If you do any sort of writing for the web, you have less than 30 seconds to keep my eyeballs on this page. If I’m reading your text, why should I care? How are you grabbing my attention and keeping it?
What makes your *thing* different from the next?
Tell me something I don’t know. Tell me a story that only you can. Got an anecdote to share? If it’s funny, illuminating, or contains some juicy gossip, I probably want to hear it. Does it make me see you for the quirky, unique person you are? Does it make your company stand out from all the rest? Does it make me care about your project or organization? Good, then maybe I’ll keep reading.
Do you have some area of expertise to share? Great. I’ll read your article if I’m going to learn something new. Please don’t just recycle the current jargon and package it with a pretty bow and expect me to be impressed. I want some valuable information that is accurate and reliable. And I want to hear it in an original voice. I want to know that I’m dealing with a real person with whom I want to connect, and maybe even conduct business.
We writers of online content have a tricky path to walk. We need our text to be grabbed up by the search engines via our keywords. Oh yes, they are still the backbone of our online search engine ranking. But we also have to distinguish ourselves from the avalanche of writing that is out there on any given topic.
Why do I care about what you have to say?
Remember that keywords are simply not enough. You have to be writing something that people care about, enough to comment on and share with their friends. You know that saying, “Pictures, or it didn’t happen?” Well the new phrase is, “Share it, or it doesn’t matter.”
Seriously, nothing happens in a vacuum anymore. It’s all about creating a buzz, getting people talking, increasing your following, your likes, and your friends. Get real, be honest, be original, take risks! Sure, use your keywords, but then go out on a limb and do something crazy. Distinguish yourself from the crowd with a story that only you can tell, insights that only you can share – something from your own, unique experience.
I’ll share a pet peeve with you. I do a lot of online writing – for my own creative projects as well as for clients. Lately I’ve had to do research on new topics I’m writing about, and I’ve become very discouraged at the quality of material that I’ve found. It seems like the internet is becoming an echo chamber of self-referencing material, with no clear authority or source to much of the stuff that sits at the top of search engine pages.
Without opening up a whole dialogue about Wikipedia, scholarship and online research (definitely a topic for another day), I will say that the internet as a collective representation of current thought and knowledge can use some smart and original contributions. If you take the art of writing seriously, and I hope you do, please make your work part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
If you like what you’ve read here, then have a look at the content branding workshop series I’ve developed with award-winning designer Jennifer Dopazo. It’s called The Branding Lounge. If you live in New York City, we have a new session coming up in a couple of weeks.
Photo courtesy of familymwr.