011 The 3 Pillars of Great Web Writing

Creating great web content is not hard if you understand just three simple words …

If you summarized every single book and article written on writing for the web, you’d get the three words I’m about to tell you.

Yet, no one – not even the experts, authors, or pundits — has, to my knowledge, ever consolidated all this knowledge into one simple, sticky formula.

Write with these three words in mind, and anything you publish on the web will rivet attention, stoke desire, and get action.

If you don’t believe me, after you’ve listened to this episode, give it a shot. And share your results in the comments.

In this 9-minute episode you’ll discover:

  • A truly inspirational article by this pioneering punk legend
  • The danger of being clever or cute
  • The wonderful benefit you’ll enjoy being a ruthless editor of your work
  • The very simple thing you must do once you uncover what makes your reader tick
  • An embarrassing message from Ginger (my robotic co-host)
  • How to write naturally dense-keyword copy
  • And of course the 3 words behind great web copy

The Show Notes

The 3 Pillars of Great Web Writing

Demian Farnworth: Hi, welcome to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I’m your host, Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media. And thank you for sharing the next four minutes of your life with me.

So this is episode 11 and we are calling it “The 3 Pillars of Great Web Writing.” It’s brought to you by Authority Rainmaker, a carefully designed live educational experience that presents a complete and effective online marketing strategy to help you immediately accelerate your business.

We are holding this event in May of this year, May 13–15, in beautiful Denver, Colorado at the stunning Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

The lineup of speakers is equally as stunning. We’ve got author Dan Pink, punk legend Henry Rollins, fascination aficionado Sally Hogshead, the omnipresent Chris Brogan, Sean D’Souza, Ann Handley, Bernadette Jiwa, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive Scott Brinker, our very own Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, Pamela Wilson, Jerod Morris and, so on.

And not to forget the secret sauce of it all: building real-world relationships with other attendees.

Get all the details right now at It may, and we look forward to seeing you in Denver, Colorado this May. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.

A Truly Inspirational Article By This Pioneering Punk Legend

So before we move on to this episode, I’m going to introduce you to one of the speakers at Authority Rainmaker. And that speaker is Henry Rollins. He was the former front man to Black Flag. Now he’s an author, publisher, poet. And he’s a down-to-earth do-it-yourself type of guy. It’s the reason why we bring him out to speak to Authority Rainmaker.

Now I have to be honest, he gets a lot of rap for being angry. The truth is, he’s really, really benevolent. He’s a hard working, straight up guy. In fact there’s an interview that Brian Clark did with him on the New Rainmaker podcast.

Before that though, I want to read to you one of my favorite articles by Henry Rollins. It’s called the The Iron.

“I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.


“When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I’d run home crying, wondering why.

“I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

“I hated myself all the time. …

At this point, Henry goes on to talk about a teacher at the all male prep school he was going to, who introduced him to weight lifting or iron.

Now this is how Henry closes the article.

“The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

Now I’ll drop the link for that article in the show notes but there is one other thing I want you to go and watch. It’s a short video called the “The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever.” It’s a brief history of his life and how he got the major break to go and sing for his favorite punk band, Black Flag.

Now for those who know me, I’m not one who easily gets misty eyed but this video did that because of the response that Henry’s ice cream shop manager gave him when Henry told him about this opportunity. It’s a good watch.

The Three Words Behind Great Web Copy

So what are we talking about today? The 3 pillars of great web writing. Everything you need to know about web writing in three words.

Creating great content is not hard. In fact, it’s quite easy. That is, if you understand three simple words.

If you summarized every single book and article written on writing for the web, you’d get these three words. Yet, no one–not even the experts, authors, or pundits–have ever consolidated all this knowledge into one simple, sticky formula.

Until now.

Write with these three words in mind, and anything you publish on the web will rivet attention, stoke desire, and get action.

Don’t believe me? Well, after you’ve read the rest of this article, give it a shot. And let me know what you think.

The Danger of Being Clever or Cute

1. Clear

In less than four seconds visitors need to be able to comprehend what you wrote on your web page. I didn’t say “read.” I said “comprehend.”

Even before Steve Krug wrote it, the unbreakable law of the web has always been this: don’t make me think.

Your headlines, subheadlines, links, labels and navigation should all communicate clearly what lies in, under or behind them.

This is part of giving readers control. No tricks. Nothing clever or cute. Never lie. Just straight, uncensored, easy-to-digest truth.

Do it any other way and you’ll repel people. Bore readers. Lose money.

The Wonderful Benefit You’ll Enjoy Being a Ruthless Editor of Your Work

2. Concise

Writing for the web is a minimalist affair. Your words, sentences and paragraphs are short. Precise. Lean. Tight. Web writing trades in sheering off useless words. Cutting flabby paragraphs…

Even shedding entire pages.

Think that’s harsh? Jakob Nielson recommends you cut up to half of the words for every print page you plan to put on the web.

There’s a great benefit for you behind all this editing: You’ll become a ruthlessly good writer. You’ll get much better, in fact.

Best of all, writing clear and concise won’t make you boring or dull. Far from it.

The Very Simple Thing You Must Do Once You Uncover What Makes Your Reader Tick

3. Compelling

The Rich Jerk is irritating, annoying and loathsome. But he’s compelling. Interesting. Persuasive. That’s why he won’t go away.

Why? Because he’s tapped into human emotions—greed and pride—that pull people into his copy… whether they like it or loathe it.

You have to do the same. You have to uncover what makes your reader tick. What strokes his ego. What plucks his gut strings. What keeps him up at night. And when you uncover that hot spot, punch it.

If he’s a political junkie, wave breaking news in front of him. An Apple addict? Share the latest hacks and apps for the iPhone. A wine lover? Hustle the best bottles his way.

Whatever it is, give your reader what he wants. Or he’ll go away. It’s the law.

How to Write Naturally Dense-Keyword Copy

What About SEO Copywriting?

If you focus on writing clear, concise and compelling copy, you will naturally write keyword-dense copy. You’ll naturally write for the search engines.

Every web writer worth his salt is a SEO writer. At least they are if they write clear, concise and compelling copy.

The question is, content creator, are you? Are you writing clear, concise, and compelling copy?

If not. What are you waiting for? Until next time, take care.

An Embarrassing Message From Ginger (My Robotic Co-Host)

And oh. Ginger says she wants to say something.

Ginger: Yes. Hello, thank you. Would you do my big friend Demian a big favor and jump over to iTunes and leave a rating, leave a comment, tell him how he is doing and remember, he is sensitive.

Demian Farnsworth Uhm. Thanks, Ginger. I guess.