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  • A complete guide to conversational writing

    Girl using laptop to do conversational writing.

    A complete guide to conversational writing

    How many times have you opened a marketing email or started to read a blog post and glazed over?

    Dense, over-complicated writing is a turn-off. And when you have to wade through it for work, what do you do? Yawn? Run? Put it aside for later?

    Dreary, tepid content that reads like it was written by a robot will damage the longevity of your brand. 

    On the other hand, you could deliver bright, warm, on-brand content that makes your readers want to hang around and schmooze.

    Let me show you how!

    What is conversational writing style?

    Conversational writing is a unique style of writing that breaks those grammar rules you learnt at high school. Sentences might commence with ‘And’ or ‘But’ and you’ll collide midway through a paragraph with ‘ouch’ or ‘drat’.

    It’s fun and friendly. It’s also powerful. You can use conversational writing to connect with people on a deeply personal level. 

    Dry or overly complicated content is a one-way ticket to be scrolled past and forgotten forever. But smooth effortless-to-read writing will keep your readers reading.

    Conversational writing is the way of the future for marketing materials such as email, newsletters, websites and blogs. This is the type of content businesses are using to generate leads and create loyal customers.

    Row of people standing with arms in the air

    The point is to make every single person feel like you’re giving them special attention so they keep coming back. You want your readers to feel like you know them – and, if you’ve researched your niche brand, you do know them. 

    Plus, if you’re generating well-researched, informative content, they’re likely to share it with others.

    One of the best parts of conversational writing is that once you get the hang of it, it can be a really easy style to generate original content every time. It is, however, difficult to master at first. You’ve got to shake the thought of your high school teachers drilling into you that you need to write like the next great novelist.

    What isn't conversational writing

    It can be easy to presume a conversational writing style would be as easy as typing how you’d text your friends.

    That is NOT what we’re going for. Developing a conversational tone in your writing means creating simple, easy-to-understand content.

    Couple on laptop and mobile phone doing conversational writing

    If you were to write the way you speak, though, it could be confusing for readers who don’t know you.

    The idea is to create a style of writing that makes the reader feel like you’re addressing them directly. Think of it as getting a virtual cup of coffee with them, not addressing a crowd at a sold-out concert.

    Another thing to note is that a conversational writing style is not a one-size-fits-all.

    There’s a time and a place.

    For example, you wouldn’t put liver puns in an article about fatty liver disease. But you would put puns in a newsletter about cat sweaters. This is why conversational writing is such a valuable skill to have.

    Tips for conversational writing

    If you’re ready to develop your own conversational writing style, follow these tips and experiment and practise until you feel ready to share your work. 

    Infographic on tips for conversational writing

    Use simple words

    Conversational writing should be simple. There’s no need to whip out your thesaurus and find unique words for your content. It’s not that you’re ‘dumbing down’ the writing – you’re making it palatable for every reader.

    If you’re writing about a complex topic, such as software, think about the readers. They are likely not going to be experts on the subject, which is why they’ve come to you for answers.

    Using data to back up your facts is important, but simplify the wording for everyone to be able to understand. Adding graphs, tables and illustrations to support your writing on more complex concepts is always a good idea.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re writing about microgreens and you find this definition:

    Microgreens are vegetable greens harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed.

     You could rewrite this conversationally as:

    Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs.

     It may not look like much of a difference, but the reader will likely not know what a cotyledon is. You may go on to explain it later, but this is a good place to start to simplify the wording.

    Sunshine fresh

    Smooth, warm conversational writing

    Keep it concise

    Employ user-friendly words and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Nobody hopped online to read lengthy paragraphs to get to the bottom of why their left foot is itchy. Here are two rules to keep in mind:

    1. Sentences should be a maximum of 28 words long.

    2. Paragraphs should be a maximum of 90 words.

    When you look at the numbers, 51% of low-scoring texts have paragraphs that are way too long. The second that readers see a solid block of text, they’ve likely decided to move on. While you’re writing, you can check your word counts to make sure you’re staying in your lane. If you’re having trouble being too wordy, practise writing sentences and removing unnecessary words. This paragraph is about 75 words long; getting bored yet? They should be shorter.

    As for sentences, chop ‘em up! Forget what you learned about proper sentence structure in high school. Keep. It. Simple!

    Use contractions and interjections

    Another great way to work on your conversational writing style is to use contractions. So write isn’t instead of ‘is not’ and didn’t instead of ‘did not’.

