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Seven tips to help you improve your online writing

By on Aug 2, 2013 in Search, Site, Social

Content marketing is an exciting and fascinating topic to be involved in. The constantly changing nature of the search engines and the people who use them, make writing online an ever evolving experience. I feel lucky, as one of those writers, that life-long learning is a passion of mine.

There are a few things that any Web writer needs to take into consideration if they are to contribute to the success of the product or service they are promoting. Bearing these in mind will help you to write good content for your online marketing platforms. These are the fundamentals that any professional writer worth her salt will naturally implement on your behalf.

Do keyword research

Keyword research is a hot topic in content marketing, as the algorithms that demand it change the nature of its implementation. People should find your content because it relates to what they’re looking for. If it does, the keywords come naturally, and knowing which words people use to search for what you’re saying, is merely a useful guide. The truth is that keywords are important, but knowing how to apply them is even more so. Your audience must not notice them, but the content trawling spiders in the Web have to be able to locate them with ease. No pressure.

The trick is to know what the keywords are, then write for the people who will be reading your content. Keeping the relevant keywords in mind while you write, makes incorporating them into your engaging content simple, resulting in effective writing. If you try, instead, to write using the keywords as the basis for your content, the search engine’s spiders will know and your content will fail.

Write short sentences and use headings

Write, revise, repeat

Write, revise, repeat

There is a wealth of invaluable information available on the World Wide Web and creating competitive content that attracts readers is vital. Because there is so much information, readers are inclined to skip through your information, picking out the bits they want to read more about. Long and involved sentences in essay format do not make that an easy task, and will result in the page being closed before you’ve had a chance to make your case.

If a sentence it very long, it is almost always possible to break it up into two or three shorter ones. That harks back to the write-revise-repeat trait common to all writers who take the job seriously. Write your information and then go back through it and break it up into readable chunks and simple sentences. Make it easy for your audience to read your content.

Headings provide a snapshot about the content they lord over, combine that with the fact that Google loves heading code – <h1></h1> or <h2></h2> – and you’re on to a winner. It is common knowledge – you are probably aware that you do it yourself – that people flick through headings, to make sure they’ve found what they’re looking for, before they begin to read. No heading: no immediate evidence for the reader; they’ll probably look elsewhere.

Every-day language will work better than convoluted verbiage

The most important thing to achieve, as a writer, is to communicate your message. Proving that you have a large vocabulary and can construct linguistically correct complex and lengthy sentences is more about writer ego than doing a great job. A large vocabulary is a natural consequence of extensive reading, not everyone who reads online reads extensively. In fact, with all that information out there, having to spend time making sure you’ve understood a certain word in context is a sure fire way to make most people close a page, rather than attract more people to read it.

Knowing your audience is obviously important here, and in some instances big words make an impact that more common words wouldn’t. However, unless you absolutely know that you need to use that word, write for your audience as if you were talking to them. Getting your message across in a compelling and interesting, but readable, way is the trick here.

Never underestimate the power of punctuation

let's eat, grandma

let’s eat, grandma

Please remember to punctuate. A website or email newsletter that lacks punctuation or good grammar is off-putting,
even for those to whom grammar is of little importance. While people may not notice good grammar and punctuation, they will find badly punctuated writing difficult to read, and poor grammar can cause no end of ambiguity.

Try this out for size: ‘Let’s eat Grandma’ compared to ‘let’s eat, Grandma’ – the caption under this quote reads: grammar saves lives. It’s funny but also very true. Poor grammar and punctuation will leave your message in chaos. People will not read it and the search engines will not know what you are getting at either. Whichever way you look at it that content is going to fail.

Provide information don’t prescribe your opinion

If you are an authority on a subject then providing your opinion is a powerful way to gain the trust that your readers need to feel in order to do business with you. However, telling people what they need to – or have to – do is a recipe for disaster. I know I am not alone in my contrary nature that compels me to do the opposite of whatever I’m told – I promise I have full control of that compulsion… full control… promise.

So, when writing, you should always keep your audience in mind, and provide them with the information that you know they need in order to make an informed decision. Base your writing on true knowledge or excellent research, so that when people look for alternative sources to back up your claims, they find that you are telling the truth about a thing. That’s how you build trust and establish yourself as an authority. It’s not enough to tell people that you know what you’re talking about, you have to make them believe it.

Talk about the client not yourself

Being an authority on a subject does not make it ok to be all: ‘me, me, me’ about it. In fact, speaking to your audience in a way that enables them to relate your content to their own frame of reference is much more likely to keep them reading.

If you are looking for information online and you read something that’s full of ‘I do this’ or ‘I said that’ or ‘I like whatever’, it is often difficult to relate to. Speaking to your audience with: ‘you’, or if you must: ‘we’, is much more likely to get them hanging on your every word. People love talking about themselves so, if you want to keep them interested, talk about them: their needs, their wants… not your own.

Educate the audience

Before you begin to write, you need to make sure that what you intend to write will educate your audience in some way. Marketing used to be about showing what products were available, what they did and how much they cost. These days, with so many variations of the same product or service to choose from, people want to know more. They want to be able to back up their decisions with knowledge.

If you are able to educate your audience with engaging content that speaks directly to them, you are in with an excellent chance of getting your online marketing to do its job: attract customers and convert sales.

Writing for the Web is a skill that many great writers spend hours of time researching and perfecting. It is necessary to do it well, covering all the important bases, to have any chance of getting found in the Cloud. Ultimately, having a valuable message to convey, communicating it clearly, in a way that makes people want to read the next sentence, while giving those virtual spiders the food they are looking for, is the fundamental focus of online writing.

What strategies do you use to make sure your content gets to its audience?

Jane Hendry is Writer-in-Chief for aXent Associates. Her passion for education has led her to home school her children, and she reads voraciously to quench her own insatiable thirst for knowledge. Follow Jane on Twitter or Google+. Visit her blog to read about content marketing and life-long learning.

Great content writing, combined with a marketing strategy based on decades of online marketing success form the foundation of a potent relationship marketing plan.