The Ultimate Guide to Content Creation
Whether you’re writing copy for a landing page, a blog post, a category page or a list of meta descriptions, there are a few simple steps you need to follow to make your content double perfect. Doing this will earn you the following benefits:
- It will simplify the proofreading process
- It will make your content clear and easy for the recipient to understand
- Your copy will be well structured for search engine optimisation
Read on to find out what these steps are, and how to put them in place.
1. Before you begin…
Before you start, there are a few things you’ll need in your content writing arsenal:
- The brief – Keep this in sight as you write, as it’ll help you plan your content and write in a well-structured way.
- Research – of course, all writers have different ways of working. Some prefer to research as they go along, but if you’d rather do it all before you start writing, make sure you’ve got everything you need first. Whether it’s printouts, a list of links to relevant sites or hand-written notes, lay it all out in front of you before you begin.
- Relevant keywords – When it comes to optimising important pages on a website, you’ll need to have all your keyword research done beforehand. Before you start writing your content, check that you’ve got all the keywords you need to target in your copy. It’s a good idea to have a reference of keyword volume alongside them to help you establish priorities for keyword targeting in your text. There are plenty of tools to help you carry out keyword research; you can find some of the best free ones here.
2. Write your content!
Once you’ve got all the information you need for the content you plan to write, you’re ready to get started. The following tips are all things you should carry out as you go along, as they play an important part in structuring your page content in a way that both users and search engines can easily follow.
The structure will vary depending on the type of content you’re working on, but for now, let’s just say you’re creating a piece of long-form content.
First of all, make sure your title is in H1 format. Then, if necessary, write your meta description underneath so it’s easy to find when you come to implement the content.
When it comes to your sub-headings, always make them an H2. If you’ve got a sub-sub-heading, that should then be an H3. This will please Google and everybody reading your page content, because it gives your page structure, making it easy for both users and search engines to scan. Essentially, the default size of the heading represents how important the heading is, therefore letting search engines know how you’ve prioritised your content.
Make sure there are relevant keywords in your H2s so that search engine crawlers can easily pick them up. This is also useful for helping your content appear as a featured snippet in Google search results, as you can target long-tail queries such as ‘what is a featured snippet?’.
In short, your content structure should look something like this:
Sub-sub-heading (if relevant)
Don’t forget to add internal links wherever it’s appropriate to do so (basically, wherever you’ve mentioned one of the client’s products / services within the text). These links point to other pages on the website, and are useful because:
- They help users find their way around a website
- They help search engines establish the hierarchy of a website
- They help to spread link juice (ranking power) around websites
Think about it this way: you want to create some great content that users enjoy reading, but you also want them to stay on – and engage with – your website. So if there aren’t any links around to let them do that, it doesn’t leave the user with a lot of places to go once they’ve finished reading.
Calls to Action
Another crucial element to include in your content is a call to action (CTA). As a rule of thumb, there should be a CTA at the end of each piece of long-form copy (and included within each meta description), but that shouldn’t stop you from adding any elsewhere within the copy if appropriate.
It’s worth placing more than one CTA in longer pieces of copy, because if you only put one at the end and the user doesn’t get that far (or know to look for it), they won’t see it and you risk them leaving your website altogether. Equally, if you’re writing a 50-word description for a category page, you don’t want to be stuffing it with CTAs because your users will find it confusing and are just as likely to leave the page without viewing any products.
There are two types of CTA you can add to the mix:
- Anchor text CTAs – these are linked to another landing page or blog post, and you can style them out in bigger and/or bolded text to catch the user’s attention
- Internal link CTAs – you can position these CTAs within a block of text, so that they blend seamlessly with the surrounding copy. Again, these are linked to other pages on the site when you want to point the user in a particular direction
Ideally, you don’t want to be writing anything shorter than 300 words for a landing page or blog post, but if you’re working on a collection of category descriptions for a page that’s already filled with products, you can make an exception.
Now, if you’d asked us in 2017 how long a meta description should be, we’d have told you to always stay within 160 characters. But if you’ve noticed meta descriptions getting longer of late, you’re in good company: SEO boffins at MOZ saw it too. They carried out some research into the average length of meta descriptions, and they now recommend a limit of 300 characters instead of the traditional 160.
But before you run wild with this new recommendation, it’s worth having a think about the following:
- Google still cuts off some meta descriptions, even if they are within the 300-character limit
- Just because we can write 300-character meta descriptions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The perfect meta description should contain enough information to engage the user and entice them to click through. It shouldn’t be unnecessarily long just for the sake of it, because that runs the risk of putting people off, or not even catching their eye in the first place.
In short, when it comes to writing meta descriptions, consider your audience. If your page is about clothing, for example, you might be quite limited as to what you can say. But if you’re talking about a new technological advancement in your industry, your user might want to see a bit more information before they click through.
Don’t forget images!
If you’re writing a blog, you should always include images to break up the text. There are a range of free sites to get what you need for blog posts, including:
- Flickr – if you use any images from here, be sure to credit the source in your article
- Wikimedia Commons – again, always credit the source
If you’re willing to pay for a high-quality image, sites like Shutterstock provide more choice, and offer a range of deals and download packages to suit all budgets.
Once you’ve finished your content, have a short break and then go back and read through it. Use this time to check for typos, issues with sentence length/structure and formatting inconsistences, and generally make sure that what you’ve written is clear and makes sense. Once you’re satisfied, send your content over to someone else; a fresh pair of eyes can often spot tiny errors that you might have missed.
Need help creating interesting, informative and engaging content for your website? Our content team is here to help! Get in touch today to find out how we can create a strategy to transform your web copy.