James Parsons is the CEO of Content Powered, a blog management and content marketing firm. He’s an SEO expert, developer and entrepreneur.
As the owner of a content marketing agency, I find that one single question comes up more than any other. It’s a common concern and a valid one. If you’re a business owner and you’re outsourcing your blog to someone, you want to know: “Can this person write intelligently about my industry?”
It’s not a stupid question. Content marketing relies on understanding a subject well enough to educate, inform, convince and convert through blogging. If you hire a writer who doesn’t know much of anything about your industry, how can they write accurately about it and convince other people that they — or rather, you — know what you’re talking about?
The truth is, there are thousands of agencies and even more writers out there, all vying for your contract. Many of them won’t cut it.
Signs Of A Poor Fit
As the CEO of a content marketing firm, I’ve found writing to be an industry where far too many people believe you can know everything you need to be a writer simply because you’re fluent in a language you’ve spoken since birth. But this line of thinking is sort of like a person buying a stack of lumber and deciding they’re a carpenter: They have the building blocks but not necessarily the skill or knowledge necessary to construct a finished product properly.
Poor-quality writers make this clear when you read their content with an eye toward marketing and value. Their content tends to drone on or be full of fluff passages that use many words and keywords but have no more than the most superficial meaning. Moreover, they don’t look past the surface level; they might be able to describe your industry, but not what it means or the intricacies of its pain points.
A key aspect of content marketing is understanding the reader. What does the reader want out of your blog, your brand, your website? Are they looking for information on a problem? Are they seeking step-by-step instructions for a solution? Are they looking to buy a service that they don’t have to implement manually? Is it all of the above? (Hint: It’s often all of the above, with different segments of your audience.)
Poor-quality writers don’t know or care about search intent. They write superficial content, often similar to a book report; it summarizes but doesn’t tell the user why they should care or do next.
What A Good Writer Does
Good writers, on the other hand, begin their process with research. They dig into your topic and learn what you do, what common problems come up, what concerns your target audience has. They research to identify your audience and their search intent. The writer studies you to know what quirks your business has and what your unique selling points are.
You might think no writer can grasp your subject as well as you can since they’re writers, not experts in your field. The truth is, though, that doesn’t necessarily matter. A good writer can take the information they find and that you give them and turn it into better writing than you might produce on your own.
With careful research, cited sources, critical thinking and an awareness of the core principles of content marketing, a talented writer can showcase their skills with deep and insightful content beyond what you might expect out of someone who isn’t an expert in your field.
A Question Of Industry
You might be thinking, “My industry is too complex/skilled/narrow/specialized for a writer to learn about that easily.”
Well, that may be true. Some industries require advanced degrees or the higher ends of higher education to understand thoroughly. That doesn’t mean your writers don’t understand it.
Writers have interests outside of writing. They read, learn and go to school. Your writer might have been an engineer, a nurse or read about theoretical physics for fun. Very few industries are too complex or too detailed to be covered by a skilled writer.
That said, many of those industries don’t necessarily benefit from content marketing. A theoretical physicist doesn’t need mass-market appeal, and content marketing doesn’t help them. The kinds of businesses using content marketing are subjects that writers can quickly research, learn about and cover accurately.
Picking A Great Writer
So, how do you ensure you’re getting a writer who can genuinely write about your industry? I have a few tips.
• Look at the past client list of the writer or agency. What subjects do they tend to cover? If they give you specific clients, look at the blog posts and see how deeply and intelligently they cover a topic.
• Give them a test. Come up with a moderately complex subject for the writer to write about, and see what content they produce. Also, watch for the kinds of questions they ask. Do they ask simple questions, or do they ask about the intent behind a piece?
• Start slow. You’re outsourcing your content marketing, which means you want to save time and money. Start with a single post at a time to determine if the writer can cover your subject appropriately, or decide that it isn’t working out before you’ve wasted a ton of money.
Be picky and ask tough questions. Good writers and agencies will be able to speak intelligently about your subject, your goals and your content marketing plans in general.
It’s well worth your time to be strict and make sure the person or company you choose is appropriate for your niche and audience.