So you want to write online…
While nowadays anyone can post online, it takes a special kind of writer to captivate and inspire readers (and that’s what we aim to do!).
You may have written online before, and you may have not. This guide will help you with any questions you may have and provide you with the best practices for writing online. As well as some of our own processes, preferences, and best practices.
I hope you find it easy to follow and informative – If not you can always ask in the Slack #Training channel.
Please read this in full. One of the most frustrating things for a writer is having to redo their work – we’ve all been there. It’s the pits… You will hate it, we will hate it.
It’s not fun.
Let’s not go there.
We hope to minimise any errors or frustration in the writing process so it’s important that these guidelines and the steps in Asana are followed as much as possible.
You will most likely be writing as a ghostwriter, however, you will be given a link to your article (if it is published) and it can be accredited to you in the form of a recommendation letter once more than 10 posts are published.
Note: For many of our internal projects, you can have your name to every piece you write.
It is important that if you can’t write an article or if you’re going to miss a deadline, you inform us ASAP so that we can assist and let the client know.
First Off: Why things go Viral
We’re writing content for SEO, which brings organic traffic. But, we also want to try and add in an element of virality to each post we write. Here’s how we can do this:
6 Principles of Virality (STEPPS)
Coined by Jonah Berger, the 6 STEPPS are all elements of viral marketing.
S – Social Currency
We share things that make us look good.
Give your audience:
- Give your audience inside information
- Something remarkable about a brand/ place
T – Triggers
We share what’s at the top of our minds.
A great way to do this is by associating your brand with a certain recognised day like #humpday #throwbackthursday or Star Wars Day #maythe4thbewithyou
E – Emotion
We share what we care about. High-arousal emotions (awe or anger) spur us into action. They make us shake our fists or want to spread the news with others. Eg. Red Bull pushes you to achieve the impossible.
P – Public
We imitate what we see people around us doing. No one wants to be left out. If our friends are talking about something, we want to talk about it too! Eg. New social media like Snapchat or TikTok.
P – Practical Value
We share things that have value to others. It works like advice. We like to have it before we make decisions and we also tend to share it with others who need it. Eg. Trip advisor is the perfect place to get advice for an upcoming adventure.
S – Stories
We share stories, not information. Stories aren’t just interesting; they’re useful vessels for carrying information. More than 2000 years later, religious stories and lessons continue to be passed down.
Practical Value Guide
The writing we do is used to add value to blogs and company websites. It’s not creative writing, and not quite technical writing. We, generally, write for an average audience, looking for answers, solutions, and interesting information.
So the writing you do for us should ALWAYS be focussed on providing Practical Value.
Ways to provide practical value:
Questions to help provide Practical Value:
- How can I help the user?
- What are some of the questions the user may have surrounding this subject?
- How do I provide answers to questions my customers might not be aware of?
Some STEPPS that could be combined with practical value
- Inside info – Special tips about a place, product or destination
- Something remarkable about the place or destination
- Associating your brand/topic with a specific time/day
- High arousal emotions (e.g. awe, anger) – this can be done with images or facts
- Speaking about how popular something is or it being a “must-see”
- Fictional situations where you missed the bus or arrived late and couldn’t enter a temple
Writing for Blog Posts or Articles
Writing for the web is a bit different to writing for print, or essays, etc.
Four Golden Rules When Writing for the Web
1) Do not ever copy someone else’s writing. No plagiarism is allowed. EVER!
This is not only lazy, but it’s extremely disrespectful to the original writer and can land you (and the company) in some really hot water. We don’t want to see a rewrite of another post, everything you write should be a collection of your research and written in your own words and style.
2) Leverage and refine existing content on the web to make your content BETTER. We know that what we’re writing about has probably already been written about. So we research what’s out there and aim to make ours the most comprehensive (and original) information on Google.
3) Say it in as few words as possible. You’ll generally be given a word count for blog posts and web pages, and we want to fill the page with valuable information rather than a whole lot of words – even though it can sound gorgeous, descriptive writing can be a bit too much for web posts.
Wherever you can TRIM back a word, DO IT. We don’t need things to be explained elaborately, we just need the info to make sense. We also avoid ‘fluff’ which includes filter words and passive voice. If you’re finding you can’t explain something well enough, we use links to help with this (we’ll discuss links further in a few lessons).
We also want to try and keep our Readability Score at a reasonable reading level. This is scored in either grades (which should be low – aim for Grade 8 or lower) or up to 100 (in which case you want your score to be higher) Read more about that here.
4) INFORMATION, FACTS and INSIGHTS are what we want to provide not opinions. Research, in this case, is better than experiencing it (up to a point.).
We want to avoid our own personal thoughts on things like ‘this tour guide’s voice is boring’ but add useful tips like ‘the hike is quite long so bring extra water’.
