In this article I will go over the basic concepts to consider before you start writing your first article.
Content writing is not the same across all platforms. For website content writing you will need to take into account certain factors that are not usually considered for other written publications.
A digital content writer should know how to write content for a website, taking into consideration both the user and the search engine requirements.
Deciding what to write about is obviously the first step in the writing process. For this reason, it would be best to build an outline for website content topics you will be publishing across your WordPress site.
This step can be done while setting up your website structure.
What I will be explaining in this article and the following couple of tutorials is how to write your articles and I will include a few types of content writing templates you can follow.
Let’s take it one step at a time. In this tutorial I will be covering the following aspects that a website content writer should consider.
- How to write content for People
- Content Writing for Search Engines (Google, Bing etc.)
- The Different Types of Web Content
- Creating a Template for your Content
- Creating your Content Writing Guidelines
Content Writing for Your Readers
The first aspect you need to consider is how to write content for your site visitors.
After all, you want visitors that land on your website to have a positive experience with your content and stay as long as possible.
There are three important aspects to keep in mind when writing digital content.
- Structure your content to follow the ‘Inverted Pyramid of Value’ Principle
- Remember the short attention span of website users
- Consider the difference between people who read in full vs people who scan through
Inverted Pyramid of Value Principle
This is a journalistic technique that has been around for ages. The concept here is to provide the most useful information and facts at the top of the article, to attract the reader’s attention and hook them in.
Following this, you then explain the reasoning behind your facts, and finally you delve into detail about how your arrived at your conclusions.
Keep in mind that on the internet people have a choice. They have thousands of different articles to choose from, and they have very little patience.
So, when someone lands on your article they will start reading and within seconds they will understand if this article provides an answer to what they were looking for.
In other words, they will make a split-second decision from the first few lines, if this article provides real value for them.
If they need to read through a bunch of paragraphs of filler content before they get to the good stuff, then they will just hit the back button on their internet browser and go on to the next result in Google.
This is not a good signal for the search engine algorithm and can penalize your rankings.
Apart from this, you are not engaging your visitor and you are losing a potential fan to your website.
The inverted pyramid of value content concept encourages you to put your best information right at the start of an article.
For example, if your article is meant to answer a specific question, then put your answer outright within the first few paragraphs of your article, and then describe why you arrived at that answer in the rest of the article.
Short Attention Span of Web Users
Web users have really short attention spans. Especially the younger generation who are used to YouTube video content and who don’t like to read much.
In fact, there’s a concept called ‘the seven second rule’, related to this.
The theory here is that within the first seven seconds a user that lands on your site or page will make a series of assessments and judgments about what they see.
Based on this, they will determine whether they want to stay and read your content or hit on the back button of the browser.
The Questions they will be asking themselves in those 7 seconds are:
- What is this site about? They will make a snap judgement based on your branding, imagery, your title and whether it satisfies the intent of their question.
- Can I trust the information on this site? They will be wondering who is behind the site. Is it a big corporation trying to sell services or products, or is it an individual just like them who is trying to help other people out. In general, people like getting information from other individuals rather than big faceless corporations. This is why in the About Page, and even in the Homepage of your website, I recommend including honest information about yourself and your background, together with your picture.
- Is it relevant to what I’m looking for? Is the content answering the visitor’s question and will it be a good content experience for them?
- What am I supposed to do? keep the user experience as pleasant as possible. If users see a lot of different buttons and banner pop-ups, they will get confused and leave. Point them in the right direction. If you want them to click to a Landing Page from your article, then there should be only one Call-to-action for them to click on.
Most of these questions will need to be answered above the fold.
Above the fold is a Web design term which refers to the content that a visitor sees before they start scrolling down. It basically covers all content that is immediately visible on the screen when they land on your website.
A good website design for a content piece shows the author, the publish date, a catchy title and the first paragraph or two, above the fold, i.e., before the user starts scrolling down.
This is why I suggest putting your best content in the first few paragraphs.
Therefore, keep in mind the seven second rule and make sure that you pay particular attention to the ‘above-the-fold content’ of every page you publish.
Visitors who Read vs Visitors who Scan Your Articles
Website visitors are usually of 2 types.
You have the readers and then you have the scanners.
