How to Write for the Internet
You only have seconds to grab your visitor's attention. They're looking for answers and want to find them fast. Your web content, meaning your text and images, has to help them do that. The key to great web content is making it easy to read and scan.
Reading text on a screen takes 30% longer than reading text on paper, so you have to adjust your writing style to make it easier. Here are some tips that will help you get your ideas across and let your visitors find the information they were looking for:
- Get to the point
- Use a conversational tone
- Speak objectively
- Write for your audience
- List benefits rather than features
- Give enough information for the search engines
Get To the Point
You have a very limited amount of time to grab your reader's attention, so you want them to find the most important information immediately. State your key points clearly and briefly, in a highly visible place on your website, like the center of your homepage.
This website about dog grooming places the mjost important information in a brief format and in a very visible place. Visitors can easily find what they are looking for.
A lot of text on a website can be overwhelming, and push the visitor to leave your site. If your website covers a topic that requires a lot of explanation, make sure the main points stand out among the text by using visual cues, such as descriptive headings or bold fonts. You can also direct them to other areas on your website for further information.
The heading "Grooming Tips" lets the visitor know what the bullet points are about. Note that each bullet point is also a link, which leads to more information.
Use a Conversational Tone
We've already established that reading online is harder than on paper, so by writing your content in simple language you make it that much easier for your readers to take in. Avoid technical jargon, use shorter words, and write as if you're talking directly to the reader.
Consider the following:
|Statement #1||"Categorically speaking, our products are intrinsically unbreakable. Also, compared to other spherically-shaped containers for sea creatures, the view is completely unimpeded."|
|Statement #2||"Our fishbowls are made of a high density polymer that makes them almost impossible to break. This polymer also reduces the view distortion usually experienced with round bowls. You'll see your fish more clearly than you would through other round fishbowls."|
Statement #1 uses words that may not be understood by all readers. You probably wouldn't ever speak to someone like this in a conversation. Statement #2 is written clearly, in a familiar way, uses simpler language, and will be understood by more people.
Write For Your Audience
You probably already know who you expect to be looking at your website. Make sure to use language appropriate for your audience.
For example, if your customers are typically from high-tech companies it may be better for you to use some technical jargon. If you cater mostly to teenagers, you may want to use popular slang.
Acronyms should be explained, unless it's a commonly known term within the industry. For example, a website that's talking about accounting may throw the term CGA around. That's fine if the website is targeting business people, but if it's meant to educate teenagers, they'll have to explain that CGA stands for Certified General Accountant.
Using language that your visitors are comfortable with will show that you identify with them and understand their needs. It will also make sure that they understand what you're talking about.
Using objective language reduces visitors' reading time. Subjective language takes longer to process because the reader has to make mental jumps as to what's true and what's hype. The faster you deliver the straight facts, the more information they'll be able to process. They'll also be more likely to trust you.
Provide enough information for readers to come to the conclusion that your product is fantastic by themselves. Consider the following statements:
|Statement #1 - Subjective||"Our fishbowls are the best bowls on the market! You'll never find a better bowl for your fish!" |
|Statement #2 - Objective||"Our fishbowls are made from a highly durable polymer that won't crack or break when dropped. This durability doesn't affect the clarity of the bowl and the curve of the bowl won't warp your view. You'll be able to see your fish even clearer than you would through glass, without the worry of breakage."|
Which statement are you more likely to believe? The objective statement provides enough information for the shopper to conclude that these fishbowls are a smart buy, while the subjective statement gives the reader no reason to believe in the product.
List Benefits Rather Than Features
People want to know how your products are going to help them. You can tell them about your products or services' features, but make sure you tell them what each feature's benefit is.
Consider the following features of ear bud headphones:
- Fits inside the ear
- Made of soft silicon
- Comes in 3 different sizes
I now know that these headphones go right in the ear, come in 3 sizes and are made of silicon, but I don't know how these features benefit me.
Now, consider the benefits of each feature:
|Fits inside the ear||No headband, so you can use them for cold weather activities when you'll need to wear a hat. |
|Made of soft silicon||They mold to your ear for comfort, hour after hour.|
|Comes in 3 different sizes||Able to fit any size ear, from child to adult.|
I can now understand why these features make these earphones such a great product. Benefits are a much more powerful selling tool than features alone.
Give Enough Information for the Search Engines
Although you want to make sure you get to the point, there has to be enough information for search engines to understand what your site is about. Make sure you provide at least 250 words per page.
Although 250 words sound like a lot, there are a couple of reasons why you'll want that much:
Search engines love content. Search engines see a lot of content as valuable information, which can help your ranking in search results. Learn more about Search Engines.
You can use your keywords without sacrificing your readability. If you're optimizing your website for 2 - 3 keywords, 250 words will provide enough space for you to work them in smoothly. This lets you satisfy both the search engine's craving for keywords and make reading your website a positive experience. Learn more about Keywords.
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