As senior writer and storyteller here at Informatics, you don’t have to tell me that writing is hard. As a former newspaper and magazine editor, I've developed a muscle for pounding out piles of copy, but that sure doesn’t make it easy when I'm not feeling inspired.
Part of why I liked being a newspaper editor, and why I moved to a marketing agency, is the variety of topics I get to research and write about. Just this year, for example, I’ve written about pig farrowing technology, restaurant automation, drone videography and evidence-based investing. Everyday is different and that keeps it fresh for me.
But that’s me. You aren’t a professional writer—you just need to add some content to your blog and get back to business.
A lot of my time is spent writing for clients who need high-quality, SEO focused web content that informs and drives conversions. However, some of our best content results come when we're creating blogs and emails in tandem with our clients. It ups the cadence of fresh content and brings insider knowledge to your page—something I can’t replicate without actually working in your business (and I am unfortunately very busy right now).
With that in mind, I thought it might be valuable to share a few tips I've picked up over the past two decades as an editor and journalist, to help you create stronger, more effective content for your website, blogs and email newsletters.
Start with the Facts
In J-school, you learn about the holy “Inverted Pyramid,” in which the goal is to tell the most foundational facts of a story first.
In a traditional news story, you aim to convey the essence of the story in the lead paragraph or two. From there, you work your way down, covering the next important information, and then related information, adding context and so on. Even feature-style writing that skips the hard-news lead uses what's called a "nut paragraph"—essentially a second paragraph that lays out the basic premise of your piece for the reader.
It’s not so different with web writing. Don’t make visitors read through pages of fluff to get the info they need—share it with them as high up as you can, and let them decide if they want to keep reading.
This isn't just about readability; it's about your website's overall SEO profile. Google rewards websites that answer a user’s question as quickly as possible with better search rankings. If your content is positioned at the top of a page and well-written, it may even be pulled into Google's search snippets.
You may not have the 5Ws for your blog, but you can still get to your point and explain why the reader needs to know or pay attention.
(Interesting sidebar: The inverted pyramid is a smart way to reach readers, but it was also pushed by old school newspaper editors, who had to fit their stories into limited column space on tight deadlines. The technique allowed them to literally cut a story anywhere from the end and it would still make sense. See how I saved that for the end of this section?)
Know the Story You're Telling
When you know a story or a topic or a product inside and out, it takes less time and effort to write; if you’re passionate about a story, it might very well jump onto the page.
One well-worn piece of advice from journalism school is “if you’re stuck, you don’t know enough.” If you find the creative well running dry, do some more research or try telling your story in a different way. Sometimes even just a new little bit of information can jump start an entire piece (this happens to me often).
Here's another interesting piece of writing advice for those who struggle to get started, this one from Ernest Hemingway: When you’re ready to end your writing session, stop mid-sentence. When you return to continue writing, your brain will fill in the remaining sentence and you’ll be off running.
Want to elevate your web content?
Learn about our content writing services and reach out to discuss your project.
Accuracy is Everything
One of my favorite journalistic maxims is this: “If you can’t get it first, get it best. If you can’t get it best, get it right.”
Of course, you’re not an editor racing to publish a story, which means you really don’t have any excuse not to get it right. If your content is wrong or outdated, visitors won’t hesitate to hit the “Back” button and find another source on Google.
Likewise, misspellings, weirdly worded sentences, and other grammar errors reflect poorly on your brand, even if they’re accidental. Read your final content word by word, read it aloud, read it standing—whatever works for you to catch errors.
We tell our clients it takes less than a second for a user to form an opinion about your website—don’t let a stupid typo send them to your competitors.
This advice works on a few different levels, the first being to embrace the drafting process. Nothing anyone puts down on paper is all gold—keep revising and drafting until you get to that essential thought. This piece was probably rewritten three or four times before you actually read it.
If you've been charged with creating web content for your brand or company, consider learning Associated Press (AP) style or refreshing on the basics of writing. I still have a few well-worn copies of the AP Style Guide that never leave my desk.
The other meaning of “Keep Revising” refers specifically to your web content. The great thing about digital publishing is there’s no printer, so your work is never really done—you can always keep refining, A/B testing, optimizing and so on. For example, we can use services like Google Optimize to offer up A/B versions of your website, and see what copy drives readers to a conversion.
Here at Informatics, one of our core values we always talk about is “Improve and Innovate.” Consider that a challenge for your own web content: How can you revise it to be more SEO friendly? More targeted? More likely to boost conversions?
Our focus on data, SEO and results helps us understand what content is resonating with your audience and what can be improved, but any sort of feedback is helpful, from anecodotal compliments from your customers to engagement rates on social media. Look at it holistically to understand what kind of content your fans are clamoring for.
Ultimately, don't be afraid to dive in and start creating, there's no wrong way to do it. If you find yourself lost for words or struggling to attract visitors to your blog, know the content team at Informatics is here at your disposal. We'll show you how to master these tips or we can take on your toughest content challenges ourselves. Happy drafting!