If you want your online content to be found, you need to make it attractive to both humans and search engines. One or the other is good, but both is close to awesome.
Because, the fact is, no matter how wondrous you think your online creation is, it only becomes truly great when people find it and pass it on.
Here are my top seven tips for catching and holding attention online:
1. Write like a cappuccino: light and airy
Write for speed readers, people like you and me who scan over pages and don’t read every word. Extended prose still has a place, but not in the middle of a hectic work day.
And use spacing and formatting to draw attention to the interesting bits. That’s why these features are there; to help you help your reader.
2. Write headline awesomeness
Great headlines are punchy and promising. They tell you exactly what to expect without revealing so much they spoil the main event.
If your headlines don’t compel you to read more, they’re not headlines, they’re dead lines. Re-write them.
3. Use numbers and lists
It’s no accident that you’re reading seven tips. Lists work:
They’re accessibly and appealing.
You know exactly what you’re in for
You want to dive in and stay the course to the end
Bullet, fact, bullet, fact, bullet, fact. This is the stuff the internet was made for.
4. Be picture perfect
Everyone loves a bit of eye candy. Embellish your content with imagery and colour. Anything that makes your page less text-heavy is good: photos, cartoons, graphs, videos, they all work wonders.
Don’t be frightened to sex up your page with decorative features. Keep the download size small and your readers will be drawn in like wasps to an ice lolly.
5. Write like a human
People like people, at least most of the time. Or rather, they like people more than robots and machines. Write like you speak. Don’t use fancy words to look clever; the only person you impress is yourself.
But, once you’ve finished writing like a human, re-read your text. Make sure your vocabulary is rich enough to capture a broad range of searchers. Finally, a great use for that dusty thesaurus.
6. Structure = Simple
As those power readers scan over your page, your layout should guide them through your content. Add signposts, extra headings, arrows and side quotes.
Make the journey through your page as pleasant as it can be. Who cares if the reader takes a shortcut, as long as they got to where they want to be.
7. Write for your audience
Don’t write for yourself. Write for the readers. Work out how you want them to feel, what you wan them to think and, most crucially, what you want them to do.
It sometimes helps to have a mental picture of your reader in your mind. How will they react to that sentence you just produced? If you don’t imagine the response you expected, try again. Before long you’ll find it impossible to write in any other way than for that reader who lives happily inside your head.