Flashback! We’re refreshing this three-part series, originally posted in June of 2012. If you missed Part 1 go ahead and tab over for a refresher. Otherwise, on to part 2!
Web Writing is an Art and a Science
We’re not pulling any punches: web writing involves a lot more than Parisian cafés and fisticuffs.
Indeed, Hemingway would freak out if he had to do everything writers have to do today to make their work successful because, in his day (though he’d surely never see it this way) there were only so many outlets for the written word, and only so many writers trying to fill them.
Today, writers also have to mind their web presence through keyword research and analytics (see Web Writing for Beginners Part 1 of 3) just to stay afloat in the sea, and as if that weren’t a full time job, they still have to produce compelling content.
What Does it Take to be a Great Web Writer?
First, you need to establish a routine. You already have a great website and an editorial calendar, so now you have to decide:
- When you will write, and
- What tools you will use
What Does Our Routine Look Like?
Let’s consider Anna’s writing process:
Anna starts at the beginning of her work week by taking a gander at her editorial calendar and putting the topic in her hopper (that’s her brain!) so she can let the ideas get flowing in advance. Call it prewriting.
Then she researches, either at the library, online or among books she has on hand (just so you know, she’s quite a book addict). If it seems like a good idea, she talks to other people to get a new take on the topic.
Anna then bangs out a rough draft on recycled paper with an old fashioned pen, curled up by her window, watching the real hummingbirds, with a pot full of green tea.
Then she does a quick web search to see if she left anything out or to follow up on ideas generated by writing the draft. Quick tip: Add any new ideas to your editorial calendar. You can refer to them when you’re feeling uncreative.
Then she types the whole mess into Pages, her favorite word processing tool.
After that, she copies her into her CMS (WordPress) and HTMLifies it. Quick tip: “HTMLify” is not a word, but it’s handy shorthand for tagging the layout manually. Using a number of WordPress plugins, she makes sure that her text is optimized for SEO, tags keywords, and so on, before finally adding an image and publishing.
Does this sound like a lot of work? We never promised writing would be easy.
The Most Important Thing
Be nice to humans. Reading off a screen is hard and people are in a hurry. You already worked out the part about understanding your audience and doing keyword research. So remember to choose topics and phrases that are valuable (solve problems, explain a topic, or simply entertain) and easy to search.
Web Writing Tips
Say What You’re Going to Say, Then Say it, Then Say What You Said
In your headline and introduction, make sure it’s clear what you’re going to talk about. Talk about it. Then recap. This method helps readers get your take home.
Cover One Main Idea
Don’t confuse your reader by mixing up a lot of different points. Choose a topic and stick to it. By choosing one topic, you will help your readers and the post will be easier to search because the keywords will be repeated. (But not too much. See below.)
Write Like You Talk
Sound human. Don’t posture with a plethora of punched-up prose. No one likes a sesquipedalian. Pretend you are having a conversation with someone. Writing is about communicating, not showing off.
Don’t Write for Search Engines
There was a time, way back when, when you could try to game the search engine system by plugging your keywords excessively, but that’s definitely no longer the case. We’ve written more than once about how using natural language is the key to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) success, and it’s way kinder to your readers, to boot.
Make Your Web Writing Easy to Scan
This can be accomplished with:
- Short paragraphs
- Subheadlines, and
The white space you create using these techniques makes your writing visually easy to read. Crowded writing is hard to read.
Make Your Headlines (and Titles) Pop
Better: How Editorial Calendars Make You a Better Writer
Worse: Using an Editorial Calendar can Make You a Better Writer
Best: How to Write an Editorial Calendar That Rocks
See the difference?
Quick tip: Use keywords in headlines and titles because they are weighted more heavily than other text for search engines. But remember: don’t force it!
Use Active Words
Go straight for the verbs and skip the filler.
- Try: Call today for great savings
- Skip: If you call us today we give you some great savings
Create Simple, Uncluttered Sentences
- Avoid lots of commas and semicolons
- Make your sentences short and punchy, and
- Rely on nouns and verbs
Don’t Break Hearts
If you say you are going to write about something, write about it.
If you link to another article, make sure the link works.
Quick tip: Speaking of links, it’s great to link to your own work.
In a perfect world, someone else will look at your work before you publish it. If you don’t have an editor, do this:
- Read your work out loud
- Give it a rest, and
We guarantee that your writing will improve as a result of this technique, or your money back!
Steal Like an Artist (by Austin Kleon)
Besides being a great book, it’s a good idea.
Pay attention to great web writing. Keep a list of sites you love. Refer to the list to improve your own writing.
Now Let’s Talk About Picasso
As writers, Picasso doesn’t hold quite the same place in our hearts as Hemingway, but there is one thing about him we really admire. The young Picasso was not a rule breaker. He took time to master the art of drawing and painting. If you go to the Picasso museum in Paris, you can see his amazingly fine (and not very original) early drawings. After he learned the rules he broke them, but he broke them skillfully and with mindful precision. And the rest is history.
Next week, in part 3, after you’ve done some writing, we’ll do some promoting. And then we can break out the champagne!
Colibri Digital Marketing
We’re the digital marketing agency San Francisco trusts to focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Based in the Bay Area, close to Silicon Valley, we’re the team with the sneak-peek into the future of digital marketing. If you’re ready to work with San Francisco’s first and only full-service B Corp-Certified digital marketing agency, drop us a line or click below to schedule a free digital marketing strategy session!
It’s fun 🙂
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