Why Writing for the Web is Important
Writing tactics which work well for conventional print media don’t always translate to the web, for the same reason that what works in a magazine ad probably wouldn’t be the best for TV — the web is simply a different beast. Writing specifically for the web is at the core of optimizing your site content to achieve maximum conversion potential.
People read web pages differently than print
Most users scan content on the web, rather than reading word-for-word as they would a print article. The majority of a web page’s copy gets skipped — one study shows that users only read a maximum of 28% of page copy. This percentage gets even smaller the more words a page contains.
The web experience is altogether different from that of traditional print — typically, people actively choose how much time they spend where, navigating to content they see as more valuable and away from any content they see as an obstacle to their information retrieval goals.
Writing for the Web: Guidelines
Catering to users’ goals & behavior with your website copy can dramatically increase the usability and conversion potential of your site — and can be a big boost to your Search Engine Optimization efforts. For web-friendly copy, be sure to:
- Write concisely — cut copy in half, and then some
- Focus on user benefit — Avoid lengthy prose or overly promotional “marketing speak”
- Focus on one idea per paragraph, one theme per page
- Begin with your most important ideas; follow with supporting content
- Use bulleted lists to clean up text
- Use headers & subheaders to organize
- Include informative keywords/phrases within the beginning of each header
- Use hypertext links within copy — link out to resource pages as well as to relevant internal pages as appropriate
- including informative keywords/phrases within hypertext links (do NOT use “click here”)
Web-friendly copy gives you an SEO boost
Everything that works well for web-friendly copy will help your site with SEO, and it’s no coincidence, given that search engines rank sites according to what will be most valuable to users. For example, eliminating unnecessary copy increases keyphrase density on your most important search terms. Search engines also view keywords in headers, bulleted lists, and hyperlink text as more important, as well as those towards the beginning of each element (header, paragraph, page).
Getting started with web-friendly copy
Still not comfortable giving your tried-and-true homepage copy a makeover? Use Google Website Optimizer to test serving your new, web-friendly copy to a small percentage of your site visitors & see what happens. Then measure the success of your new copy by looking at metrics such as:
- Average time spent on site (use to calculate maximum % read rates)
- Links to other pages on your site / partner sites
- Conversions & other user actions
Chances are, you’ll be impressed by the results.