By Paul Marshall
Web sites with more content rank better with the search engines. Any online marketing consultant will emphasize, however, that more isn’t enough. For successful search engine optimization (SEO), your site needs a steady stream of fresh, relevant content.
Above all, know your audience. Understand what your readers want and give it to them. More content:
- Feeds the search engines.
- Encourages return readers.
- Serves as a keyword platform.
- Helps distribute PageRank (through relevant internal linking.)
Online marketing consulting emphasizes the need to build site authority. Information rich, relevant text is the most affordable SEO tool at your disposal to achieve that goal.
People Read Differently Online
Monitor resolution, color quality, available light and the fixed distance and angle of the screen all cause eye fatigue. More importantly, links encourage distraction. Readers routinely jump ship in the middle of the paragraph with no guarantee they’ll ever come back.
Use Inverted Pyramid Structure
To compensate, put the most important information in the first paragraph. Journalists have been doing it for years, well aware that almost no one will read their entire story. Arrange the rest of the material in descending order of importance.
Write to Your Links
If you include a link in a paragraph, continue to control the narrative at the link’s destination. Regardless of where a reader goes in your site, make sure you are presenting a coherent message.
Repeat Without Copying
Don’t be afraid to repeat information, but don’t just copy the same chunk of text. Rewrite repetitive material to vary your keyword phrasing and anchor text. Every page on the site should appear fresh and dynamic.
Forget the Five-Sentence Paragraph
Online readers need more white space to make skimming the text easier. Forget the five-sentence paragraph structure you learned in English class. Keep online paragraphs to three sentences or less whenever possible.
When possible, use a mix of bold, italics and underlining to make skimming easier for the reader.
Keep an Active, Direct Voice
Action verbs create strong Web copy. Don’t write that you “have been taught.” Tell the reader what you “learned.” Speak authoritatively, not passively.
Keep Your Text Concise
Work for a length of 500 to 1000 words per page. When an article runs long, pay special attention to paragraph length. Use subtitles to highlight main ideas and to create more white space.
Consider that the average reader reads at about 200 words per minute. Keeping them on a page for more than 5 minutes (1000 words) often isn’t possible.
Choose Common Vocabulary
Write your text on a 9th to 12th grade reading level. There are numerous tools online to measure the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of your text. Most require nothing more complicated than copying and pasting the material to be measured.
Proofread Your Copy
Misspelled words and poor grammar scream “amateur.” Ask someone you trust to proofread your copy. Writers get too close to their words and easily miss mistakes.
Avoid Common Grammatical Errors
Don’t be guilty of the most common grammatical mistakes. Making glaring errors will harm the reputation of your site and tell readers you don’t know what you’re doing. In particular avoid:
- Loose for lose. You lose your car keys. Your Hawaiian shirt has a loose fit.
- Lay for lie. When you have a headache you lie down. You lay your papers on the desk.
- You’re for your. “You’re in for trouble if you don’t mind your grammar.”
- Of for have. “I would have set you straight about this error if I could have.”
- They’re for their. “They’re suffering from the consequences of their bad manners.”
- Effect for affect. “A computer problem affects your ability to work. The effects of the situation may delay the project.”
Know When to Break the Rules
There are always situations that require that the rules be broken. This relates directly to the need to know your audience. Some topics call for a more in-depth treatment and more complex language.
Introduce deeper, more complicated material with a brief synopsis. Make it clear that following the link will take the reader to an extended treatment of the topic.
Formatting is even more important for in-depth material. Try to treat one idea per page with a clear indication of how many pages will follow. This lets readers find logical stopping points and encourages them to bookmark their place and return to finish reading later.
Always Remember the Basics
In composing text for your site, never forget the different mechanics of reading online. Focus on the wants and needs of your audience. Believe the online marketing consultant wisdom that content is king.
Keep the most important information in the first paragraph. Use sub-headings to improve visual scanning. Choose active verbs and clearly understood words.
Control the narrative throughout your site. Repeat without copying. Proofread and correct your work and update frequently to feed the search engines and encourage repeat visits from your readers.
About the Author
Marketing online since 2004, Paul Marshall can help you market on a realistic budget. He’s an Online Marketing Consultant offering professional marketing services (and d-i-y Coaching).