1. Think mobile firstIt’s no longer acceptable for mobile users to be an afterthought, either in terms of design or content. When the mobile market first emerged, it was enough for a company to design its website to suit the ‘large screen’ format of a computer and then scale it down as best it could for mobile users. Now, with over 60% of searches taking place on mobile devices, mobile users have to be given top priority when it comes to design. Make sure it looks good on a small screen and then adapt it to the large screen if necessary.The same is starting to become true for content; just breaking paragraphs into smaller chunks to make them easier to read won’t win over mobile users (or search engines) in the long term. To achieve this, a more forward-thinking approach is required.
2. Make conscientious decisions about long-form and short-form contentOnce upon a time freelance bloggers were banging out 500-word articles with their eyes closed, but the trend is clearly shifting towards long-form content. Companies advertising for writers now want to see 1,000 words as a minimum. This makes sense when considered against Google algorithm updates such as Panda, which look at the quality of a site’s content when determining how it is ranked. Better content should equate to more readers and shares, ultimately increasing the site’s search rankings. But this seems somewhat in conflict with the bite-sized snippets that – we hear – work best for mobile. So which should you be aiming for? The annoying answer is, “it depends”. Your market, the subject matter and the reason for the query will all determine how long a reader is willing to stick around for. If your 1,000 words are providing them with step-by-step guidance on a problem that they need to fix immediately, the length shouldn’t be an issue. Likewise, if your content is so insightful or entertaining that they don’t want to put it down, those 1,000 words may seem like a breeze. But if you’ve dragged your content out or lumped too much together just for the sake of reaching your target word count, it will show.
3. Understand your mobile usersBefore formulating a mobile content strategy you really need to understand who you’re marketing to and what their habits are. Try answering the following questions about your customers and prospects to build up a better picture of who your audience is:
- What percentage of your site visitors are on mobile devices?
- Tablets or smartphones?
- What do they do on your site and how does this compare with your overall traffic?
- What kind of content do they access? Pay attention to the topic and format.
- What is the average time spent on your site? Knowing whether your audience has an attention span of 10 minutes or 60 seconds will help you tailor your content.
- How do they interact with visual content?
- What else do they use their mobile device for, in terms of activities, social media and browsing?
4. Don’t neglect your headlinesOf course this applies to any kind of writing – a lacklustre headline will lose you readers before you even had them – but you should apply a special focus when writing for mobile users. Ensure your headline:
- Feels relevant to your audience
- Gives the reader a great reason to continue reading by showing what’s in it for them
- Has a powerful, timely hook
- Puts a powerful image or emotion in the reader’s mind
- Contains proof elements
5. Make the most of lead-insOnce your headline has caught your reader’s attention, your lead-in (or lede, as it’s known in journalism), is your chance to get them hooked. While traditionally you’ve had a couple of paragraphs to introduce your idea and set the reader’s expectations for the wider article, the shift for mobile is moving more towards article summaries which outline the content in just a few bullet points. On the one hand you may wonder why you’d want to give away everything you have to say in the first few sentences, but on the other hand you could view it as your opportunity to prove yourself to your reader. If they see value in the article summary, they’re more likely to continue reading. Of course, mobile users may not have the time or inclination to read a 2,000-word article on their screens, but your aim is for them to come away with a positive image of your brand and a willingness to return.
6. Vary your content lengthAs discussed earlier, there is a fine balance to be found between writing long-form content that works well for SEO and keeping readers engaged with compact, insightful and valuable content. There is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach to content, and you need to write with both large-screen and small-screen users in mind. One option is to structure your site so each article features a summary, as outlined above. But it’s becoming more common for sites to feature two versions of each article; a short snappy one which mobile users land on, with the option to click through to the full, in-depth version. If this sounds too time-consuming, you can always just plan the content you release to be short some days and longer other days, ensuring your site features something for everyone.
7. Don’t forget to formatKeeping your ‘mobile-first’ attitude in mind, you might need to re-think the way you format your articles and re-work your existing content. Writing for mobile isn’t just about making sure it looks ok; it’s about adapting a whole new style of writing, layout and style:
- Don’t delay in getting to the point
- Integrate tappable elements in your layout to facilitate calls to action
- Make your fonts big and easy to read
- Be bold with your colours
- Include plenty of visual content and videos
- When you want to focus on writing, make sure the text layout is clean and streamlined
- Once you’ve decided on a new mobile style, don’t forget to update your branding style guide to reflect this and keep future content uniform.