What It Takes to Be a Content Writer

Content writers have become an in demand group of individuals as businesses develop their digital footprint among their competitors. Despite many websites advertising anyone can write for a living, becoming a content writer is not that easy.

It’s true most of us who have graduated from college, or even high school, have the basic fundamental understanding in order to write coherent content. Coherent content is the first and most necessary aspect of content writing. But content writing for companies becomes more complex. SEO principles, content marketing and different writing styles all come into play when trying to write for a business.

SEO principles

Most of us who use websites like WordPress have the ability to use the Yoast SEO plugin and learn preliminary SEO principles. However, using technology to tell you how to write rarely translates into effective writing for a client.

The first SEO principle content writers focus on is appropriate keyword density. The ideal density is between .06 percent and 2 percent, depending on the key phrase in use. If the client prefers long tail keywords, 2 percent will be too much for the content to carry. For example, I can layer 2 percent of the keyword “content” in different contexts while maintaining coherency.

However, if the enterprise is trying to rate for the long tail keyword “best content writer,” 2 percent will become a burden. The article will not make sense, and click through rates will decrease.

Of course, keyword is just the tip of the iceberg regarding SEO principles. Readability, sentence length, article length and use of passive voice are all items content writers need to consider when writing the article. In addition, appropriate meta titles, meta descriptions and internal and external links all need to be applied for effective ranking.

Marketing content

So SEO principles are a lot to consider when you are trying to be a content writer. But then there is the additional expectations from clients. Content writers are often expected to be copywriters also. What’s the difference?

Content writers focus on long form writing in different styles such as blogs, white papers, technical papers and website content. Copywriters focus more on email blasts, social media and marketing funnel reports.

In essence, content has the purpose of educating and entertaining while copy has the purpose of marketing, advertising and selling.

While content found in blogs can have a Call-To-Action (CTA) depending on purpose, copy writing always has a CTA. Also, tone is different. Think of how ads, click bait and other marketing writing sounds when read versus white papers. As I just mentioned, blogs can fall into either content or copy depending on the desired outcome and strategy.

While most writers tend to prefer content writing, leaving copy writing to marketing professionals, that choice is not always available. In fact, that choice is rarely available. A writer who is more flexible in tone, voice and purpose can find more work than a writer who is a purist.

Writing style as a content writer

So far I’ve discussed how a content writer needs to understand SEO principles beyond relying on plugin tools. Plus, a content writer needs to be able to adjust tone and voice, flexing to be a copywriter. On top of these two things, a content writer needs to understand and use different writing styles.

I have a formal education in English Literature, and I have a minor is Psychology as well. In essence, I am well versed in both Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychology Association (APA) styles of writing and can vary depending on my purpose. Yet being intimate with both of these styles does not translate into article writing. Why? Because most content writing follows the Associated Press (AP) Style Book.

While APA and MLA differ in reference and bibliography, AP style differs in how numbers are used, appropriate abbreviations, capitalization and the Oxford comma. And these differences matter. For example, I am pro-Oxford comma, but I challenge you to find an Oxford comma in this blog. Despite my own belief in the Oxford comma for grammatical and reading purposes, AP style does not use the Oxford comma.

Ultimately, a writer has to be knowledgeable beyond writing, have a flexible voice that can include marketing and selling and have in-depth awareness between the varying styles of writing. If you can do all these things, you can be a successful content writer.

VDM Resources specializes in content and copy writing for B2B enterprises, focusing on SEO driven blogs, white papers and email and social media marketing. Click here to see how we can help you!