A few short weeks ago, we discussed how to spot a high-quality writer. We identified four anchor qualities of outstanding talent, and we talked a little about the importance of quality content. Now, we’d like to take the discussion to the next level and cover exactly how you can choose a copywriter or content service provider to meet your needs in this condensed guide to selecting a content creator.
Your Business Needs Content
It’s a fact. Your business needs content. Without it, it will lack two major components that dramatically affect conversion: Credibility and authority. Without these elements, prospective buyers will have no reason to trust or show loyalty. You might as well hang a Wal-Mart sign over your figurative door because your business will be the result of pure monopoly versus true value and quality.
According to Search Engine Watch, companies investing in an active blog generate roughly 67 percent more leads per months than their competition. Companies that produce quality content and blog 15 or more times each month receive five times more traffic than those that don’t. And some 27 million pieces of content hit the cyber highway each day.
Your business seriously needs content, but how do you choose a content creator? Do you pick the company offering the cheapest price or the one with the quickest turnaround? How can you tell if they can meet your needs before investing resources?
First, you need to understand your content needs intimately and have clear expectations firmly in mind before any content is written. Second, you need to interview prospective service providers.
Understanding Your Content Needs
What is content? It’s the sum creation of what you’re reading right now, and its backbone is copy.
According to Wikipedia, copy “refers to written material, in contrast to photographs or other elements of layout, in a large number of contexts, including magazines, advertising, and books.” Written copy is a cornerstone of both online presence and marketing. Simply put, content marketing cannot exist without written copy, and written copy would have less use without content marketing; the two are interdependent.
Before you can successfully track down the perfect content creator, you need to understand your needs. Now, this is not to say you need a clear idea of exact topics, word counts, format, and so forth. It simply means you need a vision, an idea of what you want to see and achieve. Ask yourself:
- Do I need content for online or offline purposes (or both)?
- Do I need search engine optimized (SEO) copy?
- Do I need general, technical or marketing material?
- How industry or niche specific does my copy need to be?
- What is my ultimate goal or set of goals?
- What is my budget?
You need concrete answers to these questions before searching for a content service provider. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to determine whether prospective providers can meet your needs.
The Basics of High-Quality Content
While it’s important for a content creator to meet your unique needs, it’s likewise crucial for them to understand the basics of high-quality content. Your audience demands the fundamental basics of quality writing. Any prospective creator should demonstrate knowledge of crafting:
- Engaging Content: The ultimate key to copy is engagement. Copy written with the goal of engaging the audience will be miles more successful than haphazardly thrown together copy, lacking purpose. A serious content creation team will have an active blog. Check out their content, and read it for engagement. Does it include anchored links you’re curious to click on based on the surrounding context? Are their blogs shared? Do they receive comments?
- Informative and Factual Copy: Your target audience wants value. The average reader is bombarded with a battery of information on an hourly basis. When they choose to skim or read a page, they expect valuable content; otherwise, their time will feel wasted. Waste their time, and they’ll avoid your content in the future. You need a content creator capable of infusing copy with relevant, informative, educational, and factual material. They need to know how to address and solve a problem, offer new information or a fresh perspective, and persuade the reader to act on a call to action.
- Proper Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation, and Formatting: In the realm of cyberspace, Google is the all-powerful keeper of rankings. You want your business to be on the first search engine results page (SERP), and the way you accomplish this is through high-quality content. Perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting will increase your SEO, thereby upping your rank. It will simultaneously please the reader because nothing is worse than attempting to read an error-riddled hunk of text.
Interviewing a Potential Content Provider
Selecting a content provider is about choosing the best possible investment. No one can deny quality content is an evergreen investment, but not all creators are equal.
According to Nicki Krawcyzk, “The tricky thing about choosing a copywriter is that it isn’t just a matter of Googling your city and the word ‘copywriter’ or choosing one who’s had the biggest brands as clients.” It’s about finding the company, team, or individual who provides value. Just because a provider has big brand clients, is conveniently located down the street or comes highly recommended by your colleagues, doesn’t mean they are well suited to write your content.
You’ll want to select at least a handful of providers to consider. The first step is opening initial communications. You should send them some pertinent information regarding your business and project. Things you’ll want to offer include:
- The name and mission of your company
- Your website address and any other relevant URLs
- A brief description of what you and your business stand for (if not provided on your website)
- Your project details (i.e. the type of content you need or are interested in and your vision)
- A way of contacting you coupled with a request to conduct an interview
If you’re contacting an agency or shop, you’ll likely speak with a Client or Content Coordinator or Manager. While interviewing any of these individuals will offer a good feel for the agency and its values, you should specifically ask to interview the writer and/or editor who will be personally handling (i.e. creating) your content.
Writers and Editors
Why is it important to talk directly to the writer and editor who will slave away on your content? Quite simply, it’s because they will be at the very heart of your project.
The unfortunate truth of large content agencies and providers is that too many hands touch a project. It rapidly becomes an elementary school game of telephone, where a phrase is passed around the room and turns unrecognizable.
Your goal should be to speak or e-mail one-on-one with the writer and/or editor creating your content. In an effort to determine if they’re a good fit, pose the following questions:
1. What do you know about my business? Your goal in posing this question is to gauge commitment, research skills, and knowledge. You won’t expect them to be intimately familiar with your business, but based on the information provided in your initial communication, they should be able to identify your mission clearly. If they can’t at least respond with probing questions, chances are they aren’t a good fit.
2. Do you have any industry experience? You want a writer who understands industry jargon and knows how to present it to your audience. If the writer or editor lacks industry-specific experience, find out if and how they plan to get up to speed.
3. Who is my target audience? Successful content focuses on the target audience. Therefore, both writer and editor need to understand who comprises it. Follow up by asking how the writer plans to connect with the audience, especially on tech-heavy or hard-hitting topics.
4. What value do I offer to potential customers? The writer and editor must identify the major benefits your business offers. What sets you apart? The creation team will need a plan for engaging potential customers and motivating them to action.
5. What type of calls to action do you feel suit my brand? The ultimate goal of successful copy is to motivate the audience to action, whether it’s to read more, contact you or buy. You probably have specific calls to action in mind, but ask the writer for their recommendation.
6. What is my brand’s voice? After having reviewed your initial communication and spoken with you, the writer should have a good feel for your brand’s voice. Are you conservative, hard-hitting, motivational?
7. Do you have current SEO experience? This is almost a trick question. You’re looking for a response along the lines of, “Outstanding writing coupled with relevant facts, backed by high DA links and natural keyword insertion is all we need to focus on in the copy.”
Making an Educated Decision
Selecting a content creator comes down to making an educated decision. Remember, the big agencies and one-stop-shops inhabiting the top search results on Google are simply masters of search engine ranking. It doesn’t guarantee any ability to provide outstanding quality in both content and communication.
Take the time to vet your content provider options. You will find one capable of meeting your needs if you take the time to really look.
Feature Image Credit: Weerapat Wattanapichayakul via 123RF Stock Photo