Giving Visitors What They Want
Web readers may be a difficult bunch, they may take a while to digest information and they may need convincing of every single point you deliver but they are essential. They can become long term, loyal customers, as long as you give them what they want.
Writing for the Internet is a different skill to writing for paper print or paper publications. Website readers digest smaller amounts of information in less time when compared to reading from paper.
This means that website content needs to be very well organised, concise, well formatted, and appealing. Throw in the proper use of search engine keywords, a powerful Call To Action (CTA), your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and the natural scepticism of web users and it's easy to see why many website owners use professional content writers.
1 - Use An Inverted Pyramid Style Of Writing
The inverted pyramid style of writing means getting your point across early in the text. Web readers are an impatient bunch and they need to know that the page they're reading is relevant. Include a summary or conclusion of the page's main points at the beginning of the text and then elaborate on this as you progress.
2 - Make It Concise
As well as being impatient, web readers aren't able to digest and process information as well on a computer screen as they are on paper. There are masses of studies and numerous sets of data giving statistics on this, but the general point is that basic pages need to be between a third and a half of the length they would be on paper. Try to aim for 300-500 words for web pages, with longer pages for technical articles, newsletters, and other web based publications.
3 - Use Headers And Sub-Headers
Headers and sub-headers not only enable you, as the writer, to properly structure the page; they also enable the reader to scan through and find the information that is most pertinent to them. Don't try anything too clever with your headers and do ensure that they are relevant and informational.
4 - Use Bullets And Lists
Bullets and lists are another method of enabling readers to quickly navigate around a page and grab the most important information. Many readers will simply scroll down a page and if no information jumps out at them then they won't read anything. Prevent these readers from clicking away from your website by offering bite sized chunks of information.
5 - Use Simple Language
Another area where statistics and figures differ is in the comprehension level of website readers. No matter which figures you listen to, though, one point is clear - we simply can't process information as well when reading from a computer. Use simple language, avoid jargon that isn't necessary or clearly defined, and engage your readers using language that everybody can understand.
6 - Use Short Paragraphs And Shorter Sentences
A paragraph should contain text relating to a single, simple idea. When you reach the conclusion of that idea, you should also reach the end of that paragraph. Paragraphs should contain no more than 70-80 words where possible. If a paragraph requires fewer words then make it shorter. The same goes for sentences.
7 - Make It Easy To Scan
Shorter paragraphs, more concise pages, and good headers make a page easy to scan. So too do bullets and lists. Add formatting such as bold and italicised text, quotes, and even hyperlinked text to make the page easier to scan. Remember to use a degree of caution, however, because a page that consists of different formatting techniques will be very difficult to read and understand. Many readers will simply close your page and move on.
8 - Write Objectively
We've already discussed how Internet users are impatient and find it difficult to digest information; they're also a highly sceptical bunch that will take convincing of virtually anything you have to say. Use objective language and avoid the use of too much marketing fluff. Avoid exaggerated claims such telling readers that yours is the best product in the world and instead show them why - convince them to come to that conclusion on their own and you will enjoy better results for your effort.
9 - One Idea Per Paragraph, One Subject Per Page
A single paragraph should contain a single idea and a single page should cover one topic. If a page is becoming too wordy because it includes information on other subjects, then break it down and hyperlink to those other pages. For longer pages remember the bookmark function and use it wisely to help readers navigate their way around your site and take in all of the information that you have to offer.