When you’re crafting Web content, it can often feel like there are so many factors to consider, so many things to get caught up with, that it’s hard to ever prioritize what really matters most. You think about the style of your writing, specific conversion goals you’re working towards, promotional strategies for helping you to bring more eyes to your content—and yet one of the simplest parts of writing good Web content is often one of the most overlooked: do you know what your Web content should always begin with?
The secret about good Web copy is that it should always begin by stating who should read it and why they should read it. It’s that simple.
Why You Want to Say Who Should Read It
Whatever you’re writing, start by saying whom it’s for—Bloggers? Copywriters? Business owners? Stay-at-home moms? Whatever audience you’re targeting, let them know. Here’s why:
- Shows That You Know: Addressing your audience builds credibility. When readers see you’ve put the planning and thought into creating content to meet their needs—and that it does—they begin to trust that you’re a worthy source of information.
- Addresses the Right Audience: While of course you want people to be reading your content, the fact is that not everyone will find it helpful or interesting. But by stating your audience upfront, you automatically target those individuals who are most likely to find value in what you’re saying.
- Increases Effectiveness: Here’s the biggest reason to state your audience: it makes your content more effective. You’ve got to know your audience in order to reach them, and this is true in any industry, whether construction or travel, transportation or fashion.
Why You Want to Say Why They Should Read It
The very next question in a reader’s mind after knowing Web content is for them is this: what’s in it for me? Here are the benefits of answering that question:
- Engages Your Audience: Writing to a specific audience is only half the battle—it’s just as important that you engage with them. And in terms of Web content, when readers know what’s in it for them, they are much more interested and willing to respond.
- Communicates Value: Saying why someone should read your content is basically the same thing as sharing the benefits it offers. Maybe your content is going to answer a question or explain a topic thoroughly; maybe it will show how to do something or provide life-enriching stories that touch readers’ hearts. Whatever the case, make the benefits clear to communicate value.
- Sets up Expectations You Will Meet: Giving readers a reason to read your content and then delivering on that reason gives them satisfaction, as well as the sense that you are someone who meets expectations. Likewise, it helps them track with you as they’re reading, staying interested throughout your writing.
Tips & Examples for Putting This into Practice
Maybe you’re reading the above tips and wondering what this looks like in actual Web content. Should every webpage start with the same, “This page is for X and you should read it Y”? Not exactly. Here are some tips for putting the two most important parts of content leads into practice.
- Address the Reader Early: Begin your post by talking to the audience you’re addressing, kind of like this post does by starting with “when you’re crafting Web content.” As soon as you see that, you know this post is for Web writers and by the end of the first paragraph, you know what it’s going to give them—the two key elements to starting any piece of content.
- Use Your Title: Sometimes you might use the title to state your audience and why they should be reading, like Jacqui MacKenzie does in “How to Write Great Web Content If You’re Not a Writer.” In it, she says whom she’s writing to and why they should care all in that initial title phrase: non-writers, to learn how to write great Web content.
- Through an Interesting Intro: Some webpages and online articles are most powerful not through a super-direct title but through a more vague or nuanced one, used to build interest and anticipation. In Craig E. Yaris’s post, “The Need to Blog,” for example, the title alone doesn’t give his specific audience or intention away. Will this be about why people should blog? Why they need to blog? What to do about it? He opens with a story that leads into a more clear audience and purpose statement in the fourth paragraph, phrased as a question, “But, where does the average small business owner find that good information to write about?”
What other strategies have you used or can you think of for implementing these two important keys to beginning Web content? Or if these ideas are new to you, how could they impact the effectiveness of your Web writing?
Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a leading Chicago SEO firm. She writes for clients in various B2B industries, from broadcasting equipment suppliers to flame resistant apparel. Check out the Straight North blog! @straightnorth
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