    This makes writing sound more casual as if you’re talking directly to your readers.

    When you start using contractions in your writing, you’ll see how it it relaxes the conversational  tone.

    Man pointing to emphasise doing conversational writing correctly

     Interjections are part of natural speech (oops, yikes, bravo) and they’re used to convey emotion and breathe a sense of humanness into writing. Used well they can elevate writing and add interest, but take care to use them sparingly to avoid overkill.

    Ask your readers questions

    One of the best ways to engage your reader is to ask them questions.

    When you’re reading something and the writer asks you a question, it makes you think doesn’t it?

    A question is a great way to get your readers to engage and remember the information from your content.

    It’s also an excellent way to get engagement on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    Use the right conversational tone

    When creating a conversational writing style, you should develop your own conversational tone. That’s part of the fun! It’s also going to make your content memorable and stand out among competitors. It will, of course, depend on your circumstances, but being able to add in tidbits about your personal experience can create a lively connection with your audience.

    If your business needs to appeal to more than one type of client, you may need to wear multiple hats when it comes to tone. But persevere because working out the conversational tone that a particular group of clients is most comfortable with is a must-do task.

    While creating your personality in conversational writing, don’t be afraid to add in some pizazz. You can throw in interjections like yay! or ouch! to make your content come alive. Feel free to also get WILD and start sentences with those conjunctions and and but that we discussed earlier. You won’t get an F on your English paper for that here.

    Sprinkle sensory language

    Sensory language uses words related to our five senses to add emotion to writing. While sensory words may not sound like a good fit for business writing, the payoffs can be huge.

    Decades ago, American Nobel Laureate Scientist Herbet Simon observed that “In order to have anything like a complete theory of rationality, we have to understand what role emotion plays in it.” The role of emotion in business decision-making remains a much-discussed topic today.

    The Harvard Business Review, for example, has been publishing articles on emotional intelligence for years. And while there’s no formula yet that determines how human decision-making happens, we can garner enough from the science to know that sensory language will influence the way people feel about your products or services.

    Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, let’s look at the categories of sensory language we can use to influence customers and generate leads.

    We can use visual, tactile and auditory words, as well as words that describe taste and smell. We can also put words that depict motion to good use. Sensory words shouldn’t be over-sprinkled, however. Use them strategically for the greatest impact.

     

    * Click on the categories below to see examples of sensory words.

    Dazzling, shiny, bright, sparkly, sparkling, tight, gloomy, grin-worthy, glint, glimmer, glow, shine, glossy, vibrant, glitter, knotty, murky, polished, wildly, animated, bulky, delicate, frail, wrinkled, grassy, gloomy, feeble, beefy, crinkled

    Razor-sharp, tight, smouldering, faded,  hollow, knife-like, watery, tangle, briny, damp, oily, squelch, slimy, fluffy, rough, smooth, hairy, sticky, chilled, gritty, velvety, soft, creamy, rounded, lukewarm, spiky, boiling, tender, sizzling, tepid

    Thundering, softly, gently, thumping, crashing, tingling, squeaky, piercing, whoosh, squeal, clump, boom, sploosh, crunchy, ear-splitting, roaring, faint, muted, buzz, whine, unspoken, tinkle, deafening, gurgle, squawk, hum, crackle

    Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, super-spicy, juicy, cucumber cool, crisp, stinky, bite-sized, piece of cake, garden fresh, freshly baked, overpowering, biting, tangy, lemony, minty, sharp, zesty, gooey, deliciously, wildly, intense, fruity, pungent

    Pungent, bitter, perfumed, scented, aroma, aromatic, sniff, odour, billowy, biting, faint, wispy, rich, misty, fishy, lemony, tangy, tart, citrusy, earthy, smoky, pine, flowery, lilac, mouldy, musty, rancid, stagnant, stench, gaseous, sharp, briny

    Stirring, dart, progress, flow, rapid, gradual, steady, slowly, gradual, slight, sudden, stubbornly, vibrating, mind-boggling, bumpy, stamp out, twirl, swirl, whirl, wriggle, soaring, paralysed, eye-popping, motionless, fleeting, zipping

    Sensory words are power words! 

    They engage your reader on deep levels and create a strong emotional connection. Take this example from chocolate maker Green & Black. Sensory words such as crunchy and soft don’t refer to taste, but to touch and sound. Now that’s powerful!

