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Writing for the web - guidelines

Content Writing Tips For Beginners – 5 Best Practices for Writing Good Website Content

Even for professional writers, writing is hard. Effective content should be relevant and engaging to your reader and, at the same time, support (one of) your website goals.

The better you understand your audience the easier it is to enhance the content you provide. However there are some simple guidelines you can follow to assure your content is better understood by search engines, improving your SEO.

Practice leads to perfection, but here are five tips you can follow to boost your website content.

1. Create a compelling headline

According to Copy Blogger, 80% of users that come across your article will read the headline, but only 20% will read the entire piece.

A headline should be specific, make a promise to the reader and if possible, create a sense of urgency so the reader feel that he must pay attention right now.

You should begin your writing using a working title. When you finish, come back to the title and revise it accordingly to what you’ve written. It might be a good idea to ask a second opinion from a friend or someone with more experience.

You can also rely on ‘title formats’ such as:

  • How to format: teaches the user how to do something (i.e ‘How to become a successful international student in 10 steps’)
  • List format: lists x examples or tips (i.e ‘5 things you should keep in mind when studying abroad’)
  •  Question format: peaks the interest of the reader by providing an answer to a compelling question (i.e ‘What do you need to receive a scholarship to study abroad?’)

There are several other formats you can use. If you’re lacking inspiration, follow these tools to help you get started:

2. Pay attention to how you write

Your writing should use your audience language and show that you understand their challenges, doubts and goals. You should write to help people and not to sell your product.

Before you start writing, take a few minutes to research about what is already out there. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to analyse top performing content for the topic you are writing about.

Your article should be relevant and add value to what has been written before. Ask yourself what is missing and how you can be more relevant to the audience you are aiming to reach.

3. Write how people search

You should use words people actually use to search and communicate.

If your reader uses the worlds “study in holland” rather than “study in the Netherlands”, you should give priority to “study in Holland” in your headline and content.

You can also make use of similar search terms. To do so, go to Google and search for your theme. In the end of the page you will find related searches with terms that might be interesting to cover in your article as well.

content writing tips for beginners: use related search terms

Use keyword research to guide you, but always come back to what sounds natural to your audience.

4. Get the structure of your blog post right

A clear web page should have one main idea and everything else should revolve around this idea.Your writing should make people “slow down” and prevent them to click at another link.

If you’re writing a blog post, you should consider adding an introduction, then mentioning the X topics you will cover (you can use video and images to illustrate), finishing with a powerful conclusion and call-to-action.

If you’re a beginner, keep in mind the following the structure:

  1. TITLE
  2. Subheading or introduction making clear the ‘benefits’ or ‘what the user will get from the article’.
  3. X benefits or topics.
  4. Strong conclusion with call-to-action

Always end your article with a strong conclusion and a call-to-action. The call-to-action can be as simple as asking the reader to share the publication with their friends, ask/answer a question or watch a Youtube video. This is the opportunity you have to ask your audience to continue to interact with you.

5. Revise what you’ve written

It is very important to revise what you’ve written but you should take a break before you start revising. This will give you a new perspective on your own content.

Here’s a quick revision plan you can follow:

  1. Check for grammar mistakes and eliminate any part of the copy that does not relate to your core idea.
  2. Use contractions to make you sound more human. For instance, use don’t instead of do not, since the later sounds more robotic.
  3. Eliminate any ‘fluffy words’. Most of the times it is not necessary to use words such as ‘very’, ‘actually’ and ‘in order to’.
  4. Write in simple language and replace terms your audience might not be familiar with. You can also give examples to clarify difficult topics.
  5. Use short sentences and paragraphs. This makes the article more pleasant to read.
  6. If you are using acronyms, introduce them to the reader first. It might be clear to you that IBMS means International Business and Management Studies, but this might not be clear to the reader.
  7. Use active voice! Passive voice can make you sound boring and confusing. So instead of saying “a new course was introduced by the school”, you should say “the school introduced a new course”.
  8. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’: it will make you sound more conversational. Imagine that you are writing to a friend. This is a simple tweak that will make your blog post ‘friendly’ instead of a ‘instructions manual’.

Want to become an Expert in Content Writing?

Explore how writing style, web design and structure can grab the attention of and engage readers with this online course (certificate available): Writing for the Web.

BONUS: Creating videos with your phone

Mad Men Integrated

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what about creating short-videos to complement what you’re written? Here’s a mini-class on creating videos with your iPhone.

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