Want to know how to be a good content writer? Here’s the key ingredient you may be missing.
Rule 1: Solve the reader’s problem.
Have you ever Googled something, opened a range of articles, and found yourself clicking out of them within a few seconds? It’s probably because the article in question didn’t solve your problem, or if it did, the answer was hidden within paragraphs of text you didn’t want to read.
We’ve all done it – it’s actually a very natural human response, and I’ll explain why below – but as good content writers, we aim to avoid this by following one simple rule: Solve the reader’s problem.
Why? Because our instinct, as humans, is to survive. It always has been, and part of survival means conserving energy. While we no longer need to conserve energy to outrun carnivorous mammals like our ancestors, conserving energy is still hard-wired in to our genetics and our brains apply it to almost everything we do. A problem such as ‘how to be a good content writer’ is a good example. All non-essential information consumed in the pursuit of a solution becomes a waste of energy. Wasting energy goes against our survival instincts, so we’re unwilling to plough through content that takes too long to solve our problems.
This is the key to writing good content: If you can solve the reader’s problem quickly, your job is done.
A reader types ‘best beach in Sydney’ in to a search engine (problem), and up pops a range of articles promising to provide that exact information (solution).
Article 1: Starts with a few paragraphs on why the author loves Sydney beaches, followed by a bullet-point list of beaches with no photos or descriptions of each beach.
Article 2: Is a long-copy article with a lot of paragraphs. Information on the best beaches in Sydney is woven in to each paragraph, so the reader has to use more energy reading the whole piece to get the information they need.
Article 3: Starts with a few introductory lines, before listing the best beaches in easy-to-read sub-headings, with short descriptions as to why it’s on the list, with an image of each beach.
Article 4: Talks about the beaches of Sydney, without detailing the best ones.
Which article effectively solves the reader’s problem?
If your answer is article 3, you’re correct! If you had a different answer, that’s ok – technically, all except article 4 solve the reader’s problem, but article 3 does it in a way that makes the information really easy for the reader to digest. Here’s why:
Article 3 has a brief introduction, which means the reader can see the recommended beaches (the solutions) almost immediately when the page loads.
Bold sub-headings with the name of each beach make the content 100% easier to digest. Even if the reader briefly skims the page, the name of each beach stands out in bold so the reader’s problem is solved, and they barely had to use any energy.
Even though the reader wants a quick and clear solution, they still want a brief rundown detailing why these beaches are the top choices. They want to know they’re making the best possible choice because making the wrong choice would be a huge waste of energy, so you need to guide them through it and provide key details for each option.
Humans are very visual, and images are much easier to digest and understand than text. If a reader wants an isolated beach, all they’d have to do it look at the image you’ve provided of a beautiful isolated beach to know that’s the one they want to visit – images are much faster to decipher than a paragraph of text, so illustrate your content where possible.
The wonderful thing about learning how to write good content is the internet is full of great examples! I have a couple of samples here, here, and here, but try typing a question that genuinely interests you in to a search engine and see what comes up. Pay attention the articles that interest you – how is the information presented, what attracts you to it, and (more importantly) does it answer your question and solve your problem?