Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want my team to just do your marketing for you, click here.

The 10 Ingredients of Great Content Writing

The 10 Ingredients of Great Content Writing

Content writing can be difficult.

Just consider these numbers. An astonishing 98 percent of all marketing teams say written content is their most-used content type, yet one in three marketers admit their content writing is only “somewhat” or “not so” effective.

is content writing effective - graphs

In other words, there’s a whole lot of content out there that isn’t doing what it should be.

This article aims to help you and your team improve your content writing quality and success levels.

Fortunately, content writing is something people can get better at with a little bit of study and practice. Below you can find the 10 ingredients of great content writing to help you improve.

1. Craft a Compelling Headline

Say you get 100 people to visit your blog. On average, 80 of them will read your headline copy, but only 20 will read the rest.

In other words, your headlines have a lot of heavy lifting to do.

Strong headlines provide specific information and give a little detail to draw people in but stop short of telling the whole story.

We can see how this looks in practice thanks to a BuzzSumo analysis of 100 million headlines on Facebook and Twitter. It found approximately 65 characters (about 11 words) is the sweet spot for headline length.

content writing optimum headline length

Of course, it’s not just about the length of your headline. The words are important, too.

Headlines containing instructional phrases like “you need to know” and “why you should” are most likely to be shared on Facebook.

content writing best words for headlines

People often want to read content that teaches them something, whether it’s how to improve content writing or a rundown of the hottest draft prospects in Major League Baseball.

2. Hook Readers With an Interesting Intro

Your headline compelled a reader to click on your content. Now you need to persuade them to read on.

That’s easier said than done. According to Nielsen Norman Group, approximately 57 percent of page-viewing time is spent above the fold, before readers need to scroll. For the second screenful of content, that figure plummets to just 17 percent, and only the most dedicated make it much further.

content writing - average scroll depth

In other words, if your intro doesn’t immediately grab your readers’ attention, don’t expect them to stick around.

The best way to keep your audience reading is by jumping straight into the content promised by your headline.

For instance, if you’re reading this article, it’s a fair bet you want to write better content. So, in the introduction, I acknowledged your challenge and explained this article is here to help you find a solution.

Presumably, that intro worked because you’re still reading!

3. Write for Your Audience

A snappy introduction may help you keep your readers’ attention for longer, but it’s not a silver bullet. You need to write with your specific audience in mind.

Or, to put it another way, write for a small subset of people, not for everyone.

To give a simple example, it’s like the difference between an article on “great content writing” and one on “great writing.”

Because you’re searching for tips on content writing, I can make informed guesses about you. For instance, chances are you work in marketing or are creating marketing-related content.

On the other hand, if this was an article on “great writing,” you could be anyone from a student to a novelist struggling with writer’s block. If I tried to write for all those possible audiences, I’d likely not hit the mark for any of them.

4. Narrow Your Article’s Focus

Each article should have a single clear idea from headline to conclusion.

Following this approach can help you form more logical arguments, write copy that flows naturally, and provide your readers with clear takeaways.

Unless you’re writing a pillar page acting as a central point for discussing a broad topic, keep your focus as tight as possible. For instance:

  • Bad: How to improve your marketing
  • Better: How to do better small business marketing
  • Best: How to do social media marketing for SaaS startups

It’d be impossible to write a valuable piece of content on that first theme because the potential audience is just too broad. You simply can’t offer advice relevant to everyone, from a one-person startup to a multinational brand.

By narrowing your focus, you could provide real value around a specific topic.

5. Be Engaging

However enticing your headline may be, if your content doesn’t quickly engage your audience once they land on your page, they’re going to bounce.

Let’s look at some more BuzzSumo research to demonstrate this. They used machine learning models to discover the keys to engaging content writing.

Of the articles the researchers looked at, only a fraction performed strongly on both Facebook and Twitter.

make your content writing engaging

This shows people on different platforms engage with different types of content.

Then, there’s the writing itself.

As a marketer, I bet you’ve been told excellent content writing is about using simple language.

