CONTENT WRITING 3 - How to Get People to Read What you Write
HOW TO WRITE FOR THE WEB
1. HOW TO WRITE?
It’s simple when you come to think of it. You need to write friendly, the way you talk (well, almost).
Write short, sharp, active sentences. Your sentences should not be written in the longer, too formal, passive voice…like this one was! Let me rephrase that sentence into a more active version…
“Do not write in the longer, too formal, passive voice.”
And better still…
“Write short, sharp, active sentences.”
Watch for the passive “be” word in your sentences (“be written,” for example) and rework them into the active voice.
You’re writing for web visitors. They know great content when they read it. It “works” at several levels…
1) It has that “been there – done that” voice and flair.
2) It has specific knowledge that comes from real experience.
3) It supports a depth of useful information – good reference material plays an important part.
And finally, it is for the customer, absolutely. If you write to please just yourself, you have a hobby. Nice creative outlet, but it’s not likely to pay much.
Always remember, of course, that you have two audiences, not one. You must also write to impress the Search Engines while you Overdeliver for your human visitors, too. More on writing for Search Engines later. Also, we developed a One Page sample guiding you when writing each web page.
1.1. Words Rule
When a web visitors reads your article he’s looking for one thing only – information, useful information. Use your words to OVERdeliver what Web surfers seek…specific information. Communicate effectively and in a voice that is uniquely yours. Let me say it another way…
Convey your message to your visitor in a clear concise and confidence-inspiring manner. Write in a style (i.e. voice) that is unique and personable.
CONTENT is king.
Anyone who “gets” the Net gets that.
Valuable Content = Credible Recommendation = Turned ON customer = High Convertion Rate (CR).
1.2. THE #1 Net Reality
People use the Net as a searching tool. They search for credible high-value information. They search for solutions to fulfill a wish, or fix a troublesome problem.
What happens when a visitor arrives at a content site that is really just one big store, or a single-product sales site? Put yourself in that visitor’s shoes for a moment. She does not see inspiring, relevant, editorial content. She sees a sales effort…
…but she was searching for content!
Selling is trying to get the sale. But your web article satisfies your visitors’ needs, and then leads them to your Most Wanted Response (MWR). It’s only at that point that “selling” enters the picture. It’s only after you sell the Free contents, that the visitor may want to know more and possibly find out what else he can get.
Most people resist sales efforts. So if your content is heavily pitching something, visitors will resist you rather than embrace you.
PREselling, on the other hand, warms up your visitor with high-value information that fosters trust and builds credibility. Your information fulfills a wish and/or provides a much sought-after solution for him or her. As a result of this positive/beneficial experience, the visitor begins to like and respect you.
Great content encourages your visitor to think about you as a “friend” making a recommendation rather than a stranger making a sales pitch.
The key is to reinforce your credibility to your visitor/potential customer every step of the way.
1.3. Know Your Customer
· Know what kind of content is wanted
· Know how to say whatever you say
As you write, always, always, always remember - - your content must serve two masters…
· Human visitors (deliver good content)
· Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization - - SEO)
In order to satisfy the visitor, your content must be high quality, all the way.
So keep your writing presentation uncomplicated and direct. Yes, if you are targeting engineers, medical professionals, or an audience who expects a more complex style, scale your language up. But still keep it simple in relation to that level of reader. For most people, though…
Recognize that they read most comfortably at a Grade 7 level (i.e., twelve-thirteen years olds). Match your writing to that benchmark.
Please take that Grade 7 level as a starting point. Too many people who do try to “keep it simple and direct,” don’t adjust for their audience. If your target audience is composed of high – IQ, left-brained individuals, you’ll insult them terribly. Are you targeting sophisticated, high-net-worth people? Scale your language up to the world of the rich.
The most important point….
Match the level of your language to your audience. Don’t talk down to them. But don’t talk above them either.
The Swing Trade Guide - www.swing-trade-stocks.com - - Scanning For Stocks
Now we’ll run our scans to find some potential trades. Remember that we are looking for stocks that have pulled back into the Swing Traders Action Zone.
Specifically, we are looking for stocks that:
· are in Stage 2 or Stage 4
· are in strong trends
· have relative strength or weakness
· are at a support or resistance level
Sift through your scan results and find the ones that show these specific characteristics. Add these to your watch list.
Notice how the paragraphs are only a sentence or two long, but they still get their message across?
See how the bullets add emphasis and help readability.
