Online Writing – How to Write for the Web, Blogs, Websites
You Have 5 Seconds...
When someone lands on your website you have just 3 to 7 seconds to get their attention before they leave.
How can you keep them there long enough for them to discover your awesome content?
How do people decide if they’ll stay or go?
First, in a fraction of a second, they respond to your page visually – the look and feel which is conveyed by your image, colors and fonts.
Then, if they like what they see, they’ll take the next step and scan your headlines.
If they like them, they’ll progress to scanning your first sentence.
Your blog needs to instantly tell them what it’s about and who it’s for – and you need to do it in a way that grabs their interest or provokes curiosity.
Headlines need to tell your story – so that people can see what’s on offer – what you’re writing about – just from your headlines.
Headlines have some heavy lifting to do – besides getting people’s attention and telling them what the page is and who it’s for, they need to tell search engines – like Google – what your page is about.
They need to appeal to human visitors and to the Google bot.
They need to contain the most important keywords, to grab attention and to tell a story.
No wonder copywriters can spend hours just on a headline – they know that without a great headline there is no chance their words will ever be read.
104 Draft Headlines
Advertising legend David Ogilvy, considered to be “the father of advertising,” knew the importance of headlines. He knew that his headline determined whether his ad would be read or ignored, and that the headline needed to attract the right people.
He once rewrote a single headline 104 times.
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”
This headline packs a lot in just 18 words:
- What it is – a Rolls Royce. It’s not for everyone. If it’s for you, read on, if not, move on
- It’s a new model. If you’re interested in Rolls Royce cars you’ll be interested to know about the new model
- Who it’s for – people who like these cars and can afford one. When you see this ad you’ll know immediately if it’s for you or not. And there’s a price below the photo – it cost almost 3 times the average annual US wage in 1959
- Who’s it for – people who appreciate luxury and finesse
- Status appeal – it’s for a select few
- It has a clock, and an electric one at that!
- It’s super quiet implying that it’s incredibly well-made and well-finished. There’s an air of effortless grace and power
- The photo conveys info as well, it shows the car’s styling and depicts a well-to-do, target-market family man of the era.
For many years, this ad was the most famous of all car ads.
Before sitting down to create the headline, Ogilvy researched the car and the brand extensively.
He even bought a Rolls-Royce for himself.
Writing tips from David Ogilvy –for writing online as well as print.
- Use Italics for emphasis and to catch the eye, never for the main text
- Use CAPITALS for emphasis and to catch the eye, never for the main text
- Use reverse text for emphasis, never for the main text on a page
- Why? Italics, CAPS and Reverse Text are visually different from the body copy and we notice differences, but they are hard to read beyond a short phrase.
- Must be easy to read on mobile devices
- Has to deal with people’s short – and apparently shrinking – attention spans
- Needs to be formatted to reach headline skimmers – that’s most people.
Your visual elements (image, colors, font) and your headline are your first impression for a visitor to your page. You need to catch their attention and be relevant and interesting. You have one chance before they click away, and you have only a few seconds to grab their attention.
Without a great headline that grabs people’s attention and draws them in, your blog or article may as well not exist.
Shorter headlines perform better than longer ones, but not so short that they lose meaning.
Read your headline aloud – does it roll off the tongue?
Alliterations are catchy and appealing to people – awesome alliterations assist – they are a clever, compelling concept.
Clarity – Is it immediately obvious what your headline means, or do people have to stop and think?
Use lots of headlines on a page so that the thrust of your article is apparent from the headlines.
On a website, the main headline is called an H1, use just one H1 per blog post, article or page. H1s are one of the key elements that tell Google what your page is about, which is why you include your main keywords.
Sub headlines are H2s and sub-sub-headlines are H3s.
Online, limit your sentences and even your paragraphs to one simple point.
And keep those paragraphs short – often just one sentence per paragraph.
Mix up the density of your writing so that it’s interesting to the eye.
Mix short one sentence paragraphs with longer paragraphs.
Make it easy to quickly scan through and keep your readers’ eyes moving down the page. Easily, Quickly, Point by Point. This gives people the sense that they’re making progress. It keeps them engaged and understanding what you’re talking about.
Forget the grammar rules we all learned at school or those suggested by your automatic grammar checker.
Clarity and engagement are more important.
I showed a friend a draft of a blog I wrote and she kindly “corrected” it. She was a senior school teacher, I got marked down! But she was judging my copy by a different standard, she knew nothing about writing for the web.
When you blog, your aims are to convey an interesting or valuable idea so that you grow your audience to lead to your paid offers.
Sometimes the pursuit of clarity and engagement can mean being un-grammatical.
Problems, Pain and Pleasure
What is your page about and why should we care? Answer this question at outset. Start by stating the problem you’re solving and who this is for.
I wrote this article for people who want to avoid quick bounces from their website, and who want their visitors to stick around long enough to see their valuable content and to engage. That’s why this article starts the way it does – you immediately know if this topic will be useful to you, or not. We want to attract and provide value to our ideal audiences and repel the rest.
I was writing an email to a client, on how to get more people to read her article and to read far enough down the page for people to understand her solution to their problem, her product. I share this kind of info with a lot of clients, so I know that it’s of interest and valuable. My topic research confirmed it, so I wrote this article. I offer this info with a lot more in my paid course, but I wanted to provide clients with the essentials, for free.
Back to pleasure and pain.
Humans are far more motivated to take action to avoid losses (avoid pain or solve problems) than they are to make a gain or derive pleasure.
A powerful blog flow is
Initial Problem > Solution > New Problem
- Describe your audience’s problem, their pain points
- Describe the solution
- Create a new problem for them to solve.
Create an inevitable flow, like a funnel or a water-slide, from the problem to the ultimate solution of your product or service.
My client’s article – the one that inspired this article – is about an animal health problem. The topic is well-searched in Google so we know it’s important to people, and products to solve the problem sell well, which confirms that people not only want to know about this problem but they are willing to spend money to solve it.
So, her article starts out by outlining the problem itself, the impact on the reader and the causes of the problem.
She then discusses the solutions, which require specific supplements administered in specific ratios and quantities. She also covers the science and research.
By now, her readers understand the extent and causes of the problem, they know how this problem affects them, and they know that there are solutions available.
But where do they find these solutions and how do they know if a product is a good one and trustworthy? That’s their new problem that needs to be solved.
By this stage, my client has established her genuine expertise and there’s a link to info about the solution – her product and to buy it.
What Do Your Readers Want?
Write about topics that people want to know about, that they are looking for.
But how do you know what people are interested in reading?
- Not by guessing.
- Not by writing about what interests you – you are not your client or customer.
There are tools you can use to find out what’s of interest and what people are looking for.
And if your ultimate aim is to sell a product (or service), then research and write about the aspect of that product that people are most interested in.
How To Do This
Once you have a list of possible topics
- ideas that have occurred to you
- things that people often ask about
Take your list and use Google Suggest – the auto-complete feature that appears when you start typing a Google search query.
TIP – Use an incognito or private browser so your results aren’t based on your previous searches.
The suggested search phrases that Google shows are popular searches.
I typed in ‘brainstorm’ and here is what Google suggest
Click here for the next steps and for more info including
- How to find the topics for your business that people are most interested in. You need to know these topics and the words that people use -for every aspect of your marketing and communications, to stay relevant
- On particular topics, how to find the angles that people are most interested in
- More about how to use Google to find popular topics
- Other free tools to discover popular topics and angles including popular articles and what’s shared in social media
- 5 steps to optimize your blog for search
- The 5-step process to sell anything online and offline
- 3 ways to turn your website traffic into your subscribers and customers
- Monetizing your blog