5 Things I Learned in My First Year as a Web Content Writer
The first year at a new job requires a lot of learning and adjustment. You meet new teammates, learn new processes, and shift into new ways of thinking. Reflecting on my first year as a Content Writer at GPO, narrowing down the most important things I’ve learned isn’t easy. The internet, and our way of working with it, changes constantly. After all, in this short time, we’ve moved from UA to GA4, become ChatGPT power users, and adjusted to several major Google algorithm updates.
Picking just a few takeaways from the past year is hard – I could write a novel and still not cover everything! But since brevity is a cornerstone of great content (I’ll talk about that later), let’s dive in.
1. Writing Great Content Is an Art and a Science.
Writing great web content isn’t just about being a skilled writer – it’s also about understanding SEO, being a great researcher, and knowing what to do with your research. You may find the information you need across five different primary sources, and it’s up to you as the writer to synthesize that information and put it together in a way that makes sense.
You also have to understand psychology. You need to interpret consumer behaviors and trends, understand target audiences, and deduce what they really want to know. For example, if you were researching a blog about trending interior design colors, the keyphrase “pink aesthetic wallpaper” with 89,000 global searches per month might seem like a homerun. Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll see that those searchers aren’t looking for home decor – they’re looking for phone backgrounds!
So yes, you do have to be able to write well. Clear, concise writing can take a lot of skill to master. The art of writing complements the science of research and strategy.
2. The Best Writing in the World Is Useless if No One Finds It.
My college writing professors will be clutching their pearls over this one – after all, they would insist that views, clicks, or purchases don’t define art’s value. They would say that the act of creation is intrinsically valuable. That may be true for literature, but it’s not always true with web content.
Beautiful writing on topics with no search volume offers little value to a business because it won’t bring anyone to their site to see it. Likewise, a great piece of writing on a site with massive SEO issues likely won’t end up where the consumers who need the information can find it. Strong content alone isn’t enough to draw in traffic.
3. The Most Search-Optimized Site Isn’t Nearly as Valuable if the Content Is Bad.
Search engine optimization is excellent. It helps a search engine find your content and understand it. However, the humans using the search engine and viewing the results must also find your content useful and understandable. Balance is key.
The Helpful Content Update reminded us of the real goal – not just making sites for Google, but for humans. It’s easy to get wrapped up in an SEO race to the top and forget that you’re trying to get your products and services in front of real people with real problems and needs.
Until Googlebot starts making purchases, your website should provide value and solve problems for people, not just “look” good to a crawler. Great content needs great sites, and great sites need great content. This sentiment can be true for blogs, local pages, product descriptions, and anything else you might want to publish.
4. AI Can Make Your Life Easier — If You Know Its Limits and Uses.
Anyone with a LinkedIn account has read plenty of hot takes about AI. If you expect to plug a 10-word prompt into the free version of a chatbot and have it spit out a ready-to-publish blog, you will probably be disappointed (or post a lousy blog). On the other hand, if you treat AI like a tool and understand its strengths and limitations, it can be genuinely helpful.
So, how have I used AI to streamline my processes?
- To brainstorm outlines when I’ve struggled with how to organize a blog
- To narrow down the most critical pieces of a broad topic
- To produce a list of synonyms for not only precise words but whole phrases within particular contexts
- To find a great recipe with the random ingredients I have on hand (hey, food is writing fuel!)
AI is a fantastic way to brainstorm, get the creative juices flowing, and assist with those annoying snags that keep you spinning your wheels. And if you do want to use AI to create better, closer-to-finished blogs, you’ll have to put a lot more effort into your prompt engineering than just a few words about tone and purpose!
5. Writing Great Content Is a Team Sport.
On the surface, writing may seem lonely. It requires you to extract your knowledge, thoughts, and feelings and lay them out for others to see. The act of writing even a technical document requires an element of bravery that can’t be underestimated.
But writing content isn’t an individual event; it’s a team sport. And it becomes much easier when you have brilliant, supportive teammates. When you feel stuck or unsure, they help you see things in a different light. When you have questions or problems, they help you solve them. A reliable team will build you up, hold you accountable, and push you to be your best.
That first draft may have come from your brain, but it was the culmination of many people’s hard work. Developers, marketers, account managers, SEOs, fellow writers, and more each play a part in the process.
Publishing that perfect blog might initially feel like a shout into the void. But when you’re lucky enough to have the people of GPO working on it with you, you can sleep at night knowing that it’ll end up where it needs to be.