People read books. They scan the internet.
They devote hours, even days, to books. They peruse the average internet article for just 15 seconds.
Authors write books. To many, web content is created by that faceless collective known simply as “the internet.”
In so many ways, books and web content are polar opposites. Naturally, as a content marketer, you probably look beyond “old-fashioned” books for ideation.
Still, we in the Webosphere can learn valuable lessons from our literary heroes. Such as:
The Art of Storytelling
Some web articles inform. Others entertain. A good story does both.
Bend your facts and your data around a well-told story, and your message is more apt to hit its mark. According to studies, readers don’t retain cold, hard data. But stories stick. They make brands instantly memorable and, more importantly, take readers on a persuasive, action-inducing journey.
Storytelling is a subtle art requiring patience and practice. To master its intricacies, where better to turn than the giants lining your bookshelf or queued up on your Kindle?
The Quick Hook
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (George Orwell)
“Where now? Who now? When now?” (Samuel Beckett)
“We were halfway out of Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” (Hunter S. Thompson)
Whether you’re writing a 500-word blog or a 300-page novel, you need a powerful opening sentence to capture your readers’ interest. On the web, first sentences are especially critical. Captivate your readers in the first handful of seconds, or you’ve lost them.
Throughout my writing career, I’ve frequently revisited my favorite writers’ opening salvos while searching for that all-important instant hook. It may sound crazy, but dynamite opening lines for books and blogs are strikingly similar:
• They make shocking observations, or cite an unbelievable statistic.
• They ask open-ended questions to stimulate the reader’s imagination.
• They tell unusual, attention-grabbing stories.
Next time you’re brainstorming for a riveting opening remark, ask yourself how your favorite author may approach the task. A little literary inspiration may help your content go viral.
We’re in a digital age where lengthy content is king. The more words you feature, the more search engine traffic you attract. 1500 words or more, and the Google gods smile upon you.
But discoverable content isn’t always synonymous with readable content. Internet users covet valuable, easily accessible information. Extraneous, clumsy text stands in its way. If, on the race to 1500 words, you litter your content with filler, you end up with nothing but an astronomical bounce rate to show for your highly visible website.
Great authors are masters of brevity. Even if they churn out a steady stream of 1000-page novels, their sentences are masterfully concise. Each word serves a purpose.
To practice cutting filler from your content, first pick a random paragraph from the book writing guru of your choice. Edit it closely, taking out any unnecessary words.
Chances are, you came up empty. Each word is essential. If not, then congratulations – you’ve just edited a virtuoso.
Now do the same thing with your own content. Take a metaphorical hatchet to it all. Or, I should say, give it the hatchet. Your readers may show their thanks by scrolling and sharing.
Despite their obvious differences, crafting a 500-word blog isn’t so different than writing the Great American Novel. The lessons we can learn from our favorite books are invaluable. For more tips and tricks for developing world-class content, visit our Content Marketing Academy today.
Media Shower writer Marcus Whelchel is a renowned content writer who has blogged extensively about travel, health, education, and many other topics.