Sometimes one of the most challenging things for new website owners is coming up with the content. For most of us, writing doesn’t come naturally. It’s not something we get excited about. In fact, the reality is that most of us would rather sit through a tax seminar than work on a writing project. So go ahead, admit to the world how much you really hate writing … feel better now?
Unfortunately for those who hate writing but are also in business, you’ll have to either face your fears or pay someone to do it. Well-written copy is a key ingredient of a successful business website and it’s important you get it right.
No one can magically bless you with the writer’s equivalent of kissing the blarney stone but here are five hints for making the process easier, and making sure the end product doesn’t suck.
1 – Answer the who, what and why
Sometimes referred to as a reporter’s best friends, the five Ws (we’re only going to discuss 3 of them) are a common journalistic method of establishing the full story.
- Who – Who are you writing to? Sure anyone could read it but who are you most interested in persuading? Try to narrow down your target and think about what’s most important to them. Remember, you can’t please all the people, so don’t try.
- What – What is the main point of the piece you are writing? If you were to sum up the article in one sentence what would it be? Keep this in mind as you write to make sure you don’t get sidetracked or introduce tangential points. Cover the main point well, and leave it at that. Keep auxiliary topics for another time.
- Why – Take a few steps back from the actual task of writing and think about an overarching goal for what you are doing. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? Improve your presence on the internet, boost sales for your business, increase awareness on an important topic or get your customers to view you as a thought leader among your industry? Use those end goals to increase your motivation and guide your writing.
Write down these points as an outline and refer back to them regularly as you write.
2 – Know where to spend your time
I know what you’re thinking – you want to be spending your time in front of the TV … but what we mean is know what the most important pieces of your writing are, and invest appropriate amounts of time in those areas.
- Title – With a massive amount of information on the world wide web your prospective readers are cruising for content like a pack of sharks, waiting, hoping for something to catch their eye. The title of your article is often the glint of a shiny lure that makes it stand out from the rest. I’m not saying you should resort to linkbait techniques but make sure the title conveys a real benefit the reader will get from reading your article, in a nice concise way.
- First paragraph – After you’ve managed to reel in a reader with your well-written title, it’s time to convince them to stick around and read the full article. Remind them of what they can gain from reading your article, why you’re someone worth listening to and maybe even tickle the funny bone if you’re good at it. Otherwise they’ll bounce out like a pogostick.
Spend time on these bits and you’ll be sure to improve your reader count.
3 – Kick out the critic
This is one issue that I struggle with the most; I find it very difficult to not ‘proof as I go’. Unfortunately the problem with this process is you can easily feel like your piece is stagnating. You blame writer’s block but sometimes it’s just you’re putting too many stop signs up before you’ve even got the first draft out.
Kick the critic to the curb and run riot with the piece. Every time you feel like you’ve hit a dead end, just write some gibberish and keep going. You can save all that for later (trust me, it’s a lot easier to review without the burden of knowing the article isn’t finished).
Of course, make sure you read point 5 if you do resort to gibberish.
4 – Don’t write to hit a word count
Possibly a throw-back to university days where the pressure is to hit a specific word count, or maybe SEO fans stuck on a 400-word count, it’s easy to get a certain mind-set about word count and forget the point of your writing. This goes against Google’s webmasters guidelines of writing for people not search engines. If you’ve covered the point well, don’t write more just to hit a word count – you’ll only succeed at muddying the waters and turning readers off with your verbosity. The fact is, more and more web visitors are looking for snippets of information, not the whole book.
Less text laid out well is far more effective than pages of text burying the gems your visitor is looking for.
5 – Check, check and check before you publish
Don’t let your work get released into the wild until you’ve checked it – at least twice, and preferably a third time by a different set of eyes. Nothing destroys your reader’s confidence in your authority as much as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. If you need to double-check your facts, then hold off before publishing, something even the big corporates could learn from.
Make sure you read it right through, even reading it aloud to make sure it makes sense, is readable and flows nicely. WordPress even offers a range of plugins to measure the readability of your new page or post.
Of course, if you’re still not motivated to write the content for your website, get in touch and we can offer a helping hand.