Writing for the web requires a different skill set to writing offline. While flowery writing might work for novelists, lengthy prose won’t win you any fans online. Web copy should be easy to read, scannable and to the point.
Outdated SEO practices like keyword-stuffing mean that the web is littered with badly written content that’s almost impossible to read. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to improve your web copy once you know how.
1. Make it scan-able
Readers won’t read everything on your page thoroughly – they will scan your site and look for information that interests them. On average, people only read 20% of the content on a page, so make your page as scannable as possible so readers can easily find what they’re looking for.
- Break up your text. Create readable chunks by breaking the copy up into sections with descriptive sub headings.
- Use lists. The reason why bullet points and lists are so popular online is because they are easy to scan.
- Use bold. Using bold font can help readers to see the most important points at a glance.
2. Keep it simple
When writing for the web, simplicity is key. Reading text on a screen takes 25% longer than on a page, so make your copy easier to read by:
- Using short sentences. Try to keep sentences under 20 words and stick to one idea per sentence.
- Writing in an active voice. Active sentences are normally shorter and easier to read than passive construction. E.g. “I’m writing the blog”, rather than “The blog is being written”.
- Cut out unnecessary words. Try to take out all superfluous words from your copy. Also ditch jargon, clichés and overused phrases.
3. Be clear
When visitors arrive on your page, it should be 100% clear what the page is about. We make snap decisions online, often within a matter of seconds, as we’re usually looking for specific information.
- Use a descriptive title and get straight to the point.
- Front load. Readers scan online text in an ‘F-pattern’, so put important information at the top of the page, where it’s most likely to be seen.
- Summarise your content. Don’t put key points at the bottom of the page. If your content has an important conclusion, include it in a summary of the content near the top of the page. Take a look at the BBC News website and you’ll see they always do this with their stories.
4. Write for your reader
Although it’s important to ensure your content is optimised for search engines, this should never be at the expense of readability. First and foremost, you need to write for humans; and this means using natural language, not stilted search phrases. Semantic search is taking over from keyword optimisation!
While writing your content, keep your audience in the forefront of your mind. This applies to all types of web content, whether you’re writing a lengthy product guide or a pithy tweet. As a final check, read through your copy as if you were a reader from your target audience. Check that it makes sense and is written in language they’ll understand.