Writing Web content is rewarding for many reasons. You can reach readers anywhere in the world. You can get instant feedback through comments. And you can write on any topic you want, without worrying about finding an interested editor.
Sounds easy. Right?
It can be if you’re mostly writing for yourself and not worried about whether or not anyone is reading your content.
However, I’ve found that the most fun of writing on the Web is reaching interested readers. So how to do you do that? I’ll share three of the most important things I’ve learned about writing effective Web content in the past couple of decades.
Let’s start at the end, rather than the beginning, and build to that final aha! moment.
3) Write what your readers want.
Okay, so that’s a given, whether you’re writing for business applications or for entertainment value. There’s a catch though, isn’t there?
And the catch is…ta da…drum roll…that it can be almost impossible to figure out what readers want until you’ve already got established content and can analyze it for reading patterns.
Let’s start with the basics, or the keywords that people type into a search engine, to get to your website. It stands to reason that your content needs to have those top keyword in it if you’re going to get much traffic. After all, if you write about eggs benedict and everyone wants egg omelets, you’re not going to attract many readers.
The good news is that there are lots of keyword services out there, many of which have at least a few free services and free trials. Try these:
- Wordstream. http://www.wordstream.com/popular-keywords/ This site gives a lot of free keyword traffic analysis in five areas (Business keywords, consumer keywords, health and fitness keywords, finance keywords, sales and marketing keywords). They also offer a free trial of their product.
- Keyword Submit Express. http://keywords.submitexpress.com/keytracker.php This is a free tool that allows you up to 15 searches daily, and gives a large number of related terms with specific traffic estimates. Their data comes from WordTracker and Keyword Discovery.
You may also find this YouTube video has some good tips!
2) Most surfers won’t really read all of what you write.
I bet you’re saying, what? Nobody’s reading these lines that I’ve spent so much time revising and revising and revising?
Sorry, but no, Fatbit Technologies says that most readers stay less than 5 seconds giving your content the once over! http://www.fatbit.com/fab/make-people-stay-website-5-seconds/
That’s not enough to impress anyone with your writing style, is it?
Nope. You have to impress readers with the promise of what your web page content is all about.
So, the most important thing you can do is make your title or headline an attention grabber. There are, of course, lots of different ways to do that!
This free ebook download, A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral, has lots of great tips: http://boostblogtraffic.com/
Think of presenting your content like serving the egg breakfasts I mentioned earlier. If the eggs benedict is lopsided and kind of runny, it’s not too appetizing. But if it’s well placed on the plate along with a bright colored garnish, like a symetrically formed red strawberry, it’s a lot more interesting.
And of course, once you’ve grabbed your reader with that great start, make sure you deliver what your headline promised. If somebody dumped a little too much salt on that eggs benedict, you’re going to push it aside no matter how tasty it looks.
Keep in mind that Jakob Nielsen’s 2008 study indicated readers really get less than 20% of what you have on the page. That’s not much, is it?
1) Remember we read differently on the Web.
We all read on monitors these days, don’t we? In fact, if you weren’t reading on some sort of screen you wouldn’t be reading this webpage.
So, how do you feel about monitors?
Love ’em or hate ’em?
I personally prefer reading on a monitor to reading print materials these days, but that could have something to do with these progressive lens glasses.
Nowadays the experts are hesitant to say that paper is a better medium for reading than a monitor. Of course, when all we had to read was paper that was what we preferred.
It was also what we functioned best reading due to all that practice. After all, before we used notebooks to write on in school, those erasable slates were how students got their ideas down and learned to write.
We don’t look around for those anymore, do we?
Research today shows that with all this practice reading electronic content, times are changing.
This neat article from over at The Digital Reader also draws from research that shows that not only these young Generation X readers, who’ve grown up as digital natives, but also those of us at the other end of the scale, can find reading from a monitor a better experience.
One of the reasons many of us find reading from a monitor easier than paper is at least in part, if not completely, due to good content creation practices. What are those? Well, lots of things ranging from making text scannable to using template designs that provide good color contrast.
There is no one thing that makes content better for reading on a monitor. Rather, it’s a new way of writing and organizing content that copywriters need to understand.
Check out this slideshare for some ideas:
Or, you may want to consider taking a course or two that will help you develop the skills you need to write effective Web content. Check your local library or college listings.