There is an old saying, in search engine optimization and reputation management circles alike, that content is king. What this means is that, when it comes to any kind of online campaign, the written content you produce is utterly essential. You may have the best backlinking and SEO tactics in the world, but if your content isn’t compelling, it’s all for naught.
That’s truer today than ever before, thanks in large part to the recent string of Panda and Penguin updates from Google. The bottom line is that Google wants content that appeals to readers—and if your content doesn’t have end-user relevance, it’s going to get penalized. Writing for Google (i.e., keyword stuffing), but not for actual human readers (i.e., interesting and helpful content that will keep people on the page), will get you nowhere fast.
The problem, of course, is that writing good content depends on knowing your audience. What might be useful for one person could turn out to be totally uninteresting to the next. So how do you write content that is compelling to everyone who might stumble across your site—or at the very least, to the widest cross-section of people possible?
The secret lies in understanding that, on the Web, there are basically three kinds of readers:
- First, there are actual readers—people who will devour every word you put on the page.
- Second, there are non-readers. These folks will look for photo captions and maybe section headlines, but that’s about it.
- Finally, there are skimmers—a group that falls somewhere in between the other two, and accounts for the vast majority of online users.
The secret to writing content that appeals to everyone is writing everything with skimmers in mind. Think about it: In addition to the obvious appeal that skimmable content has to skimmers, it only makes reading easier for your full-text readers. For non-readers, meanwhile, it makes it a much simpler matter to isolate relevant points with minimal effort.
Writing for skimmers is the best way to write for everyone—but how do you do it? Here are a few basic pointers:
- It’s vital that you break up the content. That means using some images, but also things like bullets points or numbered lists. It’s easier on the eye, and segments your content nicely.
- Additionally, make sure you’re creating navigational ease. Do this by using sub-heading titles for every few paragraphs of text. You might also think about bolding or italicizing a few keywords, throughout your content, to illustrate the flow of the main points.
- Finally, put a subject and verb close to the beginning of each paragraph—making it clear what that section of text is about.
The bottom line is that developing compelling content is an absolute necessity, for anyone who works in SEO or reputation management—and writing with skimmers in mind is one of the best strategies for doing precisely that.
This was a guest post by Rich Gorman, an experienced veteran of both the direct response marketing and reputation management industry. He currently works and contributes to both Reputation Changer and DirectResponse.net.
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