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Published September 12th, 2017 by

How to Write Content that Stands Out

If you want to write content for your business’ website, that’s fine.

If you want to write content that people will read, enjoy, and think about for your business’ website, that’s FANTASTIC.

Anyone can dish out a scoop of plain old vanilla content. It doesn’t take much to slap together a few shaky paragraphs of trite cliches and worn out phrases, slap a clickbait title on the mess, and call it a day. But, don’t be surprised when that “content” doesn’t make any kind of difference to your bottom line at the end of the year. If you want your content to mean anything to your business, it has to mean something to the people that read it.

To do that, you’re going to need to keep a few simple rules in mind.

Write like a real person

Writing content for a business is part of a marketing strategy, and we all know the dark motivation of all marketing is to suck the individuality, life, and authenticity out of everything, right? Marketing is all about getting as many eyeballs on something as possible and that means you wouldn’t want to risk putting anyone off with a tone or voice they might not like.

Yup, the safe play when you’re writing content for a business would be to button things down as tightly as possible and adopt a very professional, generic voice, because that’s what everyone wants to read, right?

Nope. Nobody wants to read the unflavored gruel of the written world.

The fact is, no matter what you write, you will never be able to appeal to 100% of your audience. And the more you try and lance that windmill, the further off the mark you’ll get. So stop trying.

Write like a person. Drop the super formal language and distant tone. Write something funny. Write something weird. Write the kind of content you would actually read if you came across it while slacking off at work. Authenticity and sincerity are valuable currencies in the world of content, be sure you’re trading in them. Write and speak with you’re own voice.

Which brings us to our next point…

“Get confident, stupid!”

Always write your content from a place of authority and clarity. If you know what you’re talking about (and you absolutely should if you’re writing content on a topic), act like it. There is nothing worse than an article written by mealy-mouthed wimp who is constantly hedging their bets. I’m sure you’ve read articles like this, the internet is awash with timid writers who feel the need to couch every statement behind a disarming “it appears…” or “potentially, you may…” in case they might be accused of holding an actual opinion. Don’t contribute to the rising tide of lukewarm sewer water.

At the same time, please, don’t be a jerk. Being confident in your opinion is not the same as being arrogant, patronizing, or rude. You’re entitled to your own, clear, confidently stated opinion – not the end-all, be-all final word on every topic. If there is anything more off-putting than a fence sitter who leaves plenty of room to escape on every side of a statement, it’s a blowhard to tries to take up all the space in the conversational room.

And for goodness sake, do your homework. If you’re writing too much like the former because you don’t actually know what you’re talking about – stop. Slow down, read up on the topic, and make sure you can cash the cheques you’re writing. If you worry that you sound too much like the latter, temper your strident opinion with some sources. Back up what you’re saying with a few links to examples, statistics, and facts so the reader knows you’re not just pulling stuff out of an unmentionable place.

Know the rules

Sure, writing content for the internet is not like writing a novel, or a serious academic paper, but that doesn’t mean you can just phone it in either. When you publish content that is riddled with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and cliches, all you’re not helping your business. The toughest editor will always be your audience, and they don’t slash your grade or send back pages covered in red ink when they see mistakes, they do something far worse – they stop reading.

Author, blogger, and the Northern hemisphere’s singly largest source of profanity-laced writing advice, Chuck Wendig, describes writing as a “craft” as opposed to a “science” or “art.” Writing is not a cold hard act of chemistry where adding compound-A to chemical-B will result in poison cloud-X. The writer’s voice is important, it informs and transforms the work. At the same time, calling it an “art” implies that there are no rules, that writers simply spackle the page with macaroni letters and glitter verbs with the audience cooing and awwing the whole time, hanging every word on the refrigerator.

A craft is more like carpentry. You can make a million kinds of cabinets and dressers just like you can make a million different kinds of blogs and articles. You can make cheap, flimsy, dime-a-dozen IKEA clones, or you can make an heirloom masterpiece out of authentic English oak that your family will be begrudgingly hauling up and down stairs into new apartments for generations. Either way, you need to know how to hammer a nail in straight, hang a hinge, and cut and measure to design. There is artistry involved for sure, but you need to know your tools and how they work if you want to make anything of worth.

The content writers job doesn’t end at “publish”

Writing for the web is different than writing for a paper or a magazine, it’s a reflexive and interactive medium. While letters to the editor and mailed-in comments have existed since the first paper flapped someone’s wig the wrong way, on the web the response is immediate and direct. You need to be ready to respond to them.

Content isn’t just about writing, it’s about being able to hold a conversation. At the end of the day, content is about building rapport and establishing a connection with your audience (and hopefully future customers), so your job isn’t over when you hit “publish.” Engage with anyone gracious enough to leave a comment. Take criticism in stride, absorb the useful feedback when it is available, and ignore obvious trolls.

When you make content for the web, you need are adopting the role of ambassador for your business. You might be writing in your own voice, but you’re still representing your brand as well, so act like it. Be polite, answer questions, and do the internet equivalent of sitting up straight.

 

 

Nic Rowen

Content Manager at Lifeline Design
About Nic Rowen

Nic Rowen is the content manager for Lifeline Design (www.lifelinedesign.ca). Hailing from a background in writing, Nic believes great stories make great sites.

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