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The Content Marketing enigma - tips for writing engaging web content

Can’t afford a copywriter and stumped about where to start writing that blog or content marketing for your web page? We’ve managed to get the lowdown on the basics.

Jacinta Y 25 September 2013

Can’t afford a copywriter and stumped about where to start writing that blog or content marketing for your web page? We’ve managed to get the lowdown on the basics, plus some tips and tricks from expert Web content strategist and copywriter NATALIE KHOO. Natalie helps organisations to improve their websites to make them more appealing to their target markets and recently gave a presentation that simplified what remains to many an enigma - writing engaging web content.

What are the two most important issues of content marketing? How to learn web writing basics and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

First things first. If you want to engage and interest your target market, invest some time in getting to know them. Focus on YOUR AUDIENCE. It’s not about you, It's about them!

To effectively write web content for your audience you need to answer a few questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What do they know?
  • Why are they reading about you?

Once you have learned a little more about your readers you can begin with the basics starting with Web writing techniques. Unless you are writing for a highly technical or academic audience its best to keep it simple.

Writing style

1. Use plain English

  • Use familiar, everyday words. Instead of COMMENCE use START. Instead of ACQUIRE use BUY
  • Use short, simple sentences
  • Use contractions (i.e. you’ll instead of you will) to be more conversational
  • Use hyphens where appropriate to make content digestible (i.e. world-class)

2. Be concise

  • Cut all unnecessary words, phrases and sentences
  • Less is more. Don’t say the same thing twice
  • Use active voice and inclusive language, for example, ‘You’ll learn’ rather than ‘Students will learn’
  • Copy should be like a good swiss watch. No unnecessary parts to make it work.
  • Have you already gotten your message across? Why write more?

3. Write scannable copy

  • Use relevant subheadings - Use headings and subheadings to break text into smaller chunks – and make sure headings accurately summarise or describe the text below
  • Keep paragraphs short - Keep paragraphs short; stick to one topic per paragraph and introduce it in the first sentence
  • Use simple sentence structures - Use short, simple sentence structures; don’t try to fit too many points in the one sentence
  • Use lists where appropriate - Use bulleted lists
  • Get visual where you can - Use images, graphs, charts or tables where they might convey complex information more quickly

4. What’s in it for ME?

Focus on benefits, not just features. Instead of saying “We have the best teachers”, write “Benefit from our award-winning academics, who will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.” Instead of saying “We offer an internship”, write “You will get the opportunity to gain exciting hands-on experience in our internship program.”

Now you have your content style under control, next you need to focus on SEO to get the most out of your efforts.

SEO

1. Using keywords in on-page copy

  • Use keywords where they are relevant
  • Great content is King – it creates a better user experience
  • Don’t worry about keyword density
  • Google penalises sites that keyword-stuff for rankings

2. Keywords in the meta-title and description

  • Each page of your site should have ‘title’ and ‘description’ tags, as they are the first thing search engines such as Google and Bing read. The words you choose for the ‘title’ and ‘description’ tags also reflects the way your site will be expressed in search engine results
  • Google will cut off the description with ‘…’ after 25 to 30 words, so keep your descriptions short and on point
  • Ask your clients to supply this for you, or upsell and offer this service for them!

3. Heading levels

There should only be one H1, the rest are h2 and h3 etc – which are in effect your subheadings. DO NOT JUST BOLD or INCREASE FONT SIZE.

Google likes seeing relevant keywords in the h1, 2 and 3s. They are also important for ACCESSIBILITY. For example:

h1 Studying honours at university

Honours is an extra year of study at the end of a postgraduate degree…

h2 Check your eligibility

To check whether you are eligible to apply…

h3 How to apply

Please register your interest…

So that's it! No fancy gimmicks and no bells and whistles. Just purely focusing on the basics, keeping it simple and remembering a few easy tips will go a long way towards developing engaging and readable content marketing or copy for your website. And as an extra bonus - you’ll stay in Google's good books, to ensure you get a little help from them in driving your target audience to where you want them to be - with you!

Content based on a presentation by NATALIE KHOO.

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