Scanning eyes love a page that visually breaks and attracts. The steps/subheadings make it easy to “negotiate” through its content…
“Five Strategies to Negotiate Any Sale”
1. Always be Prepared
2. Set Objective Negotiating Standards
3. Work With, Not Against, the Other Party
4. Finalize All Agreements
5. Follow Through
The reader gets great advice in manageable chunks of information!
A few more writing tips…
· Use the inverted pyramid style presentation…to give an overview or summary right off the bat, clearly communicating the direction of your discussion. A visitor landing on your site immediately knows what to expect and how to quickly access the content that interests her the most.
· Write with a friendly, upbeat tone, letting your visitor know that you share a passion and interest in the same subject area.
· Remove all extraneous material (i.e., cut to the chase)- - why waste time?
· Develop one idea per paragraph. This makes it easier for you to stay on topic and build a smooth flow from one paragraph to the next. No confusion for the visitor!
The critical point of this chapter?
“How you say it” is just as important as “what you say”
1.4. The Typo Gremlins
Remember the importance of a positive first impression! Visitors who see typo after typo on a Web site wonder if the business operation is run just carelessly.
Your text editor’s spell-checker is just “the first pass.” Watch for out-of-context typos that spell-checker won’t necessarily flag (for example, “sole” and “soul”).
These days, your content cannot merely be “good”. It must be…. great!
Yes, you can get by with “OK’ material. But excellent content differentiates you from competitors. Blend in a clear, unique voice, some original information that could only come from experience. Spin all this from a unique perspective, and….
OVERdeliver great content, know…
· The needs of your customers
· The benefits of your solutions
1.6. PREselling Leads To Selling….
PREselling “warms up” your visitors and develops “open-to-buy” mindsets
Selling is selling. You make your case for your product/service/monetization model through sales copy (i.e., the presentation of benefits), culminating with the copywriter’s well-known closing…the “call to action.”
Suppose, for example, your target group is composed of first-time home buyers. Along with lots of free, valuable information on your Web site, you also sell a comprehensive e-book that contains exclusive golden nuggets. Your content pages PREsell, warming them up to your business. They convince your visitor of your expertise.
The main reason for each article is: Establish Your Expertise. That is done thru Solid Content.
Visitors must get such quality information so that when they see there are other products for sale, they must think: “The info I’m getting for free on this web page is so good, I’m thinking that the paid one is great”
2. SIMPLE RULES TO FOLLOW.
2.1. Outline Before Online
Let’s go back to our home inspection theme from an earlier example and create a page related to it, using this outline….
Highlight the goal or purpose of what you are presenting, in a sentence or two…
Buying a home is the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Protect your hard – earned cash with a Home Inspection before you sign on the dotted line.
This is going to be the description as outlined in the sample.
b) Heading And Opening Paragraph
Your main heading is the first thing your visitor sees when visiting any page on your site. As a result, each heading must do two things well…
i) Flag visitors in a concise and appealing way…
“10 Ways A House Inspector Can Eliminate Uncertainty and Save You Money!’
It’s a great big Web out there. Your visitor’s time is at a premium. Don’t make her guess what your article is about. It’s far easier to hit the BACK button, returning to the SE search results page.
Important tip…Place your most important keyword (or keyword phrase, if applicable) for each individual page into your document name, heading, etc., for extra relevancy ratings at the Search Engines. You have a sample for this.
ii) Pull the visitor into your article. The heading example above is more effective than just writing….
“Hiring a Home Inspector.”
Why? Because a good headline reaches an all – important emotional connection that pulls the
reader into the content.
A strong heading not only makes a visitor feel that she must read your article, it also makes her feel that she would lose out by not reading it. Nobody likes to be left forlornly standing on the sidelines.
People read differently online - - they scan text, briefly skimming material for the most relevant points. Divide the body of your discussion into small paragraphs, one point per paragraph. Use subheadings to pull your visitors down into your content and allow them to quickly grasp what you are presenting.
Shape the body of your presentation in this manner….
i) Subheading and Point #1
ii) Subheading and Point #2
iii) Subheading and Point #3
And so on. For example….
Point #1 - - Common concerns
Point #2 - - What you can’t see, can hurt you!
Point #3 - - Checklist for home evaluation
Add notes under each subheading, as ideas occur to you. There is no need for brilliant composition -- just get your ideas organized and down “on paper”…before you forget them. You’ll polish and tie it all together later.
Cleanly summarize your presentation.
