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Articles - Writing

Tips for Effective Online Content Writing

Sonal Panse,

'Content is King' has become a big online cliché, but it is true, very true. The main reason people will visit and continue to visit your website is because you have content that interests them or is useful to them in some manner. Unless the visitors have your exact web address, their usual way of finding you is through the auspices of a web search engine, and it is the quality of the content and keywords - search engine optimization (SEO) - you use on your site that will give you a high or low level of visibility in the search listings. Since a higher ranking is desirable, excellent content is necessary, and, as the online world has its own etiquette, the writing also has to be presented in a certain way to be effective.

Here are some writing tips that, hopefully, will come in handy:

1. Have something worthwhile to say: Even if you are a 'by the seat of the pants' writer, it helps to have an idea – or several - about what exactly you want to communicate. You do want to communicate, don't you? You want people to read what you've written, right? I mean, I assume that's why you are writing and publishing it online. You can stick to a niche or be versatile, in either case it will help to keep the reader in mind. What are they looking for? How can you help them? What information can you give them about your industry, your life experiences, your interests, and so on? What are the keywords someone might use to search for the particular topic you are writing on? You will need to include these to make sure that the search engines pick up your article.

2. Research the topic: Unless you are an absolute, cast-iron expert, it is advisable to read up on the topic and find more than four reputable sources. This is especially necessary if you are citing any facts or making any life-affecting statements; you certainly don't want to mislead your readers or cause harm. Even if it's not a research-oriented type of piece, researching the topic will still help; it always helps to see how other people are considering the matter.

3. Write a rough outline: An outline will give you an overall idea of what you want to include in the article and how you are to proceed with the writing. This isn't an absolutely essential tip, but it works for me. I also do free-writing.

4. Expand on the outline: Don't regurgitate what you've researched, try to convey your own unique insight. What have you understood? What do you think? State it in a clear, logical manner. Write as you would speak – assuming you know how to speak fluently and succinctly. This means, not dispatching ten words to do the work of two, and curbing the impulse to mine the dictionary for the most difficult and unused words in the language. Try to avoid corporate-speak, art-speak, or, indeed, any industry-speak if you are writing for a broad audience. It only makes you come across as too clever, too unintelligible, and too robotic. Speak as one normal, intelligent human being to another.

5. Stay on topic: Rambling may be fun to you. It may not equally enchant the reader. If you are writing for the reader, you have to show them some consideration. Online readers often have short attention spans, and they'll just go away if you're taking too long to come to the point.

6. Be visually interesting: Write in paragraphs and give headings that make it easy for a reader to skim through. Use images too.

7. Edit and spell-check: It sometimes helps to go away for a bit and then return to the writing for a fresh look. Unless I give it periodic rests, my brain has this tendency to overlook some quite obvious mistakes; I've even found myself reading a word right when I've quite clearly spelled it wrong, or have even not written it at all.

8. Publish: Write a compelling headline and a hook or a teaser that will make the reader want to click on your article. The teaser should be different from your opening paragraph, to make things interesting for both the readers and the search engines.