Much that’s written about writing for the web could equally be said of other mediums. I repeatedly see the following tips on writing for the web.
- Be concise
- Use simple language
- Know your audience
- Adopt the right tone of voice
- Engage your reader
- Proofread carefully
But if you really want to influence your search rankings, you have to write content that humans like. Write content that they find interesting and want to share. For those of you looking for specific rules of online writing, here are my ten top tips:
1. Don’t band all online writing together – writing copy for the home page of a county council website isn’t the same as writing copy for an online guide to recycling or a social media post on Christmas opening hours.
2. Do repeat your messages frequently – an ad on the back of a magazine can lie around for a year. Unless you write regularly, your posts and tweets will be lost in a sea of billions of others.
3. Don’t oversell your products or services – online audiences can make up their own minds, or ask millions of unbiased people what they think.
4. Do test your online writing on several platforms – those 300 words look lovely laid out on the big screen. Squashed onto a phone, nobody can be bothered to read them.
5. Don’t stuff your copy with obvious keywords – ‘for all your plumbing needs in Croydon come to Croydon Plumbing, the home of perfect plumbing in and around Croydon’ could harm your site’s ranking and turn off human visitors!
6. Do involve as many people as possible – if every blog post is written by your product manager you’ll give people the impression that he’s the only person who works at your organisation or that he’s a bit of a control freak. Different points of view make blogs interesting. If you’re a sole trader, try adapting your style, inviting guest bloggers or link your posts to complementary sites.
7. Don’t be a slave to grammar – online writing is (generally) scanned not read. If it’s easier for people to scan bullet points, phrases and ridiculously short paragraphs, go for it.
8. Do use visual tricks such as numbers as figures (1, 2, 3, etc. as opposed to one, two, three) buttons, photo captions and subheads to draw readers to important information.
9. Don’t write long chunks of text – break your narrative up into lots of short non-linear paragraphs – each one making sense on its own.
10. Do add links to other pages and websites – the beauty of the web is NOT having to tell someone everything at once. Give them the bare bones or the teaser then encourage them to go elsewhere for more info.
Want to improve your SEO skills? Read Lorraine’s tips here.
About the Author:
Lorraine Forrest-Turner is a freelance copywriter, communications skills trainer, author and playwright.
She has worked on all sides of the words business – publishing, journalism and marketing communications – and specialises in business and marketing copy for companies such as BMW, Akzo Nobel, 3M and the National Health Service. She also writes and delivers training and coaching programmes on writing web content, press releases, magazine articles, business copy, grammar and proofreading.
Lorraine tutors the Writing Effective SEO Copy for Websites, as well as the Writing Articles for Websites and Blogs Courses at The Writers College. Contact us for more information about these courses.