Beyond SEO Writing Techniques: What Do Content Readers Want?

As powerful as SEO techniques are when it comes to writing web content, it won’t get you far if the quality of your articles is lacking. As noted before on John Chow’s blog, writing for the web is different from print publications in terms of structure. Here I’d like to focus on how web content is unique in terms of substance.

As a freelancer, whenever I sit down to write an article for the web, I try to get inside readers’ heads. While every solid blog or website specializes in a particular niche, I’ve noticed that Net readers are all looking for some more general qualities that apply to all web articles across the board. When I write for the web, I try to incorporate as many of the following qualities as possible:

1. Helpful content.

Think about the last time that you had a task to take on or a problem to solve, but you weren’t really sure how to go about it. Before the Internet, people would call friends with specific expertise who might have been able to help, or they would have gone to a library or bookstore to look up a how-to resource. Now, however, it’s so much easier to search the Internet. Tip lists are a great way to structure web content designed to help someone accomplish a specific task. Also, linking to other websites that provide additional helpful information is always good.

2. Up-to-date content.

Ever notice how online newspapers all seem to advertise that they update their news constantly? For example, in the New York Times online edition, right under the banner, the “last update” is marked in red with a time, and each new article indicates how many minutes ago it was posted. Online newspapers do this for a very specific reason–they know that readers want the latest, most up-to-date information available. When writing an article for whichever blog, make sure it’s something fresh. Readers want the latest info out there.

3. Controversial content.

The Internet is particularly suited to controversy, simply because the web leverages the power of the forum to enable readers to discuss through comments. If your content is controversial, then readers will want to talk about it with other readers. If you can get a heated discussion started, then more people will read it in order to put their own opinions out there.

4. Entertaining content.

As bloggers, we may use the Internet primarily as a business tool. But know that there are many more millions of readers out there who connect to the Net after a hard day’s work simply to be entertained. If you can throw in some humor into your article, readers will appreciate it.

5. Error-free content.

The Internet has become infamous as a breeding ground for bad spelling and grammar. While you would think that most readers don’t care if there are a few errors in your content, it subconsciously destroys your credibility. Since so many websites are plagued by poor writing, if you make it a point to check your work before submitting it, your article will stand out above the rest. And in a blogosphere in which millions are dying to be heard, it will be those who can distinguish themselves who garner the most readers. Good grammar, spelling, and punctuation is an easy way to do just that.

Knowing both SEO techniques and Internet writing styles is of the utmost importance in expanding your reader base. At the same time, however, readers also want substance in their content. Above all, remember that the best way to gauge what readers want is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes.

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7