02/14/13

How to: Write Content for the Web

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."

- James Michener

One of the requirements for my Art History degree was to take two Art Studio courses. Now, here's the thing: I'm not creative and I'm not an artist. I love Art History not because it speaks to my creativity, but because it speaks to my love of analysis. So the thought of having to pretend to be creative twice during the course of my undergraduate studies left me less than confident.

My first studio art class was a simple drawing course. I expected to learn that I could not draw and that my works of art looked more like works of... a five year-old. What I didn't expect to learn - and what is the one thing I took away from the course - was a technique that I would later learn to apply to writing content for the web. 

Odd conclusion, right? How could a drawing class apply to writing? I shall explain. 

The technique I learned is called drawing by subtraction. When drawing by subtraction, you start by covering an entire sheet of paper with graphite so that it's a dark gray. To create the drawing, you remove the graphite with an eraser. You create shapes, shading, and depth by varying the amount of pressure you put on the eraser and by the number of layers of graphite you remove. In the end, you're left with a beautiful drawing - probably a lot better than you thought you could draw!

I get a lot of clients that say, "When it comes to writing content for my website, I just don't know where to begin." To write great content for the web, you must learn to write by subtraction. For your end result, you want your content to be clear and concise, but full of good information. Here's how you do it:

1. Write down everything that comes to mind. Cover that piece of paper (or Word document) with words, phrases, and thoughts. Don't think about it. Don't try for perfect grammar or for the perfect explanation. Just write.

2. Go back and smooth out the edges. After you've gotten everything possible down on paper, read through what you've written and begin to make sense of it. Correct run-on and incomplete sentences. Reorder your thoughts to ensure that they flow in an order that makes sense to your reader. Take out sentences that repeat thoughts you've already expressed.

3. Add some flair. Review your written piece a second time to polish it. Add in any key phrases, terms that are affiliated with your business, or any other words that are unique to you. (Bonus: taking this step will help with your SEO.)

4. Post your content and be confident. You can write great content! Don't let your hesitancy to write keep you from maintaining your site and adding SEO-rich blog posts and fresh content. 

Want to read more? Check out these articles on writing great content:
The Epic List of Content Strategy Resources
Content Marketing: Dance Like Nobody's Watching