Almost everyone is writing for the web these days in one way or another. For some people, a blog is a way to share their personal experiences with the world. For others, a website highlights their business and attracts new customers and clients. What many people fail to realize though, is that writing for the web is a bit different from writing for regular hard copy publications.Here’s why:
People generally read newspapers and magazines at a leisurely pace. They linger over the morning paper with a cup of coffee or sit down in their favorite easy chair to read their favorite magazine. When they want to find information quickly and easily, they turn to the Internet.
Here are some tips for writing effective web content that will be easier for online readers to find and easier for them to read. If you follow these tips, it will also be faster and easier to write web content, even if all you need to write for the Web is a personal blog post.
Tip #1 Start with Keywords and Keyword Phrases
If you have a topic you wish to write about, do some initial keyword research to come up with the exact keywords people use to locate information about this topic. Use these keywords in your article title (or page title if you’re writing a webpage; post title if you’re writing a blog post), in the subtopic headings within the article, and in the body of your article.
Keywords and keyword phrases will help your web content get indexed by the online search engines so it will be easy for readers to find, which means more people will read your material. Using keywords will also help you focus your material.
There are many online search tools to help you identify the keywords people are using to locate information about your topic. Some of these keyword search tools are free, others require payment to use them. Try a free search tool first. Just go to google.comand type in “google keyword tool”, then click on the first result that comes up. For more information about how to use online keyword search tools, go to the resource page at the end of this chapter.
Tip #2 Write in Short, Bite-Size Chunks
When people turn to the Internet for information, they don’t read things word for word. They tend to scan articles, pages, etc. looking for the most important points. For that reason, make your content scannable. That just means you should write in simple, bite-sized paragraphs. Keep sentences relatively short, between 15–20 words. Keep paragraphs short, too, between 40–70 words. Even titles and headings should be short – around 8 words or less.
Article and pages should be short, as well. Generally, readers do not like to read material that is too long and requires them to scroll down the page a few times. Get your point across in 500–1,000 words whenever possible.
Tip #3 Use Inverted Pyramid Style
Material that is easy to read is well organized. Use the style favored by journalists – inverted pyramid style – to organize your material. This way, readers can easily scan the material for the most important points (which will be in the first two or three paragraphs).
Tip #4 Use Numbered Steps or Bulleted Points
If you’re writing a how-to page or article, write the directions in numbered steps or bulleted points. This will make them easier for the reader to follow and also easier for the reader to scan. In fact, use bulleted points or numbered steps wherever you can when writing online content.
Tip #5 Include Visual Elements
Include illustrations, photos, charts, etc. for visual appeal and to further explain your concepts and ideas. These items will also make your web copy more shareable through social networks like Pinterest and Facebook. To find out how to optimize your visual materials for search engines, turn to the resource section of this chapter.
Tip #6 Use Hyperlinks
A hyperlink is a word, phrase, or graphic that links to another webpage. If you want to lead readers to more detailed information about something within an online article or page, include hyperlinks to this information instead of trying to include too many details within the article itself. Readers (and search engines) like to see hyperlinks in material they read online when these links lead them to more information about the topic. Think of hyperlinks as a way to give added value to your readers.
Tip #7 Focus on Your Reader
If you’re writing content for your website, or for a client’s website if you’re a professional writer, the natural tendency is to focus on all your company, or your client’s company, has to offer. But you need to focus on the reader – the prospective client or customer – instead.
Visit the websites of several businesses like yours (or your client’s). Notice how many of these sites appeal to customers and clients by writing directly to them – using words like “you” and “our customers” or “our clients.” The content at these sites will also focus on benefits their customers and clients receive from them rather than highlighting the features of the company’s products or services.
Tip #8 Include a Call to Action
A call to action means you tell the reader what to do after he has read your article or webpage. If you’re writing a sales page, the call to action would be to place an order now. If you’re writing a blog post, you may want to direct readers to another page or article for additional information on the topic, or you might want to invite them to join your online mailing list. The point is, you can’t simply expect readers to take the action you want them to take without specifically instructing them to do so. Include some sort of call to action when appropriate for the web content you are writing.
Tip #9 Proof Your Work Before Publishing
Before you publish your content online, be sure all hyperlinks are working. Check for spelling mistakes, general typos, etc. Make sure the material formats correctly on screen; the spacing is correct, the photos and other illustrations line up correctly on the page, etc.
Checklist For Web Content
Check off each item on this list to insure your online content is ready to publish.
1. The title of the material includes keywords or keyword phrases.
2. The keywords are used within the article itself (but not overused).
3. The content is easily scannable. Material is written in short chunks or paragraphs.
4. The content is written in inverted pyramid style, with the most important points in the first two or three paragraphs.
5. Bulleted points or numbered steps are included if appropriate.
6. The material includes illustrations, photos, charts, sidebars, etc. for visual appeal.
7. Helpful hyperlinks are included in the content.
8. The material focuses on the reader.
9. The content includes a call-to-action.
10. The content has been proofed and final corrections have been made