10 Tips for Web Writing

How to write compelling content for the web

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Web writing is more than just a marketing pamphlet put online. It's also more than just a list of bullet points about a topic. Use these tips to create web content that is appealing to your readers and fun for you to write.

Don't Just Copy the Print Marketing

One of the most common mistakes that a beginning website owner does is to just copy and paste the marketing materials from the pamphlets onto the website. Writing for the web needs to be different from writing for print. The way the web works is different from print and the writing need to reflect that.

Write for USA Today Readers, Not the New York Times

It's not a reflection of how smart your readers are; it's a fact that the web is international, and any page you put up is going to be viewed by people with all levels of English knowledge. If you write to a lower level audience you'll be sure to keep people interested because they can more readily understand.

Write Articles in an Inverted Pyramid Style

If you think of your content as a pyramid, the broadest coverage of the topic should be listed first. Then move on to more and more specific as you get further into the page. This is useful to your readers, as they can stop reading and move onto something else once you've gotten as specific as they need. And the more useful you are to your readers the more they will want to read your content.

Write Content, Not Fluff

Resist the temptation to write in "marketing-speak". Even if you're trying to influence your readers to take a specific action, they are less likely to do it if your page feels like fluff. Provide value in every page you write so that your readers see a reason to stick with you.

Keep Your Pages Short and to the Point

The web is not a good location to write your novel, especially as one long page. Even a chapter is too long for most Web readers. Keep your content to under 10,000 characters per page. If you need to write an article that's longer than that, find sub-sections and write each subsection as a stand-alone page.

Focus on Your Readers, Not on Search Engines

SEO is important to get readers. But if your writing is too obviously geared towards search engines you will quickly lose readers. When you write for a keyword phrase, you need to use the phrase enough so that it's recognized as the topic but not so much that your readers notice. If you have the same phrase repeated in a sentence, that's too much. More than twice in a paragraph is too much.

Use Lists and Short Paragraphs

Keep the content short. The shorter it is, the more likely your readers will read it.

Solicit Feedback From Your Readers

The web is interactive, and your writing should reflect that. Asking for feedback (and providing links or forms) is a good way to show that you recognize that you're writing for the web. And if you include that feedback in the article the page stays dynamic and current and your readers appreciate it.

Use Images to Expand on Your Text

Images can be tempting to sprinkle through pages. But unless you're a photographer or artist, having random images spread through your documents can be distracting and confusing to your readers. Use images to expand on the text, not just decorate it.

Don't Apply These Rules Blindly

All of these rules can be broken. Know your audience and know why you're breaking the rule before you do so. Have fun with your web writing, and your audience will have fun with you.