Writing for The Web: Tips for Keeping Your Online Visitors Engaged

People read differently when they’re on the web as opposed to when they are reading a paper document. Web users typically scan information, looking to subheadings as signals for what they want more of or what can they can pass over. The prevalence of online list-cles rather than full-length articles marks this change in online reading behavior, as web users want to find things fast.    

A study tracking online reading behavior conducted by Jakob Nielsen found that webpage visitors “have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” So you don’t want to waste your words when crafting the copy that will appear on your website. Instead, you want to take the time to hone in on the essential things you want to say, to keep your web visitors interested and get your message across.

Whether you are writing for your business website or for your own personal blog, here are a few tips to help you write more effectively for the web:

Use Sub-headings

Sub-headings are like guideposts that help your web visitors navigate through a webpage’s content. For scanners, it helps them easily locate the precise information they are looking for. For those that are committed to reading the article in full, your sub-heads provide a kind of breathing room, marking one point from the next, much like chapters in a novel.

When confronted with a wall of text, most web visitors just step away from the screen or rather, begin googling another webpage that is more concise. Visually these text-filled web pages look daunting to readers, unless they are reading legal documents, academic papers or medical briefs (you get the point.)

Be Brief

Keep things simple. Less is definitely more. By keeping your writing concise, you keep your web visitors reading. Ask yourself if the essence of your message is contained in your words and then scrap all the rest. Cut away the fat.

Step away from your writing once it is completed and give it a day or two. Go back with a fresh set of eyes and be critical of what needs to stay and what needs to go.

Use Lists

Like subheadings, lists are the epitome of scannable text. Using list-formats force you to be concise with your writing, begging you to hone in on the essentials of your message.  When creating a list of services, or reasons why your business is better than the competition, it also makes you choose your words wisely. You only get so much room, so make it count.

Do Invert the Pyramid

Forget what you learned in grade school about writing essays and presenting the idea in a logical fashion that flows until your revolutionary conclusion blows your audience away. No one has time for that!

When writing for the web get to the point from the get-go. I mean, first paragraph. Say it and then expand from there.

One Idea Per Paragraph

Keeping your paragraphs short while containing the crux of a single idea will ensure that your readers don’t get bogged down in too much reading. As web readers are scanners, keeping your paragraphs tight and simply containing one idea will keep their attention from wavering.

Please Proof-Read

Nothing throws credibility out the window like poor spelling or grammar. It just makes you sound dumb and no one wants that. So before hitting publish or letting things go live on the web take the time to double check your work.  

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