Content Writing Tips – Navigating the Evolving Content Production Landscape
It’s now 2020…no longer 2000. The online marketing landscape has changed so much it is is literally unrecognizable. Now, we’re living in an age of instant gratification and disruption. You need to change with your readers and understanding what your customers, readers, and fans are yearning from you…and how to deliver
I don’t just write for a living. Stringing words together has kept me and my little family alive for a long time. In fact, it has also kept my spirit alive and writing is like a drug to me.
Content writing, however, is akin to a drug that keeps evolving.
Some time in 2009, a strange thought entered my head as I pondered over my next articles…one for work, and one for myself. What will happen to me if I stopped writing?
I didn’t like the answer.
However, because the online world is constantly changing, I’ve had to change my style, way of writing, content strategies, usage of words, positioning of keywords and headlines, and basically, tone of voice, so many times I’ve lost count.
But if you want to keep your act together in the rapidly changing online world, adjusting to these changes is absolutely critical to your success and future.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about writing content online and how it has changed.
How People Communicate Online Has Changed
Ever heard of six degrees of separation? If you have not, worry not because here’s what it is in a nutshell. It is theorized and believed that every single one of us is only about six connections away from each other. At some point, you’re going to discover that the stranger you’ve just bumped into on the street is someone who just visited the same bookstore as you.
“It is sometimes generalized to the averagesocial distance beinglogarithmic in the size of the population”
In 1929, Hungarian author of a series of popular short stories, ‘Everything is Different‘, theorized that the modern world was shrinking due to the inevitable interconnectedness of human beings. We’re not going to deep dive into the Three Degrees of Influence as expounded by Nicholas A Christakis and James H. Fowler because you can read more about it at the link on Wikipedia. Take out of it whatever you will but you will come off understanding how things have changed.
Connectedness is Everything
It works both in real life and in the online world.
In the real world: There are specific ways we have to react, show interest, break the ice, listen, learn, connect and communicate quickly and more effectively with people.
In the online world: Same-same
The gist of it is that we’ve, more or less, removed small talk from our daily communications with the people around us, the readers of our blogs/websites, or customers. Questions, answers, reception, reaction, and follow-ups are done in rapid-fire fashion. The quick succession of interaction all has a purpose.
They are all small inroads towards clear response, feedback, or action. Together, it will help open doors to uncover value to them or the people around them.
We have to be very subtle, focused sleuths when talking to the people around us and pick up hints as we go along. In a way, this can be disconcerting, I totally get it. But it is the most effective way to find inconsistencies, remove layers of misunderstanding, and unleash potential.
In the online world, that’s precisely what Google has been trying to do all along. Getting you to what you’re looking for in the shortest period of time is an everyday wet dream (sorry…but I shouldn’t be apologizing. They should).
For content strategists and writers, this means digging into the mounds of data available on the internet. Our job is to stay afloat in a sea of questions being asked on the internet and answering them. I know it sounds a little like sleuthwork but it’s also about understanding trends.
Thanks to tools (some available for free, some not so much), we can now shortcut our way into finding them.
Performing quick searches every day on sites like AnswerThePublic, Digg or Quora has worked out quite favorably for me so far, so, if you’ve not been doing that, try it.
What are People Paying for Online?
- People buy from people. First off, more and more people are buying from people they trust and niche businesses. Just this evening, my brother-in-law showed me a pack of frozen scallops he bought online from someone who specializes in selling scallops. It pays that the person was a very hands-on person when it comes to updating his/their social media pages.
- Bursting through the trust barrier. With the whole world being online and all, it has become harder (and HARDER) for people to find brands, companies, groups, individuals and businesses that they can trust. It’s now all about creating the best first impressions, mind-framing, price anchoring, placement, understanding consumer behavior, drawing similarities between your products/services with your customers’ needs, and getting really up close and personal. Break the barrier, basically.
- Being different is a big thing. As an internet marketer and content strategist, I’ve always emphasized the importance of keeping toe-to-toe with your competitors. But it’s not about copying them but more about how to create a path that is parallel to them that makes you look/sound better. Find the courage to experiment with new ways to be different from everyone else without resorting to really cringe marketing formulas pushed by ‘internet gurus’ and ‘self-made millionaires’. Ask yourself why Manuka Honey continues to reign in its industry (ScienceOfPeople.com) despite strong competition from cheaper, more fun and cheerful brands out there.
- Break things down into digestible chunks. Even if long-form content is ‘going away’ and videos are bringing in the most clicks these days, I’d say long-form content will never go away. At this point in time, however, people are buying more into digestible chunks of information. As opposed to writing long-form content ramped up for the SERPs and cramped with SEO keywords every other paragraph, I focus more on getting my sh-t together before anything else. This basically means I need to know what I am writing about and the angle I am coming in from right from the get-go. But don’t lose sleep over it. So long as we have a structure in place, we can always meat it out and deal with the annoying technicalities of SEO later.
- Focus on building relationships and providing personalized solutions. We live in a world where every single person on earth is beginning to sound, look, behave, and believe (in) the same (things). People are not just paying for good brands, they’re willing to stay with you if you’re willing to do the same. Sort of like marriage. If you’re willing to commit to the partnership, so are they. Which brings me to the following point – customer retention.
Building Relationships with Very Distracted Customers
Here’s a very honest look at how an ordinary 23-year-old man from Canada earns a decent amount of money from content writing on his website TheOnlineWorld as a side hustle.
I would say $7,000 a month is a damn decent amount of money to earn from writing. You can read more about him at the link above and also his account of some of the best affiliate networks today, his account about a short stint involving him sleeping on a soggy sofa in his friend’s apartment for some time while he finds his footing, and most importantly, how he found and forged relationships with other writers and bloggers through his website.
