Creating compelling content
A news website must be rich in calls-to-action designed to guide the target audience deeper into the site and ensure they return time and time again.
It’s about creating a compelling content offering, a crisp writing style, clear signposts to the best content and plenty of must-click links.
A few simple tricks can make a massive difference to audience retention and dwell, and all are to do with presentation.
And your audience plenty of opportunities to share the material in order to help with distribution and reach.
Create compelling calls-to-action. Create signposts that stimulate a conversation. If the topic is about alcohol consumption a call-to-action must-click headline might be ‘are you drinking too much?’
Tell people why they should watch video; don’t just put a link on the page.
Enable the audience to help with distribution – tweet about all your good stuff and add a ‘tweet this’ link to encourage re-tweeting.
Include the most popular social networking tags at the top and bottom of each article so the audience can save the item to their favourite social networking site.
Drive people deeper into the site with engaging text that tells them why it’s important they invest their valuable time clicking through to another page on your site.
Explain the relevance of related content don’t just point to it. Tell the audience why they should click the link and what they will discover when they do.
7: Return ticket
Give users a compelling reason to return. Does your site interest you? Does it make you feel like settling down and clicking on the links? Would you use it if it wasn’t yours? Make sure you can say yes to all the above.
Ensure you have regularly refreshed content to ensure the site is up-to-date.
Aim for either unique content or a unique tone and presentational style, even when the content may be a bit lame or stale.
Be sure you know who your target audience is and relate all you offer to that audience in the language they use.
Never talk AT your audience, but find ways to engage your readers and allow them to participate and enrich the news production process.
Perfect a writing style that works for the audience and works for the search engines. But don’t be tempted by talk of search engine optimisation (SEO) to replace journalism with click-bait and sales fodder.
Keep it simple, don’t make it hard for the search engines to figure out what you are about. Headlines should contain the names or key words that people are likely to be searching for on Google etc. Use key words often in copy, but use common sense to avoid making an article unreadable. Repeat key words in image alt tags.
Keep headlines concise but clear. Labels are not great, nor are questions. Sentences work well. Being clever can backfire. For example: Replace: “Hope and happiness” with “Donor joy for Becky”. Replace: “Sparks fly at factory” with: “Hoover axes 500 jobs”.
Steer clear of too many facts, figures or stats. Sentences should be a maximum of 20 words, but mix up lengths.
However clever a pun may seem, it will have been used before and probably many times.
Make your text easy read – help the audience get to what you want them to see, the video and opportunities to engage.
State what is contained within the article/video. Avoid abstract copy.
Re-read copy and consider whether fewer, simpler words can be used.
Don’t repeat headline words in the intro. If better headline words are in the intro, steal them for the head and rewrite intro. Keep the preamble short and refer to the main players right away.
Find and pull out the main quotes in a story and consider repeating the most striking in a text box.
Writing works best when it follows the simple grammatical construction – subject, verb, object. “I killed him” not “he was killed by me”.
Your text must deliver what is promised, failing will lose audience trust. At a basic level, “Exclusive video footage” should not be available elsewhere.
Use everyday language. As Winston Churchill said: “Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” Use “buy” not “purchase”.
Convey a sense of energy and urgency, but remain honest.
Don’t inflate importance if the topic doesn’t merit it.
Informal and friendly but remain authoritative.
Do not sweeten with respect where none is due.
Whatever you write, make sure that the words are your own – cutting and pasting from other sources is legally dangerous and easy to spot.
Acknowledge that you are asking them to invest their most precious resource, their time, in your creation.
Treat your brand with respect – remember that every word you write can boost or damage your brand’s (and your) reputation.