Whether you are writing for a customer, or for your own blog, you need to think about your audience, your objectives, the search engines, and, your content must always be unique.
Writing content for a web page is different from how would write a letter to a friend, or something for work, because you have to consider a number of things at the same time. More often than not, the objective is to make it easy for people to find your article on the web and then to encourage them to buy something. Here are the main things to think about when set out to write a content article.
- Understand the objective of the article
- Target your audience
- Follow the customer’s instructions to the letter
- Do your research well
- Use a conversational tone
- Understand how search engines work
- Always over deliver
- Proof read all your work
Understand the objective of the article
When you are writing to a customer’s request, never be afraid to ask for clarification of what they need, particularly when it comes to the objective if the article. If someone asks to write an article on a diet supplement, for example, do they want you to point out the health risks, or are they selling that product? You need to have clear in your mind what you are trying to get the reader to do; whether that be sign up to a newsletter, buy a product, or it could be just to engage the reader and entice to them to come back and read some more.
Target your audience
Use language that is appropriate for your audience. If you were writing a review of a new production of a Shakespearian play, or a fine dining restaurant, your language and tone would be very different from what it would be if you were writing a review of a new online game. Ask your customer for the web address of the site in which the article is to be published and perhaps some their competitors websites too. Then you can check how previous articles have been written and get a better idea of the tone you should be using.
Follow your customer’s instructions to the letter
As the saying goes, the customer is always right, so follow your customer’s instructions to the letter. If your customer says mention a word fifteen times in a single article, then that is what you do. If you really think that something is not going to work then, by all means, polity suggest that to them, but otherwise, read their instructions and follow them.
Do your research well
Personally, I would never assume that I know all there is to know about any topic and, more often than not, you will be writing about things that you have little, or no personal experience of at all. For every article that I write, I find at least four website articles on the same or similar topic and I take the information that I need from there. You can never simply copy and paste though, everything that you write must be your own words.
Use a conversational tone
Users of the internet are notoriously fickle and they will flip out of a website as quick as they came in if they find the writing difficult to read. Don’t waffle just to fill up the word count, and try and make the language that you use, middle of the road, light and conversational. The tone of your work will need to change for different audiences, as I have already mentioned, but bear in mind that most internet users are not looking for learned journals, they are looking for light entertainment.
Understand how the search engines work
This series of posts are not designed to be a guide to search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques and nor do you need to be an SEO expert to write web content. You do, however, need to be aware of how search engines find and index content. A search engines job is to deliver to their user’s content that matches the search criteria. They do that by scouring content in the web and indexing it appropriately. That means, if you are writing and autobiography of Stephen King, and you never actually mention the authors name, your article will never appear on anyone’s browser who is looking for information about Stephen King.
Historically, content authors used keywords to get their work indexed by search engines, so in our example of a Stephen King autobiography, the writer would have got the words “Stephen King” into their content as many times as possible. This lead to people writing rubbish on the web, or keyword stuffing, to the extent that our Stephen King autobiography would have Stephen King mentioned so many times that Stephen King himself would have got bored of reading the words Stephen King!
Search engines now penalise sites for keyword stuffing, so don’t overdo it in your work. The optimum number of times that a keyword should be used is now thought to be around 3% to 5% of the total word count. Remember too to use pseudonyms for a word, and associated phrases and words to help the search engines work out whet your article is about. Our Stephen King articles could also include the titles of his books, the word horror, the name if his wife, Tabitha, Maine, the town where many of books are set and so on. Search engines are pretty smart now and they will make the connections.
Also, when thinking about search engines, think about what people will actually type in as a search term and try and get a few of those into your writing too. The closer that the words in your article match what someone types into their browser, the closer to the top of the list of websites listed your article will be.
Even if you are writing something that will earn you next to nothing, go the extra mile and write more than your customer expects you to. You want people to write exceptional reviews about your work so that more people will buy from you. In my experience, there are thousands of people, from all around the world, who try and write content, but very few who do it exceptionally well. That’s’ why you have to stand out from the crowd. If you are asked for five hundred words, write five hundred and fifty, if you say you will deliver in five days, deliver in three.
Proof read all your work
In all honesty, I hate proof reading! But, even the best of us make mistakes and you certainly can’t rely on Word to correct them for you. The odd one, or two, mistakes, you will get away with, but if your work is riddled with errors, you will get bad reviews. Always proof read your work, carefully, at least once, and I would also suggest that use a separate grammar checker as well. I will publish a list of grammar checkers in a later post, but my favourite is one called Ginger, which you can download at www.ginger.com. The basic option is free, or you can pay a small monthly fee for the pro version, which has an auto correct option built into it.
Also in this series: