Nothing to write home about

At school my favourite subject was English - I remember putting way too much effort into my short stories compared to the rest of my work. I used to enjoy art as well and combined the two by also illustrating every story I wrote. In fact, when I recently discovered my old history books, at the back of the garage, it was obvious that I'd spent more time drawing pictures of Anne Boleyn's six-fingered hand than actually demonstrating what I'd learnt.

I used to continue this at home by illustrating comic books and writing more stories. I sort of still do by continuing to write this blog! I think that part of this is my drive to try to create more content than I consume. But with so many distractions around it's not an easy thing to do. I'm by no means the best writer, or even a very good one, but I do enjoy the evolution from writing for school to writing for business. With the former, I used to finish an assignment and hand it in. Whereas with blogging, I find I can create something and iterate on it with a goal of always improving.

But writing content for the web is HARD. Just because you work in PR, once wrote a book or even have your own blog it doesn't mean you can write web content. I became so bogged down with it during a recent website rebuild project that we decided to brief and outsource it to copywriters. So, here are a few pointers, which I always try to stick by, when writing for the web:
  1. Don't start by thinking about what you want to say but what people want to know. You need to decide immediately on your target audience and identify their pain points.
  2. Think about the purpose of your website/blog and the page you're writing for. Is there something you can offer different to your competition (i.e. some relatable examples?)
  3. Stick to your brand guidelines. Every large business should have a style guide which needs to be adhered to for a consistent tone of voice. It may take longer at first, but writing in different styles (personal/professional) will eventually become easier. 
  4. List and include your keywords. Before writing anything compile a list of prioritised keywords to ensure your content is found. There are lots of different ways of doing this and using social media to 'listen' to your audience in advance is an important one. 
  5. Make your writing visual. People read very differently online. It's important to ensure that you break up sections with sub-headings and lists to avoid reader fatigue. 
  6. Ensure that your content helps visitors through the conversion funnel. Anything you write should engage and involve your readers. This is especially true in blog posts where you want to present an interesting idea and spark debate. 
  7. Edit and proofread and have someone else read your draft. My wife is my long suffering sub-editor! You should also be clear about what you want the reader to do once they've read the article and link to relevant content elsewhere within your site. 
  8. Make sure your article is easily summed up for social sharing. If you focus on keeping your content focused and about one subject this should be much easier.
So it's time for me to publish this post and ensure I've done a decent job of summarising it's content for Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Now I've put myself out there by documenting my process let the stream of social media comments on how badly written this post is begin!
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