- Represent the site and use the word “we” and refer to the readers as “you” unless being otherwise specified in the order instructions.
- Be conversational and engaging. Ask questions frequently and be friendly in the post. Try to relate to the reader’s situations and stories.
- Short, concise sentences are preferred. Convey your ideas as simply and clearly as possible. Avoid fluff/filler words for the sake of word count.
- Use everyday vocabulary – this isn’t an academic paper.
- Avoid using passive voice.
- Cite the source if you’re presenting a fact. Only cite credible & authoritative sites (big magazines, WebMD, etc. – only link to high quality and in-depth work)
- Please backup facts with links to evidence preferably from a site with some kind of authority in the market. When linking out, insert the link on the most relevant words (like this)
Best Practices for Writing
Here are a few best practices to follow whenever you’re writing for online platforms.
If you are writing website copy, use links as references to make it even easier for users to find what they are looking for. Keep both inbound (to the website you’re writing for) and outbound (to authority sites) links relevant and don’t use too many.
If you are writing for the web, you want readers to be able to interact with your page. You saw this above with the “ghostwriter”. It was linked to a definition rather than leaving it up to you to look it up if you were interested.
People are visually stimulated, this means they love pictures. Pictures are one of the best ways to keep people engaged and to break up long pieces of content.
We believe in 1 picture per every 2 – 3 paragraphs. Make sure you compress them to under 200kb and that the image is greater than 600px. (You’ll learn more about this in the coming lessons)
Images are normally included in the post but remember to keep a saved version in a Google Drive folder.
Use Short Paragraphs
People have very short attention spans, especially when on their phone (more than 50% of traffic is from mobile phones). This means you should use short concise paragraphs that have small sentences (so that text does not take up the whole screen). You should not use more than 2-4 sentences in a paragraph
Use descriptive subheadings to break down the topic.
Keep paragraphs short and include white space on the page. Even one-sentence paragraphs can be appropriate with a maximum of three sentences per paragraph.
- Use bulleted lists frequently to make the article more scannable.
- Add numbered lists for more ordered formatting.
Use bold or italic to emphasise important points.
Using headings or subheadings are very important. They allow the user to skim the content and find information that they want to read or content that applies to them more easily. They can also be used to create a table of contents which makes navigation even more convenient.
In SEO these are referred to as
- H1 (Usually the title of the page)
- H2 (Main headings)
- H3 (Subheadings) and
- H4 (Sub subheadings)
For SEO, you should only have only one h1, a couple of h2s and some h3s, maybe even a few h4s, the amount used depends on the length and kind of content we will be writing.
Lists or Bullet points
Users love lists because they are easy to read and allow for skim reading. It’s important to use these when giving reasons or a list or maybe even a breakdown of something.
Steps in Writing:
- Keyword Identification
- Sourcing information
The benefits of writing with the correct and nice formatting are endless, for the user for SEO and for yourself. If done correctly your writing could become an Answer Box like below. And is ALWAYS the goal.
Keywords are extremely important to SEO, they are the basis of any writing or topic that you will do for us. You will usually be given one primary keyword/topic. It will be up to you to do keyword research, find secondary keywords and incorporate them into your writing.
It’s important to note that you may receive the keyword “how to write for the web”, but that doesn’t mean you have to incorporate this exact phrase all over the page. Keyword stuffing is not great for SEO and MUST be avoided. We make use of synonyms to make sure our writing has no keyword stuffing.
You will notice that in my Headings example above, I used words like; “copy”, “content”, “posts”, “text” “paragraph”, “body”, “webpage”. I should also use words that relate to “web” like; “site”, “blog”, “website”, “online” and “web page”.
Search engines know that these words mean the same thing or have some semantic relevance. Use them as they make sense, don’t place the keyword in there because you feel you have to. Use synonym tools and a thesaurus online if you need to.
The goal is to help customers or readers come to an educated decision by providing information. Some articles’ objective will be to inspire, click, buy, encourage or to be humorous so that users will share it.
For SEO purposes, we want to create really informative posts that compel the reader to share it once they have finished reading it.
- The main keyword should be mentioned in the first and last paragraphs.
- Insert secondary keywords naturally throughout the article and in sub-headings if possible.
- Only provide information that is based on facts.
- You can link to scholarly articles, studies or reliable sources to support your claim. Keep in mind to avoid linking to competitor sites (site competing for the same main keyword/phrase).
REMEMBER: WE WANT TO AWE, INSPIRE, CREATE EMOTION AND GET THEM TO SHARE THESE ARTICLES.
○ Online guides to improving your content
(especially chapters 4, 5 and 8)
Over to You
Test your knowledge on what you’ve just learnt with the quiz below.
Once you’ve completed all the questions, click ‘Complete’ and move on to the next lesson.