The write stuff: Driving SEO and social media with articles

conversationThere are few better ways to promote your business than by writing good, helpful articles and sharing them on the Internet.

Good content attracts good traffic.

On an average day, 60 percent of Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers are on the Internet, according to the Forrester Research. Two-thirds of these people are online several times per day. While online, the most popular activities include getting news and finding information via search engines. This means that if you’ve got good content on your site, that can be found by search engines, you’ll have a natural advantage over competitors.

Good content

Good internet articles attract and engage readers. They do this by recognizing that internet users aren’t readers when they arrive on a web page. Instead of reading web page content immediately, site visitors typically conduct a “quick scan” of web page content to determine whether it’s a “good hit.” If it is, they’ll continue reading. If not, they’ll return to the search engine and look at the next result in their query.

A Google query on “writing for the web” recently returned nearly a half million results. Some readers will find the information they’re looking for in the first three pages of the search results. Others will give up after browsing the first page of entries and narrow their search for “internet writing” – where they can browse another 200,000 results.

Even in cases when individuals find page content interesting, it’s estimated that 80 percent of site visitors will still only scan the content on a given web page for “highlights” and move on. As little as 15 percent of site visitors actually read the entire contents of a page.

Multilevel writing is the practice of writing for “browsers” and “readers” simultaneously with the goal of providing a good experience for each audience. This way of writing is important because: (1) individuals are less likely to read content that cannot be easily scanned; and (2) content written in a multilevel writing style is easier to read on screen than traditional text.

The guidelines for multilevel writing are easy for anyone to follow:

  • Create meaningful subheads: Contents with subheads are easy to scan. The more relevant subheads are to a site visitor, the less likely it is that the user will move on.
  • Use bulleted lists and jump lists: Bulleted lists are an ideal way to summarize information for online visitors. If each bullet point requires lengthy conversation, consider linking several pages together instead of including the entire article on a single web page.
  • Indent: Indenting text is a great way to identify subpoints.
  • Use tables and charts: Many readers respond to visuals better than text. For these readers, a picture in the form of a chart is worth more than 100 words. And, they’ll find tables a meaningful way to browse related data.
  • One idea per paragraph: Online prose is best expressed is “topical bursts.” Break topics down into subtopics and limit each paragraph to a single topic or subtopic that contains no more than three or four sentences.
  • Shorter paragraphs: Paragraphs that fill an entire screen are a signal to potential readers that reading your content will be more work that finding another resource.
  • Start with the conclusion: Like a newspaper, online articles should begin with the most relevant information and end with the least relevant. When you’re using subheads, the content within each heading should also follow this rule.

In most instances, online writing should have a “conversational” tone. The best online writers, like the best journalists, use an open, natural and uncontrived writing style. They avoid techno-speak, buzzwords, and jargon – unless their content is intended only for individuals who understand the jargon.

Experienced online writers share experience, opinion, dissenting argument, perspective, and their sense of humor whenever its appropriate.

Good traffic

It’s important to publish your articles elsewhere whenever possible.

Social network sites can effectively drive traffic to articles on your website. LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace allow you to post links to articles on your site.  Social bookmark sites such as Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit and Delicious should also be used as avenues to generate site traffic and content awareness.

After adding an article on your Web site, it’s a good idea to manually submit each new article to search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. It’s an even better idea to syndicate your articles and make them available on other internet sites that are seeing content.

Article submission websites include:

ArticleCity.com
article-directory.net
article-emporium.com
articlepoint.com
articleshaven.com
goArticles.com
isnare.com
uniterra.com

You can use many of these sites for free. If you’ve got the budget for it, use Marketwire or PR Newswire to promote articles that are timely and relevant to traditional publications.

Writing articles and submitting them to other web sites is a great way to build web site traffic. It will also boost your credibility, bolster your brand, and provide opportunities for you to educate customers. Your web site will become a great place to go for information – and products or services too.

Credits: Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod @  Gaping Void.  Visit the website. Follow him on Twitter. You won’t be disappointed. Learn more about Hugh, his blog and Microsoft in the video below which describes his creation behind Microsoft’s 2007 ‘Change the World or Go Home’ campaign.

1 thought on “The write stuff: Driving SEO and social media with articles

  • “Don’t Make Me Think” has great suggestions on writing for the Web. Steve Krug suggests to cut your copy in half, then cut it in half again. Pretty ruthless.

    Ultimately, it gets back to the Elements of Style, “Omit Needless Words.”

    Another great article on content scanners can be found at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html (Jakob Nielsen’s article). I used to despise Nielsen, but I find myself quoting him all the time now.

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