Readers will go through everything on your page. They will read every word, look at images and take their time to go through the whole article in detail.
Scanners on the other hand will just scroll through the article very fast.
Most internet users are scan readers nowadays. They will just read the title and the first few sentences of the introduction, and then they will start scrolling down, picking out any sub-headings, bold words, links, bullet lists etc.
They will stop only on elements that stand out and catch their eyes.
When creating content, you need to have both these types of readers in mind, and there are some tricks you can use to satisfy both.
For example, no-one likes long walls of content. So, keep paragraphs short, include sub-headings to break the content, include images, bullet points, infographics, bold text etc.
At the same time make sure your content is detailed and provides value for those who really read through it.
Content Writing for Google and Other Search Engines
On the internet, creating content for humans is not enough. Web content must also satisfy Google and other search engines.
Keep in mind that if Google doesn’t like your content, your website will not rank in the SERP, and consequently, not many people will get to see your content.
At the end of the day, Google is an algorithm, and it will use a set of pre-defined parameters to compare two pieces of content that are very similar in quality and decide which one to rank.
Some of these parameters include content length, structure, grammar, keywords, expertise, authority, semantic language and much more.
If you understand these parameters, then you can have a better chance of writing your content in the way Google identifies as good quality content.
Understanding Google’s Content Quality Parameters
It’s not that difficult to understand what Google wants.
I usually do this by just asking Google!
Yes, the websites Google brings up in its top SERP (Search Engine Ranking Pages) can give you a very clear indication of what the search engine is looking for, in terms of good quality content for each particular query.
For example, you can easily identify what type of content structure Google prefers by doing your own Google search.
If you Google a query and the results that come up in the top positions are mostly pages showing lists (aka list posts or listicles), then it is clear that Google expects to see a list of items to answer that particular query.
So, if you’re planning to write an article about this same query or topic in your website, you should consider including lists in your article.
Another example would be video results.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that for certain queries you Google, the top positions are mostly YouTube videos. That’s because Google thinks that users would be better served with videos to answer these queries.
In this case, you should ask yourself if it’s worth your time writing an article about this keyword, since it will probably never rank over a video.
The Content length of your article can also be easily determined by looking at the top search results for a query. Does Google show long form articles at the top or shorter ones?
This will determine how long and detailed your article should be for the same query or topic.
What about the sub-topics to include in your article?
Once again Google can clearly show you what it is expecting here. Look at the top 3 results and list their sub-headings. You will probably see a similar pattern between all 3 results.
These sub-headings are the sub-topics that Google believes are relevant to the query in question. So, you should include these sub-topics in your content piece.
The above are some examples of how you can understand what Google and other search Engines want to see in the content they rank. You can then build your content piece using the same parameters.
Obviously, we need to keep our content fresh, and try and make it unique and better than the others, but at least we understand the structure, sub-topics, content length, and so on.
Keywords will be an important factor when writing content for web search.
Keep in mind that you want to write content that cover the Keywords users are looking for, since that is how Google identifies which content to show to users.
You will therefore need to do proper keyword research before writing your articles.
The idea is to insert these keywords into your articles so that Google can identify your article as relevant and rank it for a particular topic or search query.
Usually, you would start with a main keyword and then include various other related keywords, also commonly known as Long tail keywords.
These are basically variations of your main keyword which do not have as many searches, but which form part of the main query.
These long-tail keywords can get you lots of traffic from people searching specifically for that query.
To conclude this section, always keep in mind that you are writing for real human beings but adapting your article to also satisfy Google’s algorithm. In other words, your article needs to give a good reading experience to your visitors, yet it needs to include as many relevant keyword variations as possible.
You need to find a way to insert these keywords into your article in a natural way that flows with the content.
As you might expect, there are various tools to help you with keyword research. AHrefs is the one I prefer to use, and it’s one of the top tools on the market.
There are also content writing tools that analyze the top-ranking results for any given keyword and help you identify other long tail keywords and the average article length. SurferSEO is one such tool.
As you progress along the Web Content Writing and SEO tutorials on this site, I will be suggesting various tools that can help you with each part of your process.
