In the movie Ratatouille (2007), Auguste Gusteau, a well-loved chef, said that “Anyone can cook.” A lot of people didn’t agree with him (one even said, “Well, anyone can, but that doesn’t mean anyone should”), especially the renowned food critic, Anton Ego. Later, however, after being served a delicious dish of ratatouille prepared by a “measly” line cook and his rat, even he concluded that while not everyone can become a great cook, a great cook can come from anywhere.
The same can be said about writers. With the rise of blogs and social media platforms, everyone can become a content writer these days — and a great content writer can come from anywhere in the world.
Wherever you may come from as a writer, here are four essential qualities that we should all aspire to have or become.
1. Great content creators are great at research
Great content writers are ferocious researchers, a quality brought about by a writer’s inquisitive mind.
They know that good writing is grounded in data and history, because these are things that add context and credibility to their work. Great writers understand that if they are going to tell their readers what they think, they need to give them a good reason to believe it.
In fact, Forrester reports that the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision. For B2B buyers, 95% consider content to be trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings. (See what I did there?)
Aside from this, good content writing backed up by data helps position brands as the go-to experts for information on certain topics. This is crucial for winning your readers’ trust and addressing their needs at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Being authoritative in your content also helps drive engagement and backlinks, which make your website perform better on search engine results pages (SERPs).
2. Great content creators serve the reader
Content plays a critical role in not only driving traffic to your site, but also getting curious visitors to stay and eventually convert to customers. Good content creators know that keeping the readers at the heart of their content makes it easier for it to do its job .
Here is a piece of advice from renowned author, George Orwell, on how writers can better serve readers:
“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”
To translate this gem of a quote into marketing terms: what does the reader want? Does this content satisfy the reader’s wants? How can my content offer something valuable to the reader? Is this content compelling enough to get your readers to act on something?
Aside from this, it’s best to get a grasp of who exactly your audience is. Brands often have buyer personas—fictional profiles that represent an ideal customer—that lie at the core of their marketing strategy. Familiarizing yourself with who the ideal buyer (or in this case, reader) is—their demographics, what their reading habits are, what they look for in content, and what motivates their actions—can make all the difference in how you create content.
3. Great content creators use words with clarity and simplicity
In the business of content creation, good content gives valuable information to your readers. No matter how great your ideas are, if the reader can’t understand it, then your hard work and effort will have been for nothing.
There are a couple of writing techniques that allow you to make great content that is clear and simple for your readers:
- You need to set their expectations by giving them a summary of what your content is about. Much like the headlines and leads of news articles, optimizing your title and introduction lets the reader determine if this information will be useful to them or not.
- Break down any jargon or complex words into simpler ones. Good content shouldn’t make your audience scratch their heads and open a Google tab just to figure out what you mean. However, this doesn’t mean your writing has to be boring. Using creative and relatable anecdotes or analogies can make more difficult topics easier to digest.
For digital content, making use of stylistic choices like boldface, italics, and bullet points can serve as visual highlights for key points. Segmenting your content into headers and sub-headers, as well as limiting your paragraphs to a few sentences breaks down large chunks of information into manageable chunks, helping with its clarity.
4. Great content creators are big readers.
On numerous occasions, Song of Ice and Fire (the book series from which HBO’s Game of Thrones was based on) author George R.R. Martin said that J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings had “an enormous influence” on him and the way he wrote his books.
As a writer, being a big reader can contribute to your content in two ways:
- It helps you hone your writing skills. Aside from the knowledge you gain from reading a variety of genres and topics, you get a better grasp of the language, widen your vocabulary, and introduce yourself to different tones and content approaches. Being able to pick out the ‘technical’ details is key in finding the practices you can adopt into your own writing.
- Reading more can improve your cognitive skills and broadens your way of thinking. Given how good content functions to serve the readers, it’s important to expose your mind to a vast amount of ideas, especially ones that can help you better understand your audiences and the way they think.
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Whether you’re writing content for a company website’s Inbound Marketing campaign, your personal blog or a client’s Facebook Page, I hope you’ll keep these four points in mind and write your way towards becoming a great one.
What other qualities do you think great content writers have? Sound off in the comments below!