Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for writing fiction may seem far-removed from modern website content writing, but it's amazing how a good list can be turned to good use.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Rule number one is pretty easy – your content must me engaging and relevant. Speak to your reader about something they care about.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Who can the reader root for? How about themselves? You are writing primarily to promote your service, or product, so make it clear that the protagonist in the story is the reader. Tell a story of the little hard-working house husband who needs help keeping the house clean. Just as Mr Muscle is about to be beaten, in comes the cavalry in the shape of your new super deluxe vacuum cleaner.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Don't assume that the reader knows everything you know. Each element must be in tune with the whole. So don't introduce a concept or an argument unless it has a part to play in the overall story.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
Don't waste words on needless asides. Your content must be relevant and engaging all the time. Veering off on a tangent will lose their attention.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
State your argument and how it affects the reader. They need to know where you are going or they won't follow.
6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Things can go wrong. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't get everything right all the time. But then show what you are made of by meeting these challenges.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
This one person is your reader. Don't worry about all the people who are not landing on your content – they are not reading it. Ultimately, you have start off with writing content that people will like and then see if more want to read it. Don't try to write stuff so people will read it – it's backwards and won't work.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
The simple inverted pyramid of newspaper journalism. Tell the reader all the most vital information at the start and gradually work your way down through each paragraph with the more information of declining importance.