goal, like traffic, leads, sales, or thought leadership.
Why does that matter?
Because you’ll be making a million creative decisions as you create your content—things like:
- Writing style
- How in-depth you go
- Whether you provide solutions or just educate your readers about a problem
If you know the goal for your project, you’ll make decisions that will help you get the end result you’re looking for.
So start with your goal. What do you want this piece of content to do for you?
2. Pick Your Topic
Your topic is the general subject of your content piece. A good topic will help you achieve your goal, but it should also be something your audience is already interested in.
To find your best ideas, look in these 3 places:
Customer questions. If one customer asks a question, you can bet others have the same question. Your answer can make an informative piece of content.
Use this approach to come up with content for every stage of the funnel. Short, simple questions make good blog posts or FAQs. More complicated questions are suitable for longer pieces of content, like lead magnets, reports, advanced guides, or ebooks.
You can find these questions (if you don’t already know them) by doing a quick Google search.
Tools like Keywords Everywhere will also show you related searches and keywords, so you have a jumping off point for your own piece.
Trending topics. Sometimes a discussion goes viral—everyone in your industry is talking about 1 idea. When that happens, you know people are looking for more information. It could make sense to join in and create an article, video, or social media post with your unique perspective.
Trending content can be valuable in the short term, but it’s usually got a short shelf life. In most cases, you won’t develop long-form content around trends. But if you consistently tackle trending topics in your blog, and if your ideas get people thinking, this can be a great way to build traffic.
Keyword research. This is a smart approach for creating evergreen content that helps you rank in search engines and attract new organic traffic.
For this approach, you want to find long-tail keywords with decent search volume and a relatively low keyword difficulty score. In other words, you want to target keywords that people are searching for that few brands are targeting.
Research helps you refine your idea and find evidence and proof that support whatever claims you make in your content.
At this point, you’ve found the topic you’re going to write about. Now you need to narrow the scope:
- What’s the take-away you’d like people to remember after reading your content?
- What are the main points you’d like to make?
- What’s your angle on the subject?
- What are you saying that’s new and unique?
Ideally, you want to take a stand: are you for or against something? Do you have a solution? But before you finalize your idea, you need to look at what other brands are saying.
To find out, do a Google search on the idea you’re considering. Read the top 5–10 articles to see what other blogs are saying.
For this post, I queried “content marketing tips” and read through these posts.
Keep in mind, you’re not researching to find information you can recycle in your content. Research is about finding the informational gaps that exist in other content, so yours will be more useful than anything else out there.
It’s also about finding proof elements that will back up everything you’re going to say in your content—things like stories, case studies, quotes, and statistics. As you do your initial research, you’ll find some of these proof elements. Make note of them, so it’s easy to find them when you start writing.
4. Create Your Framework
By now, you know the type of content you’re going to write, the topic, and the information you want to include. So it’s time to organize your ideas into a rough outline.
If that sounds scary, don’t worry…
You don’t need a formal outline, and there’s no right or wrong way to organize your content. You just need to give some structure to your ideas, so your presentation is logically sound and it’s easy to stay on-topic.
I usually do that by jotting down my main idea, then listing my subheads. I might do that in a spreadsheet, where I also do SEO research. I might also just drop them into a Word doc, so I’m ready for Step 5.
For instance, the framework for this post looked like this:
Organize your ideas to create a rough outline before you start writing.
The Writing Stage
5a. Write Your Content
Believe it or not, this is the easy part.
You’ve already done the hard work of planning your content. All you have to do now is flesh out your ideas.
Don’t worry about starting at the top and writing straight through the content. You can start writing one section, jump to another, and write it completely out of order.
Me? I usually write the body in order—starting with the first subhead. As I’m writing, I may realize my outline doesn’t work, in which case I’ll move things around, remove a subheading, or change it.
Then, once the body is written, I write the conclusion, and then the intro—so I know what my bottom-line point is before I write my intro.
Another thing to keep in mind is this…
Your first draft can be (and usually will be) BAD. Don’t try to write beautifully. Just get your ideas into words.
You’ll usually see me whispering to myself when I’m writing. That’s because I’m dictating to myself, typing the words I’d say to you if we were chatting over a cup of coffee together.
5b. Rewrite and Edit Your Content
You’ve drafted your content. Your ideas are fleshed out. Great!
But you’re not done yet.
A first draft is never your best work. So read over it to be sure you’ve said what you meant to say. Fix any glaring mistakes. Then, set it aside while you work on something else—overnight if possible.
After you’ve cleared your mind, read over your content again with fresh eyes. You’ll be able to read it as your readers will—which means you’ll find it easier to see any faulty logic, poor organization, or just plain boring writing.
At this stage, you’re going to:
- Make sure your ideas are logically and clearly presented
- Fix any grammar or spelling mistakes
- Smooth out your writing, so it leads your readers from the first to the very last word
Don’t be afraid to completely rewrite sections. Delete what doesn’t work. Add transitions and explanations. Move things around. It’s during the rewriting stage that you become a “good” writer.
On a side note, now is the time to use those content writing tips you’ve never found useful. They aren’t for writing better. They’re for rewriting better!)
But be careful not to get bogged down. There’s no such thing as perfect writing, and I’ve never seen a perfect piece of content.
So relax. Enjoy the process. Polish your content, and make it as good as you can in the time you’ve got. Then call it done.
The Post-Writing Stage
6. Add Multimedia
At this point, your content is ready to go. It’s time to think about the graphics, gifs, and videos you could use to add another layer of value and support.
This is an example from a recent DigitalMarketer blog post.
Is there a section that’s hard to understand with words alone? Look for a screenshot or video that illustrates your point. Is there a funny meme that could get your readers a quick laugh? By all means, include it.
Everything’s done now, and in a perfect world, you’d be done. But you need to get eyeballs on your content so it can help you achieve your goals.
So you need to do one final review to make sure your content is optimized for reading, SEO, and your business goal.
To optimize for reading… well, you did that during your rewriting session and when you added interesting media. Good job!
To optimize for SEO… you need to add internal links (backlinks to other pieces of content on your blog) and optimize for your primary keyword. For that:
- Make sure you’re using the keyword naturally throughout the piece
- Put it in your headline
- Add it to your introduction
- Use it in the alt-tag in your images
- Use it in your meta-title and meta-description
You don’t have to use all of these options—and you want to avoid keyword-stuffing (using the keyword more often than you would in natural conversation). But you do want to include your keyword and variations of it in at least 3 of these places.
To optimize for your business goal… make sure your content fits smoothly into your funnel or customer value journey. It should flow logically from the previous stage of the funnel, and it should lead smoothly into the next.
Put This Content Writing System to Work for You
This process may sound time consuming, but once you get comfortable with it, it will save hours of time writing content.
Best of all, since you’re following the natural stages of content creation, you can plan content in advance. Try working through the pre-writing stage, then saving the writing and post-writing steps for later. Or give responsibility for the pre-writing, writing, and post-writing stages to different team members.
This system is so flexible, you can easily adapt it your unique writing process.
Like I said, I’m not giving the usual content writing tips, but I am giving you something far better—a simple process for creating all the high-quality content you need.
So what are you waiting for? Give it a try.