Writing for the web is different from writing for newspapers, magazines, or books.
The difference is not in the words you write. But in the way people read, which makes all the difference in the world.
When it comes to reading online, most people will not read what you write word-for-word. They will scan your post in search of what they are looking for. If you don’t satisfy their appetite—quickly—then they’ll move on.
For bloggers, this means that you cannot be like an abstract artist who splashes paint on a canvas in the hope of creating something compelling. There is an art and science to using words to communicate, engage, and persuade readers online.
What follows are nine tips to writing a blog post people will actually read. Use these principals as proverbial bumper pads for your writing to help you stay on course and hit your goal.
1. Have one big idea
What’s the one big idea you want to make?
Make a conscious choice to cover your one big idea. Weave it throughout your entire post. Introduce it. Support it. Apply it. And then stop. writ
Fight the temptation to pursue rabbit trails. Instead, craft your post around one idea and delete whatever doesn’t support it.
What’s your one big idea?
2. Focus on your reader
Writing online is not like writing in your personal journal. You’re writing for a public audience, not yourself.
Focus your writing on your readers. Serve them with it. Answer their questions. Meet their needs. Help them do something.
Practically speaking, use second-person pronouns — e.g., you, your, and yours. This pivot in your writing will create a more personal touch with your readers
Who are you writing for?
3. Be human
When reading online, people expect to connect with the writer on a personal level.
Your readers want to get to know you. They want to understand what makes you tick.
Become known by your readers by making yourself known to them.
Allow your personality—for all of its warts and glory—shine through. Transparency is more important today than it ever has been.
Yes, your readers may be in search for technical answers. But this doesn’t mean you have to sound technical.
Use words and phrases your readers use him or herself. Write in such a way that your readers can easily understand what you’re saying. And by all means, banish jargon, acronyms, and assume nothing about your reader.
Are you being yourself?
4. Craft a clear and compelling headline
Will Rogers famously said, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This couldn’t be truer for writing online.
The way you create a good first impression online is by writing an attention-grabbing headline.
Your headline is the bait by which you lure in readers. Your headline will be read by 8 out of 10 people, while only 2 out of 10 people will read your post. If your headline does not catch your reader’s eyes or whet their appetite for more, then they will move on.
There are tricks you can learn to help you write one helluva seductive one-word headline. And there’s a seven-step experiment you can use to help you learn what it takes to write compelling headlines.
How compelling is your headline?
5. Grab readers with your first sentence
Question: What is the primary purpose of crafting a mind-blowing headline?
Answer: To get people to read your first sentence.
Your headline is a slide that leads your readers to read your first sentence.
And your first sentence leads people to read your second sentence (and so on and so forth).
Use your opening sentence to grab the interest of your reader and lure them down the slide of your post.
Does your first sentence grab reader’s attention?
6. Satisfy your readers
People read online much like animals’ forage for food.
They are hungry and in search for something to eat.
Your job as a writer is to make your one big idea as easily accessible as possible. There are several ways you can do this:
- Use short sentences
- Make one point per paragraph
- Ruthlessly edit
Look to simplify your one big idea and cut off any potential rabbit trails.
Have you simplified your one big idea and cut off rabbit trails?
7. Write to be scanned
Focus on your readers by making your post easy to scan.
People normally read online in an F-shaped pattern. They scan the page horizontally from left-to-right and then they scan the left side of the page in a downward vertical movement.
Here’s a visual illustration to show you what I mean:
Help your readers by accommodating to their reading habits. Here are some easy ways how:
- Bulleted lists
- Numbered lists
- Block quotes
- Pull quotes
- Bold or italicize content
Is your post scannable?
8. Include links
Link to relevant pages and posts within the post you’re writing.
Adding internal links will provide your site (or the site you’re writing for) with three valuable benefits:
- They help readers navigate your website
- They provide readers with more (relevant) information
- They improve your site’s SEO
Now, this doesn’t mean you want to turn your entire post into a series of disconnected internal links. But you do want to write meaningful links that entice readers.
Did you include internal links?
9. Provide closure
You cannot leave your writing flying in the air.
Land it at the end and provide closure for your audience:
- Deliver your promise
- Make your point
- Answer your questions
- Summarize your one big idea
- Ask a question
- Encourage action
Before you end your post, make sure your reader knows what you want them to do.
Does your post have a clear call to action?
Over to you
Some people can get away with ignoring these tips for writing a blog post. But this group of people is the exception; not the rule.
Before you can establish yourself as an authority or reach people with your message, you have to put in the hard work. For bloggers, this not only means writing (a lot). But investing time studying the art and science of writing for the web.
Instead of modeling yourself after the unicorns in the field, learn what skills make a great web writer. Apply the lessons you learn. See what resonates with your readers. Observe what drives results.
In short: Be a lifelong learner.
The nine tips I shared above only scratch the surface of what there is to learn. And, quite frankly, these are skills I’m continually striving to improve upon.