However, that same BuzzSumo study found content with high readability scores (shorter sentences and words) doesn’t generally perform notably better than those with lower readability scores overall.

engaging language in content writing

In other words, engaging content writing is about using language your specific audience will understand and appreciate. Therefore, oversimplifying or overcomplicating for the sake of doing so is likely less effective.

6. Write in Your Unique Brand Voice

Why do some brands stand out more than others through their content?

Thanks to Sprout Social, we know it’s down to a range of factors, most of which are directly related to brand voice, aka the personality you attach to your brand.

content writing - brand voice

Once you’ve figured out who you’re writing for and what engages them, keep doing it. It’s all about consistency.

Of course, unless you have a single person handling all your content writing and communications, you need to clarify your brand voice with your entire team in one central, easily accessible document. Otherwise, you run the risk of different writers using conflicting perspectives and tones.

As a minimum, your brand voice document should include:

  • your brand’s core values and mission statement
  • a description of your audience and the way they speak
  • your ideal relationship with your audience
  • examples of specific words and phrases you do (and don’t) use

7. Provide Knowledge That Readers Want

Imagine you searched for content writing tips on Google, came across this article, then found a bunch of information about creating better video content.

Or imagine if, instead of specific tips, I just wrote 2,000 words about why it’s essential to have great content but never told you what it looks like or how to do it.

You probably wouldn’t come back to my site in the future if that happened.

That’s why it’s crucial to figure out what people want from your content before you start writing via keyword research.

Fortunately, data isn’t difficult to get hold of. By using a tool like Ubersuggest, you can find commonly asked questions about your chosen subject.

Say I’m going to write about SEO, but I haven’t decided on an exact topic yet. Ubersuggest tells me people are asking about what SEO means and why it’s important. This tells me what to include in my article.

Content writing - Use Ubersuggest

8. Use an Outline

Once you’ve done your research and worked out what your audience expects from your content, it’s time to create an outline.

Why bother outlining your content? Because it helps you write a more useful, well-structured article.

What’s more, it allows you to find valuable sources and statistics to strengthen your arguments and provide additional context.

It’s simple. Just take the questions from your keyword research and lay them out in a logical order. For instance, “What is SEO?” would come before “Why is SEO important?”

Need to reference multiple points in a single section? Break those points down into subsections with subheadings. For instance, you might include the following subsections under “Why is SEO important?”

  • organic traffic is highly valuable
  • local SEO drives conversions
  • SEO offers long-lasting results

Finally, search for relevant third-party sources and existing content on your site to reference in each section (and subsection).

9. Include Actionable Tips

Your content writing goal should be to ensure readers learn something valuable. That way, there’s a better chance they’ll share it and come back to you down the line. They might even sign up to your mailing list or download gated content.

The simplest way to teach your readers something is to provide specific, actionable tips spelling out exactly how to do whatever you’re talking about.

To do this well, you need to be an expert in your field. That’s why I write about marketing rather than brain surgery!

In other words, write what you know. Discuss how you tackle real-world problems step by step. Reference tools and processes you use; if you created them yourself, all the better.

10. Add Trust Factors

There’s a whole lot of content out there. Even if you’re in an obscure niche, there are likely hundreds of articles covering similar topics to you.

Why should readers choose your content over anyone else’s?

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to make your content trustworthy. If people know your content is well researched and authoritative, they’re more likely to click on it.

Frankly, being a big name in your field helps. Now that a lot of people know who I am, I naturally have an advantage over lesser-known publishers.

However, it wasn’t always like that. I had to start somewhere to prove my worth. Backlinks helped me do it, and they could help you too. Specifically, you should:

  • Support the points in your content by linking out to authoritative sources. Linking to mainstream media sources, government sites, universities, and high-profile brands could make your content writing more credible.
  • Get credible sites to link to your content. If a high-authority site like the New York Times links to your content, that’s a great sign people can trust you. As a bonus, it can help you rank better in organic search.

