For this blog post, I thought that I’d go back to basics. After speaking with a few friends, I thought it was about time that I came out and wrote down what I have to share about creating web content:
- Don’t undervalue content. There are a lot of people out there that think anyone can write good content, and the only thing that matters is to get it up. You can pay people from third world countries to write up a storm, but any boost that you might get may be short lived. If you want repeat traffic, then you need to give people good, grammatically correct, well-written information.
- Write so people can understand what you have to say. Depending on your audience, people shouldn’t need a doctorate to read what you write. I’ve been told that the best content is written for 11th grade reading level. It’s also a good idea to use short sentences. It’s not that you have to talk down to people, it’s that you shouldn’t make them work to hard to understand what you’re trying to say.
- Do not use copyrighted materials without citations. That’s not only bad, it’s illegal. Make sure that you cite all quotations and give people the credit they deserve. You wouldn’t like it if they did that to you, would you? Adding links to the source is also a nice touch and is an easy way to let people know that you value what they have to say.
- Plagiarism is an academic issue. When you were in school, you had to worry about plagiarism, and for good reason. It’s a huge academic no-no. The same is not true for the real world. I often tell my editors that if they read a bunch of articles on a subject and come up with a combobulation of facts, they don’t need to cite each of the sources. This is perfectly legal. Even though they learned what they know by reading other sources, when they sit down to write they are writing from their own brains. (Note: In The Pet Wiki we’ll often add an external link section to articles so that people can see important sources.)
- Content goes beyond text. There are so many forms of content that are being used on the web, like pictures and videos and audio and presentations. It’s a good idea to mix it up to keep your readers engaged. Words are good and important, but in the ADHD world we live in, you can make a bigger impact and make it more exciting with a little bling.
- Find your voice. Each of us has a unique perspective of the world and a voice that’s all our own. Use it and write about your passion. It’s a lot easier to do that than to write about things you don’t really care about.
I know that I already said that you should write so that the reader doesn’t have to work hard to understand you, but there are some exceptions. For example, the great blogs that a bunch of my anipals write. They write in cat, dog and ferret talk, which is remarkably close to human speech, but can be a bit difficult for humans to read. If that’s your readership, go fur it (pun intended). It’s a great voice to have. Omer, my cat, and the author of Omer’s Scratching Post decided to use more human friendly talk. It’s still got cat-titude, but us lay people can read it too.
- It’s OK to be SEO savvy. SEO has a bad name, because too many people think it means things like writing the same keywords over and over again. Make sure to write titles that will let search engine users quickly know what your article is about. Also, it’s important to use the keywords so that your content will rank, just don’t go crazy with it. If your potential readership calls something a litter box, be aware that you won’t rank for that name if you omitted it from your content because you chose to call it a cat toilet.
- Read what you write. Even better, have someone else read it. It’s important to proof everything that you publish to the web. Someone else maybe able to catch mistakes that you just wouldn’t notice. If you don’t have someone else to do it for you, take a break and then re-read your stuff. Time will give you a fresh eye to catch mistakes.
I think that this covers the basics. I’ll try to get a list of resources together too. If you have anything to add, please let me know.
Image by richardjingram Some rights reserved.