Writing for the Web

5 August, 2010

Secretary typing on an old fashioned typewriter

Writing for the web is very different to writing for print and there are a number of important factors to take into consideration.

Purpose and Audience

When starting any web project we always begin with purpose and audience and it’s a good place to start when writing copy.

Think carefully about the purpose of your website. What are you trying to convey to current and potential clients and customers? Are you selling products or a service? Or are you providing information? How would you like people to contact you? Make a list of your objectives and keep referring back to it as you write your content.

Who is your target audience? Make a list of the types of people you wish to encourage to your website? What will they look for and what is their likely route through your site? Try to tailor your language to suit your visitors. Think carefully about your vocabulary and tone of voice.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation is a vast area and I don’t have room to do it justice in a short post. I have summarised some useful hints and tips that will help you to optimise your copy and ultimately drive visitors to your website.

First and foremost, do your research. What keywords / phrases are potential customers likely to type into the search engines to find your site? There’s no point in focusing on keywords that are not being used in searches. There are a number of commercial tools available that will enable you to look at how many times keywords and phrases have been used in recent searches. They can also evaluate your results, determine your competition and suggest alternative words and phrases. Examples include Google Keyword Tool, Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker.

Once you have a comprehensive list of the keywords to include within your text, split them between the pages. Try to focus on one main keyword per page. Place keywords in main headings and subtitles and try and repeat them, where possible, in your body text. Don’t overdo it. It’s one thing to attract visitors to your website. However, if when they get there your text appears contrived and overstuffed with search phrases they’re unlikely to linger.

If in doubt, always tailor your content to your audience.

Short and Simple

Be concise. It takes longer for people to read text from a computer screen than it does for them to read the same text in print. People’s expectations of website text are different to their expectations of print. Overly long passages of text are off-putting and visitors are less likely to read it, especially if they’re reading from a mobile phone or small hand held device.

Keep to the point. Write simply and concisely.

Important Points First

Don’t expect visitors to read to the bottom of the page. People browsing the web tend to skim and scan. Therefore, ensure that the most important information is as near to the top of the page as possible.

Chunking

Break text into manageable chunks. Keep paragraphs short and use subheadings to focus attention. Think about using bullet points where appropriate.

Be Consistent

Be consistent. This refers to use of punctuation, grammar and also vocabulary. Inconsistency looks unprofessional and causes confusion.

And Finally

Writing your website text for the first time can be daunting, especially if you have a number of pages to cover. Start by making a list of your web pages. Under each page title make a list of the information, keywords and images to be included. Use this to plan and shape your content. Breaking content into manageable sections makes it much easier to tackle.

Keep referring back to your purpose and audience. This will ensure that you stay on track and don’t wander off topic.

Review and Revise

Make sure your content is fresh, engaging and up-to-date. Once your site is live monitor the effectiveness of your keywords. If something isn’t working, figure out why and change it. Review your content regularly, update it and add to it.

You may have heard the phrase that ‘content is king’. This is true. Make sure you treat it accordingly.

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One Response to Writing for the Web

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