Examples of Excellent Content Writing

What does fantastic content writing look like in practice? Here are three sites consistently getting it right:

1. HubSpot

Time after time, HubSpot demonstrates the benefits of creating in-depth content on topics that matter to its core audience of sales and marketing teams. It even has separate blogs dedicated to marketers and salespeople. In addition to being informative, its content plays a key part in the buyer cycle by pointing readers toward its paid tools and gated content.

2. LinkedIn

As the world’s largest professional social networking platform, LinkedIn is a highly credible source. Rather than churning out low-value content, its articles often include unique research, making it more valuable.

3. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the single most popular e-commerce technology solution on the market.

Its plugin is designed to make it easy to start an online store, and its blog aims to support that. In addition to practical advice, it regularly features stories from brands serving niche markets, which can be a fantastic source of inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Content Writing FAQs

What skills does a content writer need?

The average content writer needs to have research skills and the ability to translate findings into engaging copy. In addition, self-discipline and time management are a must, and knowledge of SEO best practices helps.

Is content writing hard?

Anyone can put some words on a page, but writing quality content that resonates with your audience can be tricky.

What is SEO copywriting?

It’s all about creating content search engines can understand. It used to be about stuffing keywords into every sentence, but there’s a little more to it now.

What are the main types of content writing?

Content writing can be split into two categories: content marketing and copywriting. The former includes things like blogs and e-books, while the latter encompasses website and ad copy.

Content Writing Conclusion

Great content writing starts with defining your target audience.

If you don’t understand who you’re writing for and what they want to hear, you can’t create compelling content. Sure, you might write nice words, but they likely won’t generate leads or sales because they aren’t targeting the right people.

Start with your audience in mind every time, and chances are you’ll create better content.

What are your tried-and-trusted techniques for superb content writing?

Consulting with Neil Patel

See How My Agency Can Drive More Traffic to Your Website

  • SEO - unlock more SEO traffic. See real results.
  • Content Marketing - our team creates epic content that will get shared, get links, and attract traffic.
  • Paid Media - effective paid strategies with clear ROI.

Book a Call

Share

Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want my team to just do your marketing for you, click here.

How to Create Amazing Content: Top 15 Ingredients

The 10 Ingredients of Great Content Writing

Think that content writing is easy? Think again.

Just consider this: B2B marketers reported the top three owned media distribution channels are websites, blogs, and email newsletters. Yet 40% of brand marketing teams found their content to be only “somewhat” or “moderately” successful.

A graphic asking "What are your top content marketing challenges?" with answers and subsequent percentages.

In other words, there’s a whole lot of content out there that isn’t doing what it should be.

This article aims to teach your team how to create amazing content and improve your success levels.

Fortunately, content writing is something people can get better at with a little bit of study and practice. Below you can find the 15 ingredients of great content writing to help you improve.

1. Craft a Compelling Headline

Say you get 100 people to visit your blog. On average, 80 of them will read your headline copy, but only 20 will read the rest.

In other words, your headlines have a lot of heavy lifting to do.

Strong headlines provide specific information and give a little detail to draw people in but stop short of telling the whole story.

We can see how this looks in practice thanks to a BuzzSumo analysis of 100 million headlines on Facebook and Twitter. It found approximately 65 characters (about 11 words) is the sweet spot for headline length.

Graphic indicating optimum headline character count on Facebook and Twitter in the years 2019 and 2020.

Of course, it’s not just about the length of your headline. The words are important, too.

Headlines containing instructional phrases like “you need to know” and “why you should” are most likely to be shared on Facebook.

Graphic indicating Facebook headline phrases in 2019 and 2020.

People often want to read content that teaches them something, whether it’s how to improve content writing or a rundown of the hottest draft prospects in Major League Baseball.

2. Hook Readers With an Interesting Intro

Your headline compelled a reader to click on your content. Now you need to persuade them to read on.

That’s easier said than done. According to Nielsen Norman Group, approximately 57 percent of page-viewing time is spent above the fold, before readers need to scroll. For the second screenful of content, that figure plummets to just 17 percent, and only the most dedicated make it much further.

