Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Can’t Miss Web Writing Tips

Writing for the web is a little different from writing for the local newspaper or writing your autobiography. Different things are important to both search engine spiders and to site visitors.

As a web writer, you have less than 10 seconds (6.4 seconds according to one study) to capture the attention of a site visitor before s/he bounces – that is, leaves without exploring the site further. So, your headlines better be attention grabbers. And remember, not all visitors will enter a site through the home page. Almost any site page can be the entry way in to a site so each page has to have an attention grabbing something – headline, picture, chart – something that keeps the visitor on site.

So, in no particular order, if you’re writing for the web, take these tips to heart.

1. Write like you talk. Even the best web writers miss this one.

You don’t say “I will go in to the kitchen to cook supper.” Too stiff. Instead, you and everyone else would say, “I’ll go cook up something for supper.” More casual.

Use contractions to make your writing more engaging and “listenable.” Getting rid of that stiff ‘writers’ tone is easy if you just say the words in your head and type what comes out, i.e. write like you talk.

2. Feed the beast, aka search engines. Your web writing not only has to maintain the interest of human eyeballs, it also has to appeal to search engine spiders. So, some of the ways to do this include:

- using keywords in headers (but no header stuffing, please. All things in moderation.)

- embed text links to other site pages to provide spiders with a clear path to all pages of
   your client’s site

- keep keyword density to no more than 5%, i.e. within every 100 words of text use five
   keywords. Work them in naturally so that humans don’t find the text awkward.

- make sure on-site and HTML keywords synch up. If it doesn’t make sense to a spider
  (dumber than dirt) you won’t be indexed, or properly indexed, within the search engine
   taxonomy (sorting system).

3. Use a lot of bullet points (see #2 above). Think about it. You don’t read big chunks of text on line. Bullet lists of everything from product specs to service features are more easily scanned than detailed, paragraphs of product descriptions.

4. Don’t use abbreviations. When describing a place, spell out the state name. Not NY but New York. Same with lbs, in, km, etc. Bots aren’t real good at figuring out abbreviations, though they are getting better.

5. Every word you write is sales text. If you’re writing a piece on using a hearing aid, you sell the concept of a hearing aid purchase. Cars, health insurance, divorce mediation – whatever the topic, you’re selling something in a subtle way.

This is also true of site text. Typically, you’ll write an About Us page, a Contact page and other “administrative” pages within a web site. Don’t waste these opportunities to sell the product, service or company. For example, which is better:

Contact Us:

XYZ Manufacturing
123 main Street
Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234


At XYZ Industries, we’re here to help you in any way we can. You can reach us in different ways so getting answers to your questions or placing an order is a call or click away.

At XYZ, you’re always first in line.

XYZ Manufacturing
123 main Street
Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234

Web writers take note. It takes a good storyteller to keep a reader on site. So tell your clients’ stories. Keep it casual, cut the hyperbole and engage your reader like an old friend.

Why? Because that’s what you want your readers to become – old friends.

No comments: