“Every magic trick consists of three parts, or acts. The first part is called “the pledge”, the magician shows you something ordinary. The second act is called “the turn”, the magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary.”
Do you remember this quote from “The Prestige”? It’s a description of how magic tricks are made and, at the same time, it describes how content marketing works.
When you’re a professional writer, you don’t think “what should I write now” but instead you think: “how should I write it so people can learn from it and enjoy it.” You’re a word magician who casts a spell on the audience so they can see the topic as something extraordinary.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
There’s one problem though. This job, as any other job, sometimes really sucks.
Content specialists need to be great writers. They need to be up to date with the business they’re writing about as well as with marketing, analytics, social media, and - of course - SEO.
If that wasn’t enough, they need to fight their greatest nemesis - time. Deadlines can be a pain in the ass, let me tell you! But the real challenge comes when you publish your post and check the results of your work. When you count every share and every click, when your well-being depends on the comments under your article and the number of openings!
In my content writer’s career I had many ups and downs. I’ve met all shades of anger and frustration, but in the end, I would never want to do anything else. I just wish that I knew all the things that I know now.
Here are a couple of tricks on how to enjoy your work and keep your mental health in a stable condition while being a content writer!
Step one: spy on your competition
Once you’re hired to write about a specific industry, you need to get to know your enemy. Check out how other content marketers are doing, what they are writing about and how often.
Sounds obvious, I know, but there’s a trick: don’t repeat my mistake and don’t try to learn everything at once!
The best way to be up to date with your competitors is to write down 10 blogs or content platforms that are your biggest rivals and check one of them every day. Give it 30 minutes of your daily routine and try to respond to the below questions:
- What are their main topic categories?
- How often do they publish?
- How often do they post on social media?
- How many shares / comments do they have?
- What are the most popular posts on their blog?
Thanks to this advice you’ll be able to come out with a content strategy and save a lot of your time!
How I did it:
I tried to do everything at once. My job was to write about customer service and e-commerce, so I’ve spent a lot of time on reading everything I could about customer service and e-commerce.
As you can guess, I’ve ended up with a wild mix of information in my head and no idea where to start, so I took the first idea that popped up to my head.
As I result, I wrote my first post: “They Buried Email Alive, but It’s Back – Stronger than Ever”.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s bad.
I like the headline, although it’s completely stupid from a content marketing point of view. I also think that the article body is OK, but it looks like that thanks to Jacob, my colleague, who has given me a tons of advice.
In the end, content marketing is supposed to drive traffic to your website.
Then you need to try to optimize your post for SEO as much as possible.
At those dark times when I was starting to write business content, I only knew that there is a monster named SEO, but I had no idea how I should tame it.
So, here are the result, according to Semrush:
I guess I could add it to my writing portfolio in case I’d like to write for a funeral home.
Step two: have SEO for breakfast
The worst moment in content writer’s job is when you spend a couple of intense hours trying to make your post useful, interesting, valuable - and you end up with no one reading it.
You will probably post it on your Facebook and Twitter profiles and inform people about it in one or two Linkedin groups. You can also ask your parents and friends to check it out (if you’re desperate), but still you won’t get many clicks.
A good way to help yourself is to send a blog update to your customers (if you’re gathering their emails, of course). It’s one of the best ways to promote, as creating a compelling email with a clear CTA should bring some traffic.
But the truth is that if you want people to find your posts and enter your website, you need to place these posts on the top shelf of the biggest Internet library: on the first page of Google search. For that reason, whatever you do, think about SEO.
I’m not telling you to, let me quote myself, “write down a couple of keywords and stuff your text like a Thanksgiving turkey.” You can write down these keywords though and keep them in mind while you’re writing.
It will help you hold the writing course and turn phrases like “martyr struggling with words and time” into “content writer”, so Google can recognize your keyword and give you a better position.
How I did it:
When I was working on the second post, I’ve decided to write something light and funny about content writing. I also felt that I want to share with the world a mix of my knowledge and sense of humour.
As a result, I published “How to Create S***y Content”:
“Have you ever wondered how the greatest newsletters and blog articles are born? Which spells are cast to make product descriptions as interesting as the greatest novels? How to create extraordinary content?
