8 rules for writing content on the internet

8 rules for creating content online

Are you creating content on your website?

Are you not seeing any growth as a direct result of your content?

Then it could be that your content is not written in a suitable way for the internet.

This article will tell you how to format your content for the web to get the best results.

How it’s different from writing for other media

Traditionally, you would write content for a book or newspaper, generally it would be something printed.

This type of content would often be read page by page, or article by article; the readers would sit down and read the content in it’s entirety – word for word.

That is where writing content for the web differs most.

Online content is more likely to be skim read, than read word for word.

It’s a hard truth, but your readers aren’t going to read every line of content you put out there, they are going to search for the sentence or two that sounds interesting or relevant to you and skim over those sections.

That means we have to make it as easy as possible for them to skim over our content quickly, but still get the important bits of information.

Below I have identified 8 rules that you should follow. They aren’t necessarily strict rules, some of them can be bent or broken, but this is what you should aim for – especially if you are just getting going.

#1 – Keep your paragraphs short

Short paragraphs are vital.

Not only are they easier toread, they allow you to break up the content into efficient chunks.

If you’re used to writing on printed material, this one will be a challenge for you, but almost everywhere you enter a full stop, enter a new paragraph as well.

You need to keep everything short and snappy.

Big paragraphs look pretty scary on the internet –people end to avoid them so you must break it up as much as possible.

#2 – Break up your content with sub headings

Instead of writing each section within a big paragraph or two, break it up into manageable chunks using sub headings.

Like the short paragraphs, this makes skim reading extremely easy.

If people have to trawl through your content to find the points they are interested in, they will leave.

So break down your content into smaller, precise sections.

A good habit to get into, is to plan your article by writing all the headings first. Once the headings are in, you can start to add the content.

#3 – Use bullet points to explain examples

Bullet points are a perfect tool for getting information across quickly.

Here are some benefits:

  • They improve the readability
  • They can be created quickly
  • They get the message across easily

Bullet points should be written in the same way you write headlines, they are short and to the point.

There is a great article on how to use bullet points over at Copyblogger, it’s well worth a read.

#4 – Use images to help explain a point

Images are a perfect way to get a message across quickly.

Not only that, but they provide a nice relief from text.

They help to prevent a reader from getting bored of reading and leaving before they reach they bottom of your article.

They are also perfect for explaining a step to step guide, or any tutorial on how to do something.

#5 – Bold key points to bring attention to them

As you will often writing for skim readers, you need to get key points across as quickly as possible.

Throughout your content you will have a few points that are absolutely vital.

These are the types of content you should be putting in bold so the skim readers don’t miss it.

By them finding these key points easily, they will find your content useful as they were able to find the important bits of information very quickly.

#6 – Keep content above 400 words

By keeping your content above 400 words, you’re not just giving yourself enough room to get your message across, but you’re also providing enough opportunities to add keywords into your content.

Google loves content. It will scan through your content picking out keywords from the document so that the page can be correctly indexed within the search engine.

If your content consists of 50 words, then Google isn’t going to think you have enough content to say anything of importance and you might find the content drops off of the page rankings.

This however is one of those rules that can be broken.

If you’re posting content very regularly, then you can get away with having short copy, but for the majority, try to keep it above 400 words.

To put it in perspective – this article is over 1200 words, so it’s only one third of this.

#7 – Include links to other relevant sources

Links are vital for a number of reasons. Not only do they help with your Google rankings and keeping people on your website for longer, but it also helps when someone duplicates your content! – Which they will.

Google looks at all the links on a website; they use them to find new pages, and work out which pages have the most importance on a website – this counts for both links from another website, and links from one of your pages to another.

But of course we don’t (or shouldn’t) write content just for search engines, so providing links to other articles on the topics you breeze over is a great way to keep your readers interested.

Not only are you providing them with more information on the topic, but they would also be spending more time on your website as a result of you sending them to another page.

The final bonus can be seen when people steal your content.

Unfortunately getting the content thief to remove the content can be a big struggle, but the damage is greatly reduced if that content has links back to your website.

That means that anyone who is reading the content on a different website will still have the opportunity to end up back with you.

#8 – Don’t directly copy content from other websites

Finally, don’t steal someone else’s content.

Not only is bad for your website, but it’s bad for the original content creator as Google will penalise duplicate content.

Instead of taking content, simply quote it. Take the sentence that you found interesting and explain in your own words what the topic is about.

Alternatively create a post that continues or argues the points being made.

This will prevent your website from being penalised by Google, and the original content creator would love you for it – so you have an opportunity to build a relationship with them.

Summary

These points are all basics when creating content online. Some of the rules aren’t set in stone, but if you are starting out, then you should follow them until you have got into the habit of writing content for the internet.

The key points to remember:

  • Writing online is not the same as writing for print media
  • Break up your content as much as possible
  • Your readers will skim your text – not read it word for word
  • Include links and images to keep readers attention
  • Write your own content, don’t take someone else’s

What’s the most important lesson you have learnt for creating content online? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Peggy

    Hi Sam. Great post. Thanks for the good info. I picked up a couple tips that are very important and I had heard of but forgotten about. I also liked your post on WordPress 3.6 with the podcast info, etc. Great work. Thanks.

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