Rise of the full-stack digital writer. What does this mean for writing?
Digital content has changed the way writers write, merging several writing disciplines together.
If you clicked on content in your newsfeeds, what writing style would you expect to find? Would you recognise what type of content it is?
You may guess that the digital content has been written to either:
- engage with you
- to sell to you
- to entertain you
- or written so you discover it
Confused by what I mean? Let me explain.
Think of a spectrum.
On one side, you have SEO-minded content producers who are solely focused on getting search engines to present their content in the top positions of SERPs.
Around the middle, you have sales and conversion optimisation copywriters, who are adept at convincing their readers to take an action, whether to buy a product or subscribe to a newsletter.
On the other side, you have story-telling copywriters who primarily focused on creating engaging, entertaining content that readers enjoy.
The first approach to content creation centres on strategies including keyword research, H1/H2/H3 headlines and hierarchical structures.
This method is concerned with what are people searching for in search engines, and how do search engine crawlers understand the topic? Content is created on this foundation.
The second method focuses on what emotional triggers convince readers to commit to buy or undertake an action.
Their focus is first on emotions, using proven copywriting formulas like AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Sales and conversion copywriters use headlines to attract their audiences attention, and copy tends to be shorter, so their message is succinct and quickly resonates with an audience.
They strive to create enticing content that gets read, shared, converts or assists conversions.
The final approach is the copywriting purists, who write to entertain using more poetic language. Content is highly topical, opinionated and shareable.
They dismiss whether to rank in search engines or get readers to commit to an action, albeit think on what they have read.
So who’s right?
SEO vs Sales vs CRO vs Content Marketing vs Copywriting
People who are confused about the style differences between each discipline. To many, it is merely a term that digital marketers and content writers use to sell their services.
To a certain degree, I get it.
However, the styles differ the way they achieve different goals.
Each discipline seeks to answer the following questions:
- SEO: How can I get search engines to find, index and rank this content?
- Sales: How can I write in a way that sells and commits people to buy?
- Conversion rate optimisation: How do I get the people reading this page to call, fill an interest form or sign up to an email list?
- Content marketing: How do I create content that my audience will find valuable and share?
- Copywriter: How can I create writing that the audience resonates with and discusses with others?
But what if you had all five in mind when writing your content? Can’t all be applied simultaneously?
Introducing the full-stack digital writer
‘Full-stack’ is a popular term used to describe a developer who handles both the front and back-end of a system or application. Or a digital marketer who can execute omnichannel digital marketing tactics.
In true marketing fashion, I am going to borrow (copy) the term and use it to describe what a full-stack digital writer is:
A full-stack digital writer is a writer who is adept at writing in the full spectrum of digital content. Being able to consider how both algorithms and the audience perceive their written content.
A full-stack writer is:
- Search engine mindful: Aware of how search engines will perceive the content they write. Crafting their message around well-researched keywords, incorporating SEO best practices like H1/H2 title tags, headings and sub-headings.
- Questions driven: Dedicated to creating content that educates by answering queries and solves actual pain points.
- Conversion focused: Cognisant of the fact that their content should fulfil a business goal; to either convert or assist in conversion.
- Engagement forward: Focused on producing writing that the audience will find interesting enough to read, comment on and share.
- Distinctively written: Mindful that there is so much content out there that the narrative utilises better terminology, academically researched and thought-provoking.
Should we now be content generalists rather than content specialists?
We’re told to specialise in one discipline across many industry sectors. What if we’re great at getting content to rank in SERPs, but not a great sales copywriter?
It’s a valid point.
No one should risk their mastery of a writing discipline to become a content generalist.
So what should a writer do?
It comes down to the saying whatever you do, be excellent at it.
Meaning if you want to stick solely to conversion copywriting or only to long-form content, that’s fine. What is changing is the need to consider the big picture of whatever type of content we’re producing.
A full-stack digital writer considers every possible angle of their content from:
- computational linguistics
Hoping their intended audience will:
- Respond if shared on social media
- Find the content from search engines
- Learn something in the article
- Be persuaded to convert
Ultimately, that by using our content and copywriting, our clients obtain more business.
Are we writing for humans or machines?
The reason catchwords like SEO content was introduced into the digital marketer’s vernacular, is because we know that we not only have to entertain our readers. We must write in a way that machines will understand and reward.
If we want our clients content to rank in search engines, we have to play by the search engine’s rules, which means writing content in a way that a machine can understand.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
Algorithms like Google’s are emulating what a real human searcher would pick as the top result. So if Google is just trying to choose what a human would select, shouldn’t we only focus on human readers?
Google is still a machine. As a machine, it has limits, even if it’s trying to emulate humans.
So, it matters what search engines think humans want, and we must write accordingly.
However, we are doing our clients a disservice if we stop there.
As someone who produces content for both ‘SEO writing’ and ‘engagement writing,’ learning to marry all writing disciplines into one has been a long and tough personal journey.
Feedback from other writers and clients tell me I should be doing a number of the following:
- “introduce your articles with an interesting story, be more intriguing.”
- “get straight to the point in your article”
- “what keyword are you ranking for?”
- “where’s the call to action?”
- “write more simply, use colloquial language.”
- “write more academically, don’t write so many buzzwords.”
It’s no wonder that, from this feedback, that my styles began to merge to a ‘please-all’ approach — ensuring that my content ranks, engages, converts and entertains.
Writing content that ranks, engages, converts & entertains
What’s the point of ranking for a keyword if the traffic does not convert on-site?
We’ve seen brands who project a lighthearted vibe in the content they share on social media. And then they deliberately use a standardised, all-business vibe in the content that ranks well in search engines.
When we do this, we’re creating incredibly inconsistent brand voice.
So, instead of changing voice & tone for every platform and channel, what if we combined them all?
Writing engaging content that’s strong enough to rank organically in search engines.
Is it possible?
A digital writer adopts a reader mentality
You may be a content writer, but you’re also a reader.
Think about how you read content in your spare time. What do you:
- Engage with?
- Find helpful?
- Find compelling enough to take action?
We find our content in a multitude of ways (newsfeeds, search engines, social media, newsletters). Still, I think we can all agree that we want to read content that’s both informative and interesting.
There must be a middle ground between being an informative Wikipedia-style writer and a purist Hemingway one when it comes to writing digital content.
I’m not stating that we should all become content generalists.
My experience has been that writers are spending their valuable time (and clients’ budget) on creating content, but not ensuring it has the maximum value.
Don’t spend time crafting content that gets attention the day it’s posted and then dies. Focus on generating content that obtains sustained traffic that lowers a client’s customer acquisition costs.
It’s not easy, I’ve made mistakes, and this approach is not perfect. Still, I believe there’s room for every content writer to adopt a “full-stack” mentality.
Originally published at https://blumint.co on June 30, 2020.