Following on from my rant about the standard of writing on the web the other day, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how to write copy for a website.
The first thing you need to understand is that writing for the web is very, very different from writing for the printed medium. People find it much tougher to read text on a computer screen than they do on paper. How many times have you printed an article off the internet to read it? As a result you will need to modify your writing style.
People tend to skim read website content. According to recent research, they scan a website in an F shape. With that in mind ensure that your key content is easy to spot. Use bold headlines to grab the attention.
Less Is More. Short, sharp, concise sentences are in. Long, flowing, wordy sentences are out. You have the ability to edit and re-edit before publishing. Use it. I don’t mean keeping sentences short just for the sake of it but don’t use a hundred words where ten will do.
Keep It Simple. Unless you’re dealing with a very specific technical subject, avoid using jargon. Don’t be tempted to fill your copy with fashionable buzz words that the layman won’t understand. Write in a conversational style. This will make your copy infinitely more readable.
Read It Back. Read the copy out loud to yourself before publishing. Does it make sense? Does it sound like a page out of an old school textbook? If you’re trying to entice someone to buy something from you, have you injected your character into the text? People buy from people so personalise your writing style.
Use A Spoll Chicker. If your HTML editor doesn’t have a built in spell checker, copy and paste your content into Word to make sure you haven’t made any glaring spelling mistakes.
Punctu.Ation It isn’t as vital to get your punctuation and grammar 100% spot on for web copy as it is for the printed medium. However don’t ignore everything you were taught at school. Writing everything in lower case does not make you e. e. cummings. It makes you an idiot.
Plan In Advance. Plan your content in advance and then put it into easily digestible bite size chunks. Nobody wants to wade through content. Flag it with a header and make it easy for people to find. If it’s not obvious to you where the key points are, what chance your reader?
Write For The Robots Too. Consider the search engines when writing. Make sure your copy includes the key phrases that you want to be ranked on. Keep them in the top third of your copy. Do not keyword stuff, though. It won’t help your rankings and will make it unappealing to read.
Use links. You’re writing for the internet, not a magazine. Use the power of linking to make your site more interactive. Split long articles into two or three and then link to them. Don’t be afraid to link to external sites. When linking don’t just use “click here” as your link. Make it more SEO friendly by making your link something like “for more information on SEO technology follow this link” and then remember to add a descriptive title=”” within the link code too.
Make It Sticky. If you’re running a blog try to post every day. If you’re running a website add a new article every week. It means readers will want to come back to see what’s new and it also means the search engine robots will too. This is called stickiness. The more returning visitors you have the more chance of making money or getting backlinks.