    A creative way to include sensory language in your writing is to insert them into metaphors. They can be evocative and moving, but must be used sparingly to have real impact.

    Metaphors compare two things that are different to suggest an image, likeness or analogy between them. 

    Simple examples of business metaphors are:

    Taking it to a new level and Growing a business.

    Literary metaphors can have an emotional impact on readers, such as:

    ‘My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.’ – John Green, Fault in our Stars.

    ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ – Pablo Picasso

    If you’re interested in using metaphors in your conversational writing, be original and quirky. They have much greater impact when they haven’t been read before.

    Use active voice

    Try to use active voice in conversational writing whenever you can. So, instead of writing ‘The house was sold by the real estate agent,’ write ‘The real estate agent sold the house.’

    In passive voice, the subject of the action (the house) is the object of the sentence. The passive voice is usually clunky and indirect. Avoid using passive constructions and enliven your sentences with active voice. It’s bright, lively and more direct.

    Active voice also enlightens your conversational tone.

     Google prefers active voice and, if you’re looking to rank, and it’s more aligned with the way people speak. If you’re new at writing in an active voice, just practise until it feels natural.

    Use informal SEO keywords

    When researching keywords to optimise content for search engines, we analyse ‘reader intent’. So we put ourselves into readers’ shoes and try to predict what they’re going to type into the search engine. 

    This is great news for conversational writers because the best ranking keywords are often informal, casual and even slang. People favour a conversational tone when they type queries into Google.

    As I write this (and remember SEO is constantly evolving) 900 people each month are typing the longtail keyword ‘How to do SEO,’into Google. But only 10 of them are typing in ‘How to understand SEO.’ It tells us everything, doesn’t it? Conversational language is how readers actually think, themselves.

    Check: Are you telling a good story?

    We use stories to understand and find meaning throughout our lives. If the story isn’t complete, we often ponder the ending in our heads.

    There are tremendous benefits in having a story to tell in business writing. Prospective clients are known to make decisions based on the emotional impact they’re experiencing while listening to, or reading, a story. 

    Cassie Gillette, writing for Semrush’s 2022 Global Report, predicts that storytelling in content marketing will be key in 2022–23. ‘If you’re going to work on one skill this year,’ she wrote, ‘work on being a better storyteller’.

    You can use a storytelling structure for any type of business writing, providing the format works with the three components that make a good story – characters, conflict and resolution.

    Hubspot discusses how to elevate your brand and connect with your audience through storytelling in this free download.

    Dazzling conversational copy

    Finely crafted and delivered to your inbox

    Read it out loud

    Wondering if your writing actually sounds conversational, or  if you’ve got the conversational tone right? 

    Have an open mic for yourself and read it out loud! 

    Try reading your content aloud and recording it. Listen to see if it has a conversational flow to it, and if you enjoy hearing it. Another tip for reading out loud is to see where you pause to take a breath.

    A good rule of thumb is that if there is a pause, you should break it into two sentences. This is going to do wonders if you struggle with being super-wordy when you write.

    Watch this video from Kaleigh Moore on how to write conversationally.

    The bottom line

    To sum up, conversational writing is a necessary skill if you want to break through the tsunami of mediocre content on the internet.

    It’s a powerful tool in marketing that will help you stand out among competitors.

    People want personality to shine through when they’re reading content online. They appreciate shiny original text that hasn’t been seen a zillion times before. Sensory language will also add pizzazz, but don’t overdo it.

    Warm, human words they trust because you know them already, as well as what they’re looking for. Be a creative conversational writer, an original thinker with a warm-hearted tone and aim to both educate and entertain your audience.

    Before you leave

    Want to put some punch in your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    Looking to improve your content marketing writing? You’ll enjoy How to be a good content writer.

    For tips on writing awesome blog posts, see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Is content marketing worth it?

    Woman's profile with IT tools depicting question is content marketing worth it.

    Is content marketing worth it?

    When it comes to marketing strategies, gone are the days of paying top dollar for a sponsored ad package. Businesses are moving their focus to content marketing strategies instead. But is content marketing worth it?

    Content marketing is not new by any means, but it’s been gaining popularity as businesses move to online-only models. This type of marketing strategy is going to include blogs, videos and podcasts.

