dont do thisThe problem with online publishing is everyone can be an author. However, just because you have access to a PUBLISH button does not make you a skilled writer. If you are serious about writing high-quality content for your business, it’s imperative to learn and follow certain rules. Here are seven common mistakes in online content. By avoiding them, your website will win more people over and help you keep the customers you already have.

First, don’t write internally focused content. Customers want to know what is in it for them. Talking in detail about your company’s products, services and accomplishments is boring unless the reader senses you can benefit him — otherwise why should he care?

Second, don’t use technical jargon and an academic or pretentious style. Besides being insanely boring, jargon-laden, dry content puts distance between your company and your potential customer. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what you want to do? Refer to the Gobbledygook Manifesto if you remain unconvinced.

Third, don’t use metaphors. In business writing, metaphors are like … well … they are hard for readers to grasp at times, slow them down, and force them to think. What’s more, a clumsy metaphor will confuse rather than clarify the issue at hand.

Fourth, don’t settle for less than perfection on product pages. Of all the pages on your website, product pages are most likely to generate inquiries, leads and orders. They must be written to perfection. Here is an article with specific techniques for product page content most companies miss in part or in whole.

Fifth, don’t over promote your business. Yes, entrepreneurial companies need to establish credibility and trust. However, the way to do that is to state facts calmly; not make extravagant claims and wild-eyed boasts. Nobody expects a startup packaging company to be a “thought leader” or “industry innovator.” Making excessive claims only makes your company seem less credible.

Sixth, don’t forget to edit. No matter how much you know about your business, no matter how strong your writing skills, all content must be edited for accuracy, readability, coherence and grammatical correctness. Publishing slipshod content makes your company look slipshod, and there is no excuse for it: talented freelance editors are readily available and charge reasonable rates.

Seventh, don’t use textbook typography. Textbook readers read; website readers scan. Practiced Web writers make content scannable by using bulleted lists, short paragraphs, subheads and other techniques. Long blocks of text turn off website visitors — and thus turn away prospective customers.

If you have other tips for online writers, I hope you will share them here. No matter how experienced the writer, it’s always possible to learn more. With the deluge of content washing down on us (oops, I used a metaphor), it is necessary to learn more.

In today’s online marketing environment, great content wins — and there is no prize at all for just showing up.