Fact: There’s too much bad content on the web.
In fact, there’s so much crap, people are having a hard time discerning which sources are legitimate, which facts are actually facts, and who can be trusted.
People’s trust in the mass media has largely eroded, as a 2016 Gallup poll has shown:
This distrust didn’t spring up out of the blue – the internet has largely helped sow these seeds.
Here’s how The Atlantic puts it:
Even bad content written with the best of intentions only serves to mislead and confuse readers. It’s not just a waste of time, it’s also a barrier to true knowledge.
So, what happens when you swoop in with accurate, valuable information that hits all the notes of great, trustworthy content?
It’s like a cool breeze sweeping across a scorching desert.
It’s a light in the dark.
Great web content is a torch that leads the way, setting an example for other content creators.When you create great web content, you help set the standard for publishing useful, accurate information online. More in today's guide by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
Best of all, you give readers exactly what they want, need, and crave.
If that’s not a convincing case, what is?
That’s why we’re here with this extensive guide on how to write great web content.
This isn’t just how you provide value and make your content more profitable. (Both of which are mega-important, don’t get me wrong.)
Creating great content is also how you lead the way as a beacon of truth in a shady online world of lies, barely-researched articles, and click-bait tactics.
Learn how to build this type of lasting, strong web content, right now in today’s “ultimate guide.” And don’t forget to catch our table of contents if you need to: today’s post is a biggie!
The Ultimate Guide: How to Write Great Web Content
7 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Blockbuster Blogs
- Make the Headline Sing
- Appeal to the Human Brain
- Keep It Clear, but Don’t Insult Their Intelligence
- Use Better Wording
- Give Away Your Best Information in the Intro
- Start with the Hook
- Tell Them WHY They Should Care
- Organize Your Points
- Explaining a Concept? Go from Basic to Complicated
- Writing a Tipsheet? Go from Most-Important to Least-Important
- Writing a Guide? Go Step-by-Step
- Reference and Link to High-Quality Sources
- Check Your Research
- Write the Right Blog Post Length
- Illustrate Your Points with Images
4 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Landing Pages and Web Pages
- Write an Actionable Headline
- Make the Body Copy Skimmable
- Stay Benefit-Focused
- Write a CTA That Shouts at the Reader
- Take Cues from the Headline
- Encourage, Inspire, and Motivate the Reader to Act
5 Examples of How to Write Great Web Content (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), Plus:
- THIS Is How to Write Great Web Content
- Examples of Lackluster Web Content – Don’t Make These Mistakes!
What’s the Anatomy of Great Web Content?
Writing good web content calls for hitting a series of bullseyes.
All of them have to do with satisfying your audience. (No surprise, there.)
No matter which industry you’re writing for, no matter what topic you’re covering, greatness always follows this anatomical structure:
- The Brain: Is it educational, informative, or practical?
- The Skeleton: Is it well-organized? Does it make sense as a whole?
- The Muscle: Does it pull you in? Does it make you want/need to keep reading?
- The Heart: Does it entertain you? Does it resonate?
To make sure your web content hits home, include each of these vital parts.
7 Ways to Write Great Web Content for Blockbuster Blogs
Web content like blogs requires a fair bit of finessing and fiddling to make them truly great.
Take the time to check off each of these boxes, and you’ll be well on your way to web content greatness.
1. Make the Headline Sing
A great piece of web content worth its weight in gold starts with an amazing headline.
We’ve written plenty about how to optimize your headline for SEO, but how do you craft a headline that appeals to readers? How do you create one that’s just plain good?
3 Ways to Write Better Headlines
1. Appeal to the Human Brain
Luckily, when you’re sitting down to write your headlines, you can bank on this predictability. There are a few things we love to see in headlines, stuff that makes us far more likely to click them or keep scrolling to read the content underneath.
Here’s what we know. Take these points into consideration when you write your headlines. Try to incorporate one (or a few) into your phrase/sentence:
- The human brain is attracted to numbers. In fact, a portion of our brain cells is dedicated solely to recognizing and interpreting numerals. When you include them in your headlines, you tap into the human desire to quantify value.
- Examples: “5 Easy Ways to Save Money,” “10 Tips for Baking a Delicious Cake,” “3 Great Reasons to Start a Savings Account”
- Humans hate feeling uncertain. Let’s put it this way: uncertainty = anxiety = stress. If you leave your headlines too ambiguous, you’ll stir up that unwanted uncertainty and drive people away. According to a well-known study by Conductor, most people prefer explicit headlines that help them understand what they’re in for if they read your blog or article.
