You have four seconds to hook a visitor with your content.

There are two types of people reading that first line: I need to work for them or I’ve got them hooked. Unknown to many, that’s the dividing line between success and failure.

Failure happens in the moment of complacency. Confidence is good to have, but a little anxiety is healthy for your career. You’ll look at your work and go, “How can I improve this?” That’s an important attitude to have whenever handling your business.

That attitude makes you look deeper, and that’s what we want. Most people improve their websites through things like marketing or design. However, that’s not where your only focus should be.

Why content should be your #1 priority

Many otherwise great websites suffer because their writing is terrible. Ask yourself this: What does an average person do when content is hard to read or too long? If you’re like most people, you navigate to a different site or search the comments section for that MVP.

Those people aren’t likely to follow you or buy from you.

Content conveys information and guides a person through their online experience. Writing it well, though, helps people make the transition from visitor to customer, which is your focus. Your writing is an integral way people connect with you online. What happens if it’s poorly written or disorganized?

What is “skip-around,” and how do I avoid it?

Everyone reacts to poor writing differently. Some will leave, some will use a search feature and others will skip around. We want to avoid all that from happening, but skip around can be the worst.

A skip around is flitting from one place to another without comprehending anything. A person may nitpick the information they need, but they don’t really engage with it. They’re unlikely to visit again or find value in what you wrote.

Here are a few tips to avoid that:

1) Focus on a topic, not a subject.

Unless you’re writing for WebMD, you’ll want to avoid long, drawn-out content. Your goal is to break everything down into small, digestible portions. We do that by writing about a topic, rather than a subject. For an example, we write about a recipe rather than the science behind recipe making.

2) Keep it short and direct.

Nobody gets excited seeing content ten pages long. Any college professor can vouch for that. Keep it short and direct. Cut out nonessential details and concentrate on important points.

3) Use bullet headings.

Break up large content with bullet headings. Each heading should highlight an important point. Much like this post is doing, as a matter of fact. Content is more readable that way. It helps people comprehend it better, too.

4) Lists are great.

Lists are like bullet headings; it’s an awesome way to relay large amounts of data in short bursts. It grabs attention and then gives information quickly. People are able to follow your writing without thinking too hard. Buzzfeed has many viral blog posts like this.

5) Infographics help people keep information.

Infographics are incredibly helpful visual aids. These images are attractive and condense information to a sharable format. It’s especially easy to share to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

6) Highlight important information.

If you want information to stand out, then highlight it someway. Using a different color — or bolding them out — makes it easier for people to see it. People pay attention to words or items on a page that seem visually different.

7) Do not paginate a blog post.

Clickbait does this. That’s why many people will read comments for highlights or ask for a short summary. It discourages people from reading your content because they have to work to get at what they want. People want information quickly and efficiently. Paginating a blog post is counterproductive.

8) Use writing tools to help you fine-tune your content

Your content needs to shine, especially if you’re a professional. Use online tools to help with spelling, grammar, and readability. In my experience, there isn’t one app that will help you do that efficiently. Grammarly and Hemmingway Editor have been great resources for me. If you don’t like these options, Google will help you build a toolbox suitable for you.

Readers vs. Search Engines

Nowadays, search engines have changed how people write. If you want better traffic, your content has to meet certain criteria. Content that meets criteria receives more attention by receiving a higher rank. It’s supposed to weed out poorly written content and spam.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps people gain better rankings. Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee their content is well written or even current. A good rank means you met the criteria, not that you’re a fantastic writer. For that, some businesses have turned to professional writers with knowledge of digital marketing.

Writing is only part of the work, though. After publishing, your next step is promoting that piece across your social media accounts. That is a new type of writing designed to hook a visitor in a few short sentences or less.

Writing for social media has become a challenge all its own. Every social media platform has different criteria, and you have to meet them to get your content seen. Some platforms, like Facebook, have been accused of favoring paid content over organic content. While that angers some people, others simply accept it as the name of the game.

Final Thoughts

Connecting to your visitors through writing is an important part of business online. Good writing is easy to understand, appealing and easy to access. While it makes more work for you, the rewards can be lucrative.

Do your own research with your visitors. How are they consuming your content? What’s more important to them? Find your ideal formula and run with it.

Originally published at linkedin.

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