Writing for the web is a whole different ball game to more traditional methods of the past. Things have changed, as have people, and technology has moved on.
So, how do we best utilise this amazing tool we have at our disposal? What are the differences, and how do we adapt and thrive?
Let’s find out! Here are a few key elements that you need to keep in mind before putting fingers to keyboard…
1. ATTENTION is the Economy
Let’s start with people’s attention spans. It’s been said time and time again (because it’s true!) that our levels of focus are being diminished.
With so many distractions and so much noise to cut through, we just can’t concentrate for long periods of time. It’s vitally important you bear this in mind when producing any content online… or pretty much anywhere these days.
Writing for the web differs from the print media in that people are searching for some specific information rather than consuming general content in the hopes that some of the best stuff sticks.
This is in line with ‘in-demand’ services across the media spectrum; like Netflix, catch up TV, radio, gaming and all the other weird and wonderful education and entertainment services out there.
The consumer is in control, and will disappear if what they see is not up to snuff.
How do we keep people focused, get our points across and draw in the ‘scanners’?
2. Get Punchy! Be Clear, Concise & Direct
Any way to break up the text is a definite way to go:
- Short paragraphs
- Shorter sentences
- The use of bullet points (oh look what we have here ;))
- Numbered lists
- Graphs & images
- Plenty of page breaks and white space
There is a time and place (as well as a need) for longer posts but also short, concise and dynamic pieces. They all have their place.
Just because we have shortened attention spans, some of us will devote time to a long piece of content if it interests us, or rather, keeps us interested. So that would be the subject matter itself, as well as using some of the methods in this post.
3. Satisfy the Scanners
It’s common practice for people to skim over content first, then delve deeper if there’s a strong enough interest. That means you want your main points front, centre and obvious.
Nothing too technical or hard to find, and give the reader what they need from that wider angle and then tempt them in to the finer details.
For example, they might want to find specific info about a hotel, like:
- Restaurant menu
- Opening times
- List of excursions
- An address
This should be easy to find – don’t make people work too hard for it! If that’s all they want, then no problem… give them the option of walking away, but also aim to compel them to read the rest too.
4. Spark Curiosity & Burn Desire
Titles and subtitles are important too. Make them catchy and lead the reader on to the next paragraph.
Do your keyword research and use header tags (in particular H1 & H2 ). This helps with visibility in the search engines. Be sure to include links to other posts, pages, partners and interesting sites that are relevant using keywords in the text.
Be helpful. Answer questions potential customers are asking. You can use various keyword tools, such as:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
5. Become a Pro Promoter & Marketing Mad Man!
Make sure to shout about your work from the rooftops!
No-one will be able to see your masterpiece if it’s not advertised in some way. Use the various social media channels to get the word out there, in amongst your ongoing snazzy content which causes a stir of interest in your prospects, associates and casual onlookers.
It should all be an organised and consistent push on everything you put out there. And remember, you are competing against Social Media algorithms which rewards frequent and engaged with content.
6. Assess, Adapt, Repeat…
Analytics. Not a fun subject for most but the simple fact is – what gets measured, gets managed… and also improved upon! Cliché for sure, and with good reason. If you don’t get feedback and adapt accordingly, how will you know where you are and where you’re going?
The good news is that there’s no excuse… you have a great FREE service with Google Analytics. You can jump into more advanced stuff down the line but this more than covers the basics and will set you down the right road.
7. It’s All About Action!
What do you want your reader to do? There needs to be a reason, or at least some sort of direction you want them to take when they’re done. Yes, a clear call to action.
There’s no point in dancing around the issue, you have given them this masterful prose which they’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and now you need to take them by the hand and give them a gentle nudge… ‘find out more’, ‘go here’ etc.
As part of the above, one of the main places you should be directing people to is your own subscriber list. This is something you own, can help nurture deep relationships over time, and ultimately refer your products and services to too when done in the right way.
8. Know Thy Audience
It’s vital you know exactly who you’re talking to.
Many times this is called your buyer persona… either way, you need to at least have an idea of who you’re targeting. This helps with language, tone, structure and getting into their head-space.
- What words do they use?
- Any lingo or common sayings?
This not only helps them understand the copy better but also helps with SEO.
But be careful to avoid jargon as that can alienate as well as lose clarity. It’s a delicate balance but we’re out to be understood, inform and maybe entertain… not try and impress!
9. KISS’em – Keep it Simple!
Be sure to use simple language where possible or whenever in doubt. You want a child and a grandparent to be able to understand what you’re saying. Never assume anything, other than that the reader wants a smooth, easy and fun experience.
There are of course times for technical content (see know thy audience) and other times where you may wish to inject humour but the fallback should always be, the more basic the better.
Avoid passive tense. The legendary writer Stephen King in his book, On Writing, says that’s one of the main writing mistakes to avoid. Whether you’re writing a quick Insta post, or a novel on tales of the macabre, this applies across the board.
Instead use active tense as much as possible, and talk directly to your reader. ‘The article was written by Adam’ is passive, ‘Adam wrote the article’ is active.
10. Use the Rule of ONE
In each piece of content, try and stick to one main topic or theme. Discuss different aspects within that, but it needs to be only one general idea… then by all means create further content on other themes.
This also applies to the call to action we spoke about earlier. You can have links to your social platforms, for example, but there can only be one specific action you want your reader to take, whether that be to subscribe to your newsletter, go to your sales page, or follow you on Twitter.
Don’t try to be all things to all people. It never works and you end up being nothing to anyone. Find your people and go straight at them!
And start with the most important piece of info first and work outwards. This is often referred to as the ‘Inverted pyramid’ used by journalists and other writers.
11. Bonus #1: Looks matter
Yes, what you say is important and in theory it shouldn’t matter how it looks. That won’t quite wash as people do judge a book by its cover. The cover, after all, is to entice you to open it and if that doesn’t happen, what’s inside won’t even be seen. And even if it is, a lack of aesthetics will give the impression of less value.
So that means using some bold, italics, underline and highlights where it makes sense to emphasise. Then the other side of the equation is the graphics, and general design of the website, email etc.
If you want to spruce up your work, then apps like Grammarly and Hemingway can help a lot. They won’t write your content for you but will offer handy suggestions on how to improve the spelling, grammar and even on how it reads.
As ever, you can break the rules, but at least be aware of them before you play too much with them.
12. Bonus #2: The Spice of Life!
Variety does indeed keep things interesting. Mix it up, enjoy what you’re doing and try and transfer that energy and certainty over to the reader.
If they don’t quite know what’s coming then they will be all the more intrigued to find out! If they start reading and think they’ve seen it all before then they will zone out and log off…
A quick word on click-bait. Avoid being too ‘clickbaity’ when attracting attention. It’s another fine line to walk and you do need to arouse intrigue and draw people in, but when overdone simply to get a click through – along with not much substance on the other side – then it can ruin your credibility.
And when in doubt, remember the old marketing acronym – AIDA. Attention (or awareness), Interest, Desire & Action. That’s the exact process you want the reader to take, so keep them on that path and they’ll be delighted to join you on the journey.
All in all, this is an exciting time to be able to produce cool content and get your message out there. Applying some of these tips along with being aware of where the market is going, means you can really enjoy the fruits of your labour!