Writing for the web is writing under pressure.
When you write for the web, you have a specific audience in mind.
Your narrative has a specific purpose, and failure is clearly defined.
Print and online writing may look similar. But in reality, they’re written with different audiences in mind.
Unfortunately, companies throw leads out the window because they have a faulty idea of what website content should look like.
Don’t raise your eyebrows at web content from your writers that looks nothing like the books you read in the library.
Your online readers are a lot different than you think.
Brevity is the soul of wit, as well as the soul of sales.
Let’s take a look at how online readers consume your online content:
- 79% of readers scan content to get what they’re looking for.
- Most online readers scan the content looking at 3 elements: headlines, graphics, and subheadings.
- When the information promised is not found, readers immediately look for it on another website.
Are Online Readers Lazy?
Lazy is the wrong word, but they definitely don’t have time for nonsense.
There are a couple of factors that influence online behaviors:
- Reading content online tires our eyes faster.
- The internet as a whole is considered an unreliable source since everyone can contribute to it.
Of course, there are few websites that create content for leisure.
Chances are, however, if you’re selling something, you aren’t among them.
Writing to Sell, Not to Rank
Most experts say SEO-optimized content is a must these days.
I agree with that sentiment too.
But what if I told you that more traffic doesn’t necessarily increase your conversion rates?
When you create long-form content that isn’t scannable, you gain traffic without gaining leads.
To benefit the most, find the sweet spot.
Always SEO optimize your content, but don’t force long-form content.
Besides, what’s funnier than subheadings with grammar mistakes made to include low competition keywords?
A good digital marketing specialist can rank high without using blatantly cheap tactics like this.
It starts with quality.
Common but Bad Advice
Despite what a lot of marketers say, your readers don’t have to read the entire post.
Actually, most readers, unless they fall in love with your avatar, won’t read every word of your content.
However, if you’re a good writer, they’ll leave the page with the answers they were looking for.
According to a study conducted by Microsoft, we have the attention spans of Goldfish.
Not very flattering, I know.
But as a writer who produces content for the online environment, I want to help you.
I don’t care if you read every word of my posts as long as you find the piece of information you need.
If you create scannable, clear, and jargon-free content, your readers will recognize you as a thought leader in your industry
They’ll look to you for answers to their questions.
This should be your ultimate goal.
The Impact of Content Marketing in Numbers
Before you start crafting content or hiring someone who writes for you, take a peek at how content marketing in numbers.
Let’s see how content marketing performs:
- 90% of leads come from users that read older blog posts (Hubspot 2014)
- Publishing over 11 posts per month helped B2C companies get 4 times as many leads as companies that published 0-4 times per month (Hubspot 2015)
- 36% of companies labeled the results of a documented content marketing strategy as “extremely effective”
As you may have already noticed, documented, high-quality content performs best.
According to Forester, the biggest challenge that marketers face is creating content that engages readers.
Over 87% of digital marketing specialists identify engaging content creation as their biggest struggle.
Who said creating unique content is easy?
Who Wants a 1% Raise?
I don’t really see any hands up.
That’s too bad because you’re losing quite a lot of clients without even knowing it.
But 3% isn’t bad, right?
In the e-commerce world, 3% is the average conversion rate.
If you’re in a high-performing industry such as health or finance, you may even see 10%.
Keep in mind that 1% is on the very low end.
Tweaks in your website copy or content marketing creating and promotion can put you above the average.
Let’s assume you have 12,000 visitors and have a conversion rate or 1%.
This means 120 visitors end up being clients.
At a 3% conversion rate, you’ll end up with 360 clients out of 12,000 visitors.
Both content marketing and tweaks to your call to action and landing pages can bring you small changes in matter of percents.
But those small percentage points can bring with them huge changes to the number of your clients.
Don’t let money slip away from your grasp!
When you’re searching for something to read, what do you look at first?
The headline, of course.
But what does the ideal headline look like?
Well, it’s enticing enough to stir curiosity and informative enough to select an audience.
This might sound like leaves blowing in the wind, but hear me out.
Your brain prioritizes everything.
Every time you turn the page, scroll down, or click away, your brain makes a decision.
It asks, “Is this important enough for me to to stay on the page or to click on the link?”
This is why it’s so critical that your headlines provide incentives that tell reader’s brain to stop and click.
What Good Headlines Look Like
Let’s dive into the psychology behind our reading behaviors.
All actions we take are motivated by something.
This includes buying a new dress or changing our car even though it’s fully functional.
Abraham Maslow came up with a pyramid to represent our hierarchy of needs.
You can take advantage of his work to find out how to create mental images in the mind of the reader using words.
For example, let’s say your target audience are a twenty-somethings who want to make more friends or become more influential in their social circles.
You can title your ebook or article “The Psychology of Influence”, or you can simply put the biggest benefit of your content in the headline.
Dale Carnegie used this technique in his brilliant, bestselling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
Mr. Carnegie used self-interest and the desire to be popular to attract readers.
Next, he presented well-thought-out solutions to his reader’s problems.
There are many ways in which you can create headlines.
That said, your technique should focus on delivering a message about how your content is going to help the reader and give a general clue on what the article is about.
Let’s take my blog post as an example.
The headline is “How to Write Content Like a Digital Marketing Specialist”.
The motivation of my readers is to find new ways to increase revenue through content marketing.
For this post, I selected my audience by showing you what my post is about, and I provided solutions to your problems.
I also SEO optimized my content by using a high-performing yet low-competition keyword without making my post look strange.
Writing for Readers Who Rarely Read
We’ve already established that most readers scan articles instead of reading every word.
But a digital marketing specialist or an experienced writer knows how fierce the competition for the attention is.
A bland introduction will negate even the most captivating headlines.
However, you’re in luck.
I’m feeling generous today, so I’m about to share a few tricks to keep your readers engaged:
- Use an empathic or shocking introduction. Opt for titles such as “Losing Weight is Harder Than it Seems” or “I Was Diagnosed With Cancer Soon After I Started My Business”.
- Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Remember, your readers are humans too. You aren’t writing for biological machines susceptible to irresponsible buying purchases. Use humor, make confessions, and write as you talk in real life.
- Create scannable content. If your blog post is about the principles of the paleo diet, use subheadings that reveal the content in each section. This helps the reader find the information they need by simply scanning the article.
- Use studies to back up your claims. Since anyone can publish content on the internet, readers are less likely to believe you unless you have authoritative sources backing up your claims. Don’t go overboard with external links, but always cite statistics.
What a Pseudo Digital Marketing Specialist Does
If you’re just getting started, or if you know quite a lot about digital marketing but are still new to content writing, you might find yourself doing the following:
- Use jargon all the time without even noticing
- Ignore the idea of hooks or writing scannable content for the skimmer
- Expect your readers to appreciate your overly complicated figures of speech
- Write without a clear idea of who’s reading your work
- Write with disregard for the reader’s needs, time, and knowledge of the topic
If you’re writing about skincare and your average reader is someone who wants to get rid of their acne, don’t use terms that only a dermatologist would understand.
How will this help your reader understand the topic?
It won’t. Instead, it will cause confusion.
If you want to get into detail about “sebaceous filaments”, for instance, create a small, separate section, or add a hyperlink that explains what it is.
Remember, your content should be easy to understand, not dumbed down.
This article is far from being a comprehensive guide on what good content writing looks like and how to create it.
But it should keep you from falling into some of the most common traps of online content creation.
Also, the section where I discuss the impact of content marketing, conversion rates, and the power of words over your money should shed some light on your expectations.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments!