12 Tips for Effective Content Writing
Content writing for your website or blog can be a real challenge for some folks. Let’s face it, not everyone is a natural-born writer or a habitual writer at that. Not to mention that the need to constantly come up with fresh, engaging, and relevant topics to write about can feel like a full-time job in itself. Regular blog posting not only takes time, it takes a lot of mental energy and if you are busy doing what you do best or that which “pays the bills” i.e. your “day job,” there may not be a whole lot of time and energy leftover in the day to focus on content writing. Highly productive content writers live up to the numbers and at the same time don’t scrimp on quality. With proper planning, strategy, and regular practice, you too can become a highly effective and productive content writer that can drive home great results. Here are a few tried and tested tips to help you on your way to content writing success:
1). Create Your Optimal Work Space
Find your optimal personal space for content writing. The more focused you are, the better your writing will be and the faster you will get done with each project. Some people find calm music playing in the background helpful while others find it distracting. Personally, I need total and complete silence and must write in a quiet room behind closed doors. I’ve tried to write at coffee houses, shared workspaces, and in communal rooms of my house and it just doesn’t work. Others might go stir crazy in a room so quiet that you can hear a pin drop – not me. The optimal workspace really depends on what works best for YOU!
2). Find YOUR Prime Time To Work
For most content writers, there are certain times of day or night that you feel most creative and productive — when words and ideas just seem to flow effortlessly. The trick is to discover for yourself when those “peak times” are. Once you start writing during those times, you’ll find that your content projects will become easier to write, more enjoyable, and take less time to complete. Also, pay attention to when you start to feel “emptied out” and when your words start to feel forced. This is your brain letting you know that you are “cooked” and need to take a break. Always follow your own “biological timetable” or “prime time” for maximum content writing results.
3). Set Aside Time for Writing
It’s important to schedule blocks of time to write, whatever time is your personal “prime time,” as mentioned above. If you don’t physically mark this time in your calendar, other tasks and activities will invariably fill that space. Give yourself a limited amount of time to get whatever writing project you are working on finished. For example, If you have a 600-word article to write and you know it will take you about 2 hours to thoroughly research your topic and write about it, block off those two hours on your calendar and train yourself stick to it.
4). Create an Editorial Calendar
If you maintain an editorial calendar that you strictly follow, it will help you stay on pace and write faster. I usually make a list of what I need to get done during the course of a day for an entire week including the particular topics I’m planning to write about. If you have multiple clients or websites that you write for on a weekly basis, getting behind even one day can really set you back with deadlines and staying on pace. Another important reason for creating an editorial calendar is monitoring your output. If you are constantly bombarding your readers with content, you don’t give them time to really absorb it and appreciate its value. The converse is not producing enough content, where your readers forget about you because you’re off their radar. Managing your output with an editorial calendar is key.
5). Narrow Down Your Topics
Don’t try to pack everything you know into a single blog post. Instead, narrow down larger topics into bite-size morsels that are more focused, easier to research, and faster to write. Huge topics take a lot more words to flush out properly, otherwise, you end up with a piece of fluff for an article rather than an informative post that has value. Smaller topics are also easier for your readers to digest rather than overloading them with too much information at one time.
6). Do Your Research First
When you are writing multiple articles within a short period of time, the process will go a lot faster if you brainstorm, do your research, and gather up everything you need for your articles ahead of time. For many content writers, the actual writing is not the hard part. Its writing good content and in order to do that you have to thoroughly research your topic first. If you have the facts, data, quotes, sources, examples, image files, etc., already gathered up, putting it all together in a readable and interesting manner will be much easier and take a lot less time. You’ll also be able to integrate these supportive items into your content with more fluidity if you have them all laid out ahead of time.
7). No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
As a content writer, It’s not so much about coming up with new things to say each time you write as it is about coming up with creative new ways to say what’s already been said. Quite frankly, if your aim is to constantly reinvent the wheel by coming with new and unheard-of content every day, you’ll soon run out of ideas to write about and quickly run out of energy. The underlying gist of a particular topic is going to be pretty much the same. Our job as a content writer is to present topics in a fresh and engaging way. For example: if I’m writing a community page about the city of Phoenix multiple times (and believe me – I do), I need to come up with new and interesting ways to present the same information because for all intents and purposes, the facts about the “Valley of the Sun” don’t change very much. Actually, having to write about the same topic/area over and over again in new ways for my audience and to avoid duplicate content issues has made me a much better content writer. We recycle bottles, why not ideas?
8). Create an Outline or Template
Following an outline or template can help writers create content more efficiently and consistently. An outline or template will keep your topic focussed and on point and will save you a lot of time and energy while flushing out your topic. You can make a template for each type of content you create such as a standard 600-700 word blog post, an ebook, a personal bio, a press release, a local service area page, a community page, and so forth. For example, if you are writing lifestyle content for 10 different cities, you can create one template to follow for all 10 cities. By following an outline/template, your content will be more organized, and your writing is less likely to ramble off course and cost you additional time.
9). Work on More than Piece at a Time
When you start a new blog post or page, don’t feel as though you must finish it in one sitting. Often times, a particular topic can leave you feeling stuck without ideas. Instead of wasting time sitting there if nothing comes to mind, move on to another content project. Allow the sticky topic to stew in the pot for now and trust that new ideas will come on their own at a later time. Always have a few posts in the hopper. That way, you won’t waste time or derail your overall schedule. Often times, if I’ve been writing for a while and feel mentally drained, I’ll switch to technical formatting and optimization mode on something I’ve already written and come back to creative writing mode when I’m feeling more in the flow.
10). Write Now, Proofread Later
Obsessing about every sentence and paragraph and trying to proofread while you write is not only time consuming, you’ll end up with errors and things you don’t like about it anyway. Creative people often struggle with accepting their own work. However, if you can accept the fact that your articles will never be “perfect,” then there’s really no point in obsessing over it, right? We need to embrace “good enough” when the content we have written IS good enough because that’s what it takes to be a highly productive content writer. Create your draft, step away, return to it later to proofread, make your edits, and move on. What you don’t want to do is obsessively go back into previously written posts and make crazy, endless changes, while pulling your hair out — been there, done that.
11). Write Now, Optimize Last
When you are writing, stay focused on the topic at hand and don’t think about SEO. As a content writer, you already know (or should know) that your article will need on-page optimization in order to get found online by your target audience. I have found that it’s a lot easier and faster to optimize your content after you’ve finished writing out your ideas and have edited your content. I like to create a gap between the time I finish a piece and optimizing it for search engines so that I remain focused on the topic at hand and not on the technical aspects of SEO. Once I’m done writing, I can then insert my keyword phrases, heading tags, image alt text, inbound and outbound links, and so forth, without my article sounding like I wrote it for search engines and not for people.
12). Try to Write Every Day
Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Outliers,“ stated that it takes 10000 hours (or approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice to become an “expert” in your field. So how do we get better and more productive as a content writer? We write…a lot and preferably every day. The more you write, the better you will get at it and the more productive you’ll become. Good writing, I mean really good writing takes time — and we’re not talking hours. If you want to become an expert content writer, it takes years of consistent writing on a daily basis.
A good content writer is also a good time manager and knows how to use their time effectively. I hope the 12 tips I’ve shared here will inspire you to use your time more effectively so that you can be the most productive content writer you can be. Happy writing!
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