These 20 tips for writing on the web will help you create webpages with content that people want to read. This post is originally from www.contentfac.com. This company offers digital PR, social media and content marketing for startups and small businesses. Image courtesy of Dean Drobot via Bigstockphoto.
Since our last post about web content writing tips was one of the most popular we’ve ever written, we decided to share a few more. As we’ve mentioned a time or twelve before, having excellent copy on your website is one of the most important things you can do for your business — your web content is like an ambassador for your company, and if it’s not on point you’re going to lose out on sales.
Is your website copy clean, neat and conversational? Or is it laden with errors, poor formatting and weird text? Is your web content representative of you and your company? If not, it’s time for an overhaul. Error-free, compelling copy is one of the best free online PR tools at your disposal, even if developing the content takes some time and effort.
Shareable blog posts are also an important aspect of content marketing efforts and SEO. Good copy will help you get backlinks and make people trust your company more (after all, who wants to give their credit card number to a business that can’t tell the difference between there/their/they’re or puts unnecessary apostrophes in plural words?).
When you’re writing web content, keep these things in mind:
1. Always start with keyword research for SEO. TCF’s site generates over $300,000 worth of organic traffic each year (as in, we’d have to spend more than a quarter million dollars in AdWords to get the same number of site visits). The reason why our content is so successful is keyword research. We don’t always write keyword-based posts, but when we do they tend to rank well.
If you don’t know where to get started, we’ve created a killer Keyword Research Starter Kit – including everything you to know from which tools we use to get the job done to how to use them to achieve your own results. Click the button below to get your free copy now:
2. Keyword stuffing is never okay. Although SEO should always be a focal point, if you stuff keywords into your copy you’ll negatively impact the readability of your content, its conversion rate and how well it ranks in the SERPs. If you stuff keywords into your copy, readers will bounce off the page and search engines will slap you down. Also worth noting: just because people are searching for grammatically incorrect keywords doesn’t mean you should incorporate them verbatim into your copy.
3. Email vs. e-mail and Internet vs. internet. The AP Stylebook changed it to email a couple years ago, but only because so many people were using email instead of e-mail…sort of like a “popularity rules” thing for the inaccurate. The New York Times isn’t bowing to the pressure, however, and as of this post is still going with e-mail. More recently, Internet became internet (although both are technically acceptable).
4. Always hyperlink to your sources. When you reference another website’s content, make sure you hyperlink back to that site. It’s good internet etiquette, and you’d want the same courtesy. Always cite your sources, even if you’re afraid it’ll send your web traffic to another site — and you can always choose the “open link in another window” option if you’re that concerned about keeping your traffic. Besides being the right thing to do, it can also help you get backlinks. Frequently, the sites you link to will see your effort and thank you for it with a reciprocal link or quote — like Hootsuite did for TCF.
5. Make the reader happy. Crafting content that goes viral is every writer’s dream, and tapping into a reader’s emotions is the way to do it. Did you know that social media users are more likely to share content that makes them happy? Abigail Posner explains why:
“When we see or create an image that enlivens us, we send it to others to give them a bit of energy and effervescence. Every gift holds the spirit of the gifter. Also, every image reminds us and others that we’re alive, happy and full of energy (even if we may not always feel that way). And when we ‘like’ or comment on a picture or video sent to us, we’re sending a gift of sorts back to the sender. We’re affirming them. But, most profoundly, this ‘gift’ of sharing contributes to an energy exchange that amplifies our own pleasure – and is something we’re hardwired to do.”
So the next time you’re crafting a piece of ad copy or web writing ask yourself, “What’s good about this story? How can I give this a positive message or angle?” Find it, and you could find your key to viral content.
6. Keep the action in your content writing. If you’ve read tips about writing for the web before, you’re probably familiar with the term passive voice – but do you know what it actually means? The passive voice happens when you switch the subject and object in a sentence. Instead of “the lion attacks the village” you have “the village is attacked by a lion.” Notice how the second sentence is somehow less exciting (even though it contains a killer lion?) This is why avoiding the passive voice is so important.
In addition to sticking mostly to a subject, verb, object structure, try filling your web writing with unique and exciting verbs. Instead of “sales climbing” say “sales rocketing.” Instead of “cutting costs” try “killing costs.” These small changes won’t add to your word count, but they will make your content writing more exciting and engaging.
7. When writing for the web, chop it up. If you’re writing the next Great American Novel, it’s okay to end paragraphs when pauses seem natural. Writing for the web, however, is a whole different world. Attention spans online are a LOT shorter than they are in Oprah’s Book Club, and your paragraphs need to bear that in mind.
Put simply: keep it short! A five-line paragraph is great, but a three-line paragraph is even better. Some content kings like Derek Halpern even let single sentences fly solo. Don’t worry if an idea doesn’t seem to be fully “complete” before hitting that enter key. Err on the side of short paragraphs and chop it up!
8. Update your links. Every single page on your website should link to other pages — not only does this help you boost the rankings of the pages you link to, it also gets users hopping around on your site and spending more time there. When you bake internal link building into your content, your
Most writers will keep this in mind when creating web content, but what they’ll often forget to do is revisit older posts and pages to update them with new links. Set a Google Calendar alert for yourself so you’ll remember to do this once a month
9. Don’t forget the extra SEO juice. If you’re using WordPress or a similar platform to host your content, repeated your targeted keywords a couple times isn’t enough. Remember to place your target keyword in the url, in H2 headers, in the meta description and even in the alt tags of your images.
