Zoda Design Blog
3 Web Content Writing Tips
I’ll never forget when I made the transition to writing for the web. I had been writing for print media – newspapers and magazines – for more than 15 years. During that time, I felt like I learned the ins and outs of creating eye-catching headlines and compelling, well-supported copy. When I became a copywriter in the internet age, I had to take nearly everything I’d learned in print and throw it away! Writing for the web introduced a completely new set of rules. My bosses used terms such as SEO keywords, demographics, and active voice, and demanded that I learn them and learn them quickly. It truly was sink or swim…
So, what happened to me in this brave yet scary new world?
Well, I eventually learned how to swim, but it wasn’t easy. It took me a while to find a company that was a right fit for both me and my employer. The first two were total bombs, but it wasn’t completely my fault. They promised to “show me the ropes” but failed to live up to that promise. Their idea of quality web writing was keyword stuffing – that’s the process of jamming an obscene amount of keywords into your web content in hopes of increasing a page’s search result rankings. Google started penalizing people for that in 2003, yet these companies were pushing this SEO “strategy” in 2015!
After striking out with three companies, I landed at a fourth that was the ideal fit. My supervisor is a web writing and marketing wizard, and he continues to teach me everything I now know. Once I learned the finer points of web writing, I realized that my skills as a professional journalist and writer were still useful. It’s just that I needed to learn the ins and outs of web writing, SEO, and other marketing-related tips and tricks. Since this topic is always evolving, I’m still learning. The following web writings tips are some of what I’ve learned so far.
1. Web Writing is Storytelling
As a business owner, you’re passionate about your company, its products, and services. You probably want to use your company website and social media channels to tell people about what you sell day in and day out. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as long as you do it in a way that makes what you have to say (and sell) interesting. The best way to do this is to frame your point in some type of story.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say your company sells boats and other marine equipment. Maybe you want to sell more of a crucial accessory that every boat owner should have. You could write a blog post that tells everyone that you have these boat parts, how much they cost, and that your business is dedicated to quality, affordability, and customer service. If you check your website analytics after a couple of weeks, you’d be rather disappointed in how that story performed. To put it bluntly, it was boring.
Now let’s say that as a young man or woman, you forgot to replace these important components in your boat motor. Maybe your boat stalled out in the middle of the lake and you had to paddle back to shore. Or, worse yet, you had to be towed back to the boat docks. Is it an embarrassing experience? Sure. But I guarantee you that it’s the best way to tell boat owners why these parts are SO important… and oh, by the way, you’re having a sale on them this week.
Need another reason why storytelling is more effective than selling? Go back to how I started this post. If you’ve made it this far, it’s because my tale of learning the ins and outs of web writing was compelling enough to keep you reading. I think that speaks for itself.
2. Use an Effective SEO Keyword Strategy
Earlier in this blog post, I warned you about the nefarious practice of keyword stuffing. Not only do the search engines flag websites for this, no one wants to read web content that’s jam-packed with the same word(s) over and over again. A decent SEO strategy not only makes use of three to five core keywords, it also utilizes high-ranking synonyms for those words. Here’s an example using “web writing” as my main keyword. (That is what this post is about, after all.) Below are the keywords and synonyms. The numbers to the right are the average monthly web searches for each term, according to Google analytics:
content writing – 4,400
SEO keywords – 2,400
web content writer – 590
writing for the web – 590
writing company blog posts – 10
web content writing best practices – 10
To share a complete SEO strategy with you would require a blog post all its own. Suffice to say, it’s never a good idea to use the same keyword(s) over and over again. This will get your content flagged, and your content will suffer from a low ranking on Google. This means that people searching for the subject you’ve chosen to write about will be directed to other people’s content instead of your own. I prefer to rotate the term with its synonym like a wheel. This will add some variety to your piece while still helping you rank for your chosen subject matter.
3. Use Keyword Phrases for Web Writing
A sound SEO strategy uses more than keywords, it uses keyword phrases. These are phrases that incorporate your keyword in them. Why do we use them? Because people typically don’t just search Google for a keyword. They put it in a phrase. For example, you wouldn’t just enter “web writing” into Google and hit the search button. You’re more likely to enter something like “web writing for small businesses” or “how to write for the web.” When you use phrases that are commonly searched terms, you increase the likelihood of Google putting your content in the top 10 results of someone searching for these topics.
So, where do you find commonly used keyword phrases? The best source is AnswerthePublic.com. This website is a keyword phrase generator that can, at times, gather hundreds of popular keyword phrases that are commonly used in Google searches. Not only does it aggregate these phrases, it also puts them in the form of questions and statements to make it easier for you to use in your content. Here are just a few of the phrases that AnswerThePublic gathered when I used it to search “web writing:”
how to start writing web content
how to start web writing
how is web writing different?
what is web writing style?
web writing best practices
web writing basics
web based writing
web based writing format
web based writing importance
writing web brainstorming
web content writing best practices
web content writing books
web writing courses
web writing content
web content writing examples
web content writing jobs
web content writing course
web content writing tutorials
web content writing tips
writing web components
Again, you no doubt see numbers to the right of each of these keyword phrases. Just like SEO keywords, you can run these phrases through Google’s Adwords to get an average of monthly searches. While higher numbers tend to be better, don’t let a number determine whether you use one keyword or phrase over another. Remember what I said earlier about synonyms? Mixing things up keeps your content fresh while also giving it value in Google searches. Don’t be afraid to use a variety of related keywords and phrases throughout your blog posts and web content. If you read through this post carefully, my SEO strategy should pop out at you.
Want More Web Content Writing Tips?
Here’s one last web writing tip: it’s generally not a good idea to make your posts too long. I’ve found 1,500-2,000 words to be a sweet spot, though opinions on this topic do vary. This is just the beginning of the number of web writing best practices I can share with you. We can always take a deeper dive into this topic later on. Here’s a short list of some of the web writing topics I can share with you:
- Company blog posts
- Product descriptions
- Email headlines that encourage people to open
- Engaging email copy
- Video scripts
- Company newsletters
- Facebook and Twitter marketing
If this sounds interesting, drop Jessica an email. Be as specific as you can about what you’d like to know, but don’t put it off. I’ve been really nice to Jessica, but I never know when one of my goofy jokes might bomb with her. Whenever that happens, she tends to ground me from the blog. In all seriousness, I love sharing my experience with business owners who need writing help. I look forward to hearing from you!
JP Ribner is a Michigan-based professional writer who enjoys his time as a guest blogger on Zoda Design. (Mainly because it gives him more opportunities to tease Jessica.) He earned his a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Central Michigan University. He cut his professional teeth writing for newspapers and magazines. For the past 3+ years, he's specialized in nearly every aspect of digital copywriting. If that's not enough to keep him busy, J.P. also wrote three books and has an exciting new memoir on the way.