One of the biggest challenges for writers who are starting to write web content is unlearning everything they’ve been taught about ‘quality writing.’ In school, they tell you that big words, grammatical perfection, and formal tone are the best ways to write. The world of web content writing is completely different.
It’s not that web content writing is low quality; it’s just that the rules are different. If you’re a writer already with academic, technical, or creative writing experience under your belt, learning how to write web content is really easy. What’s tough is unlearning the stuff you’ve been taught.
Friendly, Conversational Tone
The most important thing is to write in a friendly, conversational tone. It’s like writing an email to a friend, except not quite that informal. Of course, you need to capitalize and use punctuation. The basics of English still apply! But the text should sound like someone talking to you when read aloud.
Lots of web content writers say that you should write at an 8th grade level. Unless you’re a teacher and you know exactly what an 8th grade level reads like, this is totally meaningless. To me, this means, ‘Dumb it down,’ and that’s not what we need to do.
Instead, you should write simply and directly. Your audience is likely to be people who aren’t ‘readers.’ They’re just looking for helpful information online. Your content should speak directly to them and not over their heads.
Make It Skimmable
Another thing about web content is that most people skim. They don’t start at the top and read everything to the bottom. Because of this, you should write using sub-headers wherever possible. This way, they can find exactly what they’re looking for in your article.
For example, let’s say you’ve got an article on snoring. It covers the causes, typical treatments and signs that you should see a doctor. Maybe your reader is really concerned about whether or not to get medical help. They know the symptoms and treatments already. Your reader probably isn’t going to start with the first sentence describing what snoring is; they’re going to scan their way down until they find what they’re looking for.
Skim-ability also means using short paragraphs. Whatever you do, you should never write massive paragraphs that look like something from a Dostoyevsky novel. All too often, you see websites with no paragraph breaks at all and if I were you I wouldn’t read them!
Each of these paragraphs should start with a sentence that has its main point. This is one thing you probably learned in English class that does apply to web content writing, but it’s not too complicated. People will skim that first sentence and read on if it looks like it’s going to have the info they want. If your paragraphs ramble aimlessly, they’ll be helping you boost your bounce rate by clicking away.
Know Your Audience
You have to know your audience well in order to write really good content. You’ve got to know why they’re searching for this information and where they’re at psychologically. The better you understand this, the more effective your writing will be.
If you are writing in a health niche, for example, you’re addressing people’s pain and fear. They’ve got an itch that won’t go away and they’re worried, wondering what they can do about it. On the other hand, if you’re writing about running an online business, you’re talking to people who are risk takers and chiefly motivated by money.
When you first write for a new niche, you may be a bit clueless about the audience. One way to learn about it is to visit forums in the niche and spend time there getting to know them. Once you have experience in a particular niche, you’ll know how to write content that resonates with them.
Get Their Attention
Finally, because Web surfers are constantly clicking, it’s important to write content that grabs their attention and keeps them there. Having a ‘hook’ is especially important with web content, and you should focus on making your content stand out. The best way to do this is to spend extra time on titles and first paragraphs. Use the title and first paragraph to draw them in.