Online copy: can you do it yourself?

Blogging

Whether it’s world or local news, social media posts or text on a company blog page, the vast majority of reading and writing is now performed online. You can promote your own business by quickly seting up blogs and social media platforms, but do you have to you pay someone to do this or can you do it yourself?

You may think writing is only for talented, creative individuals who do it for a living, but this is far from true. Most small business owners can write decent copy providing they follow some basic guidelines. None of these are mandatory, but they provide a good foundation to help get your point across in a structured, professional manner.

Find out who you are writing for and grab their attention
First of all you need to establish your target audience. Is it a general interest piece aimed at a wide audience or focused on a specific sector and subject? Is your audience well informed or will you have to lead them carefully through the article and support their lack of knowledge?

With the vast amount of internet content available, web viewers are far from patient. Right at the start of the piece, give them a brief outline of what you want to say but try to capture their attention with some powerful, relevant points.

Business people, in particular, have little time to sift carefully through a piece, so don’t waste time and get to the point. Remember, if the first few sentences don’t interest them, you’ve probably lost them for good.

How should I write it?

  • First of all, keep it simple and make it easy for your audience to skim it, especially if businesses are your targeted readership.
  • Bullets and lists will help this, as well as pull-quotes highlighting certain points by using a distinctively different formatting style.
  • Make sure your chosen subject is something your audience will be interested in and, if possible, directly relates to your business.
  • Engage with the audience and write clearly in a way they understand but does not patronise.
  • Keep your paragraphs short, cut any unnecessary text and get to the point.
  • Your sentences should also be relatively brief or your audience will switch off before you get your point across.
  • External links should be kept to a minimum. They break up the flow and take the viewer away to another page; once there they are unlikely to return.

A picture speaks a thousand words
It is widely known that people often understand images far easier than words and supporting text with pictures helps in several ways. Images can capture the viewers attention, help explain complex subjects and add an extra level of care that helps the viewer ‘buy-in’ to the author’s copy.

For complicated subjects, infographics can really help as they display elaborate concepts in a simplified, logical manner. However, even quite simple images can keep the article alive and aid explanation.

However, if at all possible, don’t use standard, boring, stock images as this often gives a mass-produced, uncared for look. You are looking to convey a carefully crafted, thoughtful approach that reflects your business, so if you must use stock images, try and change them a little to fit better to your article (check the licensing conditions on your particular images before you do this or get advice from a graphic designer).

Create a structure
If you have hundreds of really good ideas rushing around in your head, fighting each other for prominence, structure is essential; it brings order to your writing. It may sound daunting, but it is actually quite simple to put into place. However, once created, you must stick to it.

After you have decided on your subject, the following list shows a work process that will help keep everything on track:

  1. Choose an eye-catching, relevant picture. Treat each article image almost as importantly as your home page imagery; it must reflect the content of your copy and not just be a random, irrelevant image.
  2. Create a thought-provoking first paragraph. This must capture the reader’s attention immediately so be brief; outline the article and get to the point within the first two sentences.
  3. Prioritise a list of your top ideas. Make a numbered list of importance, ranging from the most essential, important idea to relatively small, supporting facts and figures that help keep their attention.
  4. Fill in the main feature with supporting copy. Once you have established your ideas list, supplement the first idea’s title by using examples and supporting copy that will help the viewer understand your reasoning.
  5. Add images or pull-quotes. Additional imagery will help get the importance of certain aspects to your viewer, explain complex subjects and break up swathes of copy. An alternative to images is to use pull-quotes such as the example below, but don’t over do them:

    This is an example of a pull-quote. Use them to break up copy and give the viewer a place to rest but don’t add too many.

  6. Create continuity. Keep applying the above principles to all levels of your ideas as you go down the list; continue to add to each idea as you did the first, adding details and substance to each subject as you go down.
  7. Keep writing. Let the article gradually evolve until the list is complete. In effect, start using your top idea on the list and continue until you’ve completed your list.
  8. Finish with a conclusion. Viewers generally like to know that the article has finished –to stop them searching for the next page! – so to finish the piece with a definite conclusion. This is usually a short summary, with an invitation to read previous or future articles or to possibly contact you for more information.

To summarise

  • Use simple language and think of an interesting subject related to your business and that of your target audience;
  • Don’t forget to keep to the structure you’ve created;
  • Get to the point quickly and be consistent;
  • Use images and quotes to add interest;
  • Try it; you have nothing to lose!

If you need any more help regarding this or any other related subject, please contact Carl Waine at fireflydesignservices@gmail.com

 

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