    Outbound marketing strategies, such as sponsored ads, aren’t working as well anymore. Consumers have caught on to these marketing strategies, which tend to be disruptive and annoying. If a customer is bothered by your ad when they’re doing a search, it’s not going to turn into a lead. To acquire customers, you need to build trust and a connection.

    This is the reason content marketing is on the upswing. Businesses are learning that organic traffic is the best way to bring in new leads and get conversions. In fact, 70% of all businesses use content marketing.

    Currently, the content marketing industry is valued at $400 billion and is predicted to continue growing. So, let’s look at content marketing and why it’s worth it for your business.

    What is content marketing?

    Before asking yourself if content marketing is worth it, it’s important to understand what it is exactly.

    You may have some ideas about it that may be true, but content marketing is a complex idea.

    Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that involves developing and distributing content, usually on the internet.

    Woman pointing finger asking is content marketing worth it.

    The content should be relevant to your audience and be directly related to your product. Blogs, videos and podcasts are some of the most powerful forms of content marketing that businesses use.

    While the concept of content marketing seems to be new, it isn’t. In fact, 92% of marketers and businesses view content as a valuable business tool.

    Typically, the goal of content marketing is to increase your brand awareness, engagement and loyalty. You not only want to reach your audience, but you also want to build a connection.

    There’s a huge difference between pumping out generic content every hour and creating well-researched, quality content that will generate more business.

    Think about this when you scroll through social media. Do you stop and read the sponsored ads? Probably not. Nobody does. We’ve learned that ads are bad, and we don’t want anything to do with them.

    That’s where content marketing comes in. Instead of seeing an ad that’s interrupting their search, turn your content into the result of the search.

    There are several methods of content marketing that work well. One of the best forms of content marketing is blog writing because it’s versatile and you can write a blog about pretty much anything.

    Watch the history of content marketing.

    Content Marketing Institute (2015). The story of content: rise of the new marketing.

    Types of content marketing

    So, now that we know a little about what content marketing is, let’s talk about the different types.

    It can be any type of content that you’re putting on your website and social media platforms. Keep in mind that throwing content onto your site just to have it there does not constitute a content marketing strategy.

    Content marketing is going to take some thought and a lot of work to produce results, but it’s going to be worth it.

    Blog writing

    A content marketing strategy worth having is going to include blog writing. No, we’re not talking about an online diary of your thoughts and feelings. Blog writing is a powerful tool that is the go-to for improving search engine optimisation (SEO.)

    Writing blog content that pertains to your product with well-researched and engaging content will draw in customers organically.

    Think about all of the times you’ve typed a question into a search engine and clicked on the first relevant blog. That could be you!

    The best part of blog writing is that it can be tailored to essentially any topic. If you have a way with words, you can write them yourself. But keep in mind that 90.63% of blog posts get zero or no traffic from Google.

    So, unless you’re a good writer with SEO knowledge, you might want to outsource your blog posts. Think about hiring an SEO wordsmith who can help you increase the organic traffic to your website.

    For example, if you’re selling microgreens, you could create a blog post with a longtail niche keyword that will be in searches regarding the topic. The blog post should be well-researched, with content-engaging content that will actually draw the reader in and get them clicking around your website. That way, those searching for information on microgreens will see your blog posts in the search, click on one, and end up on your page. This is likely to generate interest in your product that can turn into a lead or sale.

    The average blog is around 1100 words, but you can create shorter or longer blogs and see what works best for you. Along with blog writing, you can utilise other content marketing tools to enhance the user experience.

    Video content

    Another great tool to make content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Currently, 48% of customers rely on videos when searching for a product.

    Another great tool that makes content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Woman making video and asking is content marketing worth it.

    It’s easy to understand why people rely on videos when searching for a product. Not everyone wants to read a 2,000 word blog post on juicing celery, so a video that contains a how-to, or other content related to the blog, can help increase your engagement.

    Infographics

    An infographic is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an informational graphic that can be used to explain complex ideas. They’re a great addition to a blog post to help explain key points and will create engagement from the folks who don’t feel like reading the entire post. 

    When you’re deciding whether content marketing is worth it, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. While one person may want to read a long-form blog, others will benefit from being able to look at an infographic. The infographic below is a good visual summary of the different points we’re discussing in this blog post.

    Infographic-Is content marketing worth it?

    Podcasts

    According to a study in the US, 49% of 12 to 32-year-olds listen to a podcast at least once a month. Podcasts may not be the first thing you think of with content marketing, but they are a great tool. If you’re unfamiliar, a podcast is an audio recording that consists of spoken words and information surrounding a specific topic.

