10 tips to write excellent content for the web

A few numbers before we get down to business:

  1. 77% of internet users read blogs.
  2. Content creation is touted as the most effective SEO technique, pulling in 434% more search engine indexed pages in contrast to those websites that don’t publish.
  3. Good content can record 6 times more conversion rates than other methods.
  4. Small businesses with blogs rope in 126% more lead growth than small businesses that don’t have a blog.

And when you see what these numbers really mean in terms of impact and growth, you come to appreciate how important it is to put great-quality content on the web.

Why you need to care about content:

For a very simple reason: it is the voice that announces your place in the market, tells people who you are and what you are about, and helps them to decide whether you are worth their investment. All of these being factors that decide the trajectory of your business.

And if this happens to be the case, isn’t is absolutely imperative that the content you put on the web is of the highest, finest quality with a potential to hold loyal readers and invite in new ones everyday?

Imagine what that would do for your business. More people talking about you and sharing your stuff. More cash flowing in. And more people wanting to be a part of your vision. Exciting doesn’t even begin to cover it. When this happens, your content is said to truly shine.

There are a few things that we have picked up over the years by churning out content for different companies and clients for various purposes.

So we thought it’d be fun and useful if we distilled all that we had learnt for your benefit as well as ours to come up with the 10 most essential things to keep in mind when writing for the web.

Before we begin…

A bit o’ psychology:

People on the internet (or on any screen for that matter) have short attention spans.

Hence, there are 3 phases that you need to pay special attention to while writing for the web. These will ensure that your reader- whether he ambled into your internet home by accident or purposefully strode to your landing page- will keep coming back for more and more. The 3 phases are:

  • When they start reading your content
    This includes the headline and the introduction paragraph.
  • When they are reading your content
    The main body of the content. The message you want to deliver.
  • After they have finished reading your content
    The conclusion. When you’re done saying the most important things.

Lets see what you need to be doing in each phase to win the reader over:

When they first read your content

  • Have an irresistibly interesting headline:

 

First impressions really do matter. Craft a headline that instantly draws the reader in. After reading it, the reader should feel any combination of: lit up / curious / ‘woah’. Of course, the more the better.

An example: Instead of going with a simple ‘10 Ways To Write Great Headlines’  you could go with ‘10 Ways to Write Headlines that Make Your Readers Click. And Stay’.

This is what the reader would be looking for, really, and would make him think twice before he chooses to click on the next irresistible headline instead of yours.

  • Throw the bait in quick

Like we said before- people on the internet have short attention spans. So you need to use those precious initial moments when they begin reading to establish what they are here for and why.

In short, tell them quick why they should care about what they are reading about. We establish this in the first paragraph ourselves with the line:

“The content you put on the internet is the voice that announces your place in the market, tells people who you are and what you are about, and helps them to decide whether you are worth their investment.”

This is why you should care about content and hence, care about reading this article.

  • Don’t spend too long on the introduction

Cut to the chase quick.

Writing on the web isn’t like writing an essay or academic paper or a novel.

1-2 paragraphs with 3-4 lines are sufficient to function as an anticipatory prologue. You need to make them stay to read the main body of your content where the real gold is.

Of course, write it in the most captivating, leave-them-salivating-for-more way possible.

While they are reading:

  • Be original

Sites like www.rookiemag.com and www.theoatmeal.com are hugely original in their content and design. Even though Chuck Palahniuk admitted that nothing of him was original and was simply the combined effort of everyone he’s ever known, we still live by Jim Jarmusch’s advice:

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.

  • Connect emotionally

Emotions are powerful and always trump logic. If a customer has to choose between 2 brands and he is emotionally connected to one of them, he’ll go with the one that he connects with. And better yet, if the connecting emotion between the brand and the customer is a positive one (motivation, encouragement, hope, comfort).

A great way to do this is to use storytelling. No matter the race/ age/ gender/ ethnicity/ religion, stories are powerful mediums of human connection. They fit some place in the brain and before you know it, you are listening (or reading) spell-bound to the narrative.

Even if you are writing about something as functional as prams for babies, you can create a powerful and lasting impact by connecting it to the protective and loving instinct of parents, the vulnerability and delicacy of infants, and the need to take channel these emotions into a concrete, actionable solution.

  • Be useful- create little miracles

Communication expert and an awesome, all-round human being Alexandra Franzen writes most poetically and expertly:

Don’t write blog posts or launch products. Create little miracles.

What this means is: save the day. Be an angel to people. Create miracles.

This could mean answering a question your readers are struggling with, or offering a possible solution to a particularly challenging problem.

If you can provide some valuable insight, people will always stay (or return) because they realize (even if subconsciously) that you add value to their lives.

Icing on the cake: put all these points in action by writing simple paragraphs with no more than 3-4 lines. Remember, its the web and not a Tolstoy novel.

After they are done:

  • Ready, set, go!

Give them something to do. You have been useful. Now let them experience this by giving them an actionable step.

When they see the result of applying the information you shared, it will act as a second thumbs-up to the fact that you are trustworthy and are creating great content that they can refer to later for some other purpose.

All about creating value.

  • Lead them somewhere else on your website

If you kept in mind the above points, chances are your you have a reader who is ready to stay and wants more. So, don’t leave them grumpy as a result of this craving.

Tell them where else they can find similar content. Or seamlessly weave links to other content on your website in the article itself.

Caution, though: do this as expertly and smoothly as possible. Your reader should feel that you are seeking to add more value through the suggested links, rather than simply seeking to sell yourself.

  • Bring in SEO

Yes, SEO is essential and yes, you need to think about it. But not at the cost of the message you are genuinely trying to communicate. This can only happen when you have an SEO-free mindset.

So after you are done writing and drafting your content, come up with a list of keywords and see where you can fit them in your content. Can you change the headline to include the keywords? Perhaps somewhere in a bullet point?

This way you do not sacrifice the integrity of the content, but are also able to integrate a sales strategy that brings in more readers.

Bonus point:

What is valuable to us is not what is valuable to the reader. So, at each point, ask yourself if what you are writing is creating value for the reader and is helping him/ her in some way.

In short, think like them. The problems they would have, the scenarios they would be in, their deepest needs and fears.

When you put yourself in the reader’s shoes, you are actually able to relate to them better and hence, be truly helpful. That is one hallmark of great-quality content.

So that is it for our short guide to writing great content for the web.

You might be able to implement all of these points in one article or only a few at a time. Experiment, play around, and see which ones bring in and retain the most readers. Comments are a big help here. The more the engagement on a particular piece, the more it rang with the readers.

That being said, we hope to see you in the comments section below.

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Shriya Garg

A book-lover with dual degrees in finance, Shriya has created (and abandoned) eight blogs, started her first company at 12, published two books (first one at 16), edited dozens for others, and worked with five interesting startups in her career so far. Prior to joining ContentNinja, she worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has a deferred admit from ISB, Hyderabad. She is an SLP Fellow and a Quora Top Writer. When she’s not fielding client calls, she can be found cleaning cat hair from her clothes.

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