Are you sometimes stumped by how hard it is to figure out what is the best approach for online writing? About what makes it the elusive “high quality” you’re told readers want?
If you’re a good writer, you not only research your topic, you research how to best present it. You also try to learn how to write and format for the type of publishing platform you or your publisher will use. You know that your writing itself is good writing, but what makes it work well for online readers?
The sheer volume of advice available on those subjects is overwhelming.
Advice for writing good online articles is contradictory.
The contradictions are partly because some advice applies primarily to blogs and some applies to standard websites. Oh yes, and some of it applies to standard websites that also have blogs.
So, for example, if your website is a WordPress site, with a focus on blogging, your writing needs are determined by that structure. But, if you want to do article syndication, your copy has to work as either a feature article or a post.
Fortunately, most people are interested in blog posts these days. So you could just focus on what makes a good blog post. And most of the time a long post will work as a feature article as well. If only you could get a clear idea of what the purpose of a blog is.
There are many contradictory ideas about what blogging is for.
Is it primarily for up-to-date, newsworthy articles? Can it combine short, newsy articles with evergreen content? Should it contain advertising? Is it just a way to sell products with content being secondary or tertiary? Should you have just posts or should you have separate pages that are for special topics articles?
Is blogging closer to an online newsletter and meant to be part of a standard website?
The contradictory advice also results because some of it considers SEO needs, some doesn’t consider SEO needs, and some only focuses on content-as-SEO.
Even if you can resolve the issues of “to-blog-or-not-to-blog” and what a blog is for, you still have the size issues. And the format issues.
Some people advise that you write long, high-value articles or posts. They say that it serves your readers best and is also the best way to get promoted in the search engines. They argue that the long articles are more likely to be noticed and linked to because of their high value. They claim that long articles are more likely to go viral than short ones.
Others say that articles should be short. That research shows most readers merely scan for the information they want. That if you want to give longer articles you should turn them into handouts and have your readers download them. And that images will help draw better attention, so short articles that are well illustrated are best.
Of course, the short-article-with-images advocates don’t mention that search engines can’t read images. They judge content by keywords, number of words, ratios of keywords to total number of words, words in headlines and many other factors involving words.
So who’s right? What’s the best advice for writing online?
There are many more issues, and much more advice out there.
The seemingly opposing sides all have helpful advice. At various times. In various ways. But you can cut through that to the basics.
It is important to write enough about your topic to satisfy your readers. And to know how much is too much.
It is important to know how to format for the best online reading experience — which includes much scanning. And then be able to draw the reader in.
It is important to have graphics for support. And infographics are extremely helpful. But you also need to be careful not to over-do. If we’re talking about readers, we’re talking about people who are looking for words more than pictures.
It is important to provide new information and new ways of looking at things.
Optimizing your articles for search is essential.
But the most essential of all the advice is to research and identify your reader. Then write for your reader.
While writing for your reader, adapt your writing to include optimization for online considerations like formats that aid readers who are looking at a backlit screen with their eyes drying out while trying to read paragraphs that might be too long for their ability to focus.
So, you’ll want to break up long text or capture attention with paragraph heads and sub-heads. This actually helps you to adapt to naturally incorporate excellent keywords in those heads and sub-heads to excite both your readers and the search engines. And it give you a chance to create some color in your writing by choosing attention-getting, web-safe hues for the fonts in your heads and sub-heads.
You may also want to break up text with relevant photos and illustrations, which gives your reader’s eyes a respite, and gives you a chance to get more keywords in by using captions on the images. (Since a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, it’s also a way to get your message across more clearly.)
So, good writing and good formatting for your reader is actually good SEO as well.
And, finally, if you make it easy for your readers to read, you make it more likely for them to share. The more they share, the more readership you can build.
Go write some good articles.