So, every day you’re churning out content for many channels. All is going to plan, you think. You’re keeping your website content humming with regular updates and clear and concise key messaging. Then you take a look at your visitation data, and the questions are startlingly clear – people are not staying on the pages long enough to read the information.
Keeping up with the customer groups
The communication is not working as well as hoped, you probably already knew that as niggling thoughts that have been coming up for you: Perhaps the content is the issue. Luckily, the content is also the easiest variable to tackle here. Improving the content, so it engages, and people just stay to read, also called ‘connecting with the brand’, is a clear target to work to.
The good news is that there is a simple technique that can get you started on churning out high-quality, engaging web content that converts interest to sales and even building trusted relationships with your marketplace. Ready to jump in?
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Pair writing explained
Pair writing means paring the Content owner / Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) with writing for the web specialists (professional writers) who bring an additional layer of specialised writing techniques to the party. The SME’s have the knowledge the website visitors come for; however, may not have the very specific skills around writing for the web and online scan reading behaviours, integration of SEO etc.
Two heads are better than one, that’s why there are always two pilots
An SME and a professional writer working together combine the advantage of accurate source knowledge with advance writing skills, that’s the part about bringing together the best of both worlds. The benefits are both short and long term. Typically, in the short term, this leads to high-quality content, produced in a shorter timeframe when all the participants get practiced at the most effective way to go about job sharing.
Building trust: the long-term benefit
Looking from the birds’ eye view, pair writing typically results in consistent content across the website. Building trust with your customer or reading communities comes when content is useful, knowledgeable and consistent. Additionally, this is great from a brand building and content marketing strategy perspective. All of which pair writing delivers.
Online scan reading behaviours: the pro tips
If you are not a professional web writer and you’re just planning on muddling through, after all, you write all the time, please reconsider. Professional writing expertise will result in high-quality content. We need more – not less of that.
Writing for online scan reading behaviours is the foundational expertise the professional writer brings to the editorial process; this means writing to:
- Engage within 5 seconds: Start the page with two short sentences, to encourage engagement, then a short summary of the key points of the page. Say ‘hello’ to your little friend: inverted pyramid style writing, it will take you far.
- The user/reader needs: Start by defining the three key messages the reader is coming to the web page for, please note the intentions of the reader are crucial here, as distinct from what the content owner wants the say. The goal is to create meaningful, useful content that people will stay to read, which may or may not be what the content owner wants to highlight.
- Be clear and concise: Many readers will flee if presented with a long passage of text when they are really just looking for one piece of information. Whilst best practice suggests 800 words is an ideal length, the reality is that the length of a page should be defined by what is right for the content, 800 words, or no. The reality is that people don’t want to spend a lot of time reading long passages of text to finally get down to their key piece of information or goal content or the reason why they came to the page. People will, however, scan read down a page to find the trigger word (engagement trigger) that they are looking for and read on from there.
- Include relevant engagement triggers: Include short meaningful headings (otherwise known as engagement triggers) so the reader can scan down the page, reading the headings and get the ‘story’ of the page and/or locate the key information they came for, and read the relevant paragraph, thereby making that specific heading their ‘engagement trigger’. Make sense?
- Be found: The Google search algorithm is all full-text search nowadays, which has rendered obsolete the metadata text fields in most CMS’s. Keyword research, however, is still as relevant as ever. Search ranking is still driven by metadata; the change this creates is that keywords need to be threaded the full-page text as well as headings and summary text. The intent from Google is to make sure the content is relevant to the user’s search, not just simply listing the keywords in the search index fields. The key takeaway here is again, make the content relevant and useful for the reader. It really is that simple.
We’ll stop here. We’ve given away enough secrets. There is a much wider set of guidelines to write to, and we haven’t even started on plain language and F-shaped reading patterns or readability ratings. We recommend consulting a professional writer, or naturally, talk with us at The Walk.
Conclusion: Why you should try pair writing?
In the end, pair writing is a fairly simple technique that is easy to get started. The end results tend to be ‘quiet’ as the team is creating refined content in partnership. The outcomes and results are simply higher quality, consistent content with typically faster turn-around times. This can be rolled out for smaller (20 + page) websites through to the larger corporate internet and intranet sites with thousands of pages. Not just for online content, there is value in using pair writing for the ‘passive’ content realm as well, including Annual Report development or product brochures as scan reading happens online and offline IRL.
The value proposition also tends to have a long tail. Beneficial outcomes are long term, especially when the page numbers are high, and will deliver a website replete with consistent content that is engaging, easy to read and in the brand voice. Customer communications are improved, as mentioned, it is all about brand building, sometimes this is only fully realised when you sell that beautiful brand you have been lovingly building. The other long-term value is the inevitably improved skills of the content owners/SMEs.
You can have the best of both worlds. If you need help getting started on creating a viable pair writing process and a content toolset, here at the Walk, we can help you get a jump on things.
Free guides to help you rock your marketing:
Quick start guide to content marketing: Get started with meaningful content that works. Read more
Content marketing that works: A step by step guide into the details of crafting an effective content marketing strategy. Read more