On top of using savvy ways to monetize his blogs, he also offers valuable advice, listened, learned, and experimented. Content writers like him know that writing and producing stuff on the internet is now more (than ever) about building relationships with easily distracted customers.
Many people can give you reasonably good advice about customer retention.
If you’re friendly, give good advice, are responsive, quick to resolve issues, stay in touch with your customers through whichever medium they’re on, reward them for staying on your boat and are genuinely grateful for staying connected with you, you’re on the right track.
Basically, customer retention is like never forgetting your wife/kid/girlfriend’s birthdays and always telling them that you love them. #lol
Sometimes, that could just mean keeping them updated.
If you’re looking at customer retention through content creation, look at the big picture, the lifetime value of keeping your customer. You’ll soon realize the importance of random acts of kindness, generosity of heart, and concerted help offered to others.
It opens up closed doors like crazy-mad fast.
“If anybody’s trying to sell anything,” he explains, “when people ask you how you’re different, the more you can niche down, at least in the very beginning, the more you can charge premium prices and the more you can focus in and maybe grow faster.”Edwin Siu, The Single Grain
Pay Attention to the Headlines and Quick Insights
As a person who used to Copywrite editorials, social media, and advertisements for traditional print media, during the early days, I spent a considerable amount of time tweaking headlines and potential titles to make them sound ‘clever’. Our focus has always been on skillful headlines with a punch, something that grabs readers’ attention and makes them curious. In a nutshell, we’ve been told to ‘creative’ and ‘smart’. Writers and editors ponder over clangorous or glamorized words that don’t take up too much space but make a huge impact upon first look.
The same CANNOT be said about content produced online.
If you don’t help your readers understand the information faster and easier, you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that they’ll be clicking that ‘x’.
By using simple and easy to understand titles and headlines, I thought I was dumbing down my content and undermining the readers. We must remember that the reactions of readers online are very different from those from conventional media. They don’t have the time for anything fancy, poetic, or cleverly penned. They’re also impatient, not easily impressed, and are a pretty dismissive bunch of people.
The goal of each piece of content is for your readers to either:
- Read it right away
- Understand the information quickly
- Make them bookmark or save the link for later reading
- Share it with their friends online
The window of opportunity has become smaller and easily shut.
A summary or wrap-up of what you’ve just written or said in online content takes time and your readers recognize that. So, take some time to either prepare them for what they’re about to read about and offer them a conclusion.
Write only essential things, offer a good explanation, give easy-to-understand examples, use an enticing title, compress and streamline your content using headlines, and conclude your message in short sentences. We need to remove small and pillow talk. .
This takes a little practice if you’ve been writing online for a long time, I’ll admit that. But if you have the ability to listen and watch out for your listeners’ reactions using on your site’s analytics and data, you’ll better understand what makes them tick…and what ticks them off.
So, step into their shoes and imagine yourself as your own reader.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Pain and consciousnessCarl Jung
I’d just like you to focus on the second part of the above quote by Carl Jung – by ‘making the darkness conscious’. In less philosophical words, it simply means ‘helping others find what they’re looking for quickly’ in the context of content writing.
So, while we’re at it, here’s what this article is about, in a nutshell.
- Online communication has changed drastically over the years, altering the way they read. And as content writers, we need to adjust
- Everyone’s connected to someone by six degrees of separation; we’re more connected than you think; bank on that
- Remove the small talk when writing content; offer context as quickly as possible
- Google wants to give internet users the information they’re looking for in the shortest period of time; work with that
- People are buying from people familiar to them, so, you need to break through the trust barrier
- Be different from your competitors and don’t COPY them; emulate and be different from them
- Break your content into digestible chunks
- Build relationships with your readers, customers and site visitors
- Don’t be afraid to experiment
- Be responsive on social media and when people are reaching out to you
- Being nice pays…very slowly but nicely
- Spend time on writing your title, headlines, summaries, and conclusions
- Help your readers get to what they want as quickly as you can
Although this is nothing inherently new or life-changing but it does take concerted effort. We need to consciously orchestrate our content writing style to structure content to be more effective. Once you’ve got the formula down, it will be like water rolling off a duck’s back.
I’ve written about how to structure content that works in this modern day and age and in all honestly, I am still trying to analyze them to see if they meet with all those Google updates and guidelines. I’ve also touched a little on how to optimize your content for SEO on this blog which I still believe works.
I’m also open to ideas, tips, suggestions, and of course, constructive criticism when it comes to content writing, strategies, and development. You can always get in touch with me via email if you have questions. I’d be more than happy to discuss them with you.
So, here’s hoping you develop skills that help you crack the whip when it comes to ranking better for your content. Provide lifetime value to your clients, customers or readers after they read your blog posts, listen to your podcast, or watch your video. Use images to illustrate talking points, learn more about disruptive marketing and let them into your world….your human world and you’ll be winning brownie points.
At the end of the day, your end-goal is to build a longer-lasting relationship with your readers and customers.
Here’s to your continues success online,
p.s. As always, you can always get in touch with me using this website. Just complete this simple online form and I’ll be in touch with you as quickly as I can.
p.p.s. If you spot grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, misleading facts, or have opposing thoughts, I would love to hear them! Send me an email at marshamaung at gmail and I’ll respond complete with cyber love-fluff sent your way.
p.p.s. I am online most of the time so, if you’re an online social butterfly, hit me up on my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or simply sign up for updates on this website. For more non-advertising and internet marketing topics from me, I also try my best to update my Medium account quite often. See you online and let’s stay in touch with each other!
Featured image credit: laptop on the coffee table by Igot Miske / Unsplash
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