Don’t write passively even if some expert tells you to

This Jakob Nielsen recommendation about writing passive headlines implies that people who read content on websites are so brainless, they always click on hyperlinks that are the closest to the top-left-hand of the page.

But that’s okay, says Nielsen, because when you write for the web, you’re not really writing for people, you’re writing for a machine that is indexing words, so if you write passively, you can get those words up front so machines can index them and people who only know how to click on the first links they read can help you get your content monetized.

His essay — which I’m guessing is being written for a machine and not for actual human readers — makes as much sense as Miss Teen South Carolina explaining the need for geography education in the schools.

While I’m no expert, here’s my advice for writing for the web:

1. Have something worth saying.

2. Say it.

3. There is no number three.

  • Honestly, I think your list can be shortened to just “Say it”. I think that “Have something worth saying” rule keeps a large number of people from ever getting into the habit of blogging. Once it is easy to “say it” then it is a good time to focus on making sure it is worth saying.

    Sometimes, when I have a lull in posting I have to just post anything I can to get the juices flowing again.

    Then again, you have many more readers than I do, so I defer.

  • Depends on what “worth saying” is. I ran out of stuff that I thought was “worthwhile” on my personal blog, so it’s basically dead. I guess I have gone from posting something to get the juices flowing again to just thinking about posting something to get the juices flowing again.

  • Your forgot No. 4

    4. Repeat steps 1-3.

  • And No. 5

    5. Avoid the cheesy jokes when you comment on a post!

  • It’s funny how many blogs could use a swift dose of #1 and #2 – great post.

    I disagree with Jackson’s “say it” suggestion. Content has to matter – if it isn’t worth saying, don’t bother. Having said that, Jackson’s right – it’s better to start blogging/writing rather than wait until you’ve got an earth-shattering post. I think the balanced approach is to write often, but always make sure you’re creating the best content you possibly can.

    When I need to get back into the habit of writing on my site, I write content that I might be able to use in the future or simply write to get back in the swing. It doesn’t mean I post that content. I try to stay away from posting content that I’m not completely proud of and those exercise efforts usually fall into that category.

  • If content is not useful, it’s useless. Tell me what’s in it for me. And tell me quickly. Ain’t got time to mess around.