Are you new to content writing, or have you been tasked with writing a blog and found yourself looking for content writing tips? If so, you’ve come to the (write?) right place.
As a full-time content writer, I’ve found that the little things can often mean the difference between a blog’s success or failure. For example, following some simple guidelines has improved my writing over time, in addition to helping me create cleaner, more direct pieces of content that get results.
Read on for my favorite content writing tips and tricks.
Table of Contents
- Cut to the chase
- Use heading tags correctly
- Make content scannable
- Check, please!
- Use numbers wisely
- Use content writing tools
- Use transitions
- Choose keywords carefully
- Understand readers’ search intent
- Hold the stuffing
- Keep it fresh
- Let your text breathe
- Cut the bulk
- Sharpen the saw: Be a reader
1. Cut To The Chase
See what I did there? I bet you didn’t even notice.
Keep the focus of your articles on point. If you’re writing an article entitled “10 Killer Counted Cross-Stitch Tips,” get to the tips immediately after your opening paragraph(s), formatted as H2s. As an internet citizen, I see countless sites guilty of adding superfluous content (“What is Content?”) before getting to the search intent.
Remember who your audience is. Where are they in the funnel? Could you create another piece of introductory content and link to it rather than giving your target audience more than they need?
Check out How to Write Relevant Content for more writing tips!
2. Use Heading Tags Correctly
Heading tags are great for formatting, right? Yes, but … no. Search engines look to heading tags to categorize and organize information, not to give you the correct font size (even though they often do that, too).
Creating a structured hierarchy of H2s and H3s on your page gives search engines an easy way to scan your content and determine that page’s rightful position in search results.
3. Make Content Scannable
Speaking of heading tags, headings should be clearly understood by the reader so they can find what they’re looking for quickly. As much as you’d like to believe that readers are savoring every well-chosen word, they’re really just scanning for the information they need to solve their problem.
Since I’m writing as my goofy self in this article, I took some liberties with equally goofy headings. However, I attempted to make them understandable and relevant to their section’s content.
4. Check, Please!
Spell check, that is. Grammar check too. I hate to break this to you, but your own eyes aren’t that trustworthy, especially after you’ve spent hours writing your article.
As Grammarly says, “To err is human; to correct, divine.” At Human, we don’t publish anything until at least two pairs of eyes have seen the work: the content writer (who uses post-writing assessment tools) and another content team member who checks the writer’s work. We just can’t get enough of ourselves.
5. Use Numbers Wisely
A few tidbits on numbers and such:
- We’re suckers for AP Style. Spell numbers ten and under in text, but use actual numbers in titles and headings for emphasis, no matter their digits.
- Information is constantly changing, so don’t get caught using a source from 2002 when citing statistics (with hyperlinks, please!). Try to avoid sources that are more than three years old unless figures aren’t frequently updated.
6. Use Content Writing Tools
Since I’ve already mentioned one of my true loves, Grammarly, I’ll also clue you in to a close runner-up for my affections: Semrush.
I use Semrush every day – I couldn’t live without it. Their SEO Content Template lets me know what competitors are ranking for a particular search term and how long my ideal article length should be.
Domain Overview shows me a site’s Domain Authority score and top organic keywords when I’m optimizing an existing blog. Plus, you can use their Position Tracking tool to evaluate keywords' positive and negative impacts.
We’re lucky to be able to use the paid version of Semrush here at Human. However, the free version enables you to use their Keyword Magic Tool and perform ten searches a day in their Domain Analytics and Keyword Analytics databases.
Pro Tip: Don’t go overboard with tools. Although I’m only spotlighting two in this article, there are PLENTY of other good ones, like Moz and Google Keyword Planner. Procrastinators, take heed! Try a few out, use what you like, and discard the rest – or risk spending your day researching instead of actually writing.
7. Choose Keywords Carefully
Can you have more than one keyword in a blog? Sure, but make sure they are closely related. An article’s focus should be relatively narrow for maximum impact (and SEO value). Add long tail and semantic versions of keywords to add variety, but keep topics to the point.
8. Understand Readers’ Search Intent
Keyword research can go sideways if you don’t understand user intent. User intent, or search intent, attempts to pinpoint what you want to find when typing keywords into a search engine. Understanding what terms most closely match user intent is essential to impactful CRO or SEO efforts.
We’ve all had the experience of Googling something and refining it a few times to get the answer we’re looking for. For example, if you’re researching how to start your own business, searching “donut shop” will likely lead you to donut shops in your area (I’ll take a glazed old-fashioned, please); it probably won’t pull up information on how to open one.
When doing keyword research, assess the initial search results a keyword yields. This will help you evaluate user intent. Then, refine your search to include more accurate long-tail keywords that may help lead a potential customer (or fangirl) to your site.
9. Hold The Stuffing
While it’s tempting to smother your copy with keywords like gravy on mashed potatoes, they should be sprinkled lightly, like salt. Ok, enough with the food analogies.
Keywords are for search engines, not readers. So use the Goldilocks Rule for keyword usage: not too few, not too many, just enough. How many is enough, exactly? Well, it depends. But here are a couple of factors to consider:
- Keyword density: The percentage of times a keyword appears relative to your blog’s word count. Hubspot has cited one keyword for every 200 words of copy as a guideline.
- Keyword frequency: The number of times a keyword appears in your blog. Even if your density is on point, using the same keyword (or any word) five times in the same paragraph is noticeably awkward.
- Keyword prominence: Where are your keywords located on the page? Shoot for placing your most important keyword in the blog’s meta title and description, H1 tag, and in your first paragraph.
10. Keep It Fresh
If traffic on a formerly popular blog is starting to dip, you need to understand why. Do your stats need updating? Have competitors recently published articles that are better than yours? Would a keyword shift breathe life into your blog?
At Human, we optimize existing website content for our clients regularly. Whether it’s a blog the client wrote that needs some wordsmithing or reorganization or a blog we wrote that’s starting to show its age, optimizing blogs should definitely be on your radar.
11. Let Your Text Breathe
Have you ever seen a blog that looked like one solid block of text? How long did it take you to close that tab?
Remember, no one likes struggling to read. Give readers’ eyes plenty of white space while reading your blog. I’m not fond of blogs that are a succession of single lines that keep you scrolling endlessly.
Limiting sentences to under 30-35 words and using shorter paragraphs (around five sentences, depending on your topic’s complexity) makes reading more enjoyable, increasing engagement.
12. Use Transitions
If your prose sounds stiff and robotic, try using transitional phrases to humanize your writing and establish connections between ideas, like:
- In addition,
- In contrast,
- For example,
- As a result,
Grammarly has an excellent resource for transition words if you want to go deeper.
13. Cut The Bulk
We’re all drowning in content.
Remember, writing great blog posts isn’t like writing a novel. When we want information, we want to find what we need quickly to go on with our lives. Creating narrow, well-organized, and concisely written topics holds readers’ attention, keeping them interested.
14: Sharpen the Saw: Be a Reader
If you do a lot of writing, the last thing you may want to do is read other people’s writing. However, one of the best ways to improve your writing skills away from your desk is to read. Fiction, non-fiction – it doesn’t matter.
Reading enriches your mind, expands your knowledge and often inspires you unexpectedly. Some of my favorite classic resources for writers include:
- Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (because writers are inherently badasses)
Need Help With Inbound Marketing? Ask a Human
Bottom line: Producing good, SEO-friendly content is never a one-and-done proposition. If you need help with SEO, content strategy or optimizing existing content, Human’s Content Marketing Services could be just what you’re looking for.
Reach out to us today – we love to help!