It’s easy to get caught up with widgets and plugins, sliders and menu options when you’re developing your own website or blog. But is this the most important element to a successful dotcom?
[Tweet “The key to any site is always its content.”]
If you’re not publishing your best material, all the online gizmos and gadgets in the world won’t make people come to your site.
Here are our top 5 tips for creating content to make your site win.
The golden rule of writing good content is ‘always put your readers first’.
Find out who your audience is and write to them. Trent Dyrsmid has collected a list of tools you can use to investigate who is visiting your website. You don’t have to be in big business to do some market research.
Create your ideal reader; imagine one or two people who you want visiting your site. Think about their age, gender, income, social and marital status, personal outlook – and be specific!
[Tweet “”If your target audience is ‘everyone’, you’ve got some work to do.” via @globalcopywrite”]
Sarah Mitchell provides some excellent suggestions to help you create detailed ‘buyer personas’. These are the people you are writing for, and if you don’t think they’ll be interested in what you’re about to publish, don’t publish it.
Context is everything.
How are you helping? What need are you fulfilling?
People go online for very few reasons really: they want to be entertained, they are after debate, they want to be part of a community or – most of all – they have a problem they need a solution to.
By ‘problem’ I’m talking about a need for information. This can take many different forms – from a how-to for crafting to an infographic on tech stats. Christine Anameier discusses why you need to understand the context for your content, and how this can influence the form and tone of your content.
If you’re not answering one of these four very generalised needs, think about how you can change your content to be helpful to your audience.
The type of content you publish – the way you present your information – will determine how well received it is. People are time and attention poor. They don’t want to risk wasting their time reading something online that might not help them.
Make sure the way the reader is going to receive your little nuggets of help is crystal clear from the start. Tell the reader how much help you’re going to give them.
“How to” articles always draw readers. We know – just from the title – that we’re going to get help on how to do something.
“Number” pieces are also popular. Like this one, ‘5 ways to…’ or ’15 types of…’ or ‘ 7 things to do…’ give the reader a sense of finite reading they’ll have to do.
[Tweet “”Of all the ways you can improve your blog, this one is by far the easiest.” via @JonMorrow”]
Don’t shy away from using ‘cliched’ titles – they’re cliched because they work. Jon Morrow has created 52 headline templates with tips on how – and why! – to use them. Writing to these formats is not only good for the reader, it helps you focus on your point for writing in the first place.
Oh, and always make lists of odd numbers (unless it’s a Top 10). Don’t ask me why, but they’re better than even numbers.
4. How much?
The amount you write is completely up to you and what seems to be best received by your readers. It used to be that either very short, 200-word pieces or giant, 2000-word essays were popular, but more and more, we’re seeing ones of 500 words coming to the fore.
Darren Rowse asks “How long should a blog post be?” and explores the pros and cons of both long and short blog posts.
Test out different length pieces and see how your readership responds.
More important is how much you put in a paragraph. Reading online – from a screen – is a completely different exercise to reading from a hard-copy page.
Large blocks of text on a screen will put people off immediately. Also bear in mind how much of your audience will be reading from mobile devices. People don’t read giant long-form paragraphs on their phones or tablets. It’s just not practical.
Keep your paragraphs to three – possibly four – sentences and no more than about 50 words. Don’t fear the single sentence paragraph.
5. Be accurate
Accuracy is so important; I don’t just mean with your facts but with your language too. Keep it concise, use good grammar, and make sure you’ve left your reader feeling satisfied by the end.
Grammar might not be your cup of tea, but if you want to make your writing seem as professional as possible, you’ve got to get this stuff right.
Try online software like Grammarly.com to check your work if you’re not comfortable with grammar. Here’s an article covering some of the more common grammatical errors. There’s even a downloadable cheat sheet.
[Tweet “Don’t be scared by grammar – just ask @GrammarGirl”]
If you want to be a grammar pro, Grammar Girl provides ‘quick and dirty tips’ and even has a podcast so your eyes can have a rest.
Most important of all,
You’ve got to write about what you love. Passion trumps all when it comes out in your writing. And your readers will sense it too.
Tell a good story to connect with your readers on an emotional level and you’ll have a readership that will never go away.
The Copy Collective is a collective of Australian, New Zealand and other international copywriters whose versatile copywriting skills range from fundraising, marketing and online copywriting to corporate and government writing, feature and speech writing, as well as editing and so much more.