The internet thrives on content. It’s being added to websites in breathtaking quantities and the search results are favouring sites with bigger amounts of website content.
Various studies have shown an almost straight line correlation between search position and the amount of words on the page.
Which makes sense. By definition, longer pages can offer more in-depth information than shorter ones. It’s a bit like comparing a flyer or pamphlet to a book.
So how can you create more content for the pages on your website without suffering from writer’s block?
Start by deciding on the main topic for the page
Assuming you know your niche (which you should) then the main topic could be one that you haven’t yet covered recently on your site or that you haven’t covered recently or that’s changed since you last created content for.
Some people find that it pays to keep a Word document or a spreadsheet with the topics and sub topics they want to cover. That way you can open the document whenever you think of a new topic to add and whenever you want to create something new.
Figure out a system that works well for you:
- Quite often I’ll just look at the last 3 months stats in JetPack and use those to inspire me.
- Other times I’ll start typing my phrase into Google and see what shows up, either in the suggestions that come up automatically or in the list of related searches that’s typically shown at the end of the page on the assumption that if you get that far you haven’t found what you’re looking for (next to no-one outside the SEO industry goes to page 2 of the results on a regular basis)
- If you’ve got an email list or a Facebook page, ideas can come from the replies you get from your subscribers or followers. Or – if there’s been not much response recently – you could ask them what they want to know more about.
- Twitter can also be a source of inspirations for website content. Their help page shows various ways you can dig into their user base.
- If you’re on a forum or can find one that relates to your niche then check the questions that crop up with monotonous regularity. Those are the ones people are seeking answers for, even if your first reaction is that they should just use the search function rather than ask a question that’s been asked what seems like a million times before. You could always post a brief answer that outlines things and then point them to your longer explanation.
- Use Amazon’s “look inside” feature. Some books have useful chapter titles (the Dummies series springs to mind) and those can be a springboard for lots of ideas.
- Use YouTube and other popular sites. A simple search can turn up ideas quite fast and if the links lead on to lists or playlists, even better.
The trick with deciding on a main topic to make the decision fairly fast.
Will it be the perfect choice for your next piece of website content? Probably not.
Will it be a good enough choice? Almost certainly, especially once you’ve moved on to the next section because you’ll be expanding on the things you’re going to cover whilst still keeping them relevant to the main topic.
That way you’ll have plenty to write about without getting swamped or suffering from the almost universal curse of writing – that annoying flashing cursor on an otherwise blank screen.
Write a number of sub-headings relating to the main topic
I decided the main idea behind this page quite fast – creating content is one of the big bug-bears of almost every website I’m aware of.
Some rely entirely on site users – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. create next to no content of their own. That’s fine if you’ve got a big enough user base but it’s next to impossible for a small website.
Most either create the content themself or outsource the task to freelancers using sites like iWriter, Freelancer, etc. The quality of outsourced content varies – I prefer to use it as a “first draft” rather than a finished article – but it can be reasonably good for not too much money.
Sub-headings are a good idea.
When I started writing this page I used 6 sub-headings – you can see them near the top of this page as a table of contents – although there’s a chance that another topic or two will spring to mind as I’m typing. If that happens you’ll see a longer list at the top of the page.
There are several advantages to creating sub-headings:
- They keep you on topic – with long articles like this one it’s easy to get side tracked, much like conversations often wander a long way from the subject you first started talking about.
- They give you a chance to double-check the structure. Whilst it’s easy enough to cut and paste, it’s even easier to get the order right in the first place. You can move the sub-headings around a lot easier than large chunks of text.
- You may discover a complete topic that was hiding in plain sight that you could write a page on. That will vary according to your niche but I’ve found it to happen on more than one occasion.
- They get over the writer’s block state that a blank screen often seems to bring on. Seeing a screen with half a dozen sub-topics or more is a lot less daunting than seeing one that just has the title and maybe an introductory paragraph.
Whilst I started this page with half a dozen sub-topics, there’s no magic number to aim for. Anything from a handful right the way up to a dozen or more can work.
Or you could decide that your complete page will be essentially just a list of things with a short explanation about each. That way you could have 100 or more topics with a sentence or two elaborating on each of them – that would turn into a big page really fast. For instance, 100 topics each with 100 words expanding on them would turn into a jumbo 10,000 word page.
Writing 10,000 words straight away is daunting.
Coming up with 100 sub-topics is still fairly daunting but once you’ve done a quick search or two my guess is that you’ll have more than enough ideas to come up with that kind of list.
It’s just another way to write lots of content fast and is a very good way if you’re stuck with the notion that long website content isn’t easy.
So depending on how many words you’re happy writing in each section of your brand new page, aim for that number of sub-topics.
That’s the stage I got to when I started writing this page. I didn’t use the next technique because I’m more than comfortable writing upwards of 500 words on each sub-topic I’ve decided to use.
That’s historic – I’ve been writing content that contains at least 500 words almost as long as I’ve been on the web.
Even some of my email replies can be a few hundred words although I’m gradually training myself to write shorter replies to emails and then expand on the reply for public consumption on my website. Not something I always achieve but definitely something I’m doing more often. Apart from anything else, it means that the content I write potentially reaches a wider audience than just one person in an email.
The same kind of logic goes to replies you put on a Facebook or a forum post – if you can elaborate on it, do so on your own website. Whether that turns in to a relatively short (by modern standards) 500 word post or something larger at 1,000, 2,000 or more words.
Tweets never have been long enough to put out a full reply but they do lend themselves to promoting the full-sized reply and if the content is good enough (you’ll get better the more content you write) then they even stand a chance of getting re-Tweeted.
Once you’ve got your sub-topics, you can consider doing the next part.
It’s optional but can be a good idea if you’ve not written long-ish pieces of content on an anything like regular basis to be confident to tap away and create upwards of 500 words on the sub-topics you’ve decided to include on your page.
Delve even further into the topic by writing sub-sub-headings
If you’re relatively new to writing long content for your website or if you’re fairly new to your niche, this works very well.
For each of your sub-topics, come up with a list of sub-sub-topics.
It’s not something I do very often but I’ve been researching what I write “on the fly” for as long as I can remember – well over 40 years. I was a teenager when I first used this technique as I was doing essay subjects for my exams and wanted a way to write good essays quickly without spending forever. It also stood me in good stead for my exams as they were written against the clock with (obviously) no access to research material.
But even I use this idea if the niche I’m writing about isn’t something I could talk to you about unprompted for as long as we both didn’t get bored.
The research options are very similar to the ways I suggested earlier for the main topic or sub-topics. The only main difference is that you’ll be drilling down even further.
- If you’re using Amazon’s “look inside” then you’ll be aiming to use the bigger, thicker, books that have sub-topics in their table of contents. That can be a good way to start but finding such books – especially since so many “books” seem to be written for Kindle nowadays – can be time consuming.
- Google’s search suggestions work really well for this option. You can play around with adding a space before or after any of the words that show up as suggestions and more often than not you’ll get yet more suggestions that drill down on the topic.
Here are three different (but related) searches that I could have used to drill down for extra ideas for this page:
Website content didn’t give me too many ideas but content writing & content writing tips did.
And you can also just use a single letter or two at the end of your main phrase to get ideas that contain that letter. Not every single one of the 26 available letters will give you the maximum of 10 suggestions but you don’t need 260 sub-sub-topics unless you’re writing a giant list post and even then you almost certainly wouldn’t need that many,
You can also then drill down using the results that come up in the search results – you’ll often find lists show up in the results and they can be a good hunting ground for ideas for topics, sub-topics or sub-sub-topics to write about.
It doesn’t much matter whether you prefer to write directly onto your site (which is what I do with WordPress and what I used to do when I wrote content for article directories) or prefer to type away in a word processor and then copy & paste onto your site. Both options work well.
For a page like this, I put in the main sub-topics early on in the process, separated them with a couple of carriage returns to save WordPress being “helpful” and carrying on the formatting I applied to them and then formatted each heading as a sub-heading. I used the H2 option as that’s the most appropriate for this style of post.
If I drilled down and did sub-sub-topics inside the main sub-topics then I’d have formatted those with the H3 option. That gives the page a logical structure for both humans and search engine robots.
My site’s theme handles the main H1 side of things – there should only be one of those on the page in the same way as there’s only one main headline on the front page of a traditional newspaper.
The good thing about drilling down to this level of detail is that it makes the main writing task easy.
Sure, it takes a bit longer to come up with the ideas for the various sub-topics but – especially for a multi-thousand word article – the time spent getting your thoughts in order is more than compensated for by the time saved in getting those ideas embellished as you write about them.
You’ll probably have a gut reaction as to which is likely to work for you.
For instance, if I’m writing a short post that’s likely to be under 1,000 words then I’ll personally just start with the title and start tapping away at the keyboard. But if you’ve only really ever written short posts on places like Facebook or short email replies then you’ll probably prefer to come up with between 3 and 10 sub-topics even if your post isn’t likely to stretch to more than 1,000 words or so.
For a mid-length post like this one, I’ll type out the sub-topics that I’m going to be writing about and then treat each of those sub-topics as a 300 to 1,000 word article.
For a very long post, I’d probably use the same technique but use more sub-headings so that if I wanted to write a 20,000 word post I’d probably aim for around 25 sub-topics as I seem to usually write about 700 words for a section. But if that sounds crazy (and even for me, the idea of a 20,000 word post does sound mad, after all it’s longer than a lot of Kindle “books”) then drill down.
Write about each smaller sub-topic
How much you can write in one sitting depends on your time availability, your typing speed and the depth of your knowledge of your subject.
For the internet marketing niche, I seem to be faster at writing than any of the other markets I’m in. I’ve not timed it precisely but that’s certainly my gut instinct.
The aim of the drill-downs that you’ve done so far is to get the main topic of your webpage split into manageable chunks.
The word manageable means different things to different people.
I know of writers who will set aside the whole day and crunch out 13,000 words or more – there’s a very successful Kindle author (John Locke) who does precisely that.
Other writers can’t devote that amount of time in one stretch so they split up their writing into smaller chunks.
Personally, I aim to write for around 30 to 60 minutes at a time, then give my fingers and my brain a short break. It’s very close to the Pomodoro Technique which is a good starting place for time management for a lot of projects that can tax your brain.
If you’ve gone for a relatively small number of sub-topics then the aim is to write a decent amount about each of them.
As I mentioned earlier, my aim with this was to write an average of upwards of 700 words for each of the 6 (now 7, may be more by the time I press the publish button) sub-topics on this page.
That’s because – for me – that’s usually pretty easy and I can keep both myself and my potential reader interested.
That’s an important thing to remember:
- You’re not writing words just for the sake of writing words.
- The aim is to make your words useful and to keep your reader interested.
Which means that the answer to the question of how long your website copy should be is simple: “As long as it needs to be in order to explain the subject and not bore the reader”.
You know from reading books or watching films or TV series that if you’re captivated by the subject, the length of it can never really be enough.
And if you’re bored by it, it can’t be over soon enough.
Your aim is to capitivate your reader.
Of course, there’s the caveat that your reader should be potentially interested in your niche topic.
And your content should be appropriate to the level of expertise of your potential reader.
That one’s a bit more difficult.
Ideally, you should link off to extra beginners sections rather than bore the more experienced reader but that’s not always possible.
Splitting the page into topics can help with that – each new topic builds on the previous one and your more experienced readers can skim over the beginner level stuff.
If you’ve drilled down to the sub-sub-topic then each section will likely be shorter.
You could probably get away with only writing one or two hundred words on each small section of the page.
That’s a great way to start if you’re relatively new to your niche or if you are relatively new to writing long content for your site.
Because each section is about the same length as an email reply or a Facebook post, you should be well inside your comfort zone.
In turn, that will help you to write more content because you’ll gradually come to realise that this isn’t as hard as you first thought.
Use short sentences & paragraphs, bullet points and eye candy
Our modern lives mean that most people reading your content are likely to be time-poor.
The days of seemingly never ending Sundays (lots of those when I was a youngster) seem to be gone and most people think they don’t have enough time in the day to fit everything in.
If you’ve ever read some of the classic business books such as Think and Grow Rich, you’ll know that the writing style of even a century ago is a lot different from the writing style we’re used to nowadays.
Unless you’re aiming to bore your college professor, you should be aiming for short sentences and short paragraphs.
Even if your English teacher would freak at the idea.
Reading text on a screen isn’t as easy as reading print – there have been various studies that suggest reading from the screen is more difficult. There are also a lot more distractions on screen – tabs in your browser, hyperlinks to other pages, adverts, the constant nag of email and social media and instant chat, that kind of thing.
Which means that the things you write should make liberal use of white space.
Pictures can also help to break up a page – not something I do often on this site but it is something I use in some of the other niches I create content about. Some of that is my chosen “house style” for the site. Another thing here is that I don’t find it easy to find images that relate to the pages I create but maybe that’s just me.
- Bullet pointed lists work well.
- They break up the page – especially if you use simple images instead of the blobs that are likely the default for your site’s theme
- Bolding relevant words helps to draw your reader’s eye to some of the words in the bullet points
- You don’t have to worry about proper sentence structure as much – we’re used to lists being short and to the point
That said, proper sentence structure hasn’t been something I’ve ever paid too much attention to. It got me in trouble at school but on the web it’s just a one-sided conversation where I’m “talking” on my web pages.
If this was a video, I would be talking rather than worrying about whether I shouldn’t start sentences with “and” or whether I was cutting sentences short.
I treat my web pages that way.
So they don’t come across as bland and corporate.
Not everyone likes my style but then not everyone likes formal, stuffy, text either.
That’s the beauty of the internet – people can dip into your content and if they like it they’ll stay around. If they don’t like it, they may still comment (although that’s fairly unlikely, most people don’t comment) but more likely they’ll leave.
You can’t please all the people all the time – that isn’t possible with the variety of people across the world, spread across all sorts of different cu;tures and age groups.
All you need to do is please the people who get along with your style.
Maybe entice them into joining an email list or asking them to subscribe if you’re also using YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or similar.
Maybe ask them to buy something you recommend every now and then – that works nicely and is a good way to monetise your website’s content. Which is probably what you were secretly hoping was going to happen.
With short sentences (Yoast’s plugin will give you a computer estimate of the Flesch–Kincaid readability score. It’s not perfect but it’s a good enough estimate. If you’re consistently considered too difficult to read, stop using all those long words and long sentences.
Images are useful eye candy.
They help break up the page.
As do videos – you can easily put them on your WordPress pages. It used to be a bit of a hassle but in recent versions WordPress has finally figured out the behind-the-scenes coding that means all you need to do is copy and paste the code from your browser’s address bar or the “share” link in YouTube and WordPress does all the other magic needed.
I sometimes embed a video on this site, more often on other sites I own.
The same goes for images – I don’t use them on this site very often. If you’re using a plugin such as Contextual Related Posts then that will display a thumbnail of one of the images on your posts in the bunch of “related posts” that shows up after your content.
Finding images that you’re allowed to use on your website can be tricky. You can’t just grab anything you fancy – most photographers and image libraries are understandably precious about their work and protect it aggressively, often with speculative invoicing via some very convincing legal firms. They stop short of knocking on your door whilst brandishing a baseball bat – but the feeling is very much the same.
If you’re going to use images you can either purchase a licence on a per-image basis (which gets expensive fast) or you can get hold of a pack of thousands of pre-qualified stock images that you’re free to use near enough whenever and wherever you want.
That’s what I do and because there are so many images in the pack it’s highly unlikely that your site’s visitors will have seen them anywhere else.
Your choice when it comes to images but definitely go for short paragraphs and sentences with some bullet points mixed in.
On the internet, white space is basically free, unlike those early densely packed books which couldn’t devote too many blank areas. That’s changed a bit nowadays as print costs have come down but on the web all it takes is a user to scroll their mouse or tap their screen.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
The story of the tortoise and the hare springs to mind here.
Sure, you could churn out short website content fast.
But it’s likely to turn into the internet equivalent of a sugar rush – a quick hit (maybe) followed by not a lot.
Because search engines are increasingly favouring longer content.
Because that’s what searchers are telling them.
Not face to face – it would cost too much to interview everyone when they make a search – but by analysing the crazily large amounts of information that we readily give up in return for getting the information we want at our fingertips.
Google track how often a link is clicked relative to it’s position in the search results. They’ve got more than enough information to know the percentage of people who click each link position (which is doubtless why they’ve recently increased the number of adverts on popular searches from 3 to 4). And they’ve almost certainly got enough data to be able to fine tune that according to the search performed and the language it was carried out in. Plus lots of other factors.
Not to mention any information that gets sent if you’re using Chrome or the site you reach is showing AdSense adverts or offering to show a YouTube video or linking to a map or one of the other freebies they offer.
The once-scary ideas in Nineteen Eighty-Four have arrived and we’re happily accepting them.
But that’s side-tracking.
The important thing to remember is that longer content stands a much greater chance of getting traffic to your website.
So long as the content is good of course but I hope that’s a given if you’ve read this far.
There are a few reasons for this including:
- You’ll probably instinctively include long tail search terms – the kind that no-one has ever intentionally written a complete page about but that people search for. If you asked me to guess, I’d say that maybe half the search terms used haven’t got a specific page to be shown in the results (you can get a quick clue from the bolding of your search phrase that Google does in the results)
- You’ll show up for more varied – but still related – results. That increases your click through rate which in turn affects the position you show up in the search results. The search engines are getting more and more sophisticated but the end result is that they show what their stats show to be the most relevant and useful results higher up the page.
- You’ll start to be regarded as an authority in your niche. How much of an expert will depend on a lot of factors but the more, long, informative work you create for your website, the more this will happen.
- Other people will slowly but surely start linking to your page of their own volition. This takes time and is tied in with the expert status you’re slowly acquiring in your niche. You can speed it up slightly by blowing your own trumpet via Facebook, Twitter, etc. But most of it will happen a lot slower than watching paint dry.
One long web page is better than none.
But lots of them will nudge you closer to being that authority in your niche who people turn to.
Why all that content on one website page?
Because it’s better for all concerned.
It’s good for site visitors because everything they need to know is in one place rather than scattered across a number of pages or even websites.
The search engines reward that by (gradually) sending more visitors to your site.
If you’ve set up the pages correctly – and you’ve got all the essentials on this page – you’ll keep your visitors happy which in turn means they’re more likely to follow the links on your pages. And if some of those links go off and earn you a commission, they’ll be happy to make the purchase and you’ll be happy to bank your cut of the profit.
That’s less obtrusive than advertising and instinctively you may think you’ll earn less money that way.
But we’re becoming more and more blind to adverts – that’s why they’re getting increasingly “in your face” but still not getting the results they used to get.
Links that you weave into your content – and there are quite a few on this page – can potentially earn you money.
Not all of them – I’ve linked off to Wired magazine, Wikipedia and other sites. Including at least one place where I could have sent people to Amazon and maybe earned a small commission but decided that the Wikipedia page was more appropriate in the context.
That’s a luxury I wouldn’t have if this page was 500 words rather than the roughly 5,000 it will end up being.
You win – you get a better quality link.
I win – I still get to include links that could earn me money.
And, of course, now I’ve mentioned it there’s a good chance at least some people reading this post will go back through it in more detail and try to figure out which link(s) I’m talking about.
That’s called reader engagement and Google measure that as well. They monitor how long between you clicking a link in the search results and clicking back. Chrome also sends other data if you’ve allowed it to.
Lots of reasons to write lots of content and keep it all in one place.
You don’t have to write it all at once – that’s the beauty of small sub-topics.
Just click the “save draft” option when you need to take a break and keep doing that until you’re ready to publish your masterpiece.
Then repeat the exercise with the next topic.
Set yourself a timetable – maybe an hour of content writing most days – and do your best to stick to it.
If you managed one post like this most weeks you’d have roughly 50 pages of content, each with about 5,000 words.
That’s a quarter of a million words for Google to find and index – almost half the length of War and Peace.
If you managed double that – a very achievable target – you’d have half a million words written. Or you could take the longer haul and do that over 2 years.
That’s just you writing for maybe an hour most days – most people can manage around a thousand words an hour once they get reasonably proficient at typing and writing. Or you could record your voice and get it transcribed by a human or a computer program if that’s more your style.
Think about it.
But not for too long because you really ought to get started!
And you’ve got more than enough information on this page to allow you to get started creating lots and lots of highly useful website content to start getting more visitors to your site and helping them more once they get there.