Here’s a clue… it’s not you, and it’s certainly not the sub-committee of executives/managers who will sign off on the project.
When it comes to writing effective web content (or any other form of content for that matter) you should be writing for one group of people, and one group of people only: your target audience. The better you know the people who will ultimately be consuming your content, the more effectively you’ll be able to tailor your writing to meet their needs, not yours.
2. Know what you’re aiming for
If you don’t know where you’re heading, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll never end up where you want to be.
When you’re writing web content: you should have a clear goal in mind before you start writing. Write for your audience first and foremost, but do it with a particular goal in mind. Your goal could be to get someone to buy a product, request a follow up call, sign up for your newsletter, download your e-book, click through to another site or simply to inform or entertain. The point is you need to know what it is BEFORE you start
Writing effective web content is all about aligning the needs of your target audience with your business goals.
3. Words are the key to online “findability”
It doesn’t matter how good your content is, it’s worth nothing if nobody reads it.
While social media referrals are growing as a source of targeted web traffic, the way the vast majority of visitors will still find your online content is through their favourite search engine. Every piece of content you write should be optimised for specific targeted keyword phrases (you already know what they are for your site… right?).
That said the days of liberally scattering keywords through your prose and agonising over metrics like keyword density are long gone. Introduce your selected keywords organically into your writing, and use related phrases and expressions that help search engines interpret what your content is about, but always bear in mind point 4 below.
4. Write for humans, not robots
Your website is for people, not search engines, so make sure your content addresses the needs of your human readers first.
As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself doing anything to give your content a boost in the search engines at the expense of readability and usability for your human audience stop and rethink. Successful websites are about conversion, not traffic. If your content doesn’t deliver for human visitors once they arrive all traffic will do is consume bandwidth.
Whether you choose to write short copy or long copy will depend largely on the tastes of your particular target audience — but one thing that’s almost universally acknowledged (and that’s a rare thing online) is that long passages of unbroken text are a bad thing. People simply won’t read them.
Your average web user is a fickle and impatient beast, accustomed to tapping in to vast seams of information quickly and extracting only the relevant nuggets. It makes sense therefore to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to scan your content quickly and pick out bits that are relevant to them.
- Summarise important information early, before going on to provide more detail if necessary (inverted pyramid).
- Use headings and bullet points to break up large chunks of text and make your content easy to scan — but only use them where it makes sense.
Remember everything you do should be designed to make your content more useful / relevant / readable and entertaining for your human readers.
Most of all though, get to know the people you’re writing for. Your readers are online, find them, interact with them, talk to them, listen to them. Employ social media as a vehicle to engage with and learn about your target audience, their likes, dislikes, wants and needs — then tailor your content accordingly.