The Inverted Pyramid: How to master digital content writing

Put simply, the inverted pyramid is a way of structuring written, digital content that you produce. It allows you to prioritise content so that, as a whole, the piece reads well and is coherent. It is a structure that has been borrowed from journalism and adapted slightly so that it is more applicable to digital content creation.

The standard approach to this sees the writer start with the most interesting or stand-out feature of the event they are writing about. This is called the ‘lead’. You need to explain what the happened as well as giving information that will compel a reader to continue with your piece. The next section should be the ‘details.’ Use this section to expand on the ‘lead,’ moving from a general overview to a more specific recitation of event. The final part of the pyramid is the ‘context’ section. This could cover anything from the history of what you are writing about to the more general circumstances in which the main event arose.

This works well for journalism and can be easily adapted to be equally, if not more, effective for digital content writing. The best way to deploy this in the digital world is to structure your copy around a question and answer format. Say you wanted to write about how to run a marketing campaign on LinkedIn. You could simply entitle your article ‘Marketing on LinkedIn.’ Alternatively, you could pose the question ‘How can I maximise the efficiency of a LinkedIn marketing campaign?’ Both could be written with exactly the same content – what would distinguish them is the structure. While the inverted pyramid method of content creation lends itself more easily to question responses, it can be used in an explanatory context too. Correctly structuring an article is just as key as the content and the inverted pyramid method allows you to do this with ease.

The first this to do in responding to a question is to actually answer it. This is the equivalent of the ‘lead’ section of the pyramid. Let people know how to market in the most effective way possible on LinkedIn. This should be broad picture stuff – give your reader the general gist of how to organise a successful campaign.

Following this should be a section on the details that support your answer. For example, if you assert the LinkedIn is the best platform for B2B marketing, this needs to be backed up with figures detailing how many businesses are on LinkedIn or another related fact that distinguishes it as the best platform for B2B. Backing up your answer with fact is the best way to lend credibility and authority to your answer. If you have done your own research and can contribute some original figures to the piece, put them in. It will make your writing stand out as more authoritative because you are not relying on external sources for your information.

Finally, in your ‘context’ section you should bring up sub-questions and other questions that may have been raised by the original question or your answer so far. This is your chance to further explore the topic in question and address other avenues of thought. Do not, however, just nebulously pose questions. Any sub-question that you bring up, you should respond to in some way whether this is by directly responding to it or suggesting how it might be addressed.

The inverted pyramid lends a structure to your written content but can also give a structure to the page on which it is located. By having the title, lead, details and context, your page is lent a natural structure that will allow for it to be favourably indexed by Google over a page that simply provides an answer and goes to no effort to explain it further. You could include a ‘learn more’ link at the bottom of the article that takes people to your related product or service pages to provide a natural call to action. Quality internal linking: tick.

In short: journalism’s inverted pyramid technique is useful for the digital sphere too. By having a clear structure to your writing, you don’t ramble as each section has a specific aim and goal, keeping your writing tight and structured. It benefits the reader as it leaves them with a clear picture of what you want to communicate, complete with the necessary details and background information.

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