    One way to utilise podcasts is to create blog content summarising a podcast, or elaborating on a specific point. You can also turn it around, and create a podcast revolving around the blog post. This again will give your audience the option to choose how they are absorbing your content and engaging with it.

    Everybody's talking about content marketing

    Always go to an expert
    Textshop

    Other types of content marketing

    A how-to is a practical guide or step-by-step instructions on how to do something or achieve an objective.

    A meme is a photo, illustration or/and text that’s usually humorous and spreads rapidly online, often through social media channels.

    A case is an in-depth study of a person, group, community or event. It serves to demonstrate a complex issue or to analyse it from a particular perspective.

    A checklist is a list of all the things you need to do. It’s a good way to organise and manage tasks, and to ensure things are not overlooked or forgotten.

    User-generated content is created by people rather than brands. It can include text, videos, podcasts, photographs, illustrations and reviews.

    Newsletters are used by businesses and organisations to share new information and news through their online mailing list.

    The mailing list is composed of customers and people who have signed up to receive this correspondence via email.

    Why do you need content marketing?

    Now, the big question is whether content marking is worth it or not. The short answer is yes, it is! We’ll explain why.

    You'll earn their trust

    Once deemed credible on subjects pertaining to your product, you’ll gain the trust of your customers. Trust is one of the biggest things you want to get from your customers. It creates loyalty, and they’ll be more likely to recommend your business to a friend or family member if they trust you.

    Today, it’s all about custom content. Creating a narrative around your brand and giving your customers a story and behind-the-scenes access makes them feel special. Providing credible and trustworthy blogs will keep them coming back for more information too.

    It's affordable

    Creating a content marketing strategy that’s worth it is 62% cheaper than other types of advertising campaigns. So, instead of paying for ad packages on social media platforms, you can create content in-house or hire freelancers.

    Most social media platforms are free to sign up for, and if you have a powerful content marketing strategy you may not find it necessary to pay for sponsored ads.

    Content marketing increases organise website traffic

    Those with successful content marketing strategies typically see 7.8 times higher growth in website traffic. Optimising blogs correctly using SEO will increase your rankings in searches for keywords related to your business.

    You'll maximise your views

    Using content marketing will increase your website views. If you have an extensive range of blog posts, users can spend plenty of time clicking through your content once they’ve found one post they like. You can create backlinks to keep them browsing, which will improve your views and traffic stats.

    Having SEO content on your platforms will help search engines pick up and show your pages. If you have video content attached to your blog, even better. Someone may read the blog, then spend time watching the video, as well. Google also tends to favour blog content that has videos and images.

    The bottom line: Is content marketing worth it?

    The bottom line is that yes, content marketing is worth it. If you’re wondering why you need content marketing, it’s simple.

    Consumers aren’t going to be swayed by a coupon or a paid ad these days, you need to give them something more.

    Creating engaging blog posts is a great way to start using content marketing in your business strategy. Try it out today!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Before you go

    To learn more about content marketing check out How to be a good content writer.

    If you’re keen to improve your blog posts see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Want to learn how to correctly optimise your content? Read Is SEO really needed.

    And if you think your business is fine without a blog, take a look at Does my business need a blog.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Is SEO really needed?

    Circular sign with SEO written on it introducing blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Is SEO really needed?

    So, you’re asking: Is SEO is really needed for your business?

    It’s a huge YES and here’s why.

    Search engine optimisation (SEO) is essential for the growth of your business and it begins and ends with your website.

    SEO gets you out in front of your customers and clients, and ahead of your competitors.

    If you’re clever about it and optimise your content well, your brand has a good chance of appearing in Google’s top pages when your potential clients search for goods or services.

    As you’ll read below, you can even score prime Google real estate – a featured snippet at the top of page one – if you put in the work. I’ll show you how I did it more than once.

    Large corporations know the answer to the question: Is SEO really needed, and they spend a lot of money manoeuvring their brands into Google’s best real estate.

    But here’s the thing. You don’t need a lot of money or extra staff to get to the top of the search pages.

    Is SEO really needed for your business? Absolutely yes.

    With a clever strategy and staying power you can achieve great results with SEO.

    Do it well and you can drive traffic to your website and grow your brand.

    Has SEO changed in the last couple of years?

