Do you want to improve your Web content writing skills or learn how to become a Web content writer, branching out from other types of freelance writing? I was recently asked how a writer could learn more about Web content writing, from someone previously more involved with print formats. If you're in a similar boat, here's what I suggest:
Read Web Content
When you're learning any type of writing, it's important that you do a lot of reading in that style. It's no different for Web content writing.
I suggest this: Choose a topic that you may want to write about in the future, and search for something specific. Try to pull up three to five articles covering the same topic online, and take a thorough look at them.
- Which ones did you easily read all the way through, and which ones made you want to stop reading or start scanning quickly?
- Which lengths (if they differed) were better for you as a reader?
- Which of the articles made you feel more inclined to potentially click on ads on the page?
- What paragraph lengths were most effective?
By doing this, you don't just get a feel for Web content writing in general, but specifically within the niche where you plan to write (and different niches do call for different types of Web content). You'll also better understand Web content in that niche from a reader / visitor perspective, which will help you meet the goals of individual clients (some want to build real readership, some want authority status, and others just want to drive people to click on ads).
Do this for a few detailed topics within the niche to get a better overall feel for it.
Understand Formatting Basics
Web content formatting can be niche- or style-specific. For example, news writing will often include even shorter paragraphs than other Web writing, and doesn't need to be "scannable" to the same degree. I've also had clients specifically request that I avoid Web writing standards and write in larger block-text. However, if you're writing for readers, you should understand how people actually read on the Web.
They usually don't read straight through an article the way they might do in print. They tend to scan for the actual information they want. This is why bold subheadings and bulleted or numbered lists are common style elements in good Web content writing.
Your Web content also only has a few seconds to grasp a reader's attention, so it's important to hit on your most important point first.
Narrow Your Style and Niche
I've already mentioned that Web content can vary by niche or style (for readers vs. for search engines). So before you jump into Web content writing, you need to decide what kind of Web content writer you want to be.
Choose a writing specialty. Spend time reading Web content in that specialty. Then spend time looking at ads for similar Web content writers (whether or not the ads are within your rate range).
By looking at advertisements, you'll get a better feel for what clients specific to that niche and style are actually looking for, so you can tailor your own style to the needs of your potential market. Here are some of the things researching ads might tell you:
- The average article length you should expect to write.
- Whether or not there are keyword density requirements.
- Whether the clients seem more interested in building a readership or SEO.
- How original they expect the concepts to be.
- How advanced clients expect the content to be (or if they're mostly looking for content targeting beginners new to the niche).