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Writing content for your website

pen and writing pad, indicating someone thinking about writing content for their site

Content – a quick overview

You’re finally there: writing content for the main pages on your site – ‘welcome’ and ‘about’ pages for example. There are two main things you need to be aware of – your main audience is humans (of course) but the way to reach more of them is by making your site easy for search engines to find and rank.

So, keep your writing friendly, interesting and accessible, but also spend some time learning a few tricks, in particular how to use the Yoast SEO plug in for WordPress. This will help prompt you to write text that is also search engine friendly.

Writing for the humans who read on the web

People often read fast or skim read information on the internet. They may be looking at your website through a variety of devices – from nice, big, optimised screens in a quiet office through to tiny mobile phones on a sunny day in a noisy street. Your content needs to be as accessible as it can be for both these readers.

Some key points to bear in mind:

  1. who are you writing for?
    Think about the primary users of your site – why are they there? who are they? What are their circumstances? Picture them, imagine them and then write for that person or that small group of people.
  2. Start with the important stuff
    If you assume your users are busy, possibly distracted and on the hunt for information you should give them the important things they are looking for in the first few paragraphs.
  3. Keep it short, keep it simple
    Short sentences, simple words – easy for skim reading, and more easily understood. For the same reason avoid jargon and complex words.
  4. Break it up
    Short paragraphs with a clear point to make in each one, bullet pointed lists, numbered lists, and relevant images can all break up your text making it easier to scan and read. Subheadings for different sections on your page also help people find what they are looking for.

You can use plug ins (more on that below) for tips and pointers. But don’t lose sight of common sense and natural ways of expressing yourself.

The Yoast SEO plug in for WordPress

The best thing about Yoast is the way it nags you in specific ways to create content that search engines like (and which search engines think humans will like). It grades your content, giving it points and a traffic light score based on how good your text is for search engine optimisation.

It will prompt you to;

  • use shorter sentences (try cutting a sentence in half and making two shorter ones),
  • create bulleted lists (any time you find yourself writing a list you should turn it into a bulleted list),
  • ensure your main content is about what the title of your page says it’s about (eg by using key words from the headings in the body of the text),
  • stop you using the passive voice, which sounds formal and distant and doesn’t play well on the web,
  • use keywords in your text so that a search engine believes your site is what you say it’s about
  • create good meta information to go with your site – other bits of information that will help your site rank well.

How does Yoast work?

It reads your site like a search engine would, and then tells you the various things you can do to improve your content. Once Yoast is installed and activated a new section will appear under each post or blog that you’re editing. In that section you’ll see tips and suggestions and comments which will enable you to edit your content and improve it.

How can I learn to use it?

Yoast themselves have excellent information about installing the plug in on your site, configuring it and then using it on all your posts and pages. They keep it updated and so you know that what you are learning is relevant at the time you’re using it.

Their most important sections are:

  1. SEO basics – the obvious starting point
  2. Content SEO  – specific tips on adding content, amended and updated when search engines change how they operate
  3. Yoast SEO blog – a good place to keep updated on changes

Communicate with YOUR sites users… not a just a search engine…

The key thing to remember is that you’re still writing for humans – keep what you write interesting, clear and friendly. If you need to use slightly longer sentences that’s fine if that’s the best way to get the point across. Your judgement, with caution, can override what Yoast tells you to do.

You probably know who your users are – they may be like you, or they may be known to you already. You may know how they talk and write themselves. Bear that in mind when you are writing your content – make it interesting and useful for them to visit your site.

Good luck – and have fun connecting with your site visitors.