The Different Types of Web Content
I usually classify web content into five broad types;
- How To Articles: This is where a content writer tries to explain or guide visitors in doing something, such as the WordPress tutorials you can find in this website, or the various articles we find in recipe blogs.
- List Type Articles (aka Listicles): Here the writer is making visitors aware of a list of different ideas, suggestions, or hierarchy. This type of content is very common in gossip blogs, or lifestyle sites.
- Q&A Type Articles: In these types of articles a writer is trying to give an answer to a specific question or problem. This type of content is very common in tech related sites or health sites.
- Detailed Study articles: this is where a content writer does extensive research on a topic in a particular niche and shares their findings on a website.
- Review Articles: These is content which reviews a product or service and then usually links to a landing page where the visitor can purchase that product or service. There are different forms of review articles, including Product X vs Product Y, Top 5 Products for …, Best Product for … etc.
Remember it’s important that you choose the right type of content structure for the query or topic you are writing about.
As explained above, you can easily find out what type of structure to use for each of your content pieces by checking the top results Google shows for that same query.
Does it show a How-to article, a list post, or a Q&A type article at the top?
Take a hint from Google and structure your content in a similar way for that same topic or keyword you are addressing.
Using Content Templates for your Website
Content templates are a great way to help you create better content and ensure your content structure is consistent across your website.
This is especially true if you use external content writers for your site.
Content Templates will help you:
- Keep Focused: what is the writer’s primary purpose for writing this article? Templates ensure writers are structuring content in the most appropriate way to achieve effective results for readers and search engines.
- Prevent Writers Block: Rather than staring at a blank document when starting a fresh article, you instead have a template with directions and pre-defined structure from which to start off.
- Assist in the Research Process: Templates can act as an outline for your research approach. Since the template breaks down your content in smaller pieces, you can tackle your content research in more manageable steps.
Writing Guidelines for your WordPress Site
While templates help you pre-define the outline of website content; guidelines will give you a process document.
The idea is to refer to these guidelines while writing content for your website and ensure you don’t miss any critical steps in the process.
I recommend that you document your content writing processes in a separate document or an online workspace document, like Notion.so for ease of access.
I will show you exactly how to do this in the upcoming tutorials and give you my own guidelines to start off from.
Going forward, you should then personalize these guidelines with your own learnings and rules of thumb, especially as you gain more experience and adapt the style of writing needed for your website.
This will be your Content Writing Rule Book. It will evolve as you become increasingly adapt within your own writing style. Use it for future reference or to share with any outsourced writers.
What the Content Writing Guidelines should cover
Let’s take a look at some of the most important aspects that the web content writing guidelines will cover.
Consistent Writing Style
The first, and most important point of these guidelines; keep the style of writing consistent across your website.
Don’t worry about breaking some rules of publishing. You don’t need to stick to the exact way other sites publish their articles.
The most important thing is that across your own website the style of writing is always the same.
For example, if you use the generic personal pronoun ‘we’ when referring to yourself on the site, then stay consistent and keep using ‘we’ throughout your site. Don’t change it to ‘I’ on some articles and ‘we’ on others, or vice versa.
This holds true also to your formatting.
For example, you might decide to put any quotations you use in a separate-colored box so they stick out. If so, make sure you keep using this style for quotations across all your site articles.
If you want to see the more technical guidelines for writing used by the Associated Press, then take a look at their stylebook, which specifies how to write, degrees, numbers, dates, times, punctuation rules etc.
Break Down Your Text into Sections
Present all your content in short sections and sub sections.
Paragraphs should not be more than 4 sentences long, in my opinion, and sentences should not be longer than 25 to 30 words.
No one likes reading long walls of text.
Remember readers have short attention spans and you will lose them quickly if they are faced with long paragraphs and no gaps. Space out your texts with paragraphs and pictures.
Don’t be afraid to keep breaking down into further subsections. This is especially true if the subject is complex and more technical.
Refer to any Data Studies You use
If you are using data that you researched from online publications or journals, then make sure you reference them.
Put a link within the content, pointing to the exact page where you found your facts and figures.
This makes your article more reliable because you are backing up your claims through a professional publication.
Apart from that, some believe that linking to a relevant authority site, adds SEO value to your page.
Use Tools to Help You Write Better
Most of these tools offer free versions of their software which is all you need to help you in the beginning.
