Writing content for the web can be difficult and overwhelming. However, by keeping two simple guidelines in mind, writing good web content is possible.
Guideline #1: Direct Your Reader
All good writing directs the reader – whether it's a trifold brochure directing someone to call a phone number or a novel directing the reader's imagination. However, on the web, this direction is more concrete. The user can actually click a link.
Put yourself in the user’s shoes. They’re staring at your “Facilities Rental” web page. What do they want? Where are they trying to get to? What other pages might interest them? Write your content so it’s easy to cross-link and direct the user to other pages of interest. This doesn't mean littering your content with "click here". Instead, just call out other pages on your site by their name, then make that page name a link.
A web page, unlike printed content, provides the opportunity this direct direction. Take advantage of it. Provide ample reference and links to other pages on your site.
Guideline #2: Write for Search Engines
Another equally important aspect of content creation is writing for search engines. Use phrases that you think people will enter in search engines.
For example, if you think people search for “history of shipbuilding”, use that exact phrase where applicable. Instead of “learn shipbuilding traditions in our…”, rephrase the content to “learn the history of shipbuilding in our…”.
Light repetition of 4–5 key search phrases throughout your content almost guarantees that your site will be found when people use Google to search for one of those phrases.
For more info on writing for the web, check out the following resources.
- The Cure for Content-Delay Syndrome
On most projects, content is the last thing to be considered and delivered. Pepi Ronalds proposes a solution to content delays by demonstrating the importance of a copy editor.
- How Users Read on the Web
An old, but classic, article by Jacob Neilson.
- Writing For The Web
Sun Microsystem’s classic article on web content development.
- Reviving Anorexic Web Writing
From the article, “Content is the heart of the website. I can’t build you a body until you give me a heart.”
- It’s the Content, Stupid: Search Engine Optimization
Keep search engines in mind while writing content.
- Who Needs Headlines?
Tips for writing and prioritizing headlines and body copy on the web.
- 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web
If your content is compelling, fresh, and updating daily, you give readers a reason to keep coming back.
Read These Books
Before writing a paragraph of content for your website, read these books. Your customers will thank you by actually using your website.