Marketing has many different facets, but at the end of the day it all comes down to one thing: Define your target group, find out where to reach them and come up with something that gets their attention.
The same applies for content marketing. A lot of companies, especially those with limited budget, choose to attract visitors and potential customers by building a community around their brand or product. Quality content is traded with the favor of sharing and spreading the word among peers, attracting a steadily growing audience.
Writing successful and targeted web content isn’t rocket science, but it requires some feeling for language, a handful of practical tips, and lots of practice. Based on my experiences as writer and content marketer, I’d like to share with you 10 useful tips for writing better web content.
1. Never start with a blank page
The most difficult thing about writing turns out to be getting the first sentences onto paper, or more precisely onto your screen. I know this from experience and from talking to other experienced writers. Even after years of practice, this blank page can still be a challenge. Here is what I suggest: Never start to write on a blank page. There are three things I usually do to bridge that gap between the empty screen and my first lines of content:
- Start with a structure. A good structure not only serves as a golden threat for your article, it also gives you the chance to structure your thoughts and come up with new ideas. .
- Add keywords. Before you get started formulating final sentences, make sure you know what you want to say. Start with researching your topic and then add a list of relevant keywords for every section of your structure.
- Get inspired by others. Copy & paste content from inspirational sources to your document. Just seeing some well written sentences on your page can help you to get into the flow of writing. I think it goes without saying that you do this for inspiration. Never just copy content without referencing the original source.
2. Address your audience
Make sure you find a writing style that is consistent and appropriate. One that directly addresses your audience. As I mentioned in the beginning, the thing about marketing is reaching the right people. Know who your audience is and then make sure you write for them. This might take some practice and you will want to get loads of feedback from colleagues to help you find the right tone of voice.
Try and imagine you are telling your story to a friend, or even to a bigger audience. Don’t use words you wouldn’t use when talking to them face to face. Address them the way you would if they were in the same room with you. The word “you” becomes very powerful when talking to your audience. Let them feel that your write for them. Not for yourself, not for SEO, not for anyone else.
3. Keep it simple
You might be super smart and I bet you have a lot to say and that’s great. We love to read stuff from people, who know what they’re talking about. At least we love it if we can learn something from it. We hate it if something is too complex to follow, or if it even makes us feel stupid because we don’t understand it. So no matter how smart you are and how important or complex your topic is, keep it simple.
Use simple words that people actually understand. Avoid jargon wherever possible. Also remember that you write for the web and people have different reading habits online than they have offline. Make your text easy to scan by using relevant sub headings, short paragraphs, and by highlighting keywords.
4. Use visuals for emphasis
We love visual information. The less we have to read the better. Include images in your text to make it more enjoyable. Use visuals to attract your readers’ attention, underpin or illustrate an argument, or to add some entertaining value to your text. Important is that the images you use are in some way useful. If they do not add any value to your story, don’t include them.
Also infographics are a great way to equip your readers with knowledge. With a good infographic you can inform and engage people at the same time.
5. Offer practical advice
On any random topic, you can find countless sources of information on the Internet. At the same time, people usually don’t have enough hours at their disposal to go through all of these sources to find out what’s relevant and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t. That’s the reason why we love practical, hands-on pieces of advice.
Just imagine you can profit from a list of best practices, put together by someone from the field, rather than having to gather and read through all the information that’s out there. Offer tips, tricks, guides, and best practices in your own content. Anything that saves people time will be appreciated.
6. Make it interesting
There are countless blogs available already and new ones going live every day. The flood of information available on the Web is beyond our imagination, which makes it a challenge to make your content stand out. Key is to make it interesting. Even though there is plenty of information out there, only very little is really useful.
Look at popular blogs and get inspired by the topics they write about. Visit forums, news sites, and pay close attention to the people around you. Learn about what interests people, what they talk about, and also what they want to read about. The closer you are in contact with your audience, the more likely you are to come up with truly interesting content.
7. Make it catchy
An interesting topic is important. More even, it is essential for good content. It is not very useful however, if you don’t know how to get people to notice it. At this point you need to consider two things: Your headline and your introduction.
With a good headline, you attract your readers interest. With your headline you promote your article and try to get people to your site in order to read it. There are different sources available on good headline writing, such as this article on How to write headlines that work, or 3 keys to powerful blog post headlines.
Use your introduction to draw people in, excite them, and make them curious. Worst case scenario is that people start to read your article and then drop out before even finishing the introduction. Your introduction needs to awaken interest and give the reader an idea of what to expect. Make sure you give your audience a reason to read on.
8. Show your expertise
We don’t like to listen to people who don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Be it a colleague, who joins a discussion late and missed the main arguments, or a friend who just doesn’t understand our point of view. When talking to your audience, keep this in mind and give them a reason why they should trust. You can for example point out your experience in the field, offer detailed insights that go beyond the obvious, and above all, show that you are confident.
9. Link to external sources
It seems sometimes people are scared to link to external sources, worried to send their readers away halfway through the article. You should not worry about this. Sure, if you can cite own research findings, or if you list best practices based on own experiences, external links might not be necessary. However, if you can offer your readers even more insights, or alternative points of view, why not do it? It only adds to your trustworthiness.
Personally I don’t think I have ever left a good article for an external link. Rather I open any interesting links in a new tab to check them out later on.
10. Post content regularly
In order to both keep your existing audience happy and at the same time grow your readership, you should post new content regularly. Make sure you have enough assets in stock, try to plan at least one month ahead. Make sure you take enough time to brainstorm about topics and to do your research. Depending on your resources, schedule two, three, or more regular publications per week.
An easy way to get up your number of articles is by allowing guest posts. As long as you keep the overall quality high, your audience probably doesn’t care about who has written the articles.