Once you’re finished inputting, remember to expand the Yoast box and check out the Content Analysis portion for some helpful hints about what you should improve before you publish.
10. Always answer the question “why should you care?” Scroll up to the top of this page and read our intro paragraph. Notice how the second sentence explains why learning these content writing tips is important?
This should be an integral part of every piece of content you write. Before your readers invest their time into hearing what you have to say, they’ll want to know why it’s worth it. How will what you’re teaching them help them? What goal will they accomplish with your help? Always explain these things up front.
11. Paint a picture. Give this paragraph a read:
“Is it just us, or do some people talk about gay dating like it’s an elaborate magic trick? Even unexperienced gay or queer persons may approach the idea of dating with the kind of abject fear one feels when opening the instructions for a new piece of IKEA furniture. ‘Am I doing this right?’ they may ask themselves, months, years and even decades into their dating careers.”
That’s the opening paragraph for blog post we wrote for Astroglide titled 8 Ways Gay Dating Is Just Like Straight Dating and it’s the perfect example to illustrate our point (pun intended). That point is this — creating web content writing is a lot different than writing a 7th grade book report. Your audience isn’t an overworked and underpaid teacher with no choice but to read your reworded Cliffs Notes on Lord of the Flies. Your audience is choosing to read your content (or to head elsewhere on the web). Imagery is a great way to capture their attention.
Don’t think for a second that a boring or technical topic gets you off the hook either — IKEA assembly instructions have nothing to do with gay dating (usually) but we used a visual to help the reader make the connection. Push yourself to add a little creative fiction to your website content writing and see how much more fun it is to read (and write!)
12. “Do’s and Don’t’s” vs. “Dos and Don’ts” — which is correct? The latter! Nothing drives us crazier than people putting apostrophes in pluralized words. When in doubt about spelling, capitalization or grammar, Google it! Which brings us to…
13. If you’re not sure, look it up. You’d be surprised at how much you teach yourself when you consistently look up things you aren’t sure about. We learned most of this stuff by double checking the words/grammar/spelling/etc. we weren’t sure about. It takes a little time at first, but if you make a habit of not having to double check the same thing twice you’ll be an expert in no time. Then, you can write your own blogs about web content writing tips!
14. Dictionary.com is your friend — so visit the site often. You’d be amazed at how many words people misuse on a regular basis. For instance, peruse probably doesn’t mean what you think it does (in fact, it’s probably the opposite). Never use words unless you’re absolutely certain of their meaning.
15. Don’t call a banana an elongated yellow fruit. Don’t use a $3 word when a 10 cent word will suffice, unless you’re going for the “most pretentious web content writer” award. Overuse of meaningless buzzwords is a good way to show that you have an MBA, but a bad way to keep the interest of your readers (and it actually makes you look bad).
16. Revamp posts for maximum value. There is no such thing as a “set it and forget it” content strategy (well, not if you’re good at what you do).
In addition to constantly analyzing social shares, pingbacks and web traffic, you should monitor your content for the keywords it’s currently ranking for. A shorter piece of content might surprise you with how well it’s performing, and it might even start ranking for keywords you weren’t even targeting!
Revamp posts like these with added content, updated info and a strengthened keyword strategy and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your page climbs in the search engine rankings. Not sure where to start? Check out our complete step by step guide to How to Increase Organic Traffic by Revamping Existing Content.
17. Web site vs. website vs. web site. Which one is it? For the love of all things awesome, it’s website (at least, so says the AP Stylebook, which is sort of like a web content writer’s bible). Not Web site, not web site and not any other variation you can think of. Although “Web site” was once acceptable, it’s sort of like referring to your Blackberry as a “cellular phone” — it makes you look just as out of touch with technology.
18. Keep the reading level low. Do you know the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease score for your piece of content? There are plenty of free tools to help you find it. These tools crawl through your content, analyze your vocabulary level, and rate your readability by grade level. Unless your topic is extremely niche and technical, you should aim for a middle school reading level or lower.
If your score is too high, it doesn’t mean you need to dumb things down for your readers — it just means you might need to make simpler word choices or cut down your complex sentences. This ensures that visitors of varying education levels can get value from your content, and that readers who may speak English as a second language will understand it too. It also just helps keep your tone clear and relatable which should always be a goal when you’re creating web content.
19. Provide added value. Your content writing should always offer value to the reader in terms of insightful ideas and actionable tips. But if you really want your content to earn repeat traffic and rise in search engine rankings, give your readers a parting gift.
It doesn’t have to cost you anything. It can be a link to a free webinar (like ourwebinar on earning free media coverage), a Google Drive Template, or even a worksheet. Give your readers a valuable takeaway and they won’t just view your site as a great resource — they’ll refer their friends too!
20. Never self edit your work (at least, not right away). Ideally, you’ll have somebody to edit your writing. If you’re responsible for writing and editing your web content, don’t do both in the same day. When the writing is still fresh, your mind will automatically make up the gaps in your copy and your editing will be subpar. Instead, put it away and come back to it another day — or at least several hours later.