When writing content for the Web, there are a number of methods you can use to ensure readers remain engaged. Internet surfers have short attention spans, and with the ability to click off into a new site at a moment’s notice, you need to work hard to keep visitors entertained.
Unlike print publications, which are easier to read than computer monitors or smartphone screens, the nature of the Internet means a different approach is required. Here’s a roundup of how you can keep your writing suitable for the Web:
- Keep things simple – The vast majority of readers will ‘scan’ your article to find areas they’re interested in. As such, it’s important to get to the point as quickly as possible. While some pages will require a detailed approach (e.g. academic papers or technical documentation), keeping your writing simple will help get your point across. This means avoiding unnecessary repetition and complicated language.
- Break up long paragraphs – The attention-span of the average Internet user is much shorter than those reading print publications. To help keep readers onside, long paragraphs of text should be avoided. One way to achieve this is to aim for smaller-sized paragraphs. Remember: visitors to your website will be viewing content on a variety of devices, from smartphones and tablets to desktop computers and laptops. Smaller screen sizes require an optimised layout. Therefore, be sure to neatly arrange paragraphs to assist those reading.
- Be aware of your audience – It goes without saying, but having a clear understanding of your audience will help you create content that gets results. There’s no point churning out pages of information that turn off readers. Instead, think about what your visitors need and find out what their likes and dislikes are. Referring to your website statistics package will help you find the best performing pages so you can devise a winning content marketing strategy
- Use images to liven up content – Long paragraphs of text can quickly become monotonous, so break up sections with photographs or other imagery to help illustrate the article. Quality images help keep users engaged and tend to increase the amount of time a person spends on a page, which means you’ll have more opportunity to clinch that sale!
- Use headings and bulleted lists – Utilise sub-headings to introduce paragraphs and enable the user to quickly find the information they’re looking for. As mentioned earlier, website visitors will scan through your pages, so use sub-headings as marker posts. Bulleted lists are also an excellent way to break up blocks of text and highlight key points.
- Refrain from technical terms – Unless you’re operating in a highly technical industry and your audience is familiar with technical terms, it is usually best to avoid them. If you need to state a technical term or phrase, be sure to provide a brief explanation for the uninitiated. The same applies to acronyms, in which case, it’s best to provide the full title in brackets.
- Inverted pyramid – The inverted pyramid technique is regularly used by journalists to showcase the most important information at the top of the page. Secondary or less important information is then displayed lower down the page. This method is useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows you to grab a visitor’s attention straight off the bat. Secondly, if an article is edited or shortened, the key information towards the top will remain intact. Thirdly, it enables you to organise your thoughts in a deliberate and structured manner. A typical example would include the most newsworthy information first (who, what, where, why and when?), then important details, and finally, general background information. Company announcements or press releases will benefit most from adopting this framework, but you can equally use the method for blog posts or general website pages.