Writing well is a skill that takes time and practice. Writing well for the web is an entirely different skill. People online are in a much different mindset than someone settling in next to the fireplace with a long book.

You’ll learn here how to write content that search engines love and readers can’t wait to read.

Lesson 1: Users Don’t Read

Let’s be honest. You don’t read the web, and neither does anyone else.

(Honestly, that’s offensive. Hours and hours went into writing this Small Business Website Guide and you’re not even bothering to read it.)

Guess what! We’re all guilty of this phenomenon. There are always the fringe cases and articles we love, but most of the time we don’t spend a lot of time reading content.

According to Jakob Nielson, you’re not likely to read more than 20% of the content on this page.

What’s the take away?

  • Write concisely
  • Write scannable content
  • Write content that delivers

Lesson 2: Think Like a Searcher

You have to think like a searcher to get a searcher’s attention.

This isn’t the first time you’ve learned this: You need to know your target audience and their needs. In other words, you need to do your best to become a psychic.

You’ll need to brainstorm every possible motivation your visitors may ever have for visiting your website. For each of those motivations, you’ll need to think of potential searches. For each of those searches you need to have written content that fulfills the need of that search.

That sounds like a lot of work and effort. It is.

“Anything in life worth having is worth working for.”

– Andrew Carnegie

What’s the take away?

  • Research your target audience
  • Anticipate any potential search
  • Write content that fulfills the need for each search

Lesson 3: Simplify

Simplify your content for better search engine optimization and readability.

Did you finish reading Lesson 1? Probably not so I’ll remind you: the first take away was to write concisely.

Say it in fewer words.

Use words that impact.

If it doesn’t directly add user-benefit to your content, take it out.

Lesson 4: Simplify (More)

Now, since you’re probably only reading 20% of this article, this lesson is repeated to ensure you end up reading this important lesson.

Simplify your content for better results. Read your content out loud. Does it roll off the tongue or is it awkward to say?

Would you run out of breath reading your own article?

Would an audience fall asleep listening to you reading your article?

If any of the answers to those were “Yes”, then it’s time to simplify.

Lesson 5: Would You Read It?

This part is hard. Think about the content that you will read all the way through, compared what makes you click away the moment you begin to read.

Be honest with yourself:

  • Do you click away if it sounds like an out-right advertisement?
  • Do you click away if it takes more than a paragraph to tell you what benefit you will get from the page?
  • Do you click away if you can’t scan and find the answer to your question in less than 8 seconds?

You can probably come up with more, but those are a good start.

Now go back to your article. Pretend that you’ve never read it before. Immerse yourself into the mind of your hypothetical searcher.

Visit your page.

Did you click away?

Lesson 6: Writing 101

  1. Think about all of the lessons we just learned as you write.
  2. Write an outline of your points
    It will look suspiciously like the intro points I have at the beginning of each of the Small Business Website Guide posts.
  3. Go through each point and write about that point.
    Try to write it as though you were explaining it to someone you know. It’s helpful to actually pick a specific person to have in mind.
  4. Once you have your rough draft ready, look for a better way to say it.
    This is the simplification part. This is also a great time to see where you can rephrase things to fit in your keywords and key phrases.
  5. Edit your draft as though you were prepping it for a college professor to read and it’s credit or no-credit. Check for grammatical errors and spelling errors.
  6. Read it out loud.
    Are you using a lot of the same phrases over and over? Pull out your thesaurus. Are you finding it hard to read out loud? Re-phrase it until it rolls off of the tongue.
  7. Go through each of the web friendly content lessons here.
    Can you improve your post by applying any of them again?
  8. Double check that you’ve included keywords, key phrases and their variations, but not excessively. (If you’re concerned about a term called ‘Keyword density’, rest assured that it is a myth. Keyword density is how many times your keyword occurs within your content, and worrying about this statistic often leads to poorly written content.)

Congratulations. You’re now equipped to write effective, search engine friendly content!

Hold on a second, you’re thinking. We barely touched on how to include keywords and key phrases.

This is not true my friend – the focus here is on the searcher.

If you write content that satisfies the need of the people who will eventually read your content, you are writing search engine friendly content. Satisfy their needs and motivations, and you’re already including the right keywords and key phrases.

Wax on, wax off.