Mary Smith’s “21 Tips for the New Home Buyer” will help you make a wise investment. She covers all the must –know details, including how to hire a credible home inspector. You, as a first-time home buyer, will not go wrong with Mary’s book - - it’s filled with valuable information guaranteed to make your home purchase smooth and headache-free. I heartily endorse it.
Have you hit the right balance?
Too much material will paralyze your visitor, and prevent her from proceeding through your site. Too little, of course, won’t effectively answer her questions or address her needs, leaving her to hit that dreaded Back button, back to google.
Do you like your page?
Does it effectively address the needs of your visitor and provide the information they are seeking?
2.2. Brush It!
2.2.1. Use the invented pyramid style presentation. Give an overview or summary right off the bat, clearly communicating the direction of your discussion. A visitor landing on your site immediately knows what to expect and how to quickly access the content that interests her the most.
2.2.2. Write to communicate, not to impress how smart you are (knowledgeable, yes…arrogant, no). The content, tone, Look & Feel must, of course, impress the heck out of your reader, but must not look like it’s trying to do that.
2.2.3. Use short, snappy, active words. This naturally leads into the next point…
2.2.4. Write short, sharp, simple, active sentences. These sentences become the base for the next “must do”…
2.2.5. Develop short, sharp, snappy paragraphs (2-3 sentences, 4 max). Please…. no 18-line paragraphs.
2.2.6. Cut-cut-cut to the bone. Remove all extraneous material.
2.2.7. Break up a list into bulleted items. Stay away from long paragraphs with comma-separated (or even worse, the semi-colon) items.
2.2.8. Further break up the page with headlines/sub-headlines at just the right moment(s). Keep your reader moving through the page.
2.2.9. Do not “broadcast-speak” - - eliminate all sentences that contain phrases like “ for those of you” and “all of you”. You would never say that if you truly were writing for that single “thumbnail profile” person inside your monitor.
Add a personal experience. Combine knowledge with passion. Knowledge and passion go hand in hand. This powerful combo connects you with your visitors.
2.3. Clean It!
Spelling and grammar.
Here are some common grammar boo-boos.
2.3.1. It’s vs. Its. “ It’s” mean “it is”(as in, “It is cold.”)
2.3.2. Apostrophes : Apostrophes never make a word plural, they usually make it possessive (i.e., “Fred’s” = belonging to Fred; “ Freds” = a roomful of dudes name Fred).
2.3.3. Me and I : “ That’s between my girlfriend and me “ is correct. Here’s a simple trick…Before you speak, remove the other party from the sentence. Would you say “that’s between I”?
2.3.4. Principal is a pal; principle is a rule.
2.3.5. Use an active voice. The passive is so weak and pompous. Instead of “a good score was achieved by the team”….say “ the team scored a season high”. In this case, it’s not only active, but it’s stated with more flair.
2.3.6. Spell-check with your text editor. Grammar-checking is a good idea, too.
2.3.7. Proof-read it for the kind of “peak” vs. “peek” context typos that only a human can pick up.
2.4. Content Pages That OVERdeliver!
Your articles must OVERdeliver high quality information about a topic (“keyword”) that is related to your theme. This is what your visitor requires and expects.
· Subheadings for emphasis
· Short sentences
· Small chunks of information (2-3 sentence paragraphs - - 4-5 sentences)
· Lists and bullet points
· Inverted pyramid style (i.e., present your conclusion first)
3. SUMMARY … KEY POINTS AT A GLANCE
Successful content “works” at several levels…
1) It has that “been there – done that” voice and flair.
2) It has specific knowledge that comes from real experience.
3) It supports a depth of useful information - - good reference material plays an important part.
4) It is spun or positioned in a way that is uniquely yours.
And finally, it is for the customer, absolutely.
The Big 2…
2) Deliver words that OVERdeliver, in your own voice, with credible, trust-inspiring knowledge, and a unique twist.
Benefits, not features, connect with emotions.
Your content must be high quality.
Write straight and direct. Most people read most comfortably at a Grade 7 level (12 – 13 year olds). Match your writing to that benchmark. Naturally, if you are targeting a sophisticated audience who expects a more complex style, scale your language up. But still keep it simple, in relation to that level.
OVERdeliver. Excellent content differentiates you from competitors. Valuable content also credentializes you, establishing you as the expert in your field.
Combine knowledge with passion. Know your business theme, the needs of your customers, and the benefits of your monetization solutions.
Develop an outline. It keeps you on track.