Turning words into money – how to write great content

I’m writing this and I’m a writer – so it’s tempting to feed my own ego and tell you that creating great content is either in your DNA or it’s not – but, as hard as it is for me to admit, that’s just not true.

I might like to pretend I’m channelling the spirt of Hemmingway or Shakespeare as I punch away at my laptop, but actually, I’m following some tried and tested principles that mean what I produce is readable, offers some value and scratches the itch of the person reading it.

If you’re going to make money from your content – you’re going to want to know what I believe the most important of those principles are. So crank up your copy of Word for Mac 2016 and lets get started:

Originality

If you think it’s okay to keep recycling the same content that you see on the front page of Google when you do your ‘research’ into a topic you plan to write about – I’m going to issue you with a friendly warning:

It’s not.

…and sooner or later the habit will bite you in the most painful place – your wallet.

If someone’s interested in the topic you’re writing about then there’s a good chance they’ve already looked at the bare basic information you’re trying to rehash. Spin it around and serve it up again and people are going to be clicking away faster than you can say ‘plagiarism’…

Let’s be clear here:

We’re not just talking about how people will react. Google’s algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated by the day. They’ve already taken huge steps to punish unoriginal content – and you’d be a fool to think that they won’t keep upping their game.

Get original or get penalised – sooner or later. But that begs an important question…

How to be original

How to be original? Well, I don’t suppose I have to tell you not to rip content off the front page of Google here.

What you should be doing is a little more difficult but is still a process you can follow:

Put yourself in a potential reader’s shoes. How will they find what you’re about to be typing? Chances are they’re going to have searched for a term that features in the headline – or they’ve clicked through from a link that offers a tiny taste of what you’ve got in store.

I like to start by thinking about what a reader is hoping to glean from an article. In this case it’s some tips on how to write good content. So, I’ve eluded to that in the introductory short paragraphs and that’s hopefully kept you reading.

I’ve then applied some of my own knowledge – and noted down the sub-heading ‘originality’ – which most content and copy writers will agree is important.

What comes next is also super important though:

The actionable payoff

What good is reading a piece of content if you can’t take something away from it quickly and use that to ease whatever problem it was you set out to search for an answer to?

So, with that in mind you’ll notice the sub-heading after ‘originality’ was ‘how to be original’ – an clear indication that in the following paragraphs you’ll find something that’s going to help you write better content.

Don’t worry – I am getting to that, this is just the bit where I explain how important the right scaffolding is to build your brilliant content around!

Sub-headings

By now you’ve got some sub-headings in place –

  • Originality
  • How to be original

…now it’s time take them away and research them individually.

And when I say individually, I mean, read something on an authority site about how to be original – then pick up a book or another site that give you another tip.

Assuming you’re using reputable sites and accessing accurate information you’ll see similar kinds of hints and tips running through everything you read. If you’re not, or something that stands out as not being in line with the other info you’re reading – dig a bit deeper, it’s important you’re working with legitimate information from a variety of sources.

While you build your picture of information, make some notes – and importantly:

Understand it yourself.

The accidental expert

I like to consider myself the kind of person you’d want as your ‘phone a friend’ on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

I’ve written about everything from complex psychological theories of childhood attachment to the techniques involved with growing and harvesting rhubarb – if you put a couple of drinks in me and I’ll be delighted to tell you all about either of those – and many other things in between.

And that’s because I know about them now. Okay, I can’t write a 50,000 word academic book on either – but I’d give a Wikipedia page a fair shot. If you do your research properly you can build your knowledge base too – and if you’re writing from your own knowledge, you work is guaranteed to be original.

Tone

I’m harping on about my knowledge of rhubarb because my understanding of the subject has given me the ability to put it into a conversational tone – and that’s important – because people who read things on the internet like exactly that tone.

It’s very rare that someone visits information online because they want to check their already strong facts. We’re quite a self-assured bunch. Instead, people are reading to learn – and that’s best done by pitching the language one level below the expertise you’ve got of the subject.

I’m not saying dumb it down – I’m just saying be accessible, don’t take yourself too seriously and chuck in the odd light-hearted quip. It’s a fact that you remember information conveyed to you by a friend much more readily than that delivered to you in a lecture – so imagine you’re typing in that tone.

Take-away information

I promised some take-away tips on how to do a better job of turning your words in to cash – so here they are:

  • Be original – Research far and wide to fully understand your topic before you hit the keyboard…
  • Make notes – Jot as much down as you can while you’re researching – you might find you’ve got enough knowledge for 5,000 words instead of just 500…
  • Use titles and subtitles to your advantage – Realise that readers want good information, elude to it early and make sure you deliver to keep people engaged.
  • Use the right tone – Research says people like a conversational tone – the friendlier the tone, the easier the read.

Whether you’re selling your words to someone else – or using them to make sure you’re offering the very best content across your own websites and marketing material – writing them to a high standard is a sure-fire way to put more money in your pocket.

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