A lot of our most popular themes here at WPZOOM are magazine themes. Something that plays a big part in these themes’ popularity is that they allow anyone to set up a blog and start publishing their own web-magazine.
This, over the last couple of years, has transformed a lot of niches into thriving communities which are powered by the news, opinions and editorials pouring out of these WordPress-powered blogs.
The downside to this digital publishing revolution is that because it’s so easy to set up a good-looking site and pour your thoughts into it, everyone’s doing it and this means you need to do something to stick out from the crowd and make your voice heard.
In this post I’ll walk you through some of the techniques you can use to do exactly that; think of it as a crash course in writing for the internet-age.
Understanding your audience
The most important thing you need to do is to establish who your audience is, and once you’ve got that sorted, you need to start understanding them. Questions like “who am I writing to”, “what do people want to find out when they visit a story” and “how are people reading the content” are all important, and establishing the answers to those will go a long way to helping you understand your audience.
Let’s say, for example, you run a video games news site running OriginMag. You publish multiple pieces of content every day; a mixture of news, reviews and editorials. You also have a strong Facebook presence where you publish daily roundups. You want to find out more about your audience.
The first place to start is Facebook’s Insights analytics. These are going to give you details of the demographic who follow your site on Facebook, and it’s not too much of a stretch to gather that these are going to be the same people visiting your site. Let’s say 50% of your audience is 18-30 and the remainder is split between the surrounding age groups.
Now take a look at Google Analytics or whichever stats app you use and take a look at a couple of stats: bounce rate, referrals, time spent on site and device source. The first three of these are going to tell you where people are coming from and what they’re doing when they get to your site. If you find you’ve got a high bounce-rate and low time spent on site, it’s highly likely that people are coming to your site looking for one piece of info and then leaving immediately. You now know you need to hook them in more effectively, but we’ll come to that in a minute.
Looking to see how people are accessing your site is the final, crucial step. In our hypothetical example, 40% of visitors are coming from mobile devices, 20% are coming from tablets and the remaining 40% are coming from desktops. As so many of your visitors are coming to your site on mobile, it’d be a good idea to make sure your theme is responsive and up-to-date. OriginMag is responsive out-of-the-box, but if you need to upgrade, check the support centre for details.
Okay, so you know more or less who you’re writing to and why they’re coming to your site. I’ve only walked through a very brief look at some analytics, but get the idea; the stats can help you work out what people are doing on your site. The trick now is to use that info and tailor your content so that readers get what they want, but you also get what you want.
The key to crafting content which people want to keep coming back to is engaging the reader. Make sure you’re using language that can be easily understood and — if it’s appropriate to your audience — easily scanned. Set the most important points in bold types so that readers are drawn to them.
Cut up your paragraphs a lot; large blocks of text are a nightmare.
Use headers to indicate what you’re going to be covering in each section. Readers who are flicking through content are going to stop to read your big, bold titles, right?
Images play a huge role, too: bold imagery which can expand on or further develop a point you’ve made is another fantastic way of breaking up text and ensuring that as much as possible of what you’ve written actually gets read.
Understanding the medium
Writing for the web is very different to writing anywhere else. Keeping your audience engaged and reading your content properly is a challenge, but done well — it’s hard to beat.
Armed with some of these lessons, try them out and see what happens; you may well be amazed at the results. Got tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!