A portion of our brain cells is dedicated solely to recognizing and interpreting numerals. When you include them in your headlines, you tap into the human desire to quantify value. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
- People are asking questions in search. In particular, more and more people are using voice search to get information, and asking questions in full sentences. Answer them in your headlines! Framing your headlines as answers will also help you rank for popular voice search queries.
- Examples: “How to Jump-Start a Car” “How to Bake a Birthday Cake “Here’s Why You Should Start a Savings Account”
2. Keep It Clear, But Don’t Insult Their Intelligence
When writing headlines, many people forget about a key ingredient: clarity.
Without clarity, your headline will be too confusing to appeal to readers. Plus, it will stir up the uncertainty we mentioned above, which is never a good idea.
Of course, it’s just as easy to go the other direction and come up with a headline that’s way too simplistic and obvious. Case in point:
Instead of stating the obvious, focus on readability.
To help you keep it clear and understandable, consider using a tool that will score the readability of your text, like Readable.io.
Just paste your headline into the textbox, and the tool will automatically give it a letter grade based on how easy it is to read.
The letter grade is based on a bunch of different metrics and scales, including Flesch-Kinkaid.
Another free tool that works similarly is WebpageFX’s Readability Test Tool. Just paste your headline into the “test by direct input” box and click “calculate readability.”
Shoot for a low grade level – that means just about anybody who reads it will understand it.
3. Use Better Wording
Your headline is a short phrase that tells readers what to expect if they choose to read it. However, it’s better to think of it as a pitch rather than a summary.
Think about it: You have only one chance to convince your reader to bite. Suddenly, a trite headline that is nothing but explanatory seems wildly insufficient.
This is why you need to think long and hard about each word you use.
Take, for example, this unassuming headline:
“How to Bake a Cake”
It’s bare-bones at best, and merely states what you’ll learn in the article. Okay. That’s fine, but it doesn’t offer any reason to read more. There are hundreds of millions of articles about this topic on Google. Why should I read this one?
If this is your headline, you’re not giving me a reason to read your blog. You’re literally asking me to pass you up.
Instead, spice things up to show why I should read YOUR post instead of one of the hundreds of millions of other blogs about the exact same topic.
Here are some tips to make your headlines spicier:
- Be specific – I don’t have time for generalities; the internet is shouting at me from all directions and my attention is limited. Tell me exactly what I’m in for. (I.e., What kind of cake will I learn to bake? Birthday cake? Chocolate cake? Lemon cake? Fruitcake?)
- Use adjectives, but not too many – Adjectives make your headline more enticing and nudge your readers to an emotional reaction. For example, adding positive words like “good,” “great,” “best,” “awesome,” “exciting,” etc. will help create that positive association/emotion. Include at least one adjective to spark the emotion you want readers to feel when they read the actual post.
- However, don’t fall into the trap of stuffing your headline with as many adjectives as possible. According to that Conductor study we already referenced, most people like to see at least one descriptor or superlative in headlines, but no more.
- Spice up your verbs – Even if the verb you’re using in your headline seems like the most logical choice, challenge yourself to see if you can find a better one. For example, the headline above uses the verb “bake.” But we could also test out “make,” “create,” “invent,” or “whip up.” (Don’t be afraid to consult a thesaurus to help you find alternatives for boring verbs.)
When I use the above techniques to improve my headline, it transforms:
“How to Bake a Cake” (*yawn*)
OR “How to Whip Up the Best Darn Birthday Cake Ever”
Which blog would YOU want to read?
2. Give Away Your Best Information in the Intro
Once your headline draws them in, you have to keep convincing your readers to stay on your page.
To do it, you have to write the opposite way from what you learned in school.
1. Start with the Hook
Usually, with school papers, we hold our main argument close to our chests and wait until we’re well past the introduction to reveal it.
You can’t do that with online writing.
How do you write content for a website?
You have to start with the hook.
That’s right.To build strong web content, give away your main point, your best information, at the very beginning. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
Then, use the rest of the post to offer supporting facts.
Here’s an example from a fairly recent post on our site (Why Your Content Marketing Must Have Focus).
In the intro, I tell you my main point right away: Lack of focus in content marketing will lead to lower quality content, less revenue, and lost readership. Then, to lead into the rest of the blog, I promise to tell you how to focus your content efforts:
I did not withhold this huge point until later in the blog – I gave it to you right away, and then I promised to prove it AND provide solutions.
2. Tell Them WHY They Should Care
The reason you want to give away your best stuff right off the bat is the online reader’s attention span – it’s short.
They begin reading your blog wondering why they should care about what you’re saying. If you don’t tell them, their mind will wander. They’ll switch tabs. They’ll click the “x” in the top right corner of your page.
So, TELL THEM.
Start with the “why.” Give them a reason to stay on your blog – immediately.
Of course, there are more online writing tricks to keep your readers on your page. For an in-depth look, read Your AP Online Content Primer.
3. Organize Your Points
As a content creator, it’s your job to guide your reader through your research and thought processes effortlessly.
It shouldn’t feel like work to read your blog posts.
A huge part of making it easy is organizing your points logically. Of course, the best approach to this organization depends on what you’re writing about.
A) Explaining a Concept? Go from Basic to Complicated
Let’s say you’re writing a blog post about string theory, a concept in physics, for people who don’t know what it is.
Where do you start? How do you lay it out for them?
Start broad and basic, and then move to the more complicated aspects.
A great example is this String Theory for Dummies Cheat Sheet. It starts out broad, laying out the basic gist of string theory in the intro:
Then, it dives into features of string theory, from most basic to most complicated:
This technique helps lay the groundwork for your reader, giving them information like rungs on a ladder. Each nugget of knowledge acts as one rung. The higher they climb, the more they’ll understand.
B) Writing a Tipsheet? Go from Most-Important to Least-ImportantIf you’re writing a series of tips, tricks, or hacks, you don’t need to write them in any specific order – but you should try to give away your most important, best tips first. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
Much like how you should start with “why” in your introduction, this technique helps keep your reader on the page.
So, arrange your points with the most interesting or useful tips first, then move to ones that are more general or well-known.
C) Writing a Guide? Go Step-by-Step
Organization-wise, writing a guide is very close to explaining a concept.
For both, you start with the most basic information, then gradually move to the complicated stuff. The main difference is a guide must include different steps or stages to help the reader reach the desired result.
As such, start with the most basic steps first, then finish up with the most complex ones. Don’t forget to use different headings to help organize each step (including numbered lists), and make sure you directly address the reader like you’re coaching them on what to do.
4. Reference and Link to High-Quality Sources
Writing good web content isn’t just about how you organize your thoughts or present your information. It’s also about proving your statements and assertions are accurate and based on research/knowledge.
How do you do this? Make sure you reference and link to high-quality sources.
Here’s when to cite a source and provide a link:
- Any time you state a statistic, i.e. “8 out of 10 people will read your blog headline.”
- Any time you state a fact that isn’t common knowledge, i.e. “Most online readers don’t read to the end of an article, according to Slate.”
- Any time you reference another website, i.e. “Hemingway Editor is a great tool for self-editing.”
If you’re not sure if you should cite and link to a source, here’s a good rule of thumb: When in doubt, cite the source.
How to Judge the Quality of an Internet Source
To help improve your search engine rankings, you should try to link to only high-quality, high-authority websites.
How do you know if a website is high-quality? There’s a quick way to find out:
- Download an SEO browser extension, like SEOquake or MozBar.
- For every website you want to link to, first check the domain authority (DA) score. The higher the score, the more authoritative the site.
- Sites will be scored on a scale from 1-100. In general, any site that scores above 50 is authoritative enough to link to. Moz will score all the listings in search results, making it easy to find authority sources:
4. You can also check the DA of a website directly from their page. It will be listed on the MoBar like so:
Remember: Well-known websites and brands probably don’t need to be checked. (Think The New York Times, Content Marketing Institute, or Forbes.)
5. Check Your Research
Along with vetting your sources, you should also double-check that you’re linking to original sources.
What do I mean by this?
If you cite a statistic from a study, link to the original study, not a recap of the study from a different site, or someone who merely cites the study.
For example, there are lots of stats round-ups like this one:
There are lots and lots of valuable stats listed here about content marketing, but this page itself isn’t the source.
If you want to include some of these stats in your next blog, you have to do some digging to find the original posts.
