Relevant, useful and appealing content is a vital part of any search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign but it is not as straight forward as writing a business letter or a proposal.
There are different ways of writing for the web which may not be immediately obvious to the average business director who has agreed to keep a blog or write an authoritative guide to help their business gain momentum.
Here are a few tips for creating good, readable web copy.
1) Keep it simple, stupid
Online readers are lazy. The human eye finds it harder to read on a screen and people often skip crowded paragraphs.
Write in short, snappy sentences and aim for only around two per paragraph. This will encourage the reader to reach the end of your article – which can be a good place to put an advert or links to other pages.
2) Limit punctuation
Now, I do not mean avoid all punctuation but crowding a sentence with commas for clauses, semi-colons, oxford commas and hyphens (guilty!) can clutter a sentence and cause the reader to stop.
If you are keeping your sentences simple as per point one, you probably don’t need much punctuation.
3) Use a spell check
When you write for the company website, you represent it. Typos wing their way past even the strictest spellers but just running your copy through Word can help flag up any horrific errors.
Newer Word programs even highlight words which are spelt correctly but may be wrong, reducing the risk of mistypes like “Beast Feeding for New Mothers”.
4) Get your grammar right
Readers seem to care less about grammar than they used to and so you should not worry too much about splitting the infinitive (or not. Whichever is right!).
However, some writers have a dreadful tendency to misuse grammar in an attempt to sound authoritative.
Do not use ‘whom’ unless you know it is needed or you will look ridiculous. Do not use semi-colons where you need a comma and remember to stick to one tense when writing.
5) Do not exceed your vocabulary
There is a horrible tendency among new bloggers to write in a more formal style than they would normally adopt. In the same way police officers sometimes tell the press they were ‘proceeding down the street’ instead of walking, new writers often start constructing fabulously complicated sentences.
Do not use words you don’t understand because you risk looking very foolish. Avoid trying to sound formal because the reader may get confused and then bored with your Yoda-like sentences.
6) Have a colleague sub-edit your copy
Sometimes it can be very difficult to check content you have written yourself. Ask a co-worker to cast their eye over your blog post before you put it up and they will often spot typos you had missed.
If you have no one to check your copy, leave it for as long as possible before checking it yourself. Changing the font, text size or colour can also make the information appear new to you, making it easier to read afresh.
7) Links are good
The internet has made us information rich and we like having instant access to the facts and figures we want. If you are writing about a new report, link to it.
Even if the reader does not follow your link, its presence makes your post more trustworthy. One tip, though – if you are linking to an external website, make sure it opens in a new window. You do not want to direct your visitor away from your website!
8 ) Keywords are not the only reason you write
Although blogging is an excellent SEO tool, it is more than that. It is an extension of the company, a way of highlighting the writer’s expertise and the company’s authoritative understanding of the industry.
This means stuffing a blog with as many keywords as you dare without Google slamming you back to page ten is not the answer. If I am blogging for a garden furniture retailer then people interested in garden furniture do not want to read garden furniture in every single sentence, even if they want to buy garden furniture.
It is ugly and can wound a firm’s reputation.
9) Avoid repetition
Do not use the same words over and over in your blog posts, even if they are keywords. The short sentence structure which works so well online makes repetition horribly obvious and it can be quite jarring to the reader.
It is also important to avoid beginning each sentence with the same word. “The” is a common culprit but it makes your post look childish and more like What I Did On My Summer Holiday than industry commentator sharing their expert opinion.
10) Be interesting
I have left the most important thing until last. Make your content interesting, make it insightful and make it informed.
Your company’s reputation is at stake every time you commit comment to blog. Ensure you are accurate and aim to be abreast of your industry. There is no point blogging if the impression you are creating is that your firm is dull.