The feature I like the most in these tools, is their readability scores.
Readability is the quality of your writing. The higher your readability score, the easier it is for people to understand your writing.
Using the Grammarly readability score, you should aim for a score of 50 or higher. If you are using Hemmingway, on the other hand, try and go for a score of 5 and over.
For example, I just copied the content of this article and pasted it in Hemmingway. It gave me a Readability score of 8, which is very good. However, I can now go over the suggestions it is giving me and adjust to try and increase my score.
Make Your Writing Relatable
Your writing should convey your experiences and personality.
Don’t be afraid to share stories from your own personal life. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and opinions, as long as it’s not a contentious topic (you don’t want to alienate your readers).
In short, let your personality come across in your writing. People follow people. They don’t follow faceless brands.
If you’ve read a few of my other articles, you might have noticed that I like to keep it very informal and personal. I write, as if I was talking to a friend, using active voice, rather than passive language.
I like using the word ‘I’ or ‘my’ and ‘you’ or ‘your’.
When explaining something, I imagine myself talking one-on-one directly to you. I never imagine myself addressing a crowd. So why would I write like that!
Keep in mind also, that since this is Web content, there is no need to follow the exact rules of writing, like we did in school. You can write in the same way you talk.
It’s all good!
Don’t Push to Convince
Don’t be that Salesperson that everyone hates. Don’t try and pressure your readers to use or buy a specific product or service.
Instead let them see why you like using something and leave it up to them to choose. Just give them your opinion and your preferences and maybe a suggestion.
So, as an example:
Don’t write: You must have XYZ at all costs if you want your life to improve.
Do write: I love XYZ because it makes my life so much easier. You might want to try it out.
I always try to keep the reader’s best interest at heart when I talk about a product or service. If I don’t use it, then why would I expect my reader to use it.
How could I even promote a product I never used!
When your reader is going through an article and there are acronyms that they can’t understand, they will quickly lose interest.
If you’re going to use an acronym across your article, make sure you properly explain what it means in the beginning of your article and also a few more times throughout the article.
For example, in my guides I refer to CTA (Call-to-Action) quite often. While I write CTA sometimes, I often use the full word ‘Call-to-Action’ in brackets next to the acronym. Apart from that, whenever I use it for the first time within an article, I always explain in more detail what a call-to-action is.
Mix Up Your Vocabulary
Avoid repeating the same word over and over again. Try using synonyms (different words to convey the same meaning).
This shouldn’t be difficult.
Every document writer, like Microsoft Word, has an online thesaurus nowadays that gives you the option to see synonyms for any word you type.
Then again, you can look for alternative word on sites like thesaurus.com.
Also, if you use tools like Grammarly, which I mentioned before, these usually come with their own suggested replacements.
Don’t write Filler content just to increase the word count
This is self-explanatory. I will not add fluff to this section just to say something 😊
Use correct formatting
Use the correct formatting and structure in your document.
The Headings should be properly categorized as H2, H3, H4 (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3) and so on.
This is extremely important for SEO purposes. They define the significance of a headline in the overall context of the article.
The rest of the content would be normal or paragraph text mode.
Also, I don’t suggest you Bold or Underline your headings. Instead use these features within the standard text when you want to draw attention to a particular word or sentence.
Tip: If you use a document editor like ‘Microsoft Word’ to write your article before you publish it on WordPress, you can categorize the Headings and adjust the formatting directly in the Word document.
Once you copy and paste your article on WordPress the formatting and headlines will be copied to your WordPress editor.
Content Writing Skills
A person with good web content writing skills will manage to write content that satisfies both the readers and search engines.
To achieve this and keep it consistent, it makes sense to understand how web content is usually classified, and consequently prepare templates and guidelines to write each type of web content as effectively as possible.
Don’t worry if you have no experience. I will help you out and give you the templates and guides to get you started.
Now that we’ve gone through the basics of web content writing principles, let’s dive into the actual content creation for your WordPress site.
In the next tutorials, I will show you how to prepare Content templates for the different styles of Content, starting with Question-and-Answer Format Content Articles.
If you haven’t built you website yet, take a look at my step-by-step WordPress Tutorials.