“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein
Writing content for your website shouldn’t be a chore, but should be a reflection of your business and the problems you solve for your customers.
It’s not all about keywords either; search engines pick up great site content much more than endless repetition of keywords.
So what should you consider when writing site content, here are my top 10 rules to follow:
1. Have a plan
Think about what you want to write, in what order and in what context.
Most writers spend on average 50% of their time planning, it makes the writing process much quicker. In fact writing should only be 20% of the process, with editing the final 30%
Plan your content in advance, think about who you are addressing and what you want them to learn:
Planning will help shape your thoughts and make the writing process so much easier!
2. Write about the most important point first
There’s a technique journalists use called the inverted triangle, which basically means: put the most important information at the top of the page, before drilling down into more detail.
Think of it as front-loading your content so a reader can get a great idea of what you offer first up, before you tell them how or why later on.
I’ll talk more about this in my next blog.
3. Explain what it is you do as a business on your home page
It still amazes me that business owners make assumptions that site visitors know what they do.
A better rule is to assume visitors don’t know what you do, so write as though the visitor is meeting you for the first time.
4. Write in shorter sentences, not long paragraphs
I’m often asked, how long should a sentence be? Ideally I’d suggest no more than 30 words, preferably fewer than 20. And each paragraph should be no more than 2 sentences long.
Remember you’re writing for the web here, so paragraphs need to be compelling and easily digestible for visitors who may just scan the page.
5. Be clear and concise
Don’t use complicated language or over elaborate sentences. Simplicity is the key.
To quote the writer C.S. Lewis;
“Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
Many web writers’ manuals suggest writing as though you’re addressing a 14-15 year old. So keep it simple.
6. Write for your ideal customer
Most businesses know who their best customers are, they know why they buy from them and what they like.
Write your content to reflect these customers – they’re the ones you want more of.
7. Use headlines, sub-headlines and bullets
Dividing up your content, giving way markers and, making the next bit sound exciting keeps visitors interested and reading.
8. Don’t be afraid to edit
I’ve always found it useful in whatever context, to write in long form, then walk away and do something else for a while, before coming back and editing the text until it says exactly what I want it to say.
Then I repeat the process – your third or forth draft is always much better than your first.
9. Print it out
If like me you spend lots of time at your screen, you don’t always see something obvious staring out at you. Whether it’s a typo, poor grammar or awkward phraseology I tend to see them only when I’ve printed the piece.
Believe me it’s so much easier to edit when you can scribble on the paper and rewrite different ideas by hand.
10. Read it
Make sure you read your finished work after you’ve edited it.
You need to check:
There’s a lot more than can be said about writing for the web. In my next blog I’ll look in more detail about the concept of the inverted triangle and how it can help you with writing compelling content.
Writing with clarity is the best thing you can do for your website.
It shouldn't be a big surprise but for many people, experienced marketers included, writing clear, concise online content as the number one way of improving SEO, sales and customer retention is a real shock.
We have a theory at What Are Words Worth, that it's because we've all become slaves to the algorithm. We believe to get on top of search must be complicated, therefore there has to be a trick to it.
Surprise, surprise the trick is to write it well, using simple language, explaining what you do and who you do it for.
By making your site or blog lively, readable and engaging you make it sticky, and only when you have the viewer's interest do you need to start explaining how you do it.
If you've ever found a site and wondered what on earth it is the company does, they have failed!
A major sporting event we were involved with worked hard to win a new title sponsor; for the entirety of their 5 year sponsorship we couldn't work out, no matter how often we read their website and literature, what they actually did.
Ask yourself, are you that organisation? Is your content over complicated? Do you inform site visitors in simple terms what it is you do?
Or does your site use jargon and acronyms? Does it make assumptions about visitors levels of knowledge about you? Does it actually make them click away - probably to a competitor?
The key to retaining site visitors, and ultimately turning them into customers, is to write content using simple, natural language, easily readable and understandable by a visitor.
We're trained as content creators to write prose that can be easily understood by a 12 year old, which may not be a bad rule of thumb.
We prefer though to think of our readers as busy people, fellow human beings, seeking to discover valuable information as quickly and as easily as possible.
In the next What Are Words Worth blog we'll look at the Top 10 Rules for writing great web content.