Writing for the Web is not nearly the same as producing content for any other type of medium.
Why? – Well, because, above everything else, people consume information differently online. Although good writing is good writing wherever it may be, and you still type in words on a blank background in hopes to educate or entertain large or specific groups of people, you have to understand that most internet users tend to scan web pages, while print readers are more likely to read an article word by word, from top to bottom.
That’s why a lot of successful print writers face extreme difficulty in adapting their work for The Web. Most of them don’t really understand, no matter how good writers they are, that creating successful content for the Internet is actually all about knowing and pleasing your audience. They don’t spend time researching who visits their content, from where and why, and that’s why it’s so hard for most of them to maintain a steady flow of visitors.
For me, the biggest difference in reading a specific piece of content in print or online lies in the complexity of finding alternative sources.
For example, if I buy a magazine, the chances are that I’m not gonna throw it away in the garbage if I get bored by one or two sentences.
No. I’m not gonna go back to the shop and keep buying new publications until I find one that 100% suits my needs.
Although I would never do such a thing with print, when it comes to reading content online, I tend to behave quite differently. I actually might abandon a certain website and look for alternative sources, if it bores me for even a second.
It’s the truth. There are thousands of websites out there that offer basically the same thing, and they are just a few clicks away from me. To make things even better, they all offer that same content for free. As a consumer, I have all the options in the world when it comes to choosing content that I want to read.
It doesn’t matter if you’re producing online film reviews, product descriptions, use cases, case studies or corporate blog posts, to successfully write content for The Web, in a nutshell, you’ll have to learn how to tailor texts to an impatient audience.
If you want to maximise your ROI, increase your website traffic, or user engagement, you’ll need to optimise your writing for that type of medium.
Before you put in a single word into your CMS, it’s important to picture inside of your head your potential consumer and what makes him or her click. That’s what I do. So far, it’s been paying off.
Although this sounds pretty straightforward, you need to understand that most writers are pretty stubborn people. They’re not interested in compromising their vision or style for anything.
Their writing is their legacy, and they’ll defend it ‘till death.
Even if a whole team of their acclaimed and celebrated colleagues tries to convince them that adding, for an example, a zombie apocalypse twist in the final chapter of their story might not be such a great idea, most of the writers I know would be like: “Naaah, you’re all stupid. You’ll see I was right one day. You don’t understand.”
In the world of commercial content writing, your vision and style take a back seat to pleasing your audience. If tools like Google Analytics and Heatmaps tell you that your long, beautiful allegories and philosophical quotes are the reason why people are leaving your website before they make a conversion, then it’s your job to take them out. Otherwise, you’re efforts will go down in vain.
As you probably already know, if you’ve read a couple of previous posts on this website, I’ve been in this content marketing game for quite a while now. Besides writing for loads of acclaimed websites, I have also been in charge of a lot of different respected and commercially successful content marketing teams. I deal with content writers every single day of my life. I have read, edited and reviewed an insane number of articles from all types of writers.
In order to help you make this transition from print to web pass a lot smoother, I have decided to share with you my 6 golden rules of creating killer content for the digital cyberspace:
KISS – Keep it Short and Simple
As I already mentioned on this blog, latest research has shown that the average attention span of an adult person is no longer than 8 seconds. Yes, you read it right. Just 8.
This means that, when producing content for your site, you cannot afford to waste a single second of your time on long and boring examples, metaphors and allegories. You need to get right to the point, without any unnecessary distractions.
I know this might sound a bit lame, especially to those who love to write, but most of your website visitors aren’t really interested in actually reading your content. They’re only interested in your products and extracting useful information that you have to offer, as quick as possible. That’s it.
If you make it difficult for them to find what they need in a matter of seconds, the chances are, they’re gonna leave your website, look at other sources online and never come back.
You don’t want that. If you want them to stay, you need to speak in their tongue: Short paragraphs. Short sentences. And fragments. These work really well on the Web.
I know that most of you who have some experience in writing for print publications are used to longer paragraphs and sentences that give you all the space in the world to tell fluid, rich and compelling stories, but that doesn’t go so well online.
Be sure to cut your work down to size. There’s a cool tool called Hemingway App that will help resolve all your writing problems. Be sure to check it out. It’s free!
Make Your Work “Scanner-Friendly” – Show Your Biggest Assets First
More often than not, readers aren’t really interested in scrolling up and down your content, in order to find what they really need. They want their information immediately, served on a plate, with an apple, and they don’t want to wade through extraneous stuff to get there.
Although all web users are impatient, there are basically two types of readers online:
1. Those who want just the hard facts;
2. Those who are interested in digesting a bit more information.
To make both of these groups of readers satisfied, when I create content, I use a lot of headlines, images, gifs and the so-called “inverted pyramid” text structure in my writing.
For those who are not familiar with the term, the “inverted pyramid” is a form of writing that has been around for ages. The goal here is to place your most fundamental facts on the top of your story, in the lead paragraph, and those that are not as much valuable, in the following paragraphs, or “nut” graphs. You basically rank your data here in order of importance.
This is only the tip of an iceberg. I use other content writing formulas as well, like Before-After-Bridge and Problem-Agitate-Solve. You can read more about them right here. Buffer did a great job illustrating these styles.
Focus On The Benefits (Not The Features)
As I already wrote above, all your website visitors really want from you is information about your products, or solutions to some of their day-to-day problem.
They’re only here to receive useful information that you have to offer, as quick as possible. So why make it hard for them to do so?
I never write articles about what we at AltusHost had for lunch, what type of music we listen to at the office, or who’s our favorite employee.
No. I also don’t write about the features that we offer with our web hosting packages.
Why? – Well, because 90% of our readers don’t really care about that. But, what they do care about, is how to better position their business online, and how to choose the right hosting solution for their corporate website, so it never goes down.
Knowing this, I keep creating articles such as: How to Choose an Ideal Hosting Package for Your Website, Too Busy To Write? – Cheat Your Way To Great Content, Building an Effective SEO Campaign With Evergreen Content, etc.
Don’t Forget To Design Great Call-to-Actions
Now that you have a steady group of people coming back to learn a thing or two from your content, you do all that is in your power to convince them to make a conversion.
Nothing does the job here like a simple and clear Call to Action. In order to work, your call-to-action must arouse a sense of urgency. It has to create that Now or Never feeling in your visitors minds, or they won’t bite on it.
Get rid of all needless widgets, and frills and make your Buy Now button the only gateway.
Remember, most of the people won’t make a conversion on your website unless you tell them to do so. I know that this sounds a bit weird, but that’s how it is.
Write Strong, Powerful and Inviting Headlines
When writing for the Web, your headline can either make you or break you. It’s your first impression.
As I already mentioned on this website, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 of them will go on to read the entire post. The better the headlines, the better your chances will be on beating the averages.
Producing great and compelling headlines is critical for your work. Sometimes I spend hours thinking about how I should name my post.
There are a lot of formulas on how to come up with great headlines. A lot of them say the same: Use numbers, interesting adjectives, unique rationale, what, why, how or when.
SEO The Hell Out Of Your Content
Good SEO plays a crucial role in your content’s success. If you don’t take it seriously, you probably won’t see a lot of people on your website.
To make the most out of your SEO, you need to logically insert the proper keywords into your writing. You can find them via AdWords’ Keyword Planner.
Apart from this, you also need to insert links to related articles within your site, add “anchor text” to links and images, and use H1 and H2 tags (etc) throughout (and used properly, not just for design).
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have anything to add on this subject, feel free to write what’s on your mind in the comments section below.
That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.