The 6 golden rules for writing irresistible web content
In an online world swimming with great journalism, professionally-written blogs and super snappy Twiticisms, how can you get the content on your site to shine?
Sure, we can all write. We all wrote essays at school, we write emails and social media posts, we can write a letter to Aunt Gertie who doesn't have a computer. But writing effectively for the web is a whole different ball game (see, a cliché. I should definitely replace that.)
Content is king on the internet. People trust businesses that provide answers to their questions much more than ones that merely advertise. Content attracts attention, draws people in and keeps them coming back to you, so that when they're in need of the services you offer, your name is at the top of the list.
Here's how to keep your content at the head of the pack (oh dear, another cliché.)
1. Have an irresistible headline.
4 out of 5 people will scan the headlines on a page. Only 1 in 5 will actually read the stuff underneath. Your headline has to be short, it has to ask or hint at a question and, for the love of Merriam Webster, it has to be grammatically correct and spelled properly.
Users have come to associate poorly written headlines with automated spam. You know the ones: "Single Moms in Basingstoke AMAZED by teeth whiting millionaire cheat." So make sure your headline quickly asks the question your content is going to answer. Lists work well as they lower the perceived effort required. Even if someone is only mildly interested in a topic, scanning through 5 headings in an article feels like it's easy to do.
2. Make it original.
Sounds like it should be obvious, but there's so much plagiarism and automated content on the web these days that people quickly get frustrated reading the same article again and again. And, of course, search engines give brownie points for original content, which will help you climb the search rankings.
Your company, and therefore your writing, should have a voice. Are you friendly? Humorous? Full of anecdotes? Professional? Deciding how you want to appear to your visitors will help you sound different from your competitors and will help your content rise above the mundane babble of carbon copy content out there. But always remember that even if people are reading for professional reasons, they need to enjoy it. Keep your writing concise and free of jargon.
3. Remember that people are lazy.
Seriously, we're all busy. Who has time to read 2,000 words of guff? People are much more likely to delve into your content if it looks quick and easy. Use pictures and video to help make complex points quickly. Use headings to help people scan through for what they're after. And give plenty of links to other content so readers can easily continue on to something else (ideally something else you've written, of course...)
4. Have a point.
Content should always have a call to action. It might be to go and explore your products that are related to the article or it might be a contact form so readers can talk to you about what you've written. Even if there's nothing specific that fits the content of your article, you should at least make sure you're pointing out related content that might be of interest. Never let your page be a cul-de-sac.
5. Keep it coming.
Update your site often. It gives you more reason to invite people back to your site and search engines rank frequently updated sites higher than static ones. Go forth into LinkedIn groups and forums to find out what people are asking and create content about it. Write case studies of the work you're proudest of. Announce product launches or comment on changes in your industry. Every time you create something you're potentially solving somebody's problem, and that's a big bonus to your company's reputation.
6. Never over-promise.
If you've got a sizzling headline, you'd better make sure your content actually delivers on it. Users get incredibly frustrated with click-bait headlines that offer the world but don't answer the question. Remember that each piece of content could be the first impression a potential customer has of your business. Your honesty and accuracy will form their opinion of you and will affect your reputation.
Also, be careful when you put content behind a contact form. While it's a widespread technique for reports and white papers, you're asking people to give up their personal information to you before they've got anything in return, and this will put people off. Better to have a free article that then gives the option of a more detailed download as its call to action. Earn your visitors' trust before asking them for information.
A final point
Keep it concise.
3. Write a daily list
I’ve found that working straight from my Trello list tends to end with me getting distracted by my other tasks. So every morning I look at my task list and write down (using pen and paper like some sort of caveman) the three vital tasks that I MUST do that day.
This has been far more effective than I expected.
By physically writing down your tasks, you start your brain engaging with them, and you’re left with a distraction-free list of work to do. Only once those vital things have been done do you go back to the master list. Or take a nap. Whatever takes your fancy.
4. Kill the distractions
We can’t multitask.
Really, we can’t. Our brains just won’t work that way. And the nearest we can get — rapidly switching between several tasks — leaves none of them getting done well. In fact, studies have shown that after switching tasks it can take our brains up to 20 minutes to settle in to proper work again.
And we can only concentrate for about 25 minutes. Seriously, our brains are rubbish at focussing on lots of things at once AND at focussing on one thing for a long time.
So, we work with what we’ve got, using this variant of the Pomodoro technique:
NOTE: The original Pomodoro technique says to do four 25 minute sessions then take a long break, but I’ve found it easier to concentrate when I take my long breaks between tasks. Your mileage may vary.
There are some more great tips for motivating yourself at work in this article from Toptal: