Hola! How a cheery Spanish greeting applies to good content writing

by Dean Evans

Good content writingIf the aim of good content writing is to attract new visitors and (hopefully) convert them into satisfied readers, subscribers or buyers, then the process starts with delivering VALUE.

It’s all very well having a ton of articles on your website. But if you haven’t got anything of real value to offer your visitors, they have no reason to stick around.

So where does our cheery Spanish ‘hello’ come in? Quite simply, the time that somebody spends on your content is directly affected by a sequence that includes your Headline, the Opening line of your article, your article Layout and the call to Action.

Or ‘HOLA’ for short.

Good content writing ‘converts’

In essence, HOLA represents an editorial conveyer belt that aims to transport a reader from first contact with your content to some form of deeper engagement.

This might be reading another article on your website, signing up for a newsletter, leaving a comment or purchasing a product.

Assuming that your content is worth reading, this is a four-step process that’s focused on reader capture and reader retention. It starts with…

‘H’ – The power and promise of your Headline

When you’re writing for the web you only have a short time to make an impression or grab a reader’s attention. Therefore, a good headline is crucial.

How can you make your reader feel like they’re missing out on something or that you have something they want?

Good content writing taps into key emotions. Give away something valuable for FREE or develop a series that encourages further browsing because people fear missing out on information.

Pique a reader’s curiosity, make them ANGRY about something, point out a problem and offer a solution, or ask a question that can’t immediately be answered by the word ‘no’.

You can tap into someone’s confusion about a subject by providing an easy-to-read, step-by-step guide. Or play on their impatience by offering shortcuts to success. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • The Best Kept Secret in the SEOmoz Toolset [curiosity]
  • The 7 Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design [fear]
  • iPhone 5: what you need to know [overcoming confusion]
  • How I Doubled a Site’s Speed in Under 10 Minutes [problem/solution]
  • You Already Know How To Write An eEbook… So What’s Stopping You? [question]

‘O’ – Make the Opening line make people want to read on

Have you read The Crow Road by Iain Banks? I only ask because it begins with the memorable line: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

First lines rarely get any better, although I’ll also admit a fondness for George Orwell’s 1984, which starts: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

The point is this: getting people to click through to your article is one thing. Getting them to actually read it (and not bounce away) is another challenge, one that shouldn’t be treated lightly.

People click on headlines in pursuit if what that headline promises. As a result, they are usually quick to judge the page that follows. Does it deliver? And does it deliver quickly enough?

With this in mind, your first sentence needs to work hard to retain a reader’s attention/interest and to reassure them that, if they read on, they’re in the right place and will get what the headline promised. And more besides.

The following story on Salon.com, for example, uses a strap line to good effect:

What it’s like to be held hostage
He walked into the bank and placed a bomb on my desk. I can never forget what happened next.

Hopefully, the prospective reader is thinking: “ooh, what happened next?”

‘L’ – An accessible, easy-to-read Layout

An easy-to-browse page layout won’t assault the eyes of your reader with large chunks of text, giving them precious seconds to scan your content and assess what they see.

Seconds? Yes. You’ve only got a few seconds to defeat the short attention span (and roving eye) of the modern web user. It could be as much as 15 seconds. Or as little as three. You can aid the scanning process by using:

  • An eye-catching image
  • Short, easily-digestible paragraphs
  • A sub-heading that’s viewable without scrolling
  • Extra sub-headings in long copy to act as secondary headlines
  • Key words highlighted in bold to stand out

‘A’ – A definite call to Action

Don’t miss the opportunity to tell your reader what you’d like them to do right after they’ve finished reading your article. This is the ‘call to action’ and it can be to leave a comment, sign up to a newsletter, click to a related page, etc.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your reader will actually do anything when they get to the bottom of your article. And that’s IF they get to the bottom of your article.

But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you run Adsense on your site, you might already know that putting an ad at the end of an article can be a profitable exercise. It’s also a good position for an mailing list opt-in box or a selection of related links.

Creative Commons License photo credit: khoraxis

Need some help? You can hire us, check out The Good Content Code, view further posts on this subject below or ask us a question about good content writing in the comments section.

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