Content writing is a vocation that attracts all kinds of people from all sorts of educational backgrounds. It’s something that I really like about it—being someone that’s gone through a full bachelor’s program primarily focused in creative writing—because the writing world that I was once used to had a bit of a limited perspective. Sure, I worked with plenty of different, talented writers while in the academic world, but all of them lived solely in the academic sphere of writing. Content writing lives solidly in the sphere of business.
Living in this world, content writing has a singular focus that’s refreshing. It’s about providing pertinent information that grabs the attention of both the user and Google’s ever-changing algorithms.
It’s essential that you keep track of the constantly evolving, all-encompassing, nearly deified entity that Google has become for content writers and digital marketers alike. But as I’ve come to know this new world of writing, I find it can help to go back to my roots when I’m working on content and I’m feeling stagnant.
When I’m doing creative work, it’s often on a chapter in a novel in the works. When I’m writing in this mode, it’s not just about the 500 words that I need to produce, it’s about how it will help build on a much larger framework.
While laser-focus is an absolute must for content creation, it can be very useful to step back and think about where your piece will be sitting in the grand scheme of things. Is it one page of many on a site? If you’re not writing those pages yourself, is there a way you can see them? Is it a blog to be added to a pre-existing library of blog content?
Intended or pre-existing structure can have a huge impact on how your content will have to look and operate. Doing your own work on that before submitting your content will result in happy clients.
Everything from short stories to full on novels, you have to do some pretty serious character work. For a book that I’m working on, and have a full 12 chapters planned out for, I did over 40 pages of writing in character work. On the more basic end of things is simple information sheets that cover age, height, looks, favourite foods, favourite TV shows, etc. But it would also go as complex as to write a mock-interview with the character, or a scene of them sitting down to dinner with their friend.
For a content writer I think there are two main “characters” worth focusing on: the author and the customer.
The trick with “the author” is that you, the content writer, aren’t always “the author” of your piece. Often you’re not “the author” of a piece, because content is often written on behalf of someone else, or an entire company. You need to do work on how that person, or business entity, would write.
The customer is a little more straightforward, though no less complex. A great way to inhabit this character is with a worksheet we like to do with our clients, the customer avatar worksheet. While you may not have time to fill it out fully for every client, it’s worthwhile to at least consider while you’re writing your content.
Similarly to character building, this is something that is best done in the creative world by doing lots and lots of writing to establish a concrete image in your head of how your world is meant to work. If I were to write something high-fantasy or high science-fiction, both genres in which we’re inhabiting worlds completely foreign from the world we know, I’d have to pre-write about nearly everything including what the weather patterns would be worldwide to what kinds of plants and animals can be found.
In the content writing world, however, the world you’re building isn’t purely your own. You don’t have to build it up from scratch. There is a pre-established world of business you’re writing for. With that, it’s as simple as doing your research. The other aspect is to ask what world you want to create for your customer. Ideally, it will be one in which you address and alleviate their pain points.
While the worlds of creative writing and content writing may differ wildly in many respects, especially in the needs that Google has for your content writing, the building blocks of good writing stay the same. What it boils down to is what kind of narrative and story you want to put out into the world and how you can bring others into that story.