I’m a working mum. I have a day job as a digital content designer, which is one of those job titles that tends to confuse people. When I tell people what I do, they’ll often assume that I’m a web designer (I’m not) or that I write code (I can’t). I often explain it like this:
“You know how you to go websites and there are words on them?” I say.
“I write those words,” I say.
People underestimate the importance of web content. Don’t get me wrong – good web design is important. Your website should look nice, and it’s great to have fancy image sliders and video panels and plugins that do cool things. But if your content is bad, people aren’t going to come back to your site.
If you’re not a blogger, this post probably isn’t going to be very useful to you. If you’re a blogger who’s been at it for a while, you’ll probably know most of this stuff already. A lot of it’s common sense. For the rest of you new or newish bloggers, here are some tips to make your content not suck.
Never underestimate how lazy your readers are
I don’t care how compelling your birth story is or how interesting your most recent holiday was. If you write a piece that’s 5,000 words about it, I’m not going to read the whole thing. And neither is anyone else, except for maybe your mum.
People are lazy on the internet. They want content that they can consume easily. The ideal length of a blog post, according to recent research, is 1,600 words, which takes the user about 7 minutes to read. A photo-heavy piece could knock that down to 1,000 words.
(My posts are often a lot shorter, but I’m pretty impatient when it comes to writing/reading/everything.)
Overall, 74% of blog posts that are read are under 3 minutes long and 94% are under 6 minutes long.
(A note for all your vloggers – the ideal length of a YouTube video is around 3 minutes.)
If you really, really need to write a longer piece, you don’t want your readers to have to work too hard to read it. Which brings me to my next point:
Make sure your content is easy to read
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on an interesting-sounding blog post, seen blocky paragraphs written in small text, and just closed the browser window because I can’t be a***d.
Your blog content needs to be scannable, which means using things like:
- Short paragraphs and lots of line breaks
- Bullet points or numbered lists
Choose a clean template and a readable font in a normal size. No Comic Sans, please.
Images can help break up long text, but only include them if they’re relevant to the post (ie pictures of a product you’re reviewing) – lots of stock images can be distracting. For example, here is a cute image of a hedgehog.
Yes, it’s adorable. Yes, it makes the page look nice. But it’s completely irrelevant to this post. Don’t do this.
Don’t get too hung up on SEO
A lot of people think SEO needs to involve installing plugins and all sorts of keyword trickery. It doesn’t.
If you try to stuff in lots of keywords just for the sake of it, it will be obvious. Your post will ready weirdly and Google will know what you’re doing, because they know EVERYTHING. If you want to boost your on-page SEO, it’s pretty easy:
- Use relevant words in your page title. If you post is about weaning, put the word ‘weaning’ in the title. Simples.
- Use appropriate keywords throughout your text, which should kind of happen naturally if you’re writing good content.
- Add in-line links, both internal and external – but only if they’re relevant to the post. Avoid link stuffing.
- Make sure that you name your images sensibly and use your keywords in your image alt tags (which is important for accessibility too!).
- Make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Google hates mobile unfriendly sites. As does everyone, because they’re INFURIATING.
- Write engaging content. This is one of the most important points, and it’s one that people sometimes forget about. Good content that people want to read increases time on page and decreases bounce rate, which can affect your ranking.
Don’t do these things because they’re the worst
There are a few things that drive me and other digital nerds nuts – avoid them at all costs.
Don’t say ‘click here’
It’s not descriptive enough for screen readers and won’t mean anything to people who are using assisted technologies. Plus, it doesn’t tell users anything about where they’re going if they click on the link.
This is good: You can buy the Awesome Baby Thing on the Overpriced Baby Crap website.
This is not so good: To buy the Awesome Baby Thing, click here.
Don’t link to PDFs
This is less of a problem in the blogging world than in the business world I work in, but I’m going to bring it up anyway because I hate them so much.
The only time you should ever put a PDF on your website is if you’re absolutely sure that your readers will want to print out the content. And that’s a pretty big if.
See, PDFs weren’t designed for the web. They’re not easy to navigate, they take ages to download and they look s**t on mobile. Take the content in the PDF and convert it to a web page instead.
DON’T USE ALL CAPS
Unless it’s for comedic effect or emphasis (as I’ve done above). A few words is fine – a whole paragraph isn’t. It’s really hard to read and will come across all shouty to people who are using screen readers.
On a related note, studies have found that titles in sentence case (where only the first letter is capitalised) are easier for users to read than titles in title case (where the first letter of each word is capitalised).
Find your tone of voice and be consistent
Are you sassy and sarcastic? Authoritative and informative? Personable and chatty? Whatever your tone of voice is, own it. Be consistent with it. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not, unless that someone is a really awesome writer, in which case you should totally copy them.
Just kidding. Don’t do that.
But the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader, so read bloggers who you admire and learn from them.
And on that note, go away and write some brilliant content, you lovely people.