A good piece of content writing is a thing of beauty… and like beauty, it can be obscured by things that get in the way… bad makeup, poor sleep… an N-95 mask…
A great article on the internet needs a page that showcases its beauty, not hides it.
Structure your page to welcome the reader, because the first thing that engages the reader is the page itself.
Create an Open Concept Framework
Just like opening up that kitchen so you feel like you’re living the Food Network Life… knock down those walls of text that go on scroll after scroll after scroll.
A wall is an obstacle and people find obstacles intimidating. If a reader gazes upon a wall of text on their screen, their eyes glaze over and their brain fogs up.
Give those words the space to be seen.
1. Turn the table on your paragraphs and show them who’s boss
Your 8th-grade English teacher may have taught you that a paragraph is a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting sentences, followed by a concluding sentence…
Maybe that’s how they do it in the idyllic and sheltered towers of middle-school academia, but life is different here in the real (digital) world.
“If a reader gazes upon a wall of text on their screen, their eyes glaze over and their brain fogs up.”
In content writing, you don’t obey the paragraph rules, you flip them on their backs and make them do your bidding.
Paragraphs are tools.
In digital writing, small paragraphs are the goal. In fact, one-sentence paragraphs are awesome (as long as you don’t use them ALL the time). If you have more than five sentences, absolutely break up that paragraph.
Forget what Mrs. Fergeson told you… paragraphs are not groups of sentences pertaining to the same topic…
They are an arrow in your quiver designed to take aim at your message. Every paragraph Every sentence should be in the right place to make sure your message hits its target.
It doesn’t matter how short your paragraphs are.
Long paragraphs are the enemy.
Break your paragraphs at the spot that makes your point crystal clear to your reader. Readers notice the starting sentence, so use paragraph breaks to emphasize your most important points.
Even if that means it’s only one sentence… or even a fragment.
Your English teacher will just have to deal with it.
Other useful ways to open up the page and communicate your message
- Insert images and graphics to break up the text blocks.
- Use a key quote as a graphic (indent, italicize, make it big, change the color) to restate an important point.
- Create colored inset boxes for important information or summaries.
- Place headers to create a framework (more on this in the next section). The different font sizes and spacing create space in your article.
- Make bulleted and numbered lists to create variety.
2. Use Headers to Walk Your Reader Down the Primrose Path of Wisdom
When I was a kid, we’d take vacations to Disneyland. The drive through the desert and felt endless… tedious.
But the signposts told us we were getting closer to the goal:
235 miles to Los Angeles
then 205 miles to Los Angeles
and then 173 miles to Los Angeles
We were indeed getting closer to the Magical Kingdom — even if the tumbleweeds and mountains looked exactly the same as they did an hour before.
When you read a book, you naturally have markers because you have pages, page numbers, and chapters. A blog article can seem unending if it’s not broken up and is just scroll after scroll after scroll.
That’s where headers come in (H1, H2, and the subheads, H3, H4,…etc). They’re your signposts.
Headers let the reader know what’s coming and where the article is going. A good header tells the reader “Stop scanning and read this… it’s important.”
Use headers frequently
In fact, if you have more than 250 words in a section, it’s time to start a new one — even if it’s a sub-section of that section. Let your reader needs to know things haven’t changed direction and there is indeed a destination… your Call to Action.
3. Get Rid of Jibber Jabber
Take a good look at your article… Chances are, the REAL article starts a few paragraphs in and those first sentences are entirely unnecessary.
(I say this having just cut out the first seven (Yes, 7!) sentences of this piece.
If your reader needs to muddle through your long and blase backstory, they might not hang around. Hook them fast and keep moving.
Structuring Your Page May Seem Trivial, but It’s at the Core of Content Marketing
Studies have found that people read articles and web pages differently than they do books or magazines. Readers scan until they see something that looks interesting, and then they start reading.
If a page seems like a lot of work to scan, they give up and leave.
Creating white space and using headers to give direction slows your reader down so they read your content. Each sentence is more likely to lead to the next sentence so they finish the article and maybe want to read more.
And when they’re reading, they’re learning. When they’re learning, they’re building trust in the source of the information — so they are more inclined to want to do business with you.
That’s what content marketing is all about, so it makes sense to start with a good foundation that opens up your article so your reader can engage it.
What about better writing? Isn’t that important?
Better writing is crucial, but why worry about better writing if the page is unapproachable?
We’ll deal with a few simple ways to give your content writing more “oomph” in the next article, so sign up for my email list so you get blog updates and my monthly newsletter so you don’t miss it.