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Content Writing

What type of writers do you need? The answer to that question depends on the business goals for the content you want to create. Before you begin hiring talent, define the purpose and goal for each assignment to ensure you attract candidates with the skill sets to match the type of content writing required.

You need content. That means you need a writer. So, what are you waiting for? Shouldn’t you just hire a marketing agency and go?

Not so fast.

What type of content writer do you need? It’s important to get a writer who’s a good fit for your project. Not all are created equal — and I don’t just mean how skilled they are. Different types of writers have different specialties. It’s not unlike how it is with basketball players.

To the untrained eye, players all appear to do roughly the same thing — dribble, pass, shoot. But in reality, each player has a position and a particular role. Some help set up plays bypassing. Some help clear out space for others to take shots. Some shoot from the paint and some shoot from downtown. Even within the same position, some players are more adept at certain skills. Some block, some steal, some assist, some rebound and some are pros at the fast break.

What Skills Do Content Writers Need?

Writers have different specialties, too. This post will help you better understand each type of writer, what they excel at and the kinds of projects they’re best suited for. That way you can make sure your project is as successful as can be.

Can some writers have more than one specialty? Sure. It’s not unusual for there to be overlap. The key to finding the right writer is understanding your needs and choosing the right type of writer for the job. Let’s get started.

1. Brand journalist

Journalistic-style writers are skilled at longer-form pieces and interviewing subjects. Think about articles you’d see in a magazine or newspaper. This type of writer is great at finding the story and constructing narratives (that fit your brand’s vision and mission). They explore a subject from different angles until they find the human interest in it.

Brand journalists are often masters at writing headlines since online journalism often lives and dies by click-through based on those headlines. Brand journalists can be a solid match for content marketing pieces because they’re naturally geared more for storytelling than for hard sells and product details. They can also be good for the kinds of stories you might pitch for third-party placement, content highlighting your company’s history or reason for being, newsletters, community involvement stories — even blog posts that take on a more narrative or investigative angle.

And brand journalists take the journalistic skill set a step further by knowing how to adapt stories to your brand personality and messages.

2. SEO copywriter/generalist

Generalist copywriters are jacks-of-all trades. They can be great choices for high-volume, short, awareness-level content that doesn’t require a lot of expertise. Because this skill set is more widely available, you can typically get generalist writing help for less than some other types of writers, like subject matter experts.

Another level of generalists are SEO copywriters. At a minimum, SEO copywriters know how to integrate target keywords and phrases into web copy to maximize organic search benefit and avoid penalties. Some can even keyword research (if scoped in the project). Naturally, SEO copywriters are exactly the writers you need when you want to create content to help your website rank better organically in search results to get you more traffic.

3. Digital/UX writer

Modern websites and apps are interactive environments. They’re not like a print ad or billboard. They can involve many screens or pages, buttons, links and all kinds of other actions a visitor/user may use to achieve their goals. That’s where a digital writer or UX writer comes in.

They understand these more complex kinds of digital journeys and they have strategies and tactics to help guide people through the journeys they want to take and how to guide people through journeys the client wants them to take.

Digital/UX writers tend to be analytically minded, and they often want data to help guide important writing decisions. Does a link or button set the right expectation for an app user? Is the copy on a web page put together with a hierarchy of information that makes it easy for a visitor to quickly learn what they want to? These are the kinds of things a digital/UX writer thinks about.

Digital/UX writers are especially adept at writing core pages for websites, and they can even add surprisingly helpful touches to things like error messages and transactional messages.

4. Conversion rate optimization/lead generation writer

A lead generation writer has a laser focus on driving action. They can often overlap with the digital/UX writer — the main difference being the focus of either creating sales or generating leads.

They typically have a strong knowledge of data, analytics and/or psychology that helps them write more effective copy. They generally understand selling methodologies and know-how to synthesize objections and barriers to sales — turning them into copy that that helps potential customers move closer to a sale.

Conversion rate optimization or lead generation writers are perfect for tasks like:

  • Online pay-per-click (PPC) ads

  • Web banner ads

  • Landing pages

  • Calls to action

  • Sales letters

5. Subject matter expert

A subject matter expert is exactly what it sounds like — someone who has a deep understanding of your industry and can write with authority about it.

True subject matter experts are harder to find than a generalist. And this combination of low supply and higher expertise leads to higher rates than generalists. But if you’ve got a well-defined project with clear goals, a subject matter expert can be well worth the money.

For starters, a subject matter expert can save you some time on briefing and making your own experts available, especially for more niche subjects. They can tackle topics in a depth that generalists can’t. They can write with authority on topics that generalists can’t — authority that can help your brand seem more authoritative.

Because of their expertise, subject matter experts can also take unique, insightful angles on topics that you won’t get from generalists or even suggest topic ideas you hadn’t considered.

Subject matter experts are smart choices for deep content like:

  • Pillar blog posts or articles

  • Period special content series

  • Detailed how-to content

  • E-books

  • White papers

  • Executive briefs

  • Link-generating content