The web can be a difficult environment and many professional writers do not understand how to write for it. Three primary rules of writing for the Internet align with the habits of web readers:
- Be brief; web readers have short attention spans;
- Readers find content through search engines, so choose words search engines can find;
- Readers enjoy passing content on to others, so provide links.
Some other important considerations for website content:
• The web is a vast universe of unstructured content – On the web, relevance is paramount. With infinite choices, readers will focus only on what matters to them. Design your web content for search engines. In functional terms that means: Write for Google. When you do, your material will be relevant to your website visitors. Plus, they will be able to understand it and “act on it.”
• Web users evaluate your words to check for relevance – Flowery, figurative or highly technical words and terms will send readers elsewhere. In traditional media, writers are in charge of the terms they use. Web readers establish what “they think” a particular word or phrase means. Internet readers thus “own” web content and Internet writers do not.
• The web is filled with incorrect information – Web readers are skeptical of online content. You must convince quickly them that your content is credible, so include links to respected authorities.
• Regularly change and improve your web content – Internet readers expect updated information. Upgrade regularly. Searchers perpetually seek new content, so refresh yours as often as possible.
You cannot govern the online reading experience. As a newspaper, magazine or book writer, you can assume that your readers regard your material as relevant. Otherwise, they wouldn’t read it. Web readers may land on your web page randomly, bounced in from search engines or social media referrals. Readers spend less time reading web pages than print pages. After scanning, online readers give you “an average of three to six seconds to engage them.” If the content doesn’t intrigue them, they hit the back button to chase more relevant material. Offline, you can make an informed guess about the identity of your readers. Online, you haven’t a clue. Your online writing is aimed not at individual readers, but at search engines. That’s how readers find you. Focus on the requirements of interested searchers who seek specific keywords and links.
What about Keywords for SEO and Marketing
For a web writer, keywords – “strings of characters that people enter into search fields” – are mother’s milk. Keywords may be single words, long phrases or “word combinations.” So-called “long-tail” keywords are highly specific, lengthy phrases. They are designed to draw Internet users with particular interests. To learn about the context of long-tail keywords, visit social media sites, blogs and online forums that are popular with your target audience and your competitors. Identify repeated keywords and phrases. Research keywords using Google Alerts, Yahoo Pipes and Yahoo Alerts. Popular words – or “tags” – that people assign to relevant web content and social media are also helpful.
Pepper your main web page and subsequent pages with keywords that matter. Post the specific purpose of your pages – shopping, support, services and so on – in your website titles and links. Add “a verb to your keyword phrase,” for example, “learn about” or “shop for” or “compare.”
Keyword research is a straightforward process. Brainstorm the “seed words” people might use to find information about your topic. Start with the most generic terms. Create “keyword clouds,” keywords that relate to one another. Google AdWords is a good tool for keyword research. Wordtracker helps you check your competition. Type your potential keywords into Google’s search box. It will show you “various incremental possible matches for your search string,” each matched by the “hits” or returns for each search phrase.
- “Spelling out acronyms” – In print, writers usually spell out a complete name once, for example “Product Lifestyle Management,” and then subsequently employ its initials or acronym (PLM). Don’t do that online. Crawlers look for full terms, so spell out all of them.
- “Pumping up keyword density” – Make sure 2% to 4% of your body text is keywords, but don’t use more than 4% or you will bore the reader.
- “Ensuring keyword proximity” – Crawlers respond when keywords are close together. So “managing your product life cycles” is better than “it is important to manage the lifecycle of the products in your portfolio.”
- “Stemming” – This concerns the “alternative grammatical forms of words.” Example: “stem” forms are “stem, stemmed, stemming, stems” and so on. Using as many stem forms as possible improves search results.
- “Using synonyms and other related words” – Internet readers will use various synonyms for their search terms. The more synonyms you use, the more searchers will land on your website.
- “Using descriptive link text” – Make your links as colorful and evocative as your text.
- “Bolding for emphasis” – Boldface your keywords to reduce bounce.
Why Web Writing Is Not Traditional Writing Nor Traditional Marketing