Graph showing the optimal percentage of viewing time.

In other words, if your intro doesn’t immediately grab your readers’ attention, don’t expect them to stick around.

The best way to keep your audience reading is by jumping straight into the content promised by your headline.

For instance, if you’re reading this article, it’s a fair bet you want to write better content. So, in the introduction, I acknowledged your challenge and explained this article is here to help you find a solution.

Presumably, that intro worked because you’re still reading!

3. Write for Your Audience

A snappy introduction may help you keep your readers’ attention for longer, but it’s not a silver bullet. You need to write with your specific audience in mind.

Or, to put it another way, write for a small subset of people, not for everyone.

To give a simple example, it’s like the difference between an article on “great content writing” and one on “great writing.”

Because you’re searching for tips on content writing, I can make informed guesses about you. For instance, chances are you work in marketing or are creating marketing-related content.

On the other hand, if this was an article on “great writing,” you could be anyone from a student to a novelist struggling with writer’s block. If I tried to write for all those possible audiences, I’d likely not hit the mark for any of them.

4. Narrow Your Article’s Focus

Each article should have a single clear idea from headline to conclusion.

Following this approach can help you form more logical arguments, write copy that flows naturally, and provide your readers with clear takeaways.

Unless you’re writing a pillar page acting as a central point for discussing a broad topic, keep your focus as tight as possible. For instance:

  • Bad: How to improve your marketing
  • Better: How to do better small business marketing
  • Best: How to do social media marketing for SaaS startups

It’d be impossible to write a valuable piece of content on that first theme because the potential audience is just too broad. You simply can’t offer advice relevant to everyone, from a one-person startup to a multinational brand.

By narrowing your focus, you could provide real value around a specific topic.

5. Be Engaging

However enticing your headline may be, if your content doesn’t quickly engage your audience once they land on your page, they’re going to bounce.

Let’s look at some more BuzzSumo research to demonstrate this. They used machine learning models to discover the keys to engaging content writing.

Of the articles the researchers looked at, only a fraction were seeing results that performed strongly on both Facebook and Twitter.

A graph showing the relationship between Twitter shares and Facebook shares.

This shows people on different platforms engage with different types of content.

Then, there’s the writing itself.

As a marketer, I bet you’ve been told excellent content writing is about using simple language.

However, that same BuzzSumo study found content with high readability scores (shorter sentences and words) doesn’t generally perform notably better than those with lower readability scores overall.

A graphic showing different types of content on Facebook and Twitter and their levels of engagement.

In other words, engaging content writing is about using language your specific audience will understand and appreciate. Therefore, oversimplifying or overcomplicating for the sake of doing so is likely less effective.

6. Write in Your Unique Brand Voice

Why do some brands stand out more than others through their content?

Thanks to Sprout Social, we know it’s down to a range of factors, most of which are directly related to brand voice, aka the personality you attach to your brand.

A graphic showing what makes a brand's social best in class.

Once you’ve figured out who you’re writing for and what engages them, keep doing it. It’s all about consistency.

Of course, unless you have a single person handling all your content writing and communications, you need to clarify your brand voice with your entire team in one central, easily accessible document. Otherwise, you run the risk of different writers using conflicting perspectives and tones.

As a minimum, your brand voice document should include:

  • Your brand’s core values and mission statement
  • A description of your audience and the way they speak
  • Your ideal relationship with your audience
  • Examples of specific words and phrases you do (and don’t) use

7. Provide Knowledge That Readers Want

Imagine you searched for content writing tips on Google, came across this article, then found a bunch of information about creating better video content.

Or imagine if, instead of specific tips, I just wrote 2,000 words about how a great content strategy can make you money but never told you how to do it.

You probably wouldn’t come back to my site in the future if that happened.

That’s why it’s crucial to figure out what people want from your content before you start writing via keyword research.

Fortunately, data isn’t difficult to get hold of. By using a tool like Ubersuggest, you can find commonly asked questions about your chosen subject.

