content writer

Three questions to ask yourself when writing online content

We all have to start somewhere when writing online content, even if we have to push out hundreds of rather muddy words before the well starts gushing.  Just take that first step and you will improve as you  continue to write. If you’re crafting content for your own website, answering these three questions will help you think about your brand, clarify your thoughts and make your writing more engaging.

Is your content relevant to your audience?

Readers look for content that has meaning to them. Think about who you are trying to reach. What questions can you imagine them asking about your topic?  The topic must add value to their lives in some way whether it’s helping them to eat more healthily, teaching them a new skill or offering them peace of mind. Speak straight into their lives, write with empathy and you are sure to make a connection.

Is it engaging?

You have to engage the reader and you won’t do this if you make your content completely generic.  Take yourself out of the equation and they will battle to relate because they won’t feel the person behind the words at all. At the opposite extreme, it’s also possible to inject too much of yourself into your writing. You lose sight of your readers and your writing becomes self-indulgent and sloppy.  The best content writers manage to find a good balance between the two extremes. The more you write, the more you begin to distinguish between generic content that could have been written by anyone and remarkable content that sticks in the minds of readers.

There is just so much information out there that it can be difficult to find anything new to write about. Do you feel that every possible topic has already been addressed? This is how I feel sometimes until I realize that I can always try to offer a new perspective on an existing topic. This is where your brand becomes important – what is it about you and what you have to say that is different from anyone else.

People pay attention and share with their friends when they find your content engaging. Does your writing provoke emotion? Is it shocking or funny? You can make even a rather boring topic entertaining by using metaphors, analogies, and connections readers would not have thought of making. This not only attracts and holds their attention but gives them an alternative way of viewing the topic, helping them to understand and retain what has been written.

I listened to a video recently where copywriter, Richard Armstrong, reveals three secrets he uses for finding clients. He calls these secrets: The Japanese Movie and the Chinese Restaurant; The Chimpanzee and the Chandelier; The Broadway Producer in the Elevator. Now, the secrets themselves were not all that different – but his approach was.  I can’t think about the topic of finding clients now without those images flashing through my brain – and that’s exactly what makes him so successful at what he does.

Is it focused and concise?

Vagueness is not your friend when writing content. Every word must be carefully chosen to fulfill its purpose. Meandering sentences without purpose detract from your writing. According to the book Reading in the Brain  the online reader uses different sections of the brain to read than the offline reader. They tend to scan and skip around. You have to try and make sure that readers don’t just read one line of your content and click away to another site. This is why your headline and very first paragraph are all important. They have to draw the readers in and make them want to read more.

Readers want to get the information that is most important to them as quickly as possible.  They will rarely read every word you write. Once you understand what your audience wants to know, you have to make sure that they get your message as early on as possible.  If readers read only your headline and your first paragraph, would they understand exactly what your content was about?

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