    We still need SEO, but the procedures and methods have changed.

    Keywords were once the major component of the SEO story, now they’re just one of the ways we can optimise content.

    Over the years, Google has fine-tuned the tools it uses to evaluate content.

    Today those tools are sophisticated and focused, and Google’s capacity to assess the quality of content is more accurate than ever.

    Good SEO now requires you to focus on reading ease, image alt attributes, inbound and outbound links, text length, voice, sentence length, paragraph length, subheading distribution and more.

    Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

    But remember that the quality and consistency of your content is important if you want to succeed.

    The relationship between clients and keywords

    If you publish good-quality, optimised content, your chances of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) increases, and so do the chances you’ll be found by prospective clients or readers.

    The relationship between keywords and clients is intrinsic to your SEO.

    How?

    Well, to generate on-target keywords, you have to work out the words that potential clients are going to type into Google.

    People climbing a ladder to demonstrate the blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    These words are the basis for the long-tail keyword you’ll use to optimise your text, images, headings, alt text and meta.

    This is called ‘search intent’, and knowing the words they’ll use to define their needs is essential to SEO success.

    Watch SEO in 5 minutes: What it is and how it works

    Simplilearn (2020). SEO in 5 minutes: What is SEO and how does it work.

    Fully optimise your content

    Ideally, you want to be on page one of the SERPs, but that’s a big ambition right?

    It sure is, but with determination and hard work you can get there. 

    Is SEO really needed? Take a look at these organic search statistics that clearly answer the question.

    Just over half (53%) of website traffic comes from organic research.

    Almost one third of consumers in the US search for local businesses daily.

    Almost 99% of people click on one of the 10 links in the first page of the SERPs.

    Over 25% of people click the first Google search result.

    Now, let’s look at how to optimise your content step by step.

    Old blue tile divider

    Featured snippets and why they're SEO gold

    You’ve probably seen featured snippets in Google when you search for something. They’re at the top of page one, are often large and sometimes colourful.

    Seriously, you can’t buy this type of prime Google real estate.

    Below are two featured snippets from my blog showcased by Google at the very top of page one.

    Next time somebody asks: Is SEO really needed, you know the answer, right.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    The blog post used by Google for a featured snippet on Bibliotheca Angelica (left) was ranking at position two on page one for my keyword.

    Two years later, it’s ranking number three!

    The other featured snippet ‘9 common errors every writer should know about’ is drawn from a blog post that was ranking in position one on page one for my longtail keyword.

    Google places featured snippets at the top of page one, so readers can find the information they’re looking for without searching further.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Ranking for a featured snippet is more valuable than ranking for number one.

    It’s a golden opportunity for your blog post to get worldwide attention.

    It actually pushes all the organic results further down the page.

    A featured snippet provides your business with greater visibility and a massive boost to your credibility.

    Often, but not always, you’re occupying Google real estate with world-famous companies and organisations.

    To land a featured snippet you need to focus on question-type search queries that are based on your longtail keyword.

    How to optimise for Google's featured snippets

    Featured snippets are selected by Google to answer searchers’ queries in simple straightforward ways.

    Here are five ways to to create featured snippets that work:

    1

    Aim to provide in-depth meaningful answers.

    2

    Write concisely and clearly. There’s no room for fluff words.

    3

    Research the questions readers have about the topic.

    4

    Provide the best answer – use tools like this great synonym finder to access perfect words.

    5

    Write at least 40 words and no more than 50.

    One long-tail keyword is all you need

    Long-tail keywords are groups of words or a question. They’re more specific than short-tail keywords, which are usually single words.

    Short-tail keywords such as ‘laptop’ have a high search volume; whereas, long-tail keywords such as ’13-inch Apple laptop’ have a lower search volume because they’re more focused.

    Long-tail keywords with less volume have less competition and are easier to rank for. They’re also more likely to convert to sales.

    Think about it. Who’s closer to purchasing a laptop – the person who searched for ‘laptop’ or the one who searched for ’13-inch Apple laptop’?

    Once you’ve researched and selected your long-tail keyword, insert it into the places discussed below.

    Keywords in headings and subheadings

    Include your long-tail keyword in the title of your story or article.

    Don’t place the keyword in every subheading, but ensure it goes into a few of them.

    Take care not to place the keyword where it doesn’t work. Make sure it fits into the text around it.

