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A few Simple Rules for Writing Effective Web Content

iCraft Admin

Posts: 394

« on: July 02, 2008, 12:56:06 am »

After reviewing copy on Creator Exhibits and Product Descriptions, I’ve decided to do some research and put together a document that might help some of you guys to write Killer content. These are general rules that apply to any kind of web copy. Hope some of you will find it useful and entertaining. Smiley

Know your Reader
It’s easy to just write and write, with no particular reader in mind. The problem with this sort of writing is that nobody reads it. Always keep the reader in mind when writing. Think of them as busy, impatient people who are on the Web to find out something.
The most effective writing is keenly focused on the specific needs of a clearly defined reader type.

Keep Content Short and Simple
It’s an information overloaded world
Consider the following:
• Over 1,000 books are published around the world every day. In the US alone, nearly 5,000 different magazines are published. But… according to the study by the University of California, Berkeley, printed content represents only 0.003 percent of all content published annually in the world. So, for every book printed there are some 30,000 ‘books’ published on the Web.
• Every day there are 7 million new documents published on the Web, where there are already over 550 billion
• The world produces between one and two exabytes of unique content per year, which is roughly 250 megabytes for every man, woman, and child on earth.
• The Web is the Trojan Horse of information overload. It promised information nirvana and delivered overload hell. Someone once said that searching for information on the Web was like drinking water from a fire hose. Not surprisingly, a survey by Roper Starch Worldwide found that 71% of people using the Internet get frustrated when searching.
• Traditional publishing may not be working when it comes to print, but at least it has made some effort to keep the floodgates shut. That’s because the average publisher will reject up to 90 percent of publishing proposals they get.

In the world of computers, the floodgates have been blown from their hinges. Information has gone haywire on computers because there are little or no publishing standards. Everyone is a publisher, most of it is awful, and nobody has time to read anywhere remotely near what’s out there. The web became an information dump. Even if users want to read a specific document, there’s so much content, so badly organized, that the effort in finding it is often not worth the trouble.

Keeping in mind that users’ attention is a limited commodity, here are some guidelines for the length of your content:

Headings: 8 words or less
Sentences: 15-20 words

Writing effectively is about communicating. Use powerful language. Write simply. Be direct. Begin at the beginning. Get to the point. Then stop.
Write Killer content of value to all
Publishing content on the Web is just like publishing content anywhere else. It needs to be concise, well written, well organized, well presented, and well targeted.

Write Active Content
Write from the point of view of the reader. The reader has come to your page to do something. Your content should be written in an action-orientated style. Every sentence should be moving them towards a contact, a purchase, a solution.

Write Great Titles and Headlines
Titles and headlines are the most important piece of content you will write. Research shows that web readers scan pages before they read anything, meaning they may scan right past your copy if it doesn't have a straightforward heading or introduction that includes keywords about you and your products.

When writing Titles:
Keep them to eight words or less
Make sure you include the most important keywords (what it is, what for)
Cut out as many adjectives and prepositions as possible (and, the, a, of)
Be clear and precise.

Write Great Summaries
It's about getting the facts across in 50 words or less. An objective of a summary is to make people want to read on. Keep them punchy and factual.
Sentences should be between 15-20 words.

Edit. Edit. Edit.
If at all possible, get someone else to edit your content. If you are editing someone else's content:
Take your time. Good editing can take anything from 30-50 percent of the time it took to write the original content.
Edit first for style and tone. Ask these questions: Is it clear? Is it necessary? Is there a shorter way to say this? Is there a simpler way to say this?
Leave the checking of grammar and spelling until last.

How Online Writing Differs from Print Writing
• Reading from computer screens is 25% slower than from paper
• Web content should have 50% of the word count of its paper equivalent
• People are much more action-orientated on the Web. They get online to get something done. Words should always be driving actions.
• Studies show that 79% of users scan the page instead of reading word-for-word. They look at headings and subheadings first; they scan for keywords. They jump around, scrolling and clicking—their fingers never far from the browser’s “Back” button. The word that best describes their behavior is: impatient.
• The challenge for the web writer is to overcome readers’ impatience by keeping things as brief as possible.

« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2008, 11:43:58 pm »

Interesting information about the difference between print and web writing. Thanks!

Posts: 161

« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2008, 02:08:10 pm »

Oh - I wondered how I was able to post a reply without signing in - I guess you can as a "guest."  Thanks.
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