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Content Writing Bootcamp #SEMrushchat Recap

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Content Writing Bootcamp #SEMrushchat Recap

Becky Shindell
Content Writing Bootcamp #SEMrushchat Recap

Content marketing may seem easy at a glance, but there is a lot that goes into it. Your writing needs to be strong, your topics need to be stellar, and your understanding of how to repurpose and utilize your best content needs to be solid. These are all distinct skills that are separate from the others but still necessary to achieve your content writing goals.

We discussed all this and more in last week’s #SEMrushchat, where we were joined by content marketing expert Brian Honigman. Brian is a content marketing and social media marketing specialist, a contributor at Forbes, and an adjunct professor at New York University; he had some incredible wisdom to share. He and our other chat participants had a lot of great input on how to improve your content writing to get your best results yet. Here is what they had to say:

Q1. If your goal is to get your article published on an external blog, how do you choose the right one and convince the editor to publish it?

One big goal many content marketers share is to get their writing not just on their own blogs, but on other big publications, too. While this may seem easy based on the sheer number of publications online, this is a lot harder than you might think. A lot of work will go into choosing the right publications to send your pitches or posts to, and you will have to show the editor that it will be a good fit.

When you are deciding which publication you want to submit your articles to, you want to weigh all the pros and cons when deciding between an industry-specific blog or a higher-profile, broader blog with a larger readership. High-profile, broad-interest blogs can definitely give you an edge in views and readers, and depending on the site, you could get a backlink which could benefit you more in terms of SEO. They may lend more credibility as a result. That being said, you may get more engaged readers if you publish on an industry-specific blog, which may better connect you with your target audience.

Compile a list of sites that will help you meet your goals. Make sure that they all have target audiences that you want to connect with, and that you can provide value to because it is a two-way street. Take into consideration things like blog tone and editorial guidelines (which many blogs that accept submissions often have on their site).

When it comes to pitching, a lot of it comes down to basic sense. First, make sure you are pitching the right editor. You would be surprised how often people get it wrong.

In your message, submit an idea for content that is valuable, suitable for their publication, and relevant. You only have a few sentences (think no more than four) to explain the pitch and convey why it could benefit their readership. You can benefit from highlighting either the topical, time-sensitive nature of the piece or how valuable the evergreen content would be. End with an introduction to you as the writer, including relevant experience or past publications that would prove your credibility. When doing this, follow all editorial guidelines carefully.

Cold pitching isn’t always the best approach; outreach may be more effective at helping you get your foot through the door. You can reach out to ask for a collaboration or ask if they need help with anything. In many cases, this could be met with radio silence, but it never hurts to try!

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Q2. When it comes to writing an article, what are some of the tools/tricks you use to get ideas for useful and unique content?

Writing content that is both useful and unique will give you an edge, giving users a reason to come back to your site and share your posts more often than your competitors. Both of these factors provide the value that you want.

One of the best ways to write great content that’s both useful and unique is to write posts designed to answer questions that customers, colleagues, and industry peers have asked. This is a sure-fire way to provide value, and if they are asking these questions, it may be because they couldn’t find answers anywhere else. You can use Quora, Reddit, and Google's auto-suggest to find some of these questions.

Twitter in and of itself is also a useful tool for content generation. Attend Twitter chats and see what people are saying; all the different interactions may spark something for you. You can also run Twitter polls to get ideas and to see what people are most interested in seeing.

Writing content that is timely and discusses what is happening in your industry at the moment or that ties in with recent events, like writing about This is Us in a post on fire safety-- it can help you produce content that hasn’t been written yet. Sometimes we need that in order to create something truly unique.

Providing new and original data through your content also is exceptionally valuable. Think case studies or research reports. You can provide benchmark posts and statistics about your industry, or you can even experiment and test out new solutions to search for common challenges and how to address them.

When it comes to tools that you can use to find ideas for great content, our chat participants mentioned SEMrush’s content analyzer, topic research, and keyword magic tools. You can also Buzzsumo, and Google’s “people also ask.”

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Q3. What are the best ways to repurpose an evergreen blog post?

Evergreen blog posts are great; they will stay valuable and relevant for a long period of time, and often continue to be shared and utilized as a resource. This will bring plenty of traffic to your blog. They also have the enormous benefit of being excellent to repurpose, giving you more bang for your content buck.

Turning blog posts into social media posts is one of the easiest ways to repurpose blog content. You can repurpose them into short Tweets or slightly longer LinkedIn posts. You can summarize the post, or offer additional thoughts that are still relevant to it.

