The Basics of Writing for the Web

Posted by in Online Business

We live in a world where people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. This means you have less time to get their attention, and what little time you do have had better be filled with something impactful.

Welcome to the Googleification of society, where we would sooner leave the website we are on and move on to the next result than hang around and dig for the information we’re looking for on the website we’re already on.  Think about it: if the website you find on from the search engine doesn’t have the exact information you’re looking for, what do you do?  Do you stay on that website, or do you click the back button in your browser and find another website to (briefly) explore?

See below for tips on how to make your content really effective!

What is “Writing for the Web”, Anyway?

What do the previous paragraphs have to do with writing for the web?  As it turns out, everything.  Your content has to be legible, compelling, search optimized, and easy to read for both humans and spiders.

Luckily, as the web has evolved so too has the understanding of how people interact with websites.  This makes writing for the web something that is actually quite simple to do so long as you follow some basic techniques and keep your users’ intent in mind.

In other words, writing for the web is a significant departure from something that you would produce for a university essay, an executive summary, or a business proposal you’d send to a client.  Writing for the web is all about capturing, and then keeping, your users interest while simultaneously incorporating search engine optimization techniques.

Writing for the Web – Basic Techniques

Many people look at the copy of their website as something that comes after the design of the website, but in fact, it should always be the reverse.  This will ensure that your content delivers the message it needs to, and that the messaging it is delivering is reinforced by the website design.  The techniques listed below are much more effective when everything works together.

When creating content for display online, try following the techniques below:

  • Divide the content into subheadings, divided by H2 or H3 tags. H2 or H3 tags typically stand out on the page (the larger blue text is an H2 tag) and can be effective at capturing a users intention.  Remember, people tend to read snippets of content on a website as opposed to the whole paragraph.  Having H2/H3 tags will ensure that they can easily find the content they are looking for.  These tags are also helpful for SEO purposes, so incorporate the keyphrase you are targeting if you can do so without sounding robotic.
  • Emphasize important points with bullets or numbered lists. People are used to reading bullet-points, and some studies have shown that bullet points are almost 400% more effective at engaging users and commanding their attention compared to content that does not utilize them.
  • Bold, italicize, or underline points that require emphasis. These elements tend to draw the eye, hence commanding the attention of the reader.  Utilize them when a statement needs to be noticed.  Be careful, however, as overuse will encourage people to leave your website and/or completely ignore the highlighted text.
  • Be concise with your messaging, but provide the option for additional clarification. Bolding the first sentence of your lists, as has been done here, is a great way to get the message across.  If the user desires they can read the non-bolded text beside it for clarification.  People don’t want to have to dig for the information they’re looking for unless they choose to dig further.
  • Use visual examples where appropriate. An image or video for the sake of having an image or video provides little value, but that media can be truly impactful if it is delivered at the appropriate time.  Critique your content to make sure any media you add to it is adding value as opposed to simply cluttering the page.

One more thing…

Remember that your website needs to provide some kind of value to your users if you ever expect it to be successful.  Perceived value can be greatly increased by simply ensuring your content is easy to read, navigate, and understand.