Say I’m going to write about SEO, but I haven’t decided on an exact topic yet. Ubersuggest tells me people are asking about what SEO means and why it’s important. This tells me what to include in my article.

A screenshot of data found on Ubersuggest.

8. Use an Outline

Once you’ve done your research and worked out what your audience expects from your content, it’s time to create an outline.

Why bother outlining your content? Because it helps you write a more useful, well-structured article.

What’s more, it allows you to find valuable sources and statistics to strengthen your arguments and provide additional context.

It’s simple. Just take the questions from your keyword research and lay them out in a logical order. For instance, “What is SEO?” would come before “Why is SEO important?”

Need to reference multiple points in a single section? Break those points down into subsections with subheadings. For instance, you might include the following subsections under “Why is SEO important?”

  • organic traffic is highly valuable
  • local SEO drives conversions
  • SEO offers long-lasting results

Finally, search for relevant third-party sources and existing content on your site to reference in each section (and subsection).

9. Include Actionable Tips

Your content writing goal should be to ensure readers learn something valuable. That way, there’s a better chance they’ll share it and come back to you down the line. They might even sign up for your mailing list or download gated content.

The simplest way to teach your readers something is to provide specific, actionable tips spelling out exactly how to do whatever you’re talking about. Ideally, after reading your content, they should have the information they need to start solving the problem you cover right away.

To do this well, you need to be an expert in your field. That’s why I write about marketing rather than brain surgery!

In other words, write what you know. Discuss how you tackle real-world problems step by step. Reference tools and processes you use; if you created them yourself, all the better.

That’s how you’ll increase content marketing ROI.

10. Add Trust Factors

There’s a whole lot of content out there. Even if you’re in an obscure niche, there are likely hundreds of articles covering similar topics to yours.

Why should readers choose your content over anyone else’s?

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to make your content trustworthy. If people know your content is well-researched and authoritative, they’re more likely to click on it.

Frankly, being a big name in your field helps. Now that a lot of people know who I am, I naturally have an advantage over lesser-known publishers.

However, it wasn’t always like that. I had to start somewhere to prove my worth. Backlinks helped me do it, and they could help you too. You can use them in how you measure your content marketing ROI. Specifically, you should:

  • Support the points in your content by linking out to authoritative sources. Linking to mainstream media sources, government sites, universities, and high-profile brands could make your content writing more credible.
  • Get credible sites to link to your content. If a high-authority site like the New York Times links to your content, that’s a great sign people can trust you. As a bonus, it can help you rank better in organic search.

11. Look At Your Competition

You and your competitors are all trying to get people’s attention. So, knowing how to create amazing content matters.

You don’t just want to stand out from them; you want to be leading in your niche.

All users’ eyes are on you.

When learning how to increase content marketing ROI, start your content creation process with in-depth research.

Not only do you need to know your buyer personas, but you also need to know your competition.

Once you have your competitor profiles laid out, study the similarities and differences between you.

Studying the successful parts of your competitor’s strategy will let you know where you stand in your niche.

Follow this step by identifying threats and opportunities. Of your findings, make adjustments to your strategy to get on par with or surpass your competition’s efforts.

Once you see where to shift, you can beat your competition with their strategy.

12. Build Complementary Content

If you notice in your metrics there are search queries that haven’t been answered within your niche, take time to build content around these topics.

Note that you may actually have existing content on these topics.

This is a good thing because you can show your audience you have more up-to-date and in-depth information on their lingering concerns.

Track your content’s progress by learning how to measure your content marketing ROI.

Think of complementary content as a bonus to your main content piece. If your main content piece is a blog post, complementary content would be a short-form videos or infographics.

This bonus content will serve as other digestible forms of your content and can even be used for further content promotion.

13. Don’t Forget The Basics

It’s easy to get into the higher strategic side of content, but all the hard work you can do building trust and credibility can be sunk with one bad typo.

When building out your content, don’t skip over the basics.

