Crafting Readable Content for the Web

One of the catchphrases in marketing is that “Content is King.” If content is king, though, readable content must reign supreme as the One King to Rule Them All. Of course, the Catch-22 here is that content must also be scannable, optimized, subheaded, bulleted, shareable, meta-tagged, and contain keywords….By Zeus’s beard and thunderbolt, it must contain keywords!

With all these competing and often diametrically opposed issues at play, not to mention the ongoing, black box mystery of Google’s search algorithms, creating content a human being can read, understand and enjoy becomes a challenge. When crafting readable content, all of these issues matter. The mistake is thinking that all of these issues matter all of the time.

Meta-Tags

Meta-tags, for example, are more of a site level concern. If you’re crafting meaningful, relevant content, it should align with the meta-tags with no extra effort from you.

Subheads, Bullets, and Scannability

Subheads and bullets serve a couple of functions. They break up content into easily digestible chunks. This post, for example, would be much more difficult to read without subheads. It also means the reader can easily scan over the article to get a sense of what it’s about and what, if any, parts they want to read.

I’ve seen requests for content that include both subheads and bullet lists. In my experience, any given article or blog post can call for a bulleted list OR subheads, but very few ever call for both, and some call for neither. Readable content employs the tactics the topic warrants and only those.

Shareability

Shareability boils down to two, virtually unrelated items. There is a technical component, which usually entails turning on a plugin in your blog software or embedding some HTLM code in website so that sharing buttons appear. The other side of shareability is more nebulous. Different groups of people share different kinds of things.

People that are primarily passive recipients of information (news, gossip, and so on) tend to share things related with their obsessions. Fans of the Marvel Universe films, for example, will share more or less any update on those films. People involved in an industry or profession, on the other hand, tend to look for and share actionable content. How-to articles, tips and tricks, and strategies for professional/business development tend to top the list. They want things they can use. Understand the kind of readers you’re developing content for and angle in that direction.

Keywords

Keyword is one of those inescapable terms when it comes to developing content for the web. Everyone is looking for the golden keyword that will draw in readers and buyers by the droves. Then there is the ever-shifting advice on keyword density. If your content is actually about the topic you think it’s about, the keyword should turn up naturally in the text and at about the right level of density. If you find yourself shoehorning a keyword in to get the keyword density up, it probably means the content isn’t nearly as relevant to that keyword as you think. More importantly, it’s going to be aggravating to read. The keyword becomes repetitive and the content becomes less enjoyable to read.

Semantic Search

One of the things that is and will likely continue to change the game for web content is semantic search on Google. While the technical details are beyond me, the basic idea is that rather than simply giving a list of websites that have the right keywords, the search engine will look for contextually relevant content. In theory, this should provide results that will align more closely with the search query. Mashable provides a good overview here. For those developing content, however, it should also mean that well constructed, readable content starts ranking a little better than lousy, barely readable content that was search engine optimized.

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