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Written content plays a major part in marketing strategies today. Website content, product-marketing content, PR content, “edutainment” blog content, collateral, and thought-leadership messaging ﹘ the list goes on.
In a startup’s early stages, content writing responsibility does not fall 100% to marketing stakeholders (many times such stakeholders aren’t around yet) but is shared by all team members, be they the founders or other business leaders.
Professional writers who write for a living spend their entire life practicing writing, so yes, it’s tough to compete. But that doesn’t mean others can’t deliver the impactful marketing content so critical to the marketing blend.
I started writing many years ago as part of my marketing career. I struggled at first, but as with any other skill set, the more I practiced, the better I got.
At first, I came to each piece with no plan for what I wanted to write, and it showed. I wrote sentences that were too long, paragraphs that should have been split in two, and missed places to weave in important hooks between sections.
Over time, I did a lot of reading and learned a lot of writing tips and hacks. I followed some professionals and created a mental list of best practices. With time, writing became much easier, and the quality of content I created for startups I work with, or for G2MTEAM’s website, improved drastically.
So today, I decided to share some of my writing best practices that anyone can follow to produce great content.
While writing website content as well as collateral like PR announcements, etc. is important, I wish to focus here on blog writing, a mission-critical task for young startups looking to establish brand awareness, educate their audience, and increase website traffic (through direct and organic channels that depend on SEO).
#1 Title is king
Titles are critical. I’ve learned that an unoptimized title can cause content to fail even if the content is extraordinary. With endless online content out there, readers are looking for signs to decide if it’s worthwhile to invest the time in reading. They will be captured by titles that provoke curiosity, hint for a real value (WIIFM=What’s In It For Me), and cause FOMO (fear of missing out). Let’s say that your product is software to optimize website traffic, and you’ve written an article about website traffic problems. Instead of the title, “Website traffic problems,” try this: “Five sad website traffic issues even the best run into, and how to avoid them.” Numbers (and bullet points) are great, a hint at a valuable takeaway (WIIFM) will be enticed, and declaring that everybody experiences these issues provokes curiosity.
Bonus: You can use great tools to help you generate titles or simply get inspired, like this title generator tool.
Of course, the title can’t have a promise that isn’t fulfilled in the content.
“A great headline mixed with a lame opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach.” – Brian Clark
#2 Content brief is the starting point
Before actually writing the blog article you should start with a brief. The briefs I create are basically the skeleton of the content, including the resources it will lean on, the different sections, titles, subtitles, bullet points, and so forth. From the intro to the summary.
This ensures that the structure is organized, that you maintain a solid path to the point that you mean to deliver, and that you don’t deviate. Each part in the brief should be included for a reason and should be solidly connected to the part before and the one after. Like a chain. The brief can also help you create enough subsections and bullet points to create easily scannable content.
#3 “Scannable writing” ﹘ a must!
We don’t read online articles the way we read books. At least I don’t. We are always short on time or distracted by many other tasks. Content that is made of short paragraphs, multiple subsections, and bullet points is much easier for us to digest. In fact, Google (SEO) loves bullets as well, but that’s for a different part of the article (see below). So help people get the gist of the content without needing to read all of it. Help them first scan it quickly, decide on the parts that they want to focus on, and then continue from there.
- Short sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Bullet points
- Summary sections
#4 SEO for dummies
SEO is its own industry (worth $80B). It has endless rules, complexities, practices, etc. You can’t expect to release flawless SEO-optimized content. But, there are some basic rules that you can follow.
The internet is loaded with guides and best practices. I really don’t need to repeat them ﹘ you should read a couple, like this one, to get in the know. To get you rolling, here are a few basic best practices that I follow that should serve you well at this point:
- The topics I choose to write about are based on the value I wish to deliver but are also based on keyword research (longtail, questions asked, etc.).
- The key or longtail phrase that accompanies each content piece should be included in the title and multiple times throughout the article (some people would say it should appear at least 6-8 times throughout the article or reach a certain % of its total words).
- The meta description doesn’t impact the rank but presents readers with the key phrases in bold after they have run a relevant search query.
- Use SEO plugins such as Yoast or alike on your website.
- Search for similar articles (same keyphrases) that have reached the top ranks, and try to estimate your ability to do better (that depends on the content quality and the domain authority ﹘ In other words, how strong the website is).
- Include both internal and external links in the article.
- When using visuals, add metadata as well.
**The screen shows an example of the important role of the meta description – Some words that are related to the search query are emphasized:
#5 Write (sort of) like you talk to someone
This one is tricky and usually important. In the beginning, I had to train myself how not to write like a robot. You are reading this article now, and you are a human being (I hope…). You want to read an article that feels like a conversation between two people, that is easy and fun to read with a light tone of voice. I try to bring myself into the story when I write, as I am sharing my own perspective. True, I don’t write exactly as I talk, but I try to blend the two styles. The trick is to imagine someone, a person, reading your content. That will help you understand that you are not writing to satisfy the paper but to satisfy someone real.
“The only way to win at content marketing is for the reader to say, ‘This was written specifically for me.’” – Jamie Turner
#6 Examples, analogies, case studies…
Writing isn’t just about theory. We all love when things are backed up by real-life examples and spicy stories that add juice. Try to tell stories. If you are talking about your product, bring an example from the field ﹘ if you can’t use the partner name, then don’t use the name. But still, share the story.
Analogies do a great job as well. Think about baking recipes ﹘ along with the instructions (theory), we all love seeing pictures that act as examples.
Try to spice up the content with images, memes, and humorous elements. It’s offering your readers a short, refreshing, and enjoyable moment ﹘ they will appreciate it.
#8 Proofreading, grammar & spelling
You may or may not be a native English speaker. In any case, this is a must ﹘ use editing and proofing tools such as Wordtune or Grammarly to avoid embarrassing mistakes. I personally also insist on thorough editing by a professional proofreader, for every meaningful content piece I write.
Startup founders, marketers, and executives find themselves writing content, just like they find themselves doing many other things outside of their core expertise. They sometimes get help from external agencies, and many other times, they roll up their sleeves and do it themselves. This article is meant to offer some basic guidelines that can come in handy and are relatively easy to implement. I hope it helps. I also recommend this great resource that inspired me a lot in my own content writing journey.
I will love to hear your thoughts ﹘ feel free to DM me on LinkedIn.
Einav Laviv is a tech and startup marketing exec. with 20 years of experience, and a Co-Founder at G2Mteam, which supports Israeli startups with full-stack global marketing services since 2014. She lives, breathes, and loves deep tech & data driven marketing