Seven Tips on Writing for the Web

Are you fully leveraging the power of your web site as a key marketing tool?

Is your web site a static tool that simply provides information? Or is it helping to accelerate the sales cycle?

First, be clear on what the objectives are for your web site. Is it to educate? To sell?  To get the reader to participate in some way? To encourage repeat visits?

Second, make sure you identify your target audience. When you understand what’s of value to your audience, it becomes much simpler to decide what to focus on and highlight in your web copy. A few tips:

  1. Short, Simple Text – people read differently when on the web. Not surprisingly, 79% of users scan the page, while only 16% read word-by-word. Avoid dense pages of copy.  Use short sentences, short paragraphs, and lists/bullets wherever possible. Incorporate links to give readers more detailed information.
  2. Effective Headlines – Use headlines and subheads liberally, as they help to break up the page. Instead of using descriptive language, convey the benefits (include metrics) whenever possible. For example, which Dell headline (actual) is more compelling? “The Vostro All-in-One for Small Businesses,” or “The Vostro All-in-One lets you enjoy the power of a traditional business desktop in 44% less space?” (Yes, the second one is long, but it’s a banner headline.)
  3. Offer Variety –Individuals digest information in different ways so appeal to peoples’ different senses. Include a variety of visual, audio and written content using a variety of forms (e.g., video, images, text, podcasts).
  4. Powerful Visuals – The benefits and unique advantages of complex topics are often best represented when simple, powerful graphics are used to visually convey architectural, conceptual or comparative ideas. Don’t forget to include a succinct caption or title.
  5. Write Newspaper Style – Start with the headline or conclusion “above the fold,” followed by the details. Use simple language – eliminate industry jargon, fluff and gobbledygook. And differentiate your offering from competitors in order to make it crystal-clear why you’re the better choice.
  6. SEO – This is a lengthy topic, but suffice it to say: If you want your site to be easily found and read, you need to understand search engine optimization.
  7. Call to action –If a reader is interested in what you have to offer, give them opportunities to engage further, or take the next step – e.g., buy it, try it for free, download it, read about it, comment on it, or chat with someone about it.

While there are many experts and web resources available, Jakob Nielsen covers a broad range of related topics: