If you’re about to update some of the content on your website — or write a new blog post — read this article. I’m outlining 5 essential elements of web content writing to help you write copy that is engaging, readable, and search engine friendly.
1. Writing for websites
Writing online content for websites and blogs is different to other types of writing. It’s harder to concentrate when reading text from a computer screen or cellphone, and we tend to read faster and understand less (because we miss stuff) than if reading from paper.
When we are reading from a screen, only one section can be seen at a time and the available reading surface area is limited. If you read a printed medium such as a book, several text areas are available simultaneously and it feels easier to form an overview and make notes in the margins.
University of Stavanger.
Research has proven that website visitors expect a personal and upbeat tone, and tend not to bother reading long-winded copy that requires endless scrolling. At the same time there are more than 1.94 billion other websites competing for your reader’s attention. If you are going to keep them interested write your website content in a conversational style — so it can be read quickly — while maximising:
- Useful headings (make that text easy to scan)
- Short, punchy sentences (quick quick double-quick)
- Photos or pictures (because you’re not boring)
- Lists and bullets (to kill those mega-long paragraphs)
And remember — I know I’m repeating myself here — today’s online readers are savvy and if you write your content like a textbook they’ll bounce off your site and won’t come back.
2. Writing for readers
Keeping readers on the page is the #1 goal of every content writer (including me). First capture the interest of your reader by writing your text like a story, and use a conversational tone so it feels like you’re speaking directly to the human person holding the screen.
Develop your story in logical sequences — without weirdly jumping into different ideas or ending awkwardly. And keep the story moving by linking paragraphs with sub-headings, quotes, or infographics. Sub-headings and images are easier on the reader if they miss their spot after scrolling away, or have clicked on a hyperlink and want to come back and read more of your article.
Finally, engage your reader by asking them to take some type of action (aka: call-to-action). It could be signing a petition, watching a video, or buying a pair of Nike runners — sometimes a reader only needs to be asked to share a blog post with their friends.
3. Writing for search engines
Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.
Great website content can be understood by both humans and the Googlebots. A bot (also known as a spider) scans the text on new and updated webpages and adds the information to the Google index. This is known as crawling. Once a website has been ‘crawled’ it will start appearing in Google search results.
Any content writer worth their weight in Google clicks has a working knowledge of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and knows how to create great copy that incorporates the keywords and phrases that best describe your business. Web copy that is easily read by humans, yet able to be understood by Googlebots.
Many inexperienced writers think that SEO content writing is about stuffing a set of ‘keywords’ or a phrase into the text; then repeating those keywords over and over. This type of copy sounds mechanical and usually just confuses or annoys your reader. Google will probably ignore it.
Another mistake many ‘writers‘ make is to copy and paste text from books or competitor websites, then publish it as their own content. Copying text like this is known as plagiarism, and will put you in direct violation of copyright laws all over the world. The Google algorithm ignores duplicate text and in some cases will block your website completely from future search results.
Google wants your website to contain concise text that accurately explains what you do. In fact their number #1 piece of advice for optimising website content is to make your site interesting and useful.
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factors. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means.
4. Writing for mobile
Does your text look great on a mobile site? Is the font big enough? Do the menus work? Since mid-2018 the Google algorithm has been giving ranking priority to mobile-friendly sites; here’s what Google has to say about it:
Mobile-first indexing means Google will predominantly use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content going forward.
Make sure your website uses a responsive design and optimises your key website content for mobile — think heading lengths, bullet point icons, image captions, menu text.
5. Writing for sales
Websites are sales tools, so you’ll want your content to delight, excite, captivate and motivate your readers to buy. Here’s a couple of things to remember about great sales writing:
Speaks directly to the reader. (Example):
Pros love iMac. So we created one just for you. (Apple)
Highlights the key features and benefits of the product. (Example):
Unlimited movies, TV shows, and more. Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime. (Netflix)
Appeals to basic human motivation and desires — status, approval, esteem etc. (Example):
Because You’re Worth It. (L’Oréal Paris)
Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands. (M&Ms)
The shoe works if you do. Get yourself a pair. (Nike)
Great sales copy creates a desire and then asks for the sale, so don’t forget to include a clear call-to-action for the reader. This could be joining an email list, visiting a store, joining a group, or buying something.
PS: did you notice how the Nike slogan [above] told the reader exactly what to do? (ie: get yourself a pair).
Writing for you
Do you need some writing? On your website, eCommerce platform, or social media profile? Just fill out the quick contact form below and I’m usually in touch within a few hours.
- Maria Gilje Torheim. 2017. ‘Do We Read Differently on Paper than on a Screen?’ PHYSORG. 21 September 2017. https://phys.org/news/2017-09-differently-paper-screen.html.
- Google. n.d. ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide – Search Console Help’. Google Search Console Help. Accessed 20 December 2019. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184?hl=en.