Almost anyone can write content.
But do you write content that resonates with your audience and influences your bottom line? It is a much more difficult task.
The good news is that you can create engaging articles, emails, landing pages and copy that will achieve business goals and deliver its promise to your readers at the same time.
We take you through seven top tips for writing effective content in 2021.
Download Semrush Content Writing Workbook – get unique insights from key industry experts.
1. Start with your goals
No matter how skilled a content writer or creator you are, if you do not have a clear set of goals, you have to fail.
First, without goals, you have nothing to measure your success. You also have no direction.
We recommend using SMART goals to kickstart your content marketing plan — that is, your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
To make sure they are, answer the following questions with your team:
What do you need to achieve and when? How will you measure your success? Can you do that with your current resources? Does it promote your most important business goals?
2. Get to know your audience
When does a room full of strangers become an audience? When they all sit up and notice the person talking.
To get people’s attention, not only do you need to know their common questions and concerns, but you also need to speak directly to them. This means filtering people out as much as it means targeting them.
As the old saying goes, if you try to please everyone, you please no one.
So how do you ensure that your message is broad enough to appeal to a broad market, yet specific enough to appeal to individuals?
This is where buyers come in. In content marketing, these descriptive profiles segment and describe your ideal readership (which is likely to be a broader market than your potential customers).
Buyer personas contain a number of important information. In content marketing, apart from the usual demographic and background information, you will probably be most focused on:
Their goals and obstacles. How they see your product and your competitors’ products. The questions they have regarding their challenges and your solution. The content formats and channels they prefer. Broader topics and themes they are interested in.
The most important thing about buyers is to make sure that they really reflect your readers.
Keep in mind that if you invent these profiles, or if they contain inaccurate information, they could cause your content marketing team to make mistakes. Check the following possible data sources:
Internal customer databases. Third party analysis tools. User feedback. Onboarding or exit interviews. Sales or customer service knowledge.
Once you know what each of your buyers looks like, you will be able to fine-tune your messages and create content for each customer segment.
3. Capture your reader’s attention
The most important part of any article?
It is true. This is what makes people click and start reading good content in the first place.
The same goes for a compelling email subject line. Without one and your newsletter will be left unread.
There are entire master classes dedicated to writing great headlines and subject lines, but a few well-aimed tips can wipe many years of hard trial and error off your plate:
Controversy, questions, humor, shock-and-awe, contrast, uniqueness and emotion are all major attention grabbers in headlines. But also note that numbered lists surpass regular titles. In fact, according to our research, they get 80% more traffic. At the same time, your H1 must be descriptive of the content – and unique. The content is not only clear to the reader but also to Google. In the end, articles and guides that deliver on the headline get a higher quality score than content that does not, but it is not just about headlines. Do not forget pictures. Be sure to choose photos or illustrations that stop the thumb on social media. Without a picture to tell your story to, you go unnoticed.
Read more in the Semrush Content Strategy Guide.
4. Maintain the attention of your audience
So they have opened your article, your landing page or your email. The question is, can your writing skills keep them there?
Your content should always focus on delivering valuable, relevant content to a reader. The rest of your job is to optimize this content for readability, originality, usability and even shareability.
So how do you keep someone interested?
Before you start writing something to someone, imagine that they are sitting across the table from you.
What do they want to know? What are their questions, doubts, objections or misunderstandings?
Your buyers will be seriously useful now. Write these ideas as points and focus your attention on writing an outline that is for them – and not for others. By keeping their needs in mind, your message sounds loud.
And keep in mind that even though longer posts tend to outperform shorter ones, your goal is not to write a novel. It is rather to produce a comprehensive, valuable piece. Aim for quality content rather than quantity, and let the topic dictate the length of your writing.
Finally, think about what you want your reader to do when they are done with your piece. Do you want them to sign up for a reading list, download a guide, or head over to your eeommerce store?
