If you are new to writing for the web, there are a few things you should know before writing your first article. Web writing is considerably different from writing for print, and you must write according to certain rules if you wish to be successful. Here are 10 tips to help newbies succeed in the world of web writing.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Learn to use keywords. You can write the world's greatest article and it will do nothing for you if you don't use keywords. Choose 1-3 keyword phrases that relate to your subject matter. Think about what people might type into a search engine to find your article.
If you are writing an article about growing roses, for example, you might choose keyword phrases such as "roses", "rose gardening" and "growing roses". Incorporate these into your article naturally. Don't stuff them in at every turn. They should fall in naturally about 6-8 times in a 400 word article.
Break it Up
Just as writing on the web is different from writing in print, reading on the web is also different. No one wants to read a giant block of text. Write in small paragraphs, separated by page breaks. This gives the reader a break and encourages them to keep reading (without getting a headache). Notice how the paragraphs in this article are separated into small sections. This allows the reader to skim through quickly and access the information they need.
Paragraphs should consist, ideally, of 3-5 sentences. Sometimes, they'll need to be longer and sometimes shorter. Just don't go overboard. Make sure you double space between paragraphs. This makes your text more appealing and easier for the average person to digest.
Web articles should always be "skimmable". Sub-headings are a great way to make sure your readers can find what they need without slogging through a heap of useless information. Notice how I use sub-headings in this article to separate different points. If you weren't interested in information about keywords, but had never considered sub-headings, it would be easy for you to skip directly to the part of the article you need.
Spell Check is a Web Writer's Best Friend
Yes, this should be obvious. However, I have seen SO many articles with poor spelling and grammar. Write your articles in Microsoft Word or some other word processing software before publishing. Run a spell and grammar check before you even think of publishing. Sometimes small mistakes will escape you, so do this even if you think everything is correct. This brings me to my next point.....
Save Your Articles
Save your articles on your hard drive in addition to submitting to a website or emailing to a client. I once had several articles mysteriously disappear on a website and had to re-submit them all. If I hadn't saved them on my hard drive, I would have had to research them all over again. Learn from my mistakes.
If you don't like Microsoft Word, try using Google Docs. It has most of the same features and allows you to save your documents on the web instead of your hard drive. I use it when I have to work some where away from home.
Keep It Clear and Concise
This took me quite some time to understand. When you're posting on a blog, it's okay to throw in your personal opinion. I tend to ramble on my blog in a way I would never do in a web article. Unless you are specifically asked to include personal experiences and opinions, try to keep your articles professional and make every word count. Don't stuff words in where they aren't needed.
When people are looking for information they want clear, concise answers. Focus on answering any questions someone might have about your subject with a minimum of words. For example, I once read an article about finding discounts at Disney World that read something like this:
"If you are wanting to go down to Disney World and find some discounts, you can use many different ways to find these discounts at Disney World."
Not only is this horrible writing, it is also obvious that the writer is keyword stuffing. I didn't make it past this sentence before moving on to another, more clearly written article. If you have a word count you must meet, find good quality information to fill the gaps, and write it well.
Don't Over-Use Adjectives
I have seen so many web articles that are saturated with words like "wonderful", "fabulous", "great", etc. Try to avoid using these words as they imply your own opinion. Just because you find something to be the "best" doesn't mean everyone will agree. Instead, try to keep things factual.
Adjectives are okay as long as they specifically describe your subject. If something is popular, you can say it's popular. If something is large, vast, colorful, etc., there's no problem saying so. But, don't use empty phrases like "one of the best" or "the most helpful". These phrases are subjective.
For example, don't say that red roses are the "most wonderful" breed to give your girlfriend. There are many people who might not agree with this statement. Instead, you could say something like "Red roses are a symbol of love and often given as gifts to loved ones." Are you following me, here? Back up what you say with facts, not opinion and rhetoric.
Use a Plagiarism Check
Plagiarism is obviously a big "no-no" in the world of web writing. I once wrote an article about Microsoft FrontPage that was flagged by the site I was writing for as being plagiarized. I knew that I had not plagiarized this article. But, because "Microsoft FrontPage" is such a saturated term, there were a ton of other articles containing similar words and phrases. This was promptly cleared up and I learned a valuable lesson about plagiarism.
Now, I run my articles through a free plagiarism detector to make sure I haven't "accidentally" plagiarized any information by using the same words or phrases as others. I recommend using PlagiarismDetect.com if you don't want to pay. If you don't mind paying a modest fee, the industry standard is CopyScape. Most websites use this program to check for plagiarism and it only costs $0.05 per check.
Write Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is content that is useful at all times, year after year. Of course, there are exceptions to this. You might want to write a holiday article and there's nothing wrong with this. But keep in mind that the article's performance will be limited. By writing evergreen content, you'll ensure that it's always valuable to readers.
Avoid using specific dates and times in your articles. Don't say things like "last month" or "this week" that date your articles. You want your web articles to perform well for years. If I begin reading an article that has outdated information, I quickly move on.
Site Your Sources
Always site your sources when using statistics or expert input. You can't simply say "experts agree" or "scientific tests" confirm. You must cite your sources for these types of statements. This will not only increase your reader's trust in you, but also make your articles appear more professional.
If you follow these guidelines, you'll be writing great articles for the web in no time. Remember to develop your own personal writing style but maintain high quality standards and professionalism at all times.