Don’t let your content copywriting lack the fundamentals, including:

  1. Grammar and spell check
  2. Sentence structure review (i.e. removing passive voice and wordy sentences)
  3. Plagiarism
  4. Clarity and comprehension for your audience (Remember: They are learning from you)
  5. Editing

This may not be as exciting as choosing your topics or building out new ideas, but these overlooked tactics provide clarity and polish to your writing to land well with your audience. You have a good message, make sure it’s easy to understand.

14. Have Your Promotion Strategy Ready

How you promote matters. Use social media for a push or email newsletters to reach your audience.

Your promotion strategy is essentially your purpose for the post.

You want people to not just absorb the content but refer to it in the future. You also want them to share it with everyone they know. Making sure your content is optimized for sharing before you write will be essential. This is the time you’re thinking of how to repurpose blogs into video content or reaching out to niche influencers to share for a powerful impact.

You want to draw attention to the work and use internal links to promote more of your regularly produced evergreen content. If your content is timely, think about the best time to share it. If you don’t have a usual schedule, how your audience can expect you? Will it have the best response on Twitter or Instagram first to get the buzz going? Whatever you find best gives your content strategy leverage; make sure it’s unique.

Developing a content strategy before publishing will ensure what you’ve crafted gets the attention it deserves.

15. Experiment With Different Formats (If They Match Your Audience)

Surprisingly, sometimes switching things up can keep your audience interested.

Just make sure it matches your audience’s persona.

Would they like a video featured within the blog post? Would it be wise to give them a table of contents to navigate the page?

If you have the bandwidth, you can provide infographics or downloadable assets to help further educate our audience.

These are good things to review before and during the content creation phase.

Mixing things up a little helps you learn what content converts. You also can project if your audience will receive new elements well by researching what they usually prefer.

Don’t be afraid to take a risk experimenting.

You may run into what’s best for your audience.

Examples of Excellent Content Writing

What does fantastic content writing look like in practice?

Here are three sites consistently getting it right:

1. HubSpot

A screenshot of Hubspot's Blog page.

Time after time, HubSpot demonstrates the benefits of creating in-depth content on topics that matter to its core audience of sales and marketing teams. It even has separate blogs dedicated to marketers and salespeople. In addition to being informative, its content plays a key part in the buyer cycle by pointing readers toward its paid tools and gated content.

2. LinkedIn

A screenshot of LinkedIn's homepage.

As the world’s largest professional social networking platform, LinkedIn is a highly credible source. Rather than churning out low-value content, its articles often include unique research, making it more valuable.

3. WooCommerce

A screenshot of WooCommerce's homepage.

WooCommerce is the single most popular e-commerce technology solution on the market.

Its plugin is designed to make it easy to start an online store, and its blog aims to support that. In addition to practical advice, it regularly features stories from brands serving niche markets, which can be a fantastic source of inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What skills does a content writer need?

The average content writer needs to have research skills and the ability to translate findings into engaging copy. In addition, self-discipline and time management are a must, and knowledge of SEO best practices helps.

Is content writing hard?

Anyone can put some words on a page, but writing quality content that resonates with your audience can be tricky.

What is SEO copywriting?

It’s all about creating content search engines can understand. It used to be about stuffing keywords into every sentence, but there’s a little more to it now.

What are the main types of content writing?

Content writing can be split into two categories: content marketing and copywriting. The former includes things like blogs and e-books, while the latter encompasses website, ad, and product copy.

Conclusion

If you’re wondering how to create amazing content, it starts with defining your target audience.

If you don’t understand who you’re writing for and what they want to hear, you can’t create compelling content. Sure, you might write nice words, but they likely won’t generate leads or sales because they aren’t targeting the right people.

Start with your audience in mind every time, and chances are you’ll create better content.

What are your tried-and-trusted techniques for superb content writing?

Consulting with Neil Patel

See How My Agency Can Drive More Traffic to Your Website

  • SEO - unlock more SEO traffic. See real results.
  • Content Marketing - our team creates epic content that will get shared, get links, and attract traffic.
  • Paid Media - effective paid strategies with clear ROI.

Book a Call

Share