Writing for the web is not the same type of activity as other forms of written communication. People who are looking at books or magazines for information are usually looking for in-depth information. They take the time to sit down with these forms of media and savor them in a way that Internet users just don’t do.
Appeal To The Web Surfer
Someone who is using the Internet to get information is in a completely different mindset. Consider the idea of surfing for information. The imagery that the word “surfing” brings to mind is one of someone traveling over the surface of the waves on their board, and not where the person involved in the activity stops to take their time to look at anything in any great detail.
The Web surfer is someone who goes from site to site, looking for information that is presented in bite-sized pieces. If they don’t find what they are looking for within the first few seconds, they move on. It’s too easy to think of Web surfers as being too lazy to bother to stop to read a web page in detail. The reality is that the Internet is such a large resource that the amount of information available can be overwhelming, and the Internet user is like the proverbial kid in a candy store who has trouble deciding on just one item.
Since the Internet is chock full of information for people to access, it’s important that web articles are structured in a particular way so that they get the Internet user’s attention. Here is how to build a web article, from opening sentence to the conclusion.
Put the Main Point at the Beginning
A web article is not written in the same way that a book or a magazine article is. Keep in mind that the Web surfer is not going to take the time to read through to the end of the piece to find out what the author is trying to say. To write an effective web article, the main point must be set out in the first paragraph. This may sound a bit like starting at the end, and it’s true.
Start thinking like a Web surfer and the idea becomes clearer. You want to find out what the article is about in the first paragraph – if not the first couple of sentences. The content needs to be structured in that way to make the Internet user want to continue reading.
Follow Up With Supporting Points
In the paragraphs that follow the introductory one, stick to one idea per paragraph. Any more than that is too much information for someone who is reading text online. Keep the sentence structure short and to the point. Paragraphs should be between three and five sentences for maximum effectiveness.
If the idea is going to take more than five sentences to explain, break it down into more than one paragraph. This style does take a bit of getting used to. Many writers who are used to working in other media want to take the time to fill out their ideas within the paragraph. They may have been taught growing up that more detail is better and that ideas need to be fleshed out in written work.
Your Teacher Didn’t Know Best
Teachers traditionally have rewarded students who use a lot of descriptive language in their creative writing. They want to see a certain amount of “flowery” language to ensure that their students understand how to structure a sentence properly. When it comes to web writing, those rules that people used when they were at grammar school don’t apply anymore.
What you need to do is treat the words like they are a very expensive commodity and each one that you use is going to cost you money. Rather than take 10 words to say something, pare your writing down to the minimum number you need to make your point. Then stop.
Break Up Your Writing with Subheadings
Adding subheadings to your web article serves a couple of important purposes. It’s a way to incorporate your keywords into the text more often, for one thing. Another advantage to adding subheadings as appropriate is that it breaks up the text into smaller portions so that it’s easier to read. (Remember that Web surfers don’t take a lot of time trying to locate the piece of information they are looking for.)
A large chunk of text on a web page is a sure-fire turn off for Internet users. No matter how well-researched or relevant the information is, if it isn’t set out on the page in an attractive manner, the person who visits the web site will simply click away after a few seconds without stopping to read. Use the subheadings to break it up and help the reader find the information they are most interested in reading.
Bullet Points and Lists Are Your Friends
Another great strategy to use when writing for the web is to use bullet points to break up the text. If you want to draw the reader’s attention to certain items, this is a very effective way to do so. The person reading the text can pick out those points very quickly as they scan down the page.
Lists are another strategy that is very effective when it comes to writing a web article. Limiting the number of items on the list means that the reader isn’t overwhelmed by the information. A Top 10 or Top 20 list will be more effective than listing the Top 100 items in a category.
Using lists in the title of a web article is a popular choice, since this type of headline tends to draw in visitors. They will click on this type of content to get tips and hints on to do something better or to see how the author ranks a series of items.
Wrapping it Up
The concluding paragraph of the web article should include the keyword or keyword phrase for the piece. Rather than just leaving the reader hanging, the web article should have a few sentences summing up the content of the piece. The end paragraph can also include a call to action, where you tell the reader exactly what you want them to do.
This may be to sign up for a newsletter, go to a product ordering page, or to click on an internal link to move to another page within the web site. Making the site “sticky” so that visitors will spend more time looking at it makes it more likely that they will return to the site and ultimately sign up for the mailing list or make a decision to buy.
The suggestions listed here will help you to craft an effective web article. As you can see, this form of communication is different from what is used in newspapers or magazines.