Which Shapes To Write? A Guide to Choosing Content Forms

Which Shapes To Write? A Guide to Choosing Content Forms

How you write, what you write, and where you write should change based on your current goals. Your content strategy should be fluid. When setting goals, this is why it’s good practice is to review periodically. Here are some ways you can adjust your writing practices based on what you want to achieve. 

Pieces of content can serve different goals. In Divio’s model of the 4 kinds of documentation, they talk about four different orientations for content: 

  • Learning-oriented content helps people grasp concepts and skills. 
  • Goal-oriented content helps readers reach an outcome, like a how-to- guide.
  • Understanding-oriented content helps users gain information. 
  • Information-oriented content, such as reference material, that fully describes something. 

“I want to learn more and gain expertise.”

This scenario is the perfect time to write with higher frequency and consistency. When learning you want to focus on writing at the very edge of your knowledge and beyond. You can write tutorials and how-to guides about what you’ve just learned, and even use writing as a tool to learn new things. You could consider keeping a research blog, which acts as a personal wiki where you write and share your knowledge as you gain it. 

“I want to get more search traffic.”

Focusing on SEO changes the game. Writing for SEO means you’ll want to make sure your platform is optimized for SEO so that you get the most value out of your writing. SEO content needs to focus on earning links from other sites while focusing on target keywords. Longer form content works better in these cases. You want to try to create definitive pieces on a topic. 

“I want to get more clients.”

Content can fit into & enhance the sales process. Instead of writing articles, I’d start by focusing on landing and service pages. Instead of attempting to drive organic traffic to these pages, think about building tools that you can use in sales calls and emails. When it comes to writing articles and blog posts, use questions that come up in client conversations as a primary source for new ideas. This graph from Orbit Media sums it up nicely: 

“I want to build my email list.”

While sales content can help you close deals that require more high touch interactions, when you want to build an email list, you want to focus on creating content that helps with automatic conversions. In my experience, the best tool is to develop high-quality, long-form pieces, such as ebooks or courses. My most significant gains came when I launched The Freelance Pricing Handbook and Zero-to-10: A Writing Course For Developers. Spend some time crafting great calls to action. If you need help there here’s a complete guide to creating opt-ins that convert. When you invest in reusable assets like these, it increases the effectiveness of every future piece of content you write. 

“I want to increase my reach.”

While SEO requires you to focus all of your energy on your platform, if you want to grow your network, you are better off doing the opposite. Think about guest posting and appearing on podcasts. It could also involve giving talks or teaching somewhere else. You want to seek out opportunities to get in front of people that aren’t your audience… yet.

“I want to establish trust and authority.”

Pieces of content that move towards building trust are the most expensive types of pieces to write. I don’t mean “expensive” in terms of cost, but instead expensive because it requires a large amount of production and has a high barrier to entry. Examples are case studies, and original pieces of research such as experiments, analysis, aggregation, or surveys. 

“I want to build passive income.”

Being able to produce content gives you more optionality when it comes to side projects. In most cases, I agree with Erik Dietrich’s opinion that if you are a software developer, your side project shouldn’t be writing more code. Instead, you can create paid products like books or courses. These are substantial time commitments, but in the interim, you can create content around the topic, building your expertise and creating small bits of content you can use as pieces of a larger whole in the future. 

Blending and Choosing Content Forms

No one piece of content can do all of this, and chances are you don’t have exactly one goal you want to achieve. Writing a book to sell will undoubtedly teach you a lot in the process. Guest posting on other blogs can help you get more subscribers on your mailing list. Instead of asking yourself: “Should I be doing more guest posting?” You can reframe those conversations as “Will guest posting help me achieve my goals?” Here’s a quick review of the options presented here.

Which one can you tackle next that will move you forward?