Writing for the web: a different approach

Writing for the web not print

Writing for the web requires a different approach to writing for print. Whether you’re drafting main page website content or writing a blog article, it’s not just a case of copying and pasting into your CMS. There’s a lot more to it than that! Here I’ll talk you through four of the main things you need to consider before hitting ‘Update’ or ‘Post’ on your web pages and blog articles.

1. Attention span and content length

Users spend an average of just 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content on their first visit1. A page with long, unbroken reams of text on it is therefore likely to be off-putting.

writing for the web heat map showing where visitors are clicking
Heatmap showing where visitors are clicking, how far they scroll and what they ignore.

Instead, whilst it’s OK to write long-form copy in the right context, you need to break it up. When reading online, people generally prefer short blocks of text. They will spend longer on websites that are written in concise language, with short sentences and just one or two points per paragraph. Research shows that on average, people only read about 20% of the text on a web page, so be sure to make the key points in your first few paragraphs2.

Sources:

  1. sweor.com, 2020
  2. Go-gulf.ae, 2018

2. People read differently online

In short, people don’t really read website or blog content at all: they scan it. Very few people will read online content word for word. Around 16% according to the market research company, Nielsen Norman Group. This means you need to make it easy as possible for readers to grasp your key points at a glance.

Using headings and sub-headings, including lists of bullet points rather than long paragraphs, and highlighting important words and phrases can all help. Using imagery such as infographics is also a good technique. It makes facts and statistics easier to digest, as well as increasing the visual appeal of your website.

3. Write for your audience

Write for your audience, not search engines. Of course, SEO is important, but Google et al aren’t your primary audience. Focus on writing good quality, engaging copy that answers your visitors’ questions and pays attention to their pain points. In other words, make it all about them – not about you. Address the reader directly as ‘you’ rather than saying ‘our clients’ or similar. And don’t overuse ‘we’ or ‘our business’ in your content, as this can sound stuffy and outdated.

Yes, your website needs to explain who you are and what you have to offer, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and concentrate on what they want and need to know. A blog is a useful place to address individual issues and market developments, keeping your main web pages concisely focused on your products or services and their key benefits.

Mandy Hopkins

Once you’ve got your copy in place, you can optimise it with relevant keywords and phrases. But be careful how you do this, as the search engines won’t reward you for ‘keyword stuffing’. Identify your most important short-tail keywords and include them in your main (H1) heading and H2 and H3 sub-headings. Longer-tail phrases can be weaved into the body copy. And don’t forget to populate and optimise the meta data in the back end of each page.

4. Include relevant internal and external links

Linking to other pages on your website in relevant places will help with SEO. Internal links connect your content. Giving search engines an idea of your website structure, the relevance of pages and the relationship between them.

Links also establish a hierarchy on your site, known as ‘link value,’ telling search engines the most important pages and blog posts. Types of internal link include:

  • Contextual links – links to pages with related content or topics, e.g. blog articles
  • Navigational links – links to key pages on the main site to strengthen their authority
  • Taxonomy links – links to blog categories and tags to help Google and your users understand what your content is about

High quality external links will also help to increase the value of your writing and boost your domain authority with the search engines. When linking from your site, take care that the connection is reputable and relevant to maximise both SEO performance and your own credibility.

When creating links, you should add link tags to the anchor text as this is another opportunity to make canny use of your chosen keywords.

All sound like hard work?

As a business owner, you might be tempted to just throw some content into your CMS that you’ve drafted yourself. However, a poorly written and/or optimised website won’t do your business any favours.

There’s nothing wrong with having a template website per se, or updating the content yourself – but it’s a skill that needs time and effort to understand. Writing effective website and blog copy is crucial and there are lots of things to consider and steps involved if you’re to get it right.

Focus on what you do best – ask Imagine Digital to help

Your time isn’t free, and you may feel you’re better off concentrating on what you do best. So if you’d like some help with a new or existing website, why not ask Imagine to help? We offer a range of online marketing services including content optimisation that will take the strain away so you can concentrate on running your business.

Call us on 01636 922 747 to book an internet marketing consultation or fill in our quick online enquiry form and we’ll be in touch.

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