Non-Writers Guide to Writing for Web


If you’re among those who don’t enjoy writing, or struggle to write about your own brand, this post is for you.

Not everyone jumps at the chance to write about their business with the goal of crafting clear and concise language that connects with an audience of interested buyers. In fact, most do not. Even writers can have a hard time writing about their own brands, because they’re too close to it. And yet, solid and compelling copy is so important for creative web design.

Writing for Web

Writing for web is not the same as articles or essays, because studies have consistently shown that very few people actually read web pages word for word. In fact, a 1997 Nielsen study revealed that only 16% of visitors read whole pages, while 79% merely scan them. More recently in a 2013 study Nielsen concluded that average website users only read 28% of what’s on a page.

These trends inform our Internet marketing strategies, as well as to how to write web pages that both connect with our audience and achieve the intended results.

Write for Your Audience

Singing BowlIt’s been said that the first rule of marketing is, “We’re not our target market.” Which means that we have to continually remind ourselves of who our audience is, how they think and feel and what they relate to. If your audience is auto enthusiasts then you want to utilize vocabulary and tone that they will relate to, which means to speak with the energy and excitement that they may feel for cars and car products. Or if your audience is creative professionals then it would be best to use colorful and creative language. Or for organic food products, to speak with empathy and knowledge toward the health and environmental benefits, and so on.

The First Paragraph is Paramount

Studies also show that the first paragraph is critical for gaining interest. And, the first sentence of the first paragraph is the most important. The best way to create hooks that grab attention is to state (or imply) what they can expect to learn or receive from reading further. Using simple and clear language is more effective than complex language, which also lends to the scan-ability of your content.

Break Pages Into Chunks

Breaking content down into easily digestible chunks gives users an easy way to scan your content and zero in on what they are most interested in reading about. The best way to do this is to write one short paragraph with a sub-heading for each chunk of information. This also makes the writing process easier in that we begin by quickly outlining a page into the key points we wish to make. Each point becomes a paragraph. It is also important to lead with your most important points, as readers will read more of the first part of a page, and less the further down the page they go.

Sub-Headings That Relate to Content

While colorful, poetic or humorous sub-headings may be interesting and even fun, they don’t necessarily support the scan-ability of your page if they fail to describe the content. Search engines also look for the relevance of headings and sub-headings, just the same as they do for meta-data.

Use Bullet Lists Wherever Possible

For a therapist with many degrees and certifications it’s far more effective to list those credentials in a bullet list versus writing them out in a somewhat clunky paragraph. Or if you’re giving tips or instructions, users can quickly scan a bullet list and get the gist of it quickly without having to read word for word.

Brevity is Queen

Enough said . . .

Use Images

As the axiom goes, “A picture tells a thousand words,” and considering the research, photos and graphics provide a more enjoyable user experience, which also serves to hold their interest longer. Well selected photos can also add to the brand experience as they express tone much more than information, and at the end of the day we want our users to have a particular kind of feeling from our website. Consider Apple as the perfect example of beautiful web design that conveys information through stunning photography and graphics. It’s actually hard to find their pages with technical specifications. While they’re important, what they’re really selling is an experience.

Editing, Editing, Editing

Did we mention editing? Top notch news outlets with six-figured writers filter every piece of writing through a half a dozen or more editors before it graces the screen or printed page. Even if you’re a one woman/man shop you still need to find a trusted friend, spouse or colleague who would be willing to give your content a once over before you hit the publish button. Even before sending your piece off to the editor take several passes of your own. Then set the page aside for a few days and come back to it with a fresh mind and you’ll be astounded at the errors you’ll find. It’s okay, we all make them.

Be Patient With the Process

The hardest part is starting, and once you start know that you can always continue to refine and improve your pages. Being patient with the process is one of the most valuable ways of approaching your content creation. It also takes the pressure off, in that we know we don’t have to be perfect or write the next Pulitzer winning web page, we only have to take the next step in front of us.

Happy writing . . .

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