We all spend hours consuming web content on a daily basis, whether that’s reading blogs, scanning Instagram captions or finding information on products we want to buy. With over 1.5 billion websites in existence, many of which create endless content for us to digest, it’s no surprise that skilled content writers are in high demand.
But what exactly is content writing and is it the right career for you?
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover what content writing is, how content writing differs from copywriting and why creating high-quality content is vital for successful content marketing strategies. You’ll also find valuable tips from our industry experts on the skills you need to become a content writer.
Content writing is essentially the process of planning, researching, writing, editing and publishing content for the web, often for marketing purposes.
The practice of content writing usually comes with an end goal, whether that’s establishing authority in a subject, generating leads or driving organic traffic to a website. High-quality written content is, therefore, a vital component of any content marketing strategy.
“Being a good content writer is about more than just stringing a couple of sentences together: You need to be genuinely excited about what you write. After all, if you don’t care about the content then how can you expect other people to?”
Kerry-anne, Senior Content Marketing Executive
Despite sharing some of the same qualities and goals (e.g. aiming to convert a reader towards a sale through well-written text), content writing and copywriting can be differentiated through their primary intentions.
The main purpose of content writing is to educate and inform; there’s not always a clear call to action with it. Sometimes, the purpose of a piece of content can be to simply establish authority in a niche or industry. This can, in turn, generate trust in a brand through engaging and informative writing that’s free for readers to access. This type of creative material is also known as content assets.
Copywriting, in comparison, has a clear goal of advertising and selling; its main purpose is to persuade its readers to take action (usually towards a purchase). Most advertising you see, including sales emails, product pages and social media ads, contain persuasive selling copywriting.
Content writers create many different formats of online content, including (but not limited to):
Creating written content isn’t just about sharing a quick post online. All types of content need to be thoroughly researched, planned out and well written to achieve its intended purpose: to engage, inform and, in some cases, persuade.
"Despite already being an avid writer when I started working as a content writer, I had to learn how to cover subjects outside of my comfort zone. While this requires some adaptability, it has a great influence on your creativity in the long run.”
James, Content Writer
As with any piece of good quality work, careful planning and execution should be taken into consideration when writing content—especially for content marketing purposes.
Understanding user intent is key to planning and writing great quality content—that is, the goal web users have in mind when browsing the internet for specific information.
A good content writer will follow the process of:
Not only does your writing need to be top quality, but you need to also ensure that your content is user friendly. If your readers cannot understand or extract the information they need from your content, or if it’s difficult to read or access, you risk losing your audience, along with your credibility.
While written content can be in itself an interesting feature on a website, it can be a driving force in a content marketing plan. By creating consistent, engaging and useful content on a regular basis, businesses can get the upper hand in their industry.
Content writing creates an invaluable connection between a business and its customers. By writing and providing excellent material for your target audience, you will encourage customer engagement and retention.
To put it in perspective, businesses that create content produce 67% more leads per month than those that do not.
In addition, creating valuable written content not only impacts your audience, but can establish you as a thought-leader or expert in your industry.
“The job is incredibly varied and knowing your target audience is vital; this is a skill that I am constantly developing within the role. One day you could be writing a customer guide for showers, the next day an asset on ‘the most instagrammable dogs’, followed by a blog exploring what it takes to become a content writer.”
Sean, Content Marketing Executive
Written content can be a valuable addition to digital PR. By creating content pieces that act as mini-campaigns, your business can achieve:
Higher ranking in the SERPs—using targeted long-tail keywords embedded within content assets
More social media shares—especially effective when accompanied by innovative data visualisation
Beneficial backlinks, as well as online and print coverage
A successful digital marketing agency should be able to not only create impactful content assets but also be able to outreach digital PR campaigns through expert knowledge, experience and curated media relationships.
If you’re wanting to kickstart your career as a content writer, check out these top tips from our expert content writing team:
“Being a content writer requires creativity, flexibility and originality,” advises Sean. “Time management and organisation is also key; often you’ll be working to specific deadlines and having that ability to read through a wealth of information, summarise it and proofread promptly is essential to the role.”
Senior Content Marketing Executive, Kerry-anne, provides valuable insight on how to approach content writing: “My top tip is to try and find the most interesting aspect of the subject you’re writing about. Really dive in deep. Build your piece around that and you’ll end up with a page, blog or social post that others will actually want to read.”
Clare shares her wisdom on which skills are most important for content writers: “Good content writing requires the ability to shift your style and tone depending on what you're writing and who your intended audience is. Conducting thorough research and understanding your client’s or audience’s needs will make you a great content writer.”
“While writing for leisure allows you to focus exclusively on your main passions and interests, content writing requires an open mind and a commitment to research” explains James. “Working as a content writer is the ultimate test of how much you love the craft of writing itself. If providing valuable insight on a previously alien subject sounds like fun, then this is the career for you!"
If you’re wanting to start a career as a content writer, you’ll want to start thinking about the skills you have and the ones you may need to build before applying for jobs.
In addition to our content writers’ tips above, our Senior Content Strategy Manager, Abi, shares her advice on what she looks for when interviewing a content writer:
“When I'm looking for a new content writer to join the team, one of the first things I'll ask a candidate about is their SEO knowledge. Although key SEO skills, such as keyword research and internal linking strategies, can be taught, it's extremely handy when a writer can naturally implement these things into their work.
When writing for digital PR, we are often given large datasets to understand and interpret, so I often ask prospective writers to complete a brief task to demonstrate how they approach data and to give them a taste of the work we do here at Reboot.
Finally, due to the nature of agency life, it's important to be as flexible as possible - we're constantly writing for clients in vastly different niches so we have to be on our toes!”
In summary, if you want to become a content writer you should:
Write. The best way to improve your writing skills is to simply practise!
Improve your research skills. Researching is a huge part of content writing, so take some time to develop your research skills
Practise structuring your writing. Knowing how to optimise your text structure is vital for user readability
Be prepared to keep learning. There’s always something new to learn in the digital industry, so make sure you have a willingness to learn new skills
Content writing is a great skill to learn and can be a very rewarding career.