How to Write Content for People

Often, people interested in digital marketing get too caught up in writing for search engines. We worry too much about search engine optimization (SEO), i.e. the science behind why search engines rank one web page over another in search engine results pages (SERP).

how to write engaging content


We lose sight of the real goal of writing – to communicate information, entertain and intrigue human beings. We want people, not search engines, to engage with our website, reach out to us for more information and ideally, purchase goods and services.

So in this post, we want to focus on how to write content for people, not search engines.

The good news is that many of the best practices for producing content for people are the same as what types of writing search engines like too.

The Rules of Good Writing 

Don’t confuse good writing for people with lessons you learned about academic papers. That writing was for teachers and professors. And frankly, it’s hard to figure out what they wanted or why they ever thought their rules about writing would help anyone in the real world. Here are the lessons about writing content for people you really want to learn and remember.

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The Headline, Subject Line and First Paragraph Matter the Most

Almost everything we read these days is on a laptop, desktop, mobile or tablet. So what your teachers may have emphasized the most about writing, like citing sources (that matters but not as much) and fine points about grammar (again, it matters but not as much) actually matters the least when it comes to good writing for screens. 

When it comes to how people read on screens, and what they remember about the words they’ve read, experts have found that these words matter the most: The headline, the subject line (if you’re writing an email) and the first paragraph or first several sentences of a page, product description or social media post.

The reason? When people read online, their eyes go in an F shaped pattern. That means that they focus the most, and pay the most attention to, the top part of a page (the top line in an F). This is usually the headline, or an email subject line.

Then they scroll down a little bit, and read the first paragraph pretty closely (the second, shorter line in an F).

Then they scroll down more, but they pay less and less attention to those words.

The take home lesson? Make your headline and first paragraph A-MAZ-ING.


Totally, completely engaging. 

Make sure it has some facts. Make sure it isn’t hard to figure out what the page will be about. Make sure the grammar is perfect. Basically, put your top effort into the headline, subject line and first paragraph. Don’t screw up the rest. But write, then rewrite, the first 100 words.

There are a Few Different Ways to Handle What to Include in the First Paragraph

People don’t like to be confused online. When they’re confused, they stop reading and move on to another web page or email.  So make sure that your first paragraph has some facts. Think about the who, what, where, why and when related to your page’s topic. Decide which of those issues is most important. Make that clear. 

Give a synopsis of what the page will be about.

You can be humorous or clever, but make sure you’re not the only person laughing at your own joke. And if you are going to be clever. Make it quick. We started this post with a straightforward, summarizing start.

We could have started it another way, with a bit of humor. But we would have kept that humor short. Here’s what we could have done:

Remember a teacher that always harped on you about proper citation, where to put commas and why your thesis statements weren’t any good. Now forget everything that person told you.

That’s a good start. But it’s short, and after that, we’d have the paragraph we started this post with. 

What To Do with the Rest of the Post

We don’t want to imply that the rest of what’s written on a page doesn’t matter. Of course it does. Interested parties will keep reading. 

And you want to keep them engaged, informed and teach them more. 

Each paragraph should be about one, and only one, idea. Look back to the who, what, where, why and when of your topic. What didn’t you address in the first paragraph? Dedicate one or two paragraphs in the body to the issues you haven’t addressed. The key is to not repeat yourself. 

If you’re running out of things to write, add quotes from real people. You can interview an expert or a real person who knows about a topic over email or the phone. Get their name and job title. Then quote them. After a quote, start a new paragraph.

If you don’t interview the person yourself, but find a quote online, just make that clear to the reader by citing the source. Don’t cite the source the way your teacher taught you. Cite it by hyperlinking to the source and explaining what the source is in your writing. Here’s an example:

Fiction writer Stephen King often gives speeches on good writing. One of his tips is to avoid adverbs.

In a book he wrote called On Writing, he wrote, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.”

Add facts from outside sources too. For example, if you’re running out of ideas, add a summary of a study about the topic you’re writing about. Here, we can add this:

A recent study found that writing by hand helps people remember information more than they do when typing. 

Again, we insert links to the original source. We do this so that readers know we’re telling the truth. A secondary benefit goes back to SEO. When websites link to outside sources, search engines can see that. They realize the website creator took the time and effort to find an outside source. This makes the search engine believe the website operator is an expert and has authority. So they boost that web page in SERP. 

Add Photos and Videos


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 Reading text on a screen is hard on the eye. People can do it, of course. And they will if they’re interested enough. But to make reading text easier, you have to do something surprising: break up text with photos and videos and other multimedia.

Photos, videos, embedded audio, graphic, interactive designs and more give people a mental, and visual, break from a long string of words. This is important to do when one’s eyes are tired, or dry, from reading text on a screen.

Don’t worry about having to take a lot of photos or videos, or create graphics.

Pixabay has a free database of photos and videos. So does Canva. Your own content management system likely has a media library too. Just search for images and videos related to the topic. 

Don’t grab images or videos off of Google. Many of these are copyright protected. Go to Pixabay, Canva or your CMS library for royalty-free media. You can, of course, use your own images and videos.

We offer Content Creation Packages, and custom photography packages, if this is all getting to sound like too much work.

For many people, contracting out this work is the best alternative, because the DIY approach takes time and effort, if you’re not naturally a fast writer. 

For search engines to recognize content, pages should be at least 1500 words. People don’t always need to read that much, but they need at least a couple of hundred words. 

Write Regularly

Wanna know the best way to write good content for people? Practice. No one is born a writer. Sometimes, you’ll hear about art or piano prodigies. But no kid has ever written a good book at the age of 5.

Writing is a matter of practice.

So you have to write every day to get better. Now, not every day will be a masterpiece. That’s OK. Even if you get 200 bad words out, that’s 200 more words than you had the day before. You can always rewrite them, and add to them, the next day when you’re feeling more energetic. 

Then again, even with all the practice in the world, you still may not like us. If that’s the case, reach out to us so we can explain how we provide content to companies. 


How do you write content for people?

What makes good writing?

What makes people like writing?

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