    SEO is important, but not at the expense of clarity or well-executed grammar. If your optimisation causes errors or clunky writing, then you’ll lose in the long run. 

    How do you rank on Google when 90% of content gets no traffic?

    Textshop

    Use active not passive voice

    Use active voice whenever possible in your writing.

    In a sentence written in active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action.

    In passive voice, it’s the other way around. The subject receives the action.

    A good tip is to always place the subject of the sentence as close as possible to the beginning of the sentence.

    Once you get into the habit of writing in active voice, it will be second nature.

    Elderly man in a straw hat on a laptop asking is SEO really needed.

    Example:

    Active – The man smiled as he typed the final lines of his novel.

    Passive: Typing the final lines of his novel put a smile on the man’s face.

    An active voice makes it clear who’s taking the action in a sentence. When the subject comes before the verb,  it places emphasis on the subject. This improves clarity and reduces repetition.

    Compress all your images for Google

    Publishing high-resolution (300 dpi) images on your website will dramatically slow down your page speed.

    If you use low resolution (96 dpi) images, your page speed will be faster, and your readers will stick around.

    To achieve the smallest files possible always compress your images.

    This ensures your page speed is as fast as possible.

    If you use Canva for images, there’s a ‘compress file’ function on the download tab.

    You can also open a free account with Shortpixel to compress your images.

    How to write alt text and your meta description

    Alt text is short for ‘alternative text’ and we write this as an image tag for screen readers.

    Alt text is used by people who are visually impaired. So write a clear description for these readers, but add your keyword so the alt text is optimised for SEO.

    Lastly, consider context when you add your keyword into the alt text. Adding random keywords may cause your site to be seen as spam.

    Focus on simple well-constructed sentences

    Women holding laptop asking is SEO really needed?

    The free Yoast SEO plugin has a good readability check that ensures content is easy to read.

    Yoast uses the Flesch reading ease formula to analyse two characteristics of good writing:

    First, it analyses how the number of words relate to the number of sentences. 

    Second, it analyses how the number of syllables relate to the number of words.

    These checks examine sentence length and word difficulty.

    Ease of reading is also achieved by keeping sentences concise and limiting difficult words. 

    Keeping it simple and easy to read increases the likelihood that readers will understand the content.

    Is SEO really needed?

    To learn more about writing SEO blog posts read How to write a smashing blog post.

    If you’re still wondering whether you should set up a blog for your business take a look at Does my business need a blog?

    And if you want to understand the connection between SEO and content marketing, check out Is content marketing worth it?

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • How to be a good content writer

    New plant emerging from a forest floor with a human hand dripping water onto it.

    How to be a good content writer

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Content marketing is a marketing approach that focuses on creating high-quality, original content for specific online audiences. A good content writer is essential for this task.

    The content is distributed as blogs, podcasts, webinars and videos via social media platforms.

    The aim is to build a community of followers who understand you to be an expert in the area you are writing or talking about.

    Good content marketing practice includes optimising all content for search engines, such as Google.

    The quality and precision of the optimisation is what drives traffic to your website.

    The higher you rank in search engine results, the more visitors you get and the more likely they’ll love what they see on your website.

    Then, when members of your community are ready to purchase, they come to you because they trust and value your expertise. 

    Content marketing is not a short-term strategy. It takes time to build a community; time to demonstrate your expertise and time for your potential customers to invest in your offerings.

    Blog content is valuable

    A blog is the cornerstone of any content marketing strategy. 

    A whopping 71% of the world’s website traffic comes from an internet search.

    More than three quarters of the internet is reading blogs.

    Elderly man in a straw hat on a laptop asking is SEO really needed.

    Companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog.

    Around 60% of people seek out a product after reading content about it.

    Blog posts with high emotional value have a 1000 times greater chance of being shared.

    Do I need keywords?

    The days of keyword stuffing are over. We also don’t need short-tail keywords in our toolkit anymore.

    A good content writer inserts a single long-tail keyword strategically throughout their content.

    The long-tail keyword should be placed (in moderation) in headings, alt text, image titles and captions.

    People no longer search the internet by typing single words into Google. They type entire questions into their search engine. 

    To find your ideal long-tail keyword use a reputable paid keyword finder such as KWFinder, SEMrush or  Moz.

    In addition, make use of Google’s generosity and read the extra information provided with your search engine results.

    Type in the question your reader is likely to ask.

