1. Bad titles
Choose your content’s title wisely – it will be visible in a number of places. Focus on structure, catchiness, and how it could answer your audience’s common questions. In terms of length, aim for a title of 6-13 words, which will attract the highest and most consistent amount of traffic. Search optimisation goes without saying, along with an all-important grammar and spellcheck before clicking ‘publish’.
Including a number in your title suggests authority, triggering your audience to pay attention. Numbers also help to identify how digestible your content is. When you spotted this blog post, you’ll have worked out that it might take a good 8-10 minutes to read. However, if it had only been a ‘3 Reasons Why’ or ‘5 Top Tips’, you could have skimmed through in moments. This is the difference between a quick read on your break or saving to your bookmarks for later!
2. Poor (or non-existent) subheadings
I hate to break it to you, but only a very small percentage of your readers will read your content from start to finish. In fact, most of them will disappear within a few minutes. And 43% of the remainder will skim straight through (the only person that pores over every word is your mum, I’m afraid). So make it easier for everyone to pick out info that’s relevant to them; if they spot a section that really piques their interest, they’ll be much more likely to return in future.
Each subheading should be clear and descriptive, covering off the key point of the content within its section. Include relevant keywords that can be picked out easily, and steer well clear of terms that your readers won’t understand. Also remember that the search engine takes notice of subheadings just like main titles, so make it easy to categorise and rank.
3. The Great Wall of Text
This ties in nicely with my previous point, as subheadings are a great way to break up the dreaded wall. Links, lists and images will also help to make your content look and feel more accessible. Readers that hit a wall of text are more likely to bounce, so secure more time on site by punctuating your text with other formats of content.
You should also try to limit your paragraphs to just three or four sentences. Any more than that, and they become much more difficult to digest.
4. Not putting the juicy bits at the beginning
People don’t consume online content in the way that they watch a film or read a novel. Most people come to the internet when they’re searching for an answer, so it’s important that you make this as easy as possible for them. Forget about plot twists, cliffhangers and big reveals – when you’re writing for the web, you need to present the most important information quickly and clearly.
Ensure that your main point is featured in the first sentence. Or at the very least, the first paragraph. The rest of your content provides an opportunity to expand on things, giving people the option to find out more or move on to the next one.
5. Ignoring the power of white space
When it comes to presenting your content, take advice from graphic designers: empty space is good. Leaving white space around sections of your copy improves comprehension, and helps to draw attention to the most important parts. Empty space also provides an effective means for influencing tone and flow, which can work wonders when you want your content to convey a certain mood, such as humour, apathy and irony.
It always works for me.
6. Bolding text for the sake of it
Bolding text was a cheeky optimisation technique back in the day, as our former, less sophisticated search engines assumed that bold = important, and categorised content in that way. This made it easy for pages to rank for their ‘bold’ terms, which was great news for webmasters, but did absolutely nothing for readers. Imagine reading a piece of content that’s peppered with Unnecessary Titles and emphasis. Or worse, bolds out bits of text willy nilly.
Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use bold text at all. If you’ve got a particular point that needs driving home, bold away!
7. Complex language
When you’re a pro at a subject, it might be tempting to write in a highly detailed and technical manner. But it’s important to remember that not all of your readers have the same level of knowledge, and even if they do, plain and simple language will be much more effective than industry jargon and obscure phrases.
Write in a way that’s easy to understand, providing important information quickly and efficiently. If you need to include acronyms, be sure to spell them out in the first instance. Long technical terms should also be broken down. If it’s crucial for you to mention sesquipedalianism, for example, be sure to explain it’s just a person that likes very long words.
8. Forgetting about links
Most of the content you write should involve a link or two, whether it’s an internal link to a relevant page on your site, or a link to another site that you’re referencing. These links are more powerful than you might think! Internal links will help to aid user navigation, as well as structuring and distributing page authority across the rest of your site. Outbound links will provide sources for your claims (like this one about the importance of outbound links), along with directing your readers to further content they might enjoy.
You could even benefit from reciprocal links from sites that appreciate your linking efforts. This in turn will reap benefits for your content marketing strategy.
Be sure to pop back for the second instalment of common mistakes that compromise your content! And if you’d still prefer someone else to sort out your words, you can find out more about the copywriting service I offer.