Your calls for action (CTAs) must be clear, consistent and concise in every content. Add too many of them and you will have a hard time measuring the success of your content.
Experience the Semrush Content Writing Workbook
5. Optimize your content for search engines
SEO is about making your content accessible to your readers and achieving the goals you set in your marketing plan.
Line up your keywords. Look for primary keywords with a low level of difficulty and a decent search volume. But do not be dazzled by the numbers. That’s not what your readers are looking for, that’s why it’s important.
Connect your keywords to Google and see what comes out. Google’s smart algorithm will best guess why the searcher is searching and thus help you understand the search intent:
Are they looking for topic information? Will they find a site? Do they compare products to buying? Or do they have their credit card ready to buy right now?
The results provided by Google give you a clearer picture of the type of content you need to produce for your particular keyword.
Use a variety of title tags (H2, H3 and H4) to structure your content. More than half of positions with a complex structure (H2 + H3 + H4) are high-performing according to our research.
Add value to your audience and give your SEO a boost by linking to other content on your site using keywords to describe the links. Also note that all images you include must include alt text for accessibility and SEO.
Next, type a meta title using your primary keyword. While it must be optimized for search engines, it must also appeal to real people. So keep it short and sweet (under 60 characters).
Your URL should also include the primary keyword – remove stopwords (to, a, in, etc.) to keep it short.
Pro tip: be sure to run regular content reviews as part of your content marketing efforts. They help you discover high and low performing content and identify pieces that need an update.
Download checklist for SEO writing from 2021 to optimize your content
6. Beat the right tone of voice
Source: Semrush 2021 Research
According to our recent research, 78% of the highly scored and well-optimized texts are in line with their tone of voice. But what does it really mean, and why is it important?
Maintaining your tone is about finding the right way to communicate with your audience. Talk to your grandmother while you talk to your CEO, and she’s cutting you around the ear (and maybe vice versa). Our tone of voice changes with the situation, who our audience is, who we are, and what we need to achieve.
The same goes for our buyers. We need to talk to individuals, so we also need to change how we talk to them.
The question is, how do you maintain a consistent fire voice at the same time?
Brand tone of voice helps define your brand personality. More to the point, the way your brand speaks through its content affects the way people relate to you.
Despite the tweaks we make when we talk to grandma or the boss, we are ultimately recognizable to ourselves. Your brand should take the same approach to content creation and define a personality that can be flexible, yet consistent.
Ask your team to chip in. Define together how you sound now and how you would like to sound in the future.
7. Pay attention to readability
Source: Semrush 2021 Research
The same factors that control the content of your content also determine the readability of your text.
Do you write to university professors, business people or people who book a vacation? In online marketing, the complexity, length, style and content of your audience depend on their immediate goals.
Semrush determines readability using an average of sentence length and complexity, vocabulary selection, and overall text length. The platform then compares your content with your top ten Google competitors to give you a readability goal.
A look at Semrush SEO Writing Assistant
SEO Writing Assistant scans and analyzes your content based on the keyword keywords you enter. You will gain important insights and advice on voice tones, readability, SEO and originality.
Tone: SEO Writing Assistant will highlight whether your text is casual, neutral, formal or somewhere in between. It will also provide a consistency score and accurate phrases that you can update to improve it. SEO: Based on your target keywords and a total number of your top 10 competitors, the assistant gives you a score out of 10 and gives you keyword suggestions for semantically related keywords to enhance your copy, as well as suggestions for link, title, and alt tags. Readability: You get a score out of 10. This is based on your measurability score, which compares your content to your best competitors. You also get suggestions on how to fix any content issues your text may have. Originality: Avoid plagiarism (accidental or otherwise) with the originality check.
The tool works seamlessly in Google Docs, Semrush and via WordPress.
To optimize your copywriter for engagement, conversion, and SEO, download the Semrush Content Writing Workbook (featuring tips from the leading content marketing experts and interactive assignments).