Writing Verbiage For Your Site

Text Is Hard to Read

Typical computer monitors have a resolution of 96 dpi (dots per inch). Compared with a printout from a laser printer that has a resolution of 600 dpi, or a magazine page that can be upwards of 2400 dpi, and it's not hard to figure out why the text on a computer places a strain on the eyes. According to the book Hot Text, Web Writing That Works, by Jonathan and Lisa Price, "because text is more difficult to read on-screen, people often read slower, comprehend less, recall less, and do less in response."

Write Less

Because of the strain placed on readers when reading on a computer screen, you can't expect them to read a 5,000 word article. Research has shown most readers tend to scan an article before reading. Articles longer than 1,000 words will likely turn off your audience and result in few people reading your article (and therefore fewer visitors coming back to your site in the future). You should condense your writing to include only the most crucial points and eliminate everything else while keeping in mind the major search engines require an ample amount of content for their ranking algorithm. Writing successfully for the Web forces you to present only the necessary content and leave the rest out.

Use Headings and Lists

People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In a recent study it was found 79 percent of test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.

As a result, Web pages have to employ easy to scan text, using:

  • Highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
  • Meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones)
  • Bulleted lists
  • One idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
  • The inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
  • Half the word count (or less) than conventional writing

Use Plenty of Links

Since linking is the primary advantage of a Web writer, it should be used early and often. Linking allows you to provide the reader with a roadmap of information. With your article as a starting point, your reader should be able to find more information about any and all topics discussed in the article. Common things to link to include reference pages, news sources, audio and video, forums, and applications that will enhance the reading experience. The best thing about links is that the user can choose which ones to follow and which ones to ignore. That allows you to reference something without citing the entire reference as you would have to in a print article.

Write With Search Engines in Mind

Since much of the content on the Web is found via search, it makes sense to write with the search engines in mind. No, this doesn't mean you should stuff your articles with keywords to the point where they are barely readable. But it does mean you should write titles and headings that actually convey what your article discusses. Remember, search engines are only computers. If you don't write your content with a "dumb" computer in mind, your site may never be four by visitors. For example, if you own a bed and breakfast, don’t start off by saying, “We are located one block off Main Street.” The search engines will not know what business you’re in, what town you’re in, or even what state you’re in. Instead try something like, “Our romantic bed and breakfast is located one block from the historic Main Street of Fredericksburg, TX in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.” From this one sentence the search engines can glean the type of business, the specific town, and the general area of the state.

Writing for the search engines AND for your visitors takes effort. We'll gladly take your draft content and "fortify" it where needed in an attempt to have your site attain the best possible search engine ranking.