Writing Web content is different from writing a book, magazine article, or brochure copy. We all know this. When writing Web content, you have to have one eye on SEO and another on the value and consistency of your content. However, it’s worth mentioning (and it may make you a better Web content writer) that reading online is also quite different from reading in print.
Ever thought about it? How often do you read plain black text on a plain white screen when reading online? Almost never. There are distractions everywhere. Flashing banners. Bright images. Other browser tabs, including that Facebook update you’re dying to glance at, right after this paragraph. Go ahead, check it. We’ll be here when you get back.
Reading online is done at-a-glance, usually, and that means your copy needs to be pristine and clear to read, first and foremost, but also easily skimmable and engaging enough so that the reader will want to digest more of your Web content. These are just a few of the broad-strokes rules of writing Web content. Let’s take a look at some of the most important rules you can employ to take your existing Web content writing skills and amp them up a notch or two.
Mightier than the Sword: Tips for the Web Content Blacksmith
Smithing is a process. Metal must be heated, hammered, heated again, carefully shaped, heated yet again, details added, tempered, brushed, polished, and that’s just hitting the high points. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the process of writing great Web content can take some cues from the process of blacksmithing.
1. Strike while the iron is hot. When you write Web content, rather than hammer out text in a single paragraph until the metal’s cold and no longer malleable, break your text up into short, concise paragraphs. Presenting your content in chunks, and breaking those chunks out into sections with their own subheads, will make your information much easier to digest, and you’ll have an easier time at the content forge, as well. Adding informative subheads makes it easy for your reader to find the specific bits of information they’re looking for, and that means longer page views, and that’s a factor that Google takes into consideration when determining your overall SEO worth.
2. Work one edge of the blade. Writing a wall of centered text is like trying to sharpen both edges of your blade at the same time – it just doesn’t work. Centered text is fine for short list items and contact information, but when it comes to long-form Web content, the left edge is where the metal’s most supple. There’s no need to indent, either – remember, this isn’t a book – simply leave a single space between paragraphs. This makes your text’s leading edge easy to scan with a reader’s eye, and that makes it easier to find the details he or she is looking for.
3. Temper the copy with content. The downfall of many a Web content writer is forging bland, empty content. Just as metal must be tempered to harden fully, your content must be immersed in information in order to truly be an effective piece. Give your readers something interesting to read! Marketing fluff and obvious keyword-addled copy isn’t engaging, and it makes you look like you care more about SEO than actually providing informative Web content. Make sure that your writing is actually interesting enough to read – tips, how-to articles, lists of commonly asked questions or other bits of data are concise, informative, draw the readers in, and keep them coming back.
4. Keep it simple. The beauty of hand-forged metal is in its simplicity. Adding ornate scrollwork and unnecessary decorations may show off your skills, but just as the modern blacksmith understands the aesthetic appeal of the rustic, handmade look, the modern Web content smith should understand the value of using the English language simply. Unnecessary grammatical acrobatics can be confusing and unappealing, and overuse (even if the usage is correct) of punctuation such as commas and semicolons can lead to unapproachable sentence structure, turning off a reader. Used incorrectly, you’ll lose readers in droves, so it’s best to not risk it. Write from sentence to sentence in natural, flowing language. We’re not writing the great American novel here, so follow the old “kiss” rule and keep it short and simple.
5. The village Blacksmith is the heart of the community. The blacksmith provides the tools necessary for the entire village to function and becomes the lifeblood of his or her community – likewise, the good Web content writer should foster a community of his or her own. The Internet is a place for communication and interactivity. Make sure that your audience is able to leave comments and feedback by enabling your content with a comment system and social sharing tools. Moreover, interact with the community when they engage with you. Thanking people who compliment your work and conversing with commenters will show your readers that you’re a real human trying to connect with a community – not a mass-production Web content factory churning out SEO-enabled paragraphs.