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The Essential Guide to Writing for the Web (2)

The Essential Guide to Writing for the Web (2)
In our first installment of essentials for writing for the web, we covered the basics of becoming a writing rock star. Now, let us dig a bit deeper to learn what it means to take it to eleven, when it comes to writing for the web.

Published: 12 Jun, 2013

The Essential Guide to Writing for the Web (2)

Be concise

Simplicity is essential to writing for the web.

For each post you create, you should have a simple outline that makes a key point. Do not deviate too far from the central theme that you have outlined for a given article.

Your writing should not only be simple in concept, but it should also be concise throughout.

Simple and compound sentences are ideal. You should avoid complex sentences, since they are harder for the reader to understand.

You should also work to minimise the use of adjectives in your writing.

Focus on adjectives that work, avoid advertising clichés (i.e. 'World's greatest so and so'), and are easy to understand in context.

Perhaps the biggest challenge when trying to simplify your writing is resisting the temptation to be wordy. Less is more, especially in writing.

The fewer words you use to communicate an idea, the easier that idea is to understand across a broad spectrum of people.

Write in a way that everyone can comprehend. Do not alienate people with big words and complex sentence structures.

Creating reader-friendly layouts

The overall layout of your writing should be easy to read, too. The concept of creating reader-friendly layouts relates directly to the need for concision.

Content for the web should be broken into sections, specifically headings and sub-headings, for maximum readability.

Each sub-heading need only contain one key concept pulled from your outline.

As we discussed in the first installment of our essential guide to writing, the paragraphs under each sub-heading should be front-loaded, with the main idea in the first sentence of the paragraph under the text of the sub-heading.

The sections of your writing need to occur in a logical manner, too.

If you outline three ideas in an introductory paragraph, the sections relating to those ideas should occur in the body of the post in the same order they appear in the introduction.

Craft magnetic headlines

Headlines are one of the biggest challenges in writing for the web.

There is also tremendous disagreement about what constitutes an effective headline. In fact, popular convention changes all the time, and each website has its own take on the subject of headlines.

Headlines are important because they are the first things our readers see - and sometimes the only thing. The topic of headlines is a study all its own, but here are some of our best tips:

  • Readers like lists. 10 Tips for…, 5 Things You Should Know About…, 7 Ways to…, etc.
  • What, why, when, and how are also good choices, too
  • Create a sense of urgency with words like now and today
  • Try to avoid putting puns in headlines. (Even though it is so very tempting)
You can veer in many directions when it comes to constructing magnetic headlines. The main thing that will help you get the reader's attention is finding a way to make your headlines seem new and notable.

Nobody wants to read what he or she already knows. Put some thought into what your readers are into, and work to write headlines that gain their attention.

SEO basics

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is another complete field of study unto itself.

The good news is, basic (often called 'organic') SEO is straightforward. Search engines, like Google, constantly scour the web looking for content that is relevant, based on keywords. The inner workings of web search are very technical, but writing for SEO is easy.

When some people first discover the concept of SEO, they make the mistake of writing for the search engines, loading fluff articles with keywords just to gain higher page ranking.

There was a period a few years ago when such 'guerilla' SEO tactics were very effective, allowing anyone with enough time and skill in creating filler to rise to the top of search results. Thankfully, Google and other search engines have changed their search algorithms to improve search rankings, based on content relevance.

Here are some basics for getting started with SEO:

  • Choose one or two key word phrases to emphasise in each article you write
  • Make sure that the main keyword phrase is mentioned in the headline and description
  • Use keyword phrases sparingly. Do not saturate the writing in keywords
  • For example, if you are writing a 1000-word article, you might use the main keyword phrase 6 – 10 times, netting a keyword density of less than one-percent
  • Make sure that sentences containing keywords and keyword phrases make sense – do not just plug in keywords
  • Remember that articles like the, an, and, and or are okay to use in various combinations, within keyword phrases. This helps you make sure the writing is natural

One more tip

Writing for the web takes practice, but you can learn a lot just by reading the blogs you like.

Every possible type of post already exists, giving you plenty from which to draw inspiration. Search the web to find blog posts that you like and try to apply their techniques to writing for the web. 

With practice and continual improvement, you will be drawing an audience in no time.