As a community guide, I answer questions for writers new to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Some are new to writing altogether, some new to online writing, and some just new to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Here are some common questions answered with internet writing strategies that attract readers to your content:
What Topics Should I Write About?
What you should write about depends on who you are and what you know. The most successful internet writers tend to write about topics of interest to them or topics on which they have some expertise.
What is SEO, and Why Should I Care?
SEO is search engine optimization, and without it, no one is going to find your articles. Understanding and using SEO effectively is essential to internet writing.
SEO is the means by which a search engine ranks internet content for relevancy in returning search results. SEO operates on the basis of keywords. What are keywords? Think about what you would type into a search engine to find the article; those are your keywords. They should be mentioned in the headline and the first paragraph and sprinkled throughout the article.
LSI, or latent semantic indexing, is a closely-related concept. LSI takes into account not only an article’s keywords but synonyms and other words and phrases that are associated with the keywords. Suppose you write an article about a company’s hostile takeover bid, for example. Mentions like “board of directors,” “offer,” and “stockholders” would assist the search engine in assigning a ranking to your article because such words and phrases are typically found in discussions of hostile takeover bids.
How Long Should a Typical Article Be?
The attention span of the average internet user is very short, so keep articles brief. How brief? Usually, 350-450 words is ideal. If an assignment contains other word limits, adhere to them.
What Style of Writing Works Well?
The best writing for the internet consists of short sentences contained in short paragraphs. If your writing tends to be wordy, if you feel compelled to explain every detail, remember: you are not writing an encyclopedia entry. Learn to condense your detailed articles down to bare essentials.
Edit ruthlessly. When editing, eliminate words and phrases that don’t pack a punch. Phrases like “it goes without saying,” “it’s important to note,” and “on the other hand” should be among the first to go when editing an internet article. These are value-void phrases for the reader.
The word “the” is one of the most unnecessary words in internet writing. Sometimes you need it, but if you don’t, get rid of it.
Here are two examples of sentences from news articles online as I would edit them:
Original: As longtime rulers face revolts, fear of what could happen to refineries, pipelines and shipping routes is what has driven shipping prices past $100 a barrel for only the second time in history.
Edited: As longtime rulers face revolts, fear of the impact on refineries, pipelines and shipping routes [is what] has driven shipping prices past $100 a barrel for only the second time in history.
Note: the edited sentence is 13 percent shorter than the original and retains the meaning.
Original: The Civil Marriage Protection Act cleared the Senate on a 25-21 vote after it was amended in recent days to provide additional protections to religious groups that oppose gay marriage to ensure they can’t be legally compelled to perform or take part in ceremonies or to recognize the unions.
Edited: The Civil Marriage Protection Act cleared the Senate [on a] 25-21[vote] after [it was] being amended [in recent days] to provide additional protections to religious groups [that oppose] opposing gay marriage. The amendments [to] ensure [they] such groups can’t be legally compelled to perform or [take part] participate in ceremonies or [to] recognize [the] gay unions.
Note: the original sentence was 49 words long! The edited version consists of two sentences and is still 8 words shorter than the original. The presentation is more reader-friendly and internet-savvy.
What Do I Need to Know About Writing in the First Person?
The Yahoo! Contributor Network provides crowd-sourced content. First-person accounts are often encouraged. But there is a common mistake new writers make when writing in the first person.
The strangers who read your article don’t know you. They don’t care about the details of your life. What they want is a message that pertains to them. When you write in the first person, strive for a universal theme that ties your experience to the reader.
Why Isn’t My Writing Getting More Page Views?
If you have followed the advice here religiously and still aren’t getting page views, what’s wrong? Probably one of two things: the breadth of your topic or your headline.
Internet articles should be narrowly-focused. Romantic gifts for Valentine’s Day is a saturated topic. Romantic gifts that won’t embarrass your self-conscious valentine is a narrowly-focused alternative.
Headlines should convey the uniqueness of your article. The headline “Wisconsin Assembly Votes on Anti-Union Bill” does not capture the unique flavor of the story. It is doomed to be one of hundreds of similar headlines and is unlikely to draw high readership. Consider instead:
- * “Wisconsin Passes Anti-Union Bill: GOP Trickery Leaves Dems Scrambling,” or,
- * ” Wisconsin GOP Sneaks Anti-Union Bill Past Dems”
Try these tips, and see if your page views improve.