Whether you're an old pro at creating content or whether you're new to the field, it never hurts to hear the essentials of effective and readable content. And let's just remember that great content is crucial to a successful site. What follows are eight of the most important things to remember when you're creating readable content for your website.
- Use an attention-grabbing headline. Readability isn't just a matter of dragging one's eyes across a screen of text. It's about engaging interest. That is the number one job of a headline — to grab someone's attention so they will follow through and read your content.
- Break up the content with subheadings, numbers, or bullet points. Most web readers aren't coders — people who can stare at screen full of symbols and make sense of it all. Your content should be delivered up with plenty of paragraphs, bullets, numbers, subheadings, breaks, and pictures. Text is still primary, but you should allow it to give way to the beauty of white space. If you don't, your content will be extremely unwelcoming.
- Feature an image. Everyone loves pictures. Eye-tracking heatmaps have long confirmed that a web visitor looks at an image before he or she looks at anything else on the page. It may seem as if images are a separate issue from the actual words of your content, but they are both important to readable content. Your content may be really good, but even so, an image provides a visual oasis in a desert of words. People need the refreshment.
- Keep the tone personal, professional, and engaging. When you're writing a blog, it's time to be yourself. Go ahead and use first- and second-person pronouns. Keep it relaxed and casual, but maintain professionalism. The most effective copy is copy that sounds genuinely human, devoid of a stilted stuffy tone. That's what will get people reading, keep people reading, and ensure that people get your message.
- Ensure good grammar and spelling. Since I've sneaked in two things here — 1) grammar, and 2) spelling — let me explain them both. First, grammar: Be accurate, but don't be a slave to it. There are legion rules of grammar that are meant to be broken. Sure, you want to do the best you can, but if you need to break a grammar rule now and then, go for it. Readability trumps the scientific exactitude of grammatical impeccability (did you get that?). Now, for spelling: Get it right. There is no excuse for misspelled words. Unless, of course, you're creating new words.
- Keep things varied. Successful bloggers and content creators understand that variety is the spice of blogging life. If every one of your articles sounds the same, looks the same, and basically says the same thing, you're going to bore your readers. Mix it up with an occasional infographic, photo, video, or different article style.
- Keep your audience in mind. Someone will only read your content if they're interested. And the only way for someone to be interested in your content is if it speaks to them in some way. Figure out who your audience is, and write content that they are going to read. For example, if you have a website that caters specifically to motorcyclists, your content is probably not going to include tips on migrating to a cloud server. This point is obvious enough, but often overlooked. Figure out what your audience needs, wants, or will be interested in. Then, write content that satisfies that need, want, or curiosity.
- Make it long enough (but not too long). There are no hard and fast rules about article length. There is simply a commonsense recommendation. Simply put, don't make it too long. But don't make it too short, either. Few people read laboriously lengthy articles. And super short articles don't gain the kind of sustained interest and SEO-rich content that your site needs. Like virtually all rules, these can be broken. If you spin out a masterful 3,000 word article, sure. Just make sure it's readable. And if you have time for a quick 100-word post, that's fine, too. Sometimes.
Content is at the heart of your web strategy. It's worth giving it your best shot to make it even better.