We know what it’s like to read a really good piece of article, a book, a pamphlet, or an introduction. We’ve had them before. It’s engrossing, evocative, and addicting.
So why not some content live up to such experience. Why do we jump from websites to websites, blogs to blogs, and often leave unsatisfied.
The truth of the matter is bad writing exists. Even with the writers’ best intentions, some results don’t serve the readers well. They can be too complicated, or laden with typo and grammar errors, incomplete – the list goes on.
Good news, though: There’s a recipe for good quality writing that some authors seem to forget. We will discuss some of those vital components.
Hopefully, as you walk away, you’ll look out for those in the articles you read. And make your own content a better one too.
1. Good Content Knows Its Audience
For writers out there, know your audience.
I know you might have read this type of advice on almost any articles about better writing. But this is where most writers fail to acknowledge. When I say write for your audience, you have to be sure of your readers’ goals, personality, and professional backgrounds.
I’m sure some of you have heard the advice on using brief sentences, simpler words, and compact paragraphs. But that advice is crap. Not all readers are fond of that style, and indeed, it doesn’t work on some niche websites and topics.
Take, for instance, legal websites. Most writers in this field use highfalutin words as well as complex-compound sentences to expound their thoughts. And that’s ok. Sure, it won’t work in marketing and their target audience will find it complicated. What works for one website may not work for another.
So in considering the target audience — their vocabulary, education, experience — you’ll tailor better content that will satisfy their search queries. The kind of style, paragraph, and sentence length will vary. But once the audience persona is built beforehand, everything will follow through.
Take a look at this introduction from a logo design article:
It’s simple. The writer avoids highfalutin words and long paragraphs. Given that the audience is mainly business startups planning to rebrand their logo designs, it’s perfectly fine to have it written this way.
Read on to see how different is this type of content from the Harvard Legal Review, one of the world’s most influential law journals:
Source: Harvard Legal Review
Compared with the DesignCrowd article, this uses long paragraphs and sentences. This makes sense due to its reputation as a resource of legal professionals, business executives, and political figures.
By now, we see that imposing a specific style on writers is crappy advice. What you need to focus on is the reader. And anything that provides value to the audience will level up the quality of any content.
2. Personal Stories Sell Better
Two million articles are published every day. That’s a massive amount of content. The online world is already saturated with answers from all different types of content creators. So how do you stand out?
My writing professor once told me that if you’re not an expert in a field, where certainly someone will always be more knowledgeable than you, the best way to craft your writing is to sprinkle some of your personal experiences.
It’s personal for a reason. It’s unique and no one has the same experience other than you, so other people can’t tell your stories.
Most importantly, though, stories sell. People are more likely to purchase a product and service when they are presented with customer stories and experiences. It’s science. We’re just more biologically wired to believe stories than facts.
Plus, it’s delightful to read a personal take on something. It makes the writing fun and you know for sure you won’t find that exact experience elsewhere.
Source: The New York Times
While some articles will introduce the readers to facts and definitions, this article from the New York Times is brushed with a personal touch.
One advantage of writing in such a way is that you don’t have to be an expert on a topic. (Note expertise helps a great deal when it comes to answering queries.)
You just have to be honest with yourself and with your readers about what you went through or how something made you feel.
Ironically, it builds credibility as readers will find you as someone they can trust and whose writings they can rely on.
If you’re still doubtful over the importance of stories. Take these words from the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs:
”The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”
3. Linking To Studies Builds Credibility
Personally, I love checking links that refer to certain studies mentioned in the article. I’d love to make sure that the statistics are accurate and fair.
Especially for articles that have a bold perspective, any studies that support their view should have an anchor link to the original research. Or else, people will inevitably think it’s all made up.
Take a look at this article from the New York Times. There’s a link that points to the study. Someone who wants to read further on the statistics can jump on that link than rummage the Internet.
The link refers to this study:
Source: The New York Times
Linking to authoritative is good for the article in several ways. It bolsters its domain rating and builds readership credibility.
But most importantly, readers will know the writer did a good job. That they have an educated and research-backed opinion from a wealth of credible sources.
The keyword though is credible. Steer clear from shady studies commissioned by companies as promotional opportunities. Knowing where to link to is part of the skill.
4. Quotes Leading Experts, Pioneers
The New York Times is a good example of this, hence they trump most blogs and online news sites.
If you noticed, I mentioned lots of examples from the “leading newspaper of record.” And their use of expert quotations is one reason I applaud their content.
Sure it helps to have a writer who’s been in and out of the industry. But it takes a different level to provide what real experts have to say.
Quotations from people mark high-quality content, especially if they have spent years in the field, have written a book, or have led a laboratory, a company, or an institution.
Below is an example of an article with good quotation. Dr. Clua is an expert in shark profiling and so it makes sense to write down her opinion on the matter.
Source: The New York Times
You might be thinking, that’s a newspaper. And newspaper reports are largely on politics where lots of people in the dividing line have something to say.
But I believe, even content marketers and other writers can learn from this way of writing if they want to level up the quality of their output.
Whether the topic is about the sickness signs of dog poop, someone has to be credible enough to tell what’s the deal about it.
Take a look at this article written by Neil Patel on his blog. He used the words of Jay Baer to expound on ideas
Many content marketers fall prey to the notion that their ideas and voice alone are enough to spread awareness without needing the perspectives of other influencers in the field.
Influencers are not only good resources of ideas, but also they’re opportune promoters of content, according to Andy Crestodina, content marketing expert and author of a best-selling book Content Chemistry. “An ally in creation is an ally in promotion.”
5. Visuals are Captivating
When was the last time you’ve been to a website with no graphics at all? It must have been a very long time.
Whatever websites we look at, we always see a picture or two displayed at the top, middle, sides, even at the bottom of the page.
Websites are constantly vying for the readers’ attention. And to hook readers, apart from using engaging titles and introduction, web owners bombard them with high-quality photos and flashing images. Why not, people process images 60,000 times faster than text. That means, we can interpret visuals in 13 milliseconds.
One recipe for a good article comprises visuals. We see it on Ahrefs, on the Washington Post, Masthead, and a lot more, so much so that it has become the typical way to a good quality content writing.
Certain websites are good examples of visual explainers. Ahrefs, for instance, whenever they need to make a point, there’s a picture. In fact, for most categories, there has to be an image supporting it.
But a warning, though, excessive use of images can strain the reader’s eyes. It can be heavy to see so many pictures in a single content. So use it sparingly and with a clear purpose. If it’s there to demonstrate something that no links or other content can help, then it’s good. Other than that, a simple block of word explanation or bulleted lists might help.
To Wrap It Up
Is there already too much content across the web? If we’re talking about low-quality crap. Sure there’s lots of it. But high-quality ones are rare. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult for typical people to access articles when paywalls block a good deal of authoritative websites.
So if you are going to write something, be it for marketing or politics, write something that really provides value.
Know that, although you’re the writer, it’s not about you. Your content has to help your readers. Give them the answer they need, the entertainment they want, or the inspiration they long for.