    For example, in this blog post, I could have used ‘What is content marketing?’

    Man in a dark suit holding a computer tablet. Keywords is written in a banner across the image. Demonstrating how to do content marketing.

    You need now to look at page one of your search engine results. At the top, you’ll see ‘People also ask’.

    This is Google telling you what other types of questions people type in to search for ‘What is content marketing?’

    Go to the bottom of page one now, and you’ll find Google again being helpful. ‘Searches related to what is content marketing?’ will provide an array of variants on your keyword search.

    From the information you’ve gathered from Google, plus your formal keyword search, you are equipped to create the best long-tail keyword for your blog post.

    There’s just one decision left to make.

    Do you want your keyword to compete with the thousands of popular long-tail keywords on the web, or do you want to find a less popular keyword that is more likely to deliver unique readers to your website looking for exactly what you offer?

    It’s a no-brainer isn’t it?

    The latter is the less common keyword, the one that’s out of the square. It is less popular but more powerful.

    Also place your long-tail keyword in your alt text, and one or two of the headings and captions.

    Know your audience

    Create content that matters to your audience. Talk to them and find out what their pain points are.

    A good content writer connects emotionally with their readers. Aim for impact, and try to write something that changes their lives.

    In order to connect emotionally with your readers, you need to tap into your own authenticity.

    Man drawing a circle around an illustration of a group of people on a glass wall.

    Make sure you’ve done your research and have a deep insight into the topic you’re writing about. Also ensure you use credible and reputable sources.

    Pitch to your buyer persona

    Let’s look at what a buyer persona is and why it is relevant to your content writing.

    Buyer personas are fictional representations of your client’s ideal customers.

    They’re based on market research and real data, and include demographics, behaviour patterns, similarities and trends. 

    Buyer personas inform a good content writer about their readers’ needs and helps them deliver personalised content.

    A buyer persona is a framework that provides an in-depth understanding of what type of content your readers value.

    Hubspot provides a good range of  buyer persona templates, along with a guide on how to create a buyer persona. 

    Don’t underestimate the value of a buyer persona. It’s an integral part of a good content writer’s toolkit.

    The buyer's journey

    Now that we’ve checked out the buyer persona, let’s move onto the buyer’s journey.

    Think of the process you go through when you’re making a decision about purchasing something.

    It’s a three-step process – awareness, consideration and decision.

    1. Awareness

    The first stage of the buyer’s journey is when they realise they have a problem.

    2. Consideration

    In this second stage, the buyer clarifies and defines the problem and researches ways to resolve it.

    3. Decision

    In the final stage of the buyer’s journey the buyer selects the solution they want.

    Remember the buyers we’re talking about are your readers.

    And those readers will be at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

    This means that you, as the writer, will need to create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

    See some suggestions below that will give you an idea of what works.

    1. Awareness

    The buyer is likely to do a number of generic searches at this stage, so make sure your content promotes brand awareness and has emotional appeal. 

    2. Consideration

    Write content that positions you as an expert in your industry. Use videos, case studies, blogs, guides, infographics and FAQs to build trust.

    3. Decision

    Provide free trials, consultations, articles that educate about your services, promotions and fast-action bonuses. Also make sure your Testimonials are accessible.

    The Golden Circle

    A story-writing model that works well for content marketing is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model.

    Remember that conflict is an essential part of storytelling, so recognise it, work on it and resolve it. Also make sure your story aligns with the reader’s problem.

    Simon Sinek's Golden Circle drawing. What is content marketing.

    WHY are you writing this story?

    Tap into your emotion and look for the conflict your readers are facing.

    HOW will writing this story help your audience resolve this conflict?

    WHAT exactly are you offering your audience?

    Content marketing is always evolving

    Content marketing has been around for hundreds of years in the form of storytelling.

    Today, however, it’s based on market research and strongly influenced by digital media.

    For example – every time Google introduces a new algorithm we analyse it and decide whether we need to change the way we do things.

    We can only maintain our currency as good content writers if we stay up-to-date with changes and continually assess the way we work. 

    I use content marketing to market my own business, Textshop. I believe it’s the most authentic and transparent way to market my services to potential clients.

    You might also enjoy reading How to make your writing more powerful.

    For editing and proofreading tips read How to copyedit like an expert.

    To read more about my content marketing services check this page.

    If you’d like to chat to me about content marketing, send me an email via the button below.

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