SlideShare is another excellent and popular option. You can include this with the article, and promote it separately. This will take a largely text-based article and turn it into something much more visual. SlideShare presentations are highly visual and digestible in their own way, making them an excellent tool to use when promoting and repurposing your content.

Another common strategy is to turn written content into a video, which can then be published on YouTube and/or shared natively on different social media platforms. Video often yields exceptionally high engagement rates on social media, so this is an excellent strategy to use. And if you want to go visual but don’t want to go all out on video, you can opt for an infographic representation instead.

You can also use one great evergreen piece to jump-start more great content. If you set up a Google Alert on your topic, for example, you can update your post with the new relevant info and repromote it. You could also launch a series of similar posts on the same topic.

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Ultimately, the more valuable and shareable you make your content, the easier it will be to repurpose. Versatile content would include quotable snippets of text, data, statistics, and some great visuals. All of these elements can be repurposed separately or together.

Q4. What are some of the most unusual ways someone could distribute their content?

A lot of emphases is placed on creating and publishing your content. Distribution, however, can matter just as much, and this is an area that a lot of content marketers will fall short. Because of this, we asked our chat participants about new, innovative ways writers can distribute their content and get it in front of their audience. These should be used in addition to your conventional distribution methods, which your readers may come to expect to hear from you through.

Brian Honigman reminded us that nothing can be as effective as authenticity, and informed us that training your employees to distribute content authentically and naturally is a great way to distribute your content more effectively. They can share it on social media, or send it to your clients that they have relationships with, for example. Because these sharings will come from your employees and not a marketing bot, readers will automatically pay more attention.

Other chat participants agreed about the unconventional use of social media and messaging tools in new ways to distribute content. Instagram Stories, for example, could work well if you have the ability to embed a “Swipe up to see more” link.

Whatsapp, messenger, and slack could also help distribute your content to people within your network in a more personal and direct way, increasing the likelihood that they’d see it. With the messaging app distribution method, though, make sure you don’t end up spamming people by sending them content (and nothing else) too often.

Some businesses also republish their blog posts on Medium, which puts them in front of an instant viewership on a site that is designed to generate shares and discussion.

One chat participant mentioned the idea of creating an audiogram. Audiograms are trailers that visualize audio clips that were pulled from a much longer piece of content, and they can be shared on video-crazy social media to entice users to read more.

There is also a pretty old school method one chat participant mentioned that we love: just picking up the phone and reaching out to local businesses and organizations directly. You can inform them about what your business does, and direct them to free resources that you have online on your blog, especially if you have extensive guides, free ebooks, or case studies.

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Q5. What are some of your favorite books, resources, or online courses you could suggest in order for someone to refine their writing style?

What you choose to write about will determine whether you get shares, but in many cases, your writing style can affect whether or not people even read past the first paragraph. Strong grammar and well-written posts will make you seem more credible and are easier for your viewers to read. 

There are several great books that can help writers improve their writing. Ann Handley’s “Everybody Writes” goes over strategies to improve your writing, and even includes basic grammar lessons and elements of storytelling.

The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White is another popular one, which goes through writing styles (including things like grammar and sentence structure) in a witty, entertaining way.

Horror extraordinaire Stephen King even has a book on writing that many would find useful, which is aptly titled “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” This book focuses mostly on the habits that King uses while writing, but it can still give insight to writers who want to produce mass amounts of content.

There are a number of different online courses that you can take online that go over different aspects of writing style. Some that focus on content marketing includes those from Hubspotand CoSchedule. You can also check out your favorite marketing blogs, which occasionally have free and reliable articles on how to improve your content writing.

While utilizing professional resources like those discussed above is something that all content writers should absolutely do if they don’t have a formal education in writing already, you shouldn’t just stop there. You can also check out what other writers you admire are doing, especially those in your industry. Read their work, and pick apart what you like about their content and how they write it. Then, adapt what they do to your content strategies and make it your own.

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That's all for today! Make sure to join us this week on #SEMrushchat as we answer "What Makes a Good SEO Strategy?" with special guest, Sam McRoberts

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Becky Shindell is the Communications Manager at SEMrush and host of the weekly #SEMrushchat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. You can find Becky at many of the US Digital Marketing Conferences, feel free to say hi!
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Ben Kazinik
Hey Becky, I'm loving these SEMRushChats, keep 'em going!
Jacob Erdman
Thanks for sharing such wonderful and informative article. I have read through some similar topics! However, your post has given me a very special impression, unlike other posts. I like your writing ability. Since I am writer I impressed the way you explained each points. [link removed by moderator]

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