When you search for answers online, what makes you select one title over another? Do you automatically open the first result, or do you skip the advertisements and thoughtfully scan the titles and brief descriptions looking for something to grab your attention? Are you more likely to choose an item that sounds like an encyclopedia or user manual, or the one that reads like a knowledgeable friend’s or favorite teacher’s explanation?
Draw the reader in
From the first brief impression throughout your content, it will be most effective if your content is simple and conversational. Try to make the reader feel like they are getting information from a friend or family member who values them. A common standard is to write at a 7th or 8th grade reading level to reach the broadest audience. There are online resources to measure reading level, as well as tools within many word processing programs. If the reading level is high, select segments of content to measure. This will help target the best places to rewrite.
Guiding principles for your content may include limits on the number of words in a sentence, sentences in a paragraph, and total number of words in an article. Using second-person and active voice are ways to engage the reader. Break content into palatable chunks using sub-titles, headings, or collapsible links so that a reader can scan and drill down on what is most important to their situation. Provide direct links to related content when it’s possible and appropriate to avoid duplicating content and cluttering an article.
When time and circumstances permit, have a colleague read through your content as if they landed on it from a list of search results. Ask them to approach it from the point of view of a customer, watching especially for internal jargon or terms that are not easily recognized by the general public. Be aware of internal versus external branding names. Find out what search terms they would use in order to find this content.
Draw the content out
Content that is written to reach a wide audience is more likely to be viewed and shared. You may intertwine pieces of content within your organization and others may leverage the content by linking to your support, increasing traffic to your content. Users should be delighted by what they find, not using your content as a springboard for search terms to find a “better” article.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can point users in the direction of your content by using meta-data search terms that are similar in meaning to what is found in your content. But if your content is not written well, your customer will skip over your content and select another item in their search results. It’s important to draw them in with your title and content preview, and keep them with content that feels like it speaks directly to them.
When content is well written it draws your customer in while the content itself is drawn out to be reachable by a wider audience. Your goal is to write content that’s both effective and appealing!