11 Proven Ways to Write Better Content for the Web
Whether you’re simply writing your ‘About Me’ page or you’ve decided to add a blog to your website, the simple fact remains that what you write plays a major role in selling your business and creating a personality for your brand.
Copy is, at the end of the day, one of the largest parts in selling your product or service – no one is going to trust someone who sounds uninformed, unintelligent or, worst of all, boring.
Having engaging content on your website also helps you with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which means a way to improve your search ranking and get more organic traffic from Google.
How can you make your content engaging? There isn’t any definitive answer to that question unfortunately, but there are some tips and tricks I’d like to share with you that will definitely get the ball rolling.
1: Know Your Purpose
Writing for a marketing email and writing for your personal bio are going to be different. You need to know exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve with those words.
This isn’t the same as knowing what you’re writing about – it’s what you’re writing for. Do you want these words to make someone trust you? Do you want them to buy your book? Do you want them to laugh and connect with you?
You need to decide that before you even begin writing, otherwise you’ll find yourself muddled in your tone and your direction.
2: Know Your Audience
In the same vein as the previous point, you need to know who you’re writing for. This isn’t always the same as your envisioned target audience, so you do need to put a little thought into it.
The way you write for someone who has stumbled across your website and knows nothing about it and the way you write for a loyal email subscriber are going to be different. When you determine your purpose, determine who exactly is going to be reading this content and write for them.
3: Understand Your Language
It’s all well and good to understand who and for what purpose you’re writing, but it’s a different thing to be able to actually write that. There are hundreds of different ways to interpret the English language and the affect it will have on readers, so do as much research as possible.
I won’t go into detail about the effects of different language here because this blog will turn into a book. However, the best way to begin forming your understanding of this is to research what other similar brands are doing and what people recommend for your purpose.
For example, you could try doing some research into writing copy for male teenagers. It’s far more effective than simply learning ‘how to write copy,’ because that’s like researching ‘how to advertise.’
4: Keep it Simple, Stupid
I was taught this in primary school, and I’m sure a few of you were too. It’s a pretty well-known rule, but it’s worth mentioning simply because people tend to continually ignore it in an attempt to look intelligent or well informed.
Convoluted jargon, academic language and long, winding sentences definitely have their place. If you’ve identified that as what you need to use, then by all means go for it. However, this isn’t the case for most people.
Using simple language, simple words and simple sentences is better for most content simply because it is easier to read. This plays into psychology a lot in that people will tend to avoid anything that looks like it might be challenging to read, both in design and in structure.
5: Plan Everything Properly
It’s one thing to have an idea or a purpose, but it’s another to flesh it out properly.
This doesn’t mean conforming to the ‘idea blog post’ structures or the ‘unbeatable method for writing a bio,’ but it means that you need to have a clear idea of where you’re going. Take out a piece of paper and a pen and actually work through your idea properly before you begin to write.
Ever read a post that starts with one topic and ends on another? Ever read an article that doesn’t really seem to talk about the titled subject at all? That’s the result of not planning.
Have a plan and know where you’re going, what you need to cover and what you’d like to include. You can always revise it later; planning doesn’t mean locking yourself in.
6: Hoard Your Ideas
When you have a fleeting idea, it can be tempting to get started straight away and begin writing a blog post. Or, you might think that it’s silly and completely forget about it. Either way you’re acting on instinct rather than taking the time to think it over properly.
I have a book dedicated to all of my ideas and my planning. Every single thought I have gets written down, even if I don’t use most of them. What it means, though, is that I can always go back over them and revise or build on previous ideas that I would have otherwise forgotten.
It also means that rather than jumping straight into a topic on a whim, you have time to think about how it will play into your brand’s image, how it will be received by your audience and do research so that you actually know what you’re talking about.
The result of this is more carefully thought out content – you’re not going to go back over it in two weeks and think ‘why the hell did I think that was a good idea?’
7: Edit, Edit Again and Edit Some More
The process of writing is very much one of trial and error. I’ve been known to do ten drafts of a post and then simply rewrite it from scratch because I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. Yes, you can edit too much, but you’re better off doing this than not editing at all.
I’m not just talking about spelling or grammatical errors, either. Read your work aloud. Have other people read it. Come back to it after a few days. You’ll never be perfect and you should never treat your work as though it will be either – be tough but loving to yourself.
It can be difficult to identify slip ups and confusing sentences yourself, though, because chances are you know what you mean. Other people don’t, though, so it’s always a good idea to have someone else proofread your work before you publish it.
8: Write For the Sake of Writing
In many ways, writing is like a muscle. The more you do it the more naturally it will flow. You need to give yourself practise writing in different tones and about different topics before you can expect to be perfect or anywhere close.
The best way to do this is to just write. Write a diary entry every day. Write blog posts that you’ll never publish. Take part in writing challenges. Simply write because you can and because you want to. I know that for many people this will be a challenge because of a lack of both time and motivation, but even a few sentences here and there will help.
A good challenge I always recommending for people is to read a blog post, article or book by someone they admire or respect, then to attempt to write in their style. Challenging your own writing style is a great way to get you out of your comfort zone and find some inspiration.
9: Remove Your Distractions
Again, this might seem like a no-brainer. In reality, though, it’s a very hard thing to do. We’re constantly surrounded by distractions in the office, at home or even on your computer and phone.
Writing is very much something that you need to be entirely absorbed in – it’s your thoughts and ideas and you need to convey them clearly without the hum of cars getting in the way. If you feel like you can focus entirely with some background noise, then that’s fine, but most people don’t realise how severely they’re being distracted until they’ve got peace and quiet.
If peace and quiet isn’t an option for you, try listening to classical music in noise-cancelling headphones. You can also try white noise, but that’s personally not my thing. A great idea for people who are constantly getting distracted by computer alerts and notifications is to invest in a full-screen writing program or mute everything else while you’re trying to write.
10: Have a Community
This doesn’t necessarily have to mean book club on Tuesday evening.
For me, my community is simply a Facebook group hosting hundreds of Freelancer writers. If you’re a business owner, you might want to connect with some other people like you. Find people you can relate to and turn to when you’re struggling, need help or want to bounce some ideas off others.
This can be a physical community or a virtual one, and it can be in any form you like. The key is to have people who get you and who can help support and motivate you when you need it. Having trouble figuring out what to include in your lead page? Ask someone else what they did, tell people to give you their honest opinions.
Like I said in the editing point, it’s best to have other people who can provide a fresh pair of eyes. A community is also a great place to find inspiration and new ideas as well as simply meet new people who are into the same things as you.
11: Give Yourself a Break!
Not only will your hands get sore if you sit and write for hours, but your mind will too. Just like any other muscle in your body, your mind needs time out to relax and recuperate.
In many ways you rely on the functionality of your creative mind when writing too, and nothing kills creativity like hours of endless work. It’s important to take regular breaks from staring at a computer screen and days off from work entirely to let your main tool – your brain – recover.
If you’re struggling with writer’s block, sometimes a break is all you need. Get out of the office or away from the computer and come back to your work when you’re feeling a little more motivated and inspired.
I hope these few tips helped you understand a little better what it takes to be a great content writer, and that it’s not all about the content – it’s also about the lifestyle. I’d love to hear how these work for you or your ideas for improving your writing skill!