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Turn “write” here for engaging web content

Good web writing is about actions and answers rather than something to read

Are you the radio or the GPS?

In the world of online content, readers are like people speeding along in their cars. They may glance at the billboards flashing past, but they’re really looking for the signs that will take them to their destination. Your opportunity as a writer is to help them do exactly that.

In the world of online content, readers are looking for the signs that will take them to their destination

Here are three basic rules of writing for the web that will provide directions for your readers rather than more distraction:

1. Write for scanning, not reading

Research has shown that most people’s gaze follows an F-shaped pattern over web pages. They’re not so much reading your content as scanning it, picking out the most relevant words or phrases from the text. Then they move on. The majority of visitors to your site will spend just a few seconds on your text, but you can make those brief moments count when you:

  1. Make it engaging. In the analytics era, content that pulls readers in and keeps them scrolling for 5 to 7 minutes has been proven to outperform short snippets. Aim for 1400 to 1750 words in your blog posts.
  2. Lead with your best. Like a newspaper journalist, put the most important information in headers and the start of sentences.
  3. Use visual cues. Break up your text with a judicious use of white space, selective bolding and links to guide the reader’s attention.

2. Think in terms of questions and answers

For all the articles, blog posts, webinars and ebooks written on search engine optimisation (SEO), the basic principle is actually quite simple: your content should answer the questions that users type into Google. Think about the queries that can lead your audience or customers to your site: a desire to learn something? To find the right product or service? Their questions can provide a starting point for your web content. But you can also articulate the questions yourself; piquing curiosity is a great way to draw your reader in.

You can find out what people are looking for online more generally by doing research on keywords with the Google AdWords keyword tool (though this requires a subscription) or checking out Google Trends, which is a free service.

3. Build in an invitation

On the web, writing doesn’t just convey information. It’s a means to an end. In marketing terms, this is known as a “call to action.” Whether you want your readers to like and share a blog post, download a white paper or sign up for your newsletter, effective web content prompts the reader to act. In the best-case scenario, that action moves them closer to their own goal, and yours, at the same time.

Want to know more about how to optimise your content for an online audience? Get in touch with one of our web specialists today.

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Related links on writing web content:

Photos: Right turn (CC by 2.0), This is how I fight data roaming (CC by 2.0)