Guidelines for Writing High-Quality Online Content
In the previous posts we discussed what online content is and who should write it. Today we are going to cover a few basic guidelines to help you get started writing high-quality online content that provides value for your readers.
Let Go of Perfectionism
This is a cross to bear by most writers. Perfectionism is the fear of being vulnerable – of making a mistake. As we have already established you do not have to be a great writer to create online content. Don’t waste your time worrying about making it perfect.
A mentor once said to me, “Nancy, good enough is good enough,” and that definitely holds true for writing online content. If the article offers value to your reader and passes the quality test (see below), it is good enough and ready to publish.
Remember, the more you write, the better you will be.
Use a Conversational Tone
Writing should be like talking with your keyboard. The tone should be light, informal, and conversational, the way you would talk to a friend. Make it a practice to address the reader as “you.”
Unlike the traditional rules of writing it is OK to use “I” in your posts. You will not connect with your readers if your writing is stiff and formal, you may even alienate them. Plus, conversational writing is much easier to read.
Use Plain Language
Use plain and simple words. Be direct and to the point. Never use three words, when you can use one. Avoid words that may require a dictionary to understand.
We live in a global community; so, avoid using jargon or technical terms that will confuse non-native English speakers. Keep your sentences short and uncomplicated. Avoid run-on sentences.
Write Short Paragraphs
As with sentences, keep paragraphs short and uncomplicated. Long blocks of text will turn-off readers faster than anything – especially if they are on a mobile device. They are too difficult to read! There is nothing wrong with a one-sentence paragraph.
Use Headers to Break-up the Text
When your article is complete, re-read it carefully. Correct grammar, typos, etc. Then, break-up the paragraphs as noted above and insert headers every two or three paragraphs. These subtitles, which can be a few simple words, tell the reader what each section is about. Remember, people skim-read and the headers help them search and keep them interested.
Keep the Posts a Manageable Length
The general rule is to keep posts short and centered on one main point. If the topic requires a longer post, make sure you include good headers and that it flows well from beginning to end.
The standard for newbies is 300 to 500 words (~ one full page in Word). Shorter than the standard is not a good idea.
NOTE: The search engines tend to favor longer content over shorter content and have more benefits in terms of SEO. In the beginning, you may want to write shorter posts. It takes a little practice to write longer informative, interesting articles.
Give It the Quality Test
As a writer of online content, your goal should always be to help the reader – solve a problem, answer a question, provide the information s/he is seeking. It may be difficult to solve a problem in a single, 300-word blog post. But, give them at least one nugget they can take away – a tip or piece of advice they can use.
When ready to post, always read your article carefully and ask the question, “What value am I offering the reader?” If you can answer that question comfortably, it will have passed the quality test. If it doesn’t pass, rewrite it.
Include a Call to Action
It is always good to leave the reader with an action step, which should begin with an imperative verb (command):
- Write down one thing you will do today to change________.
- Start ______immediately and enjoy the benefits of _____.
- Change your life today by ______________________.
Of course, the action step should be directly related to your article – something they can do right now to solve their problem or move them closer to a specific goal. You may want to summarize the steps if the article were instructional (a “how-to” process).
Hopefully, you can see that it is not really hard. You write about what you know; you talk to a friend; you write in short, clear sentences and paragraphs; you give them something of value; and you leave them with a call to action.
Start writing your first article today. Have faith in yourself and enjoy the process.
See you next time when we discuss, What to Write for Online Content.