Web content is different than other forms of writing, so needs to be structured differently. Web users want information fast, and have a short attention span for fluff or filler.
Unlike reading a book, a web reader expects the content to be visually appealing as well as informative. Studies have found that you have anywhere but between 5-10 seconds to capture your viewers’ interest before they will navigate away from your site. So how do you keep their attention?
1. Keep your content short and error-free
Your average web user is a harsh critic. They have little tolerance for anything long-winded or unprofessional. Get your point across fast and accurately. Check and re-check for spelling and grammatical errors before publishing.
2. Structure your text appropriately
Uninterrupted paragraphs of text is a no-no in the online world. Where possible use:
- bullet points
- numbered lists
- short paragraphs with bolded headings
- blank space in between
Pare your information down to the bare minimum and include internal links to related topics if readers want more information. That way you can keep your pages informative, visually appealing and structured for audiences who will likely skim read.
3. Conduct keyword research
To help more users stumble onto your product, company, blog or website use free tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to find keyword variations that people search for.
Integrate these keywords into the text you write and you will help increase your visibility in the search engines. Word of caution: use these sparingly to avoid getting blacklisted for spamming. One or two mentions of each keyword in a short 500 word article is plenty.
4. Tell a story
People love stories. It’s just a fact. Emotion sells. Tragedy sells. Comedy sells. Personality sells.
Stop trying to write like a college professor, and instead be more informal and tell a personal anecdote. This will help your audience relate to you and your brand which is likely to create perceived likeability and a more loyal, invested audience.
5. End with a call-to-action
If there is one thing I cannot mention enough, it is that every piece of writing your provide should be focussed on your end game somehow. Once someone reads your post and navigates away you may never see them again.
So before they go, remind them of what action you would like them to take. Do you want them to check out your ecommerce shop? Do you want them to download your free report? Do you want them to leave their details so a representative can be in touch? Do you want them to share the article on social media with their friends?
If your writing doesn’t have a call-to-action you are wasting valuable time and energy.
6. Write for your audience first, SEO second
Although this article does contain advice on things to do to improve SEO of your posts, it is important that you focus on your audience first, and SEO second. A reader can tell instantly whether you have their best interests at heart or not.
While SEO may bring visitors to your site, they will not engage with what you have written or take up your call-to-action unless the content is informative, humorous, valuable or relevant to them in some way.
Irrelevant or even outdated content will produce high bounce rates, and that’s just plain bad for business.
7. Add an author bio
This is a quick and easily actionable step so there is no excuse for not having an author bio. People like to see the face behind the article so make sure to include a photo and a brief one or two sentence tagline about yourself.
If you are guest posting on someone else’s site, remember to also include a link back to your site in the tagline so people can find you.
8. Use the power of social media
Always include social sharing buttons under your articles and resources. If the content you have written is good people will be happy to share it amongst their followers and this is the easiest and cheapest form of advertising that you have.
If you’re not on Google+ yet, it is worth considering as it is the best platform for SEO purposes and it allows you to build up an author profile which allows you to increase your authority and reach in search rankings.
9. Include graphics
Ever heard the saying “A picture shows 1,000 words”. Well, it’s true.
Not only does it allow you to communicate more in a more concise way, but it appeals to the vast majority of people who are visual learners. Plus it’s fun. The options are endless. You can include memes, infographics, charts, photos, quote pictures or even short videos.
Remember to include Alt Tags with all your images so you can help the search engines know how to index your content.
10. Publish regularly
Possibly the biggest difference between web writing and offline writing is the need to stay current and publish regularly. The quickest way to lose an audience once you have worked so hard to build it is to go AWOL.
You don’t have to publish every day or even every week (depending on industry) but you do need to keep in regular contact and publish with some consistency.
I recommend setting up a writing and publishing schedule e.g. every Tuesday morning, or every second Thursday, and sticking to it.
11. Know your target audience
Compelling web copy is about getting into the hearts and minds of your audience. If you know who your audience is, and what they like, and follow the principles above, you will be well on your way to creating above-average website content for your small business.