The world is certainly not how it used to be. The internet eats up chunks of hours in our everyday lives. We spend at least 1 hour online each day. There isn’t a mall without a Wifi hotspot. Life is getting faster and faster and we all have to keep up. So how do you write for a world of 36-hours-a-day readers?
This entry is part of the Breaking Down Content Marketing Series.
How the World is Today
Fast food, instant coffee, you name it. Everything’s quick. In the internet, things move even quicker. People give you a few handful of seconds for you to present something that would interest them. If you’re not able to grab their attention within that time span, they will probably move on to the next result in the search engine.
Don’t think for a second that you’re the best, only resource around even for a very specific niche – you’re not. There are tons of content on the web. I agree that most of them are full of ‘Crap’ (Check out the powerpoint deck below) but then there are the thought leaders, the uncommon voices of exceptional writers, the awesome presentation of data of marketers – and you still have to compete with all of them.
So there’s that little tinge of bright light with creating something worth publishing amidst the ton of crap going around. The question is, how do you write them really? How do you do an outline for it? How do you lay it out?
Where Greatness Begins
A great post doesn’t start with you on your keyboard staring on your blog editor. It starts with an idea. Mine usually starts with a pen and paper or my cellphone. When a light bulb flashes on top of my head, I immediately write it down. I try to gauge if it is something that will intrigue my audience (of course, it should intrigue myself first) and then I write an outline.
You’ve got 2 Seconds
This is the average time you have as a publisher to grab your reader’s attention through your title. Any more than that and you’re risking them going for another person’s website. Probably your competitor. Make sure your title is straight to the point and spells out ‘time-saver’ to your readers. Examples of great how-to titles are:
“5 Tips For Raising Baby Tortoises” – It’s easy to gauge the article’s length immediately because it says how many tips there are in the title itself
“6 Actionable Steps to Overcoming Pornography“ – The title leverages on an interest that most of the world is experiencing today (overcoming pornography) plus it summarizes it in 6 steps so that it tells the reader “I’m not long or theoretical. I’m actionable and summarized!”
“Sexy Forever: How to Fight Fat after Forty” – It immediately tells you something that you want. Who doesn’t want to stay sexy? And forever? That’s just too awesome. Then it contains the first part of the title of the article to ‘how to fight fat after 40’ – a more specific approach to contain its content.
We’re all looking out for the best, most credible stuff that will answer our questions. That being said, everyone has adopted this habit of skimming. That’s life. Even I skim… sometimes. We don’t have a lot of time to spend in just one article. There’s tons of content to behold. We are curious beings. We want to KNOW. And we want to KNOW everything.
We, as writers, have to realize that we have to adopt to our reader’s skimming habit. How do we do this?
If you haven’t noticed, I use headings a lot. In this post, I’ve already used four so far:
- How the World is Today
- Where Greatness Begins
- You’ve got 2 Seconds
- People Skim
Headings are important because it guides skimmers. It grabs the eyes because of its nature. Headings are one-liner, usually comprised of a phrase or a sentence, and are emphasized with a bold or bigger-sized font.
Tip: When you create headings, you should give your users an idea to the extent that, even if they just read the headings, they would have an understanding of what your whole article is about.
24 Hours a Day – NOT
Does it feel like you’re living 24 hours a day? I know, I know – there’s that common time when you tell yourself “I need more time”, or “I’m too busy”, or “I wish I had more than just 24 hours”. As much as I want to tell you that you’ve got more than just 24 hours, I can’t. Everyone has the same amount of time everyday. For your readers to give you some of that un-replaceable resource, it is a priceless privilege to behold.
So you will have to try to ‘give’ your users more time – by having them spend less time rummaging through your stuff. How do you do this?
Create a simple, actionable take-away in each and every one of your articles. Thus far, in this entry alone, you’ve already got 3 powerful takeaways:
- Greatness can come in an instant and doesn’t start when you’re on your editor – always write down great ideas
- Awesome, intriguing titles are your gateway to being read
- When you create headings, keep in mind that it should spell out what your article is about
These takeaways are appreciated, remembered and practiced. You should get to them and make them as loud as possible in your article.
Make it Worth their While
People’s eyes will always look for beauty. People’s minds will always hunger for data. Give them both.There’s a website that’s intricately beautiful but that’s it – just design and no data. Yes the website looks nice but the content is crap. Nah. Next!
Then there’s this data-rich website but the way the text is outlined, the way the design is taken care of – it spells out boring, old and dusty. Nope. That just won’t do.
People will tell themselves: “There might be a better one somewhere else on the web.”
And so they move on.
You have to make it worth your reader’s while. SEO Hacker might not be the best looking website out there but we do try. We fix our layout, we mind our fonts, we do our research and write our content with the best data we can find. Just recently, we’ve updated our SEO Services page.
You should do the same.
The Thinner the Better
Don’t bunch sentences into thick paragraphs. Only grade school students do that (or do they?) It makes it hard to read, skim, and focus. Not to mention it is distracting, unelegant, boring and old – especially to 36-hours-a-day readers. Chop up your sentences whenever you can. You don’t need to pile up sentences to seem like a guru. You need to make your stuff easier and nicer to read. That’s all there is to it.
Tell them WHAT to do!
Making a how-to article is well and good but sometimes people just need someone to tell them what to do. At the end of your article, always remember to give quick, specific instructions for your readers to immediately write down on their to-do list. Besides, people are busy – you have to push them to make a move that will benefit them. And perhaps a move that will benefit you as well.
Tips for Keeps: Write for the 36-hours-a-day reader. Because they ARE the majority.