In an infographic full of stats, it’s usually at the bottom, in small print:
To make it easier to find the stat you want to cite on its original source page, use your browser’s “find” feature. (For Chrome users, just hit “Ctrl + F” on your keyboard. Then enter the statistic or phrase in question to find it on the page.)
You can also search PDFs this way:
Once you find the stat you’re looking for, you can cite the original source. This makes it much easier for your audience to read further about your topic/research. It’s also a better linking practice, which is better for rankings.
6. Write the Right Blog Post Length
Great website content is thorough.
And, usually, thorough = comprehensive = long form.
You’re not skimming the surface of a topic – you’re diving deep into its depths to explore every nook and cranny.
However long it takes to thoroughly explore your topic is exactly the length your blog post should be.
Keep in mind, though, that 74% of blog posts that get read are under 3 minutes long, according to Buffer.
That amounts to at least 1,600 words.
The content that gets the most shares is usually audience-dependent. For example, Buffer found that their most popular posts were 2,500 words and over.
The main point: Despite what you may believe, long-form content does not daunt online readers. Don’t be afraid to go long when you’re figuring out how to write web content.
For more reasons to create long-form content, plus the best ways to do it, check out our long-form content guide.
7. Illustrate Your Points with Images
Here’s another factor inherent in most kinds of powerful, inspirational, great web content:
Images are peppered in with the text.
The best examples of this come from Neil Patel – each post is filled with examples, screenshots, and infographics that expand on points in the text.
It makes sense. Images add visual interest, clarity, and even humor or excitement to web content.
Images alongside the text also make it more fun to read.
Do you agree?
The key is to use images that suit your brand’s tone of voice. If you have a more formal or elegant vibe, you probably wouldn’t use gifs (like the one above) in your blogs. Instead, you might want to stick to graphs, charts, and illustrative images.
However, if your voice is more laid-back, lighthearted, or casual, you can and should add a little humor in measured doses.
For more help on using images in your blog posts, check out our ultimate guide on creating blog images.
How to Write Great Web Content for Landing Pages and Web Pages
Landing pages are a different beast from blog posts.
This type of web content serves a different purpose, so it requires a different approach.
Landing pages serve as a place for visitors to land when they click one of your ads or CTAs elsewhere (in an email, a blog post, etc.).
Directing your traffic to one of these pages can help push them toward the action you want them to complete, like signing up for your newsletter or making a purchase.
Here’s an example of one of our higher-performing landing pages. This one generates a few subscribers daily. This particular page allows you to download our Easy ABC Content Strategy Checklist:
All the content on this page serves to get you primed to do one thing:
Enter your information to get a free download.
As you can see, landing pages are incredibly valuable for traffic-to-lead conversions.
Sound good? Here’s how to write great web content for your own super-powered landing pages.
1. Write an Actionable Headline
Great landing page web content begins and ends with a call-to-action. Start off strong and infuse that into your headline. Here’s how:
- Use verbs and power words – Your landing page exists to convince/push the reader to complete the desired Think about what you want visitors to do once they land on your content, then tell them to do it using verbs and power words.
Here’s a good example from HubSpot:
The headline includes a motivating verb: “Get Started”
Here are lots of other suggestions for strong verbs and power words to use in your headline and get things off to a roaring start:
- Don’t get too wordy – It’s important to keep landing page headlines concise and to-the-point. If you get too wordy, the direction you want to move readers will become lost.
Here’s a landing page with a headline that’s too long (from none other than Adobe):
Not only is it too wordy, there’s also zero action verbs or motivating language.
Even worse, the CTA simply reads “Submit”.
? Not good.
- Use the word “you” – According to a HubSpot study, CTAs that directly address the reader (using the word “you”) are 42% better at converting them. As such, speak to the reader in your web content headline and make it 10x more powerful.
Here’s a great example of web content from Copy Hackers that uses all of the above principles:
2. Make the Body Copy Skimmable
You’ve perfected an actionable, motivating headline for your landing page web content. Now you’re ready to craft your body copy.
There are arguments in favor of both short and long landing page content. According to Crazy Egg, the length you should choose is the one that meshes best with your audience.
However, no matter how long or short you go, you should always strive to make your web content body copy skimmable.