I’m sorry to disappoint you, it’s not the kind of knowledge you are going to learn from this post. I am about to give you the best possible advice on how to write badly.”
Our readers likes this post and I’ve received lots of positive comments. I have to admit that I also like it, however, I’ve made a mistake – again, I did not use a specific keyword. In the end, you won’t find this post on the first or second page in Google… Unless you type in “Justyna Polaczyk!”
As you can imagine, the phrase “shitty content” is the last thing a copywriter would like to have as a second result in Google.
SEO is a malicious creature!
Luckily, a year later, I was able to master SEO skills a bit and I wrote “How To Deal With Rude Customers and Remain Sane” in which I have gave a couple bits of advice on how to handle rude customers, based on my experience.
This post gave me lots of comments, social media recognition, and at last, organic traffic.
SEO turned out to be not that bad after all!
Step three: befriend social media
While SEO is the best way to drive organic traffic, you shouldn’t waste the opportunity to promote your work on social media sites.
In most cases you won’t get many opens (maybe on Facebook, if your story goes viral), but it’s always worth trying – it just might happen that people will fall in love with your post and you’ll gather much more traffic.
On the other hand, if you’re constantly working on your social media profile, one day you’ll become a person recognized by industry celebrities who are more likely to tweet links to your posts. Not mentioning the rest of your social media audience!
How I did it:
Because I write for business professionals, my two favourite networks are Twitter and Linkedin. I don’t treat Twitter as a source of traffic, because even if your post goes viral, you’ll get about several dozens clicks.
At least that’s what happened to the most viral post of mine ever: “Darth Vader's Guide to Killer First Impressions” (I wrote it before the Star Wars craze!).
Although I did not succeed on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, it had about 100 shares on Twitter. Do you want to know how much traffic it brought? 26 openings.
To my surprise, Linkedin turned out to be a source of a valuable traffic for me. I’ve found the most active group, Customer Service Professionals, and posted there. Here's the result:
As this post gained whooping of 842 Linkedin clicks, I’ve decided to give it a try and see if my other post, “Apple Horror Story: Why the Customer Is Not Always Right” will get lots of traffic as well. It was less successful, but I still had 519 openings.
I’ve tried it also with other group, Customer Service Champions and posted there “Be Like Disney: Best Customer Service Training Ideas.”
I was lucky enough to gain recognition, lots of comments and 484 openings. Not bad!
Step four: be in touch with influencers
Let’s be frank here - even if an influencer posts your link, you have no guarantee that people will go crazy about your post. The reason is simple: social media is full of people like you, trying to interest others in their work.
When you’re being recognized by influencers, it may not mean that people will immediately storm your website but it definitely means one thing - you’re starting to build your online presence and authority.
I was very insecure when I started writing. I did not want to approach any bloggers or influencers as I thought that I have still much to read, learn, and write before I start talking to them. That’s exactly why it took me so much time before I was noticed by my industry celebrities.
Do you know how happy I was when one of my recent posts, “A Guide to Really Bad Customer Service (Written by Devil's Advocate)” was included in Shep Hyken’s “Top 5 Customer Service Articles For The Week?”
Or when a link to this post was retweeted by Marsha Collier, a customer service influencer and a bestselling author? She has over 144K followers on Twitter!
Both these mentions didn't give me many opens. Thanks to Shep, 40 people have checked out my post and retweets from Marsha were worth 49 openings.
But if you ask me if it was worth it, I’d say - definitely!
And a retweet from an influencer can motivate you to write even better!
You're familiar with the phrase "man's reach exceeds his grasp"? It's a lie: man's grasp exceeds his nerve.
Content writing can be a tough job, but at the same time - it’s very satisfying. There is one condition though: you need to write the very best of you.
Every time you write, every time you choose your topic, you should ask yourself - what more can I add? Is there a way to write it in a way no one has written before? How can I make it better? How can I promote it better?
Each writer has their own tricks, but mine is very easy: people will appreciate your work if you're not afraid to get personal and if you're not afraid to write about your failures.
I still make lots of mistakes and I’m constantly learning and figuring out how to be a better writer. I’m in a neverending war with a writer’s blocks and a lack of inspiration.
What do you, as a content marketer, struggle with? Did you ever fail? What did you learn from your failures? Comment below!