Writing – Key Points
1. Know your audience
2. Five Ws
3. Simple SEO
4. Pyramid structure or listicles?
5. Keep it short
6. Structure – bullets etc.
These are mainly geared towards writing blogs and online content, but these rules will serve you well in structuring your writing for any audience.
Who are they and what’s your connection with them?
- Existing clients
- Potential new clients
- Potential future employees
Additionally, consider HOW you address your audience
- Remember that the blog is for them, not you. Turn content around so that it’s relevant, eg:
- Deals and offers that will make their lives easier (or cheaper, more comfortable, etc.)
- Tips to solve a particular problem
- Analysis that will inform their knowledge of a situation
- Why do they care? Does your content pass the ‘so what?’ test? We’ll explore this in more detail in a moment…
- There’s no reason why ‘business’ writing should be dull. Correct? Yes. Factual? Yes. But you’re still talking to people…
We’ve talked about where your information comes from, including:
- Supplier’s sites
- Google news
- Construction (or other sector-specific) websites
- Google alerts
- Stock lists from suppliers, etc.
To start with, put all of your information together in one place and we’ll pull out the key details…
So, what do you need to tell them?
There are five things everyone needs to know to get a story across:
WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? AND WHY?
Marketing people will always tell you to talk about the ‘benefits’ of a product: why do you want it? What does it do better? How is it an improvement? The WHY section answers this part of the question. You’ve given people all of the factual details – the who, what, where and when – so they know it’s for them. But the WHY is the best bit – that’s when you can really sell an idea to them. It’s the answer to why they should buy it/ pick up the phone/ book a demo etc.
If you can get the answer to all of those questions together in your first sentence or two then you’re on to a winner! Go through all of your info and highlight the answers to those questions, then put them together in a sentence or two.
Alongside all of your core info, you’ll want to include some keywords and search phrases to give Google a hand…
Google Adword’s keyword tool is a really nice way of finding out what people are searching for to help them make a purchase. This could be technical information, price comparison or related searches, such as ‘how to insure plant equipment?’ These factors might form a full blog or section of one.
To do this, login into Google. Your Google account can be accessed with: email & password.
That’s the same login for all your Google products. It’s then a case of searching for ideas. Here’s an example of the Google Adwords page:
Some keyword searches
Add some of the most popular keywords into your blog content and use them to give you a steer for future blogs. If people are searching for finance, think about writing a blog about finance; if they’re looking for ‘how to’ guides, include one of those in your blogging plan. (Of which more, later!)
Now, some structure…
The pyramid structure
The beauty of the pyramid is that, even if people don’t read right to the bottom, they’ve got the gist of your information.
So, remember to include:
- MOST NEWSWORTHY
What’s most going to catch their attention? Is it a deal? Why are they interested in it?
- IMPORTANT DETAILS
Five Ws – this is the key info!
- THE BENEFITS
Why are your customers interested in this news? What’s in it for them? Does it make something quicker? Or cheaper? Or easier?
TIP: If you’re not sure what you should include, try the ‘so what?’ test. Start writing, but imagine you’re a child and ask yourself ’so what?’ at the end of each sentence. That’ll help you get to the crux of the information!
- GENERAL AND BACKGROUND
Include quotes from clients or staff members, eg. ‘X Managing Director XX says: ‘……..’
You’re aiming to move from the ‘good stuff’ down to the ‘fluff’ – the info that’s nice to have, and can help build up your profile, or search, for example – but that isn’t as crucial to the reader.
Listicles are a great way of getting examples and ideas across. Buzzfeed has made us all fans of lists – think ‘52 things to do before you die’, ‘seven ways to cook your Christmas turkey’ or ‘six uses for a vibrating plate’. They’re a really easy way to get across your top offers or to focus on the benefits of a specific piece of equipment.
Don’t feel obliged to pick a top five or ten. Your numbers can be as random as you like and random numbers are even seen as more genuine and authoritative. Doing this is much more effective than trying to make up ‘fillers’ to get to ten.
If you’re writing general blogs about a new piece of equipment or a supplier deal, you can follow it up with a blog that looks at uses of that piece of kit. This is a great way to get in some good keywords from Google Adwords.
Listicles are easy: they only need a one liner as introduction, or even just a good title, and then you can start writing your list. Keep them simple, factual and informative.
Keep it short – A few general tips for writing your blog:
- Use every day spoken language and avoid jargon, slang and words that you wouldn’t use in everyday language. If you would never say a certain phrase or word, why would you write it? If what you write seems stuffy and officious to you then it will feel the same to your audience.
- Use shorter words. Long words will not impress your reader or help to get your meaning across – use words that are precise and colourful
- Write short simple sentences; on average 15 – 20 characters long. Re-read everything you’ve written. The easiest way to check how something sounds is to READ IT OUT LOUD – try it, even reading it to yourself. You’ll soon realise if a sentence is too long or doesn’t quite make sense.
- Use short paragraphs to avoid large blocks of text. For example, try to keep your paragraphs to three sentences.
- Don’t keep repeating info.
- Make sure you ask readers to do something specific, for example you could give them a ‘call to action’ at the end. Do you want them to call the office? Do you want them to email for more info? Do you want them to sign up for newsletters? Say so!!
- Look for opportunities to link with your product pages and other relevant pages, such as the hire page. This helps drive customers to key pages, but also helps the search engines follow your website links. Search engines look for natural contextual links, so don’t force a link for the sake of it.
Structure – Write for scanners, not readers
Online readers are different. This is why you should keep paragraphs and other blocks
of copy short and tight. Make sure there are plenty of ‘entry points’ for readers, like:
Check how it looks online. What looks efficient in a Word document might look dense and inaccessible online so, if you can’t physically check, err on the side of caution.
You’ll soon get a feel for it…