That means a few things:
- Short paragraphs
- Lots of line breaks
- Using numbered and bulleted lists where logical
- Using H2s, H3s, and even H4s when necessary
Here’s an example of super-long web content that still manages to be easy-to-read – but only because the content is organized with attention to all of the above principles:
Image via The Daily Egg
As you can imagine, this page would be a nightmare to read without all that organization. For best results, don’t skip this essential part of the web content equation.
3. Stay Benefits-Focused
When writing web content, staying benefits-focused also means staying user-focused.
That’s because benefits convey your product/service features as they relate to the reader.
In other words, when you stay benefits-focused, you’re honing in on what interests your audience. You answer this burning question for them: How will this product/service/etc. positively affect their life?
Here’s an example of benefits-focused web content from the landing page for the Barnes & Noble Membership program. Benefits are underlined in red:
For more insights on how to stay benefits-focused in your web content, read our guide to conversion-friendly landing page copy.
4. Write a CTA That Shouts at the ReaderWeb content without a call-to-action is ineffective. Period. When users land on a page, they won’t know what to do unless you direct them. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
So, direct them! Here are a few simple ways you can do that.
A) Take Cues from the Headline
The headline you crafted for your landing page web content is perfect to refer back to when writing your CTA.
For a cohesive page, make these two components match or mirror each other. That way, they’ll reinforce the desired action.
Here’s an example of a strong CTA from CoSchedule.
The headline says “It’s time to fire makeshift marketing”. Love it!
Meanwhile, the CTA mirrors the headline: “Kick makeshift marketing to the curb”
The two play off each other, which builds up the CTA nicely. Similar wording helps drive the desired action home.
2. Encourage, Inspire, and Motivate the Reader to Act
A great CTA is truly motivating.
It will direct user action, but it will do so in an encouraging, inspirational way.
Take the CTA above as a great example: “Kick makeshift marketing to the curb”.
When we think of the popular saying “kick it to the curb,” we’re reminded of the freeing feeling of ridding ourselves of stressful or annoying baggage.
When you kick something to the curb, you’re lightening your load. You’re putting a spring back in your step. Now that’s inspiring.
For the CTAs you include in your web content, try the same tactic – put a little inspiration in there.
One of our own CTAs at EW does just that by inspiring you to think of content creation like baking bread or whipping up a fresh dish. To get a fresh final product that will tantalize their audience, all they have to do is step up to our “counter” and order:
Helping your audience to think of taking action in a novel way is a great method to inspire them.
How to Write Great Web Content: 5 Good, Bad, and Ugly Examples
Want to know how to write good content for a website?
Learn by example.
Here are some good ones (and not-so-good ones).
THIS Is How to Write Great Content for your Website
Take inspiration from these blogs and web pages:
CoSchedule regularly nails great content with their comprehensive blog posts. From the headline to the intro, to the organization, the writing, the research, and the value provided, you can’t go wrong studying their posts for a primer on how to write great web content.
For examples of great blog posts that are fun to read and informative, look to SmartBlogger. This blog, in particular, is well organized and bursting with valuable information.
Want stellar examples of landing pages and web pages? Check out Airstory’s website – they nail every facet of great web content.
Examples of Lackluster Web Content – Don’t Make These Mistakes!
Bad web content is out there. Here are a few examples to help make the distinction clear.
1. Confusing and distracting
Here’s an example of a landing page gone wrong – there’s no clear headline, no visible call-to-action (you have to hunt for it), and too many little pieces of information screaming for your attention.
Seriously, what am I supposed to do on this webpage?
2. Thin and lackluster
If you’re writing blog content, don’t follow this example. It’s supposed to be a blog post with a recipe for a brownie ice cream sandwich, but the ingredients list unhelpfully calls for “brownies”.
Plus, the content is nonexistent – there’s no information about what this tastes like, suggestions for serving, tips for decorating, or ideas for variations. We just get super-vague ingredients and instructions.
In short, there’s nothing here of value for me.
The Final Steps for Writing Good Web Content
The anatomy of web content that wins includes brains, muscle, strong bones, and heart – lots and lots of heart.
You get all of that and more when you include all the components we’ve mentioned here in our guide.
Great web content is thorough, well-organized and logical, well-researched, easy to read, and provides that extra something that keeps readers on the page.
After you’ve crafted this kind of content – after you’ve poured in hours of work and painstaking attention to detail – make sure you go over it with a fine-tooth comb.
Write with care, research with detail, and edit, edit, edit.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is outstanding web content that wins over readers.