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Writing For The Web: December 2007
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Writing For The Web: December 2007


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Presentation given at the National Services Te Paerangi UnConference Day.

Presentation given at the National Services Te Paerangi UnConference Day.

Published in: Technology, Design

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  • 1. Writing for the Web Seven key ideas for writing killer web content Courtney Johnston Web Editor National Library of New Zealand
  • 2. The long and the short of it
    • Long page title / headline (4-10 words)
    • Long link-text
    • Short summary
    • Short words
    • Short sentences
    • Short paragraphs
    • Short pages
    • Adapted from Rachel McAlpine
  • 3. Say it after me: KEYWORDS
    • Help yourself: identifying the keywords for a page of content will help you sort and structure the information you present there.
    • Help your reader: skim readers are looking for the keywords that match the thing they’re looking for.
    • Help the search engines: search engines like Google ‘read’ the words in your URLs, page titles, headings; if your keywords appear here, they will help you page on search results.
  • 4. Keyword tools
    • Think: what is my visitor coming to this page to find out about / do?
    • Look at server logs and web statistics if you can – what words are your visitors searching on? (e.g. ‘family history’ or ‘genealogy’?)
    • Use Google Trends to test synonymous keywords and see which is more popular with web searchers. www. google .com/trends
  • 5. F-shaped skim readers
    • Web readers are:
    • Searching for the keywords they’re interested in
    • Reading twice as fast as they read print
    • Skimming headlines, the first words in paragraphs, link text, anything in bold or italics.
    • Image from Jakob Neilson
  • 6. Omit the extra words in your copy
    • Edit edit edit.
    • Half the length of what you’d write for print.
    • Most important information first. Committed readers will scroll.
    • Use ‘I’ and ‘you’.
    • Active sentences.
    • Look for the usual culprits: of, because, which was, who is. These usually indicate extra words that can be deleted.
  • 7. Special offer! This week only!
    • Be specific. You never know when you’ll get around to updating a page or removing content, so let your reader know if dates and such like are still relevant to them
    • Not ‘this week’ but ‘12-16 November’. Not ‘in the central city’ but ‘in Wellington’. Not ‘last year’ but ‘2006’.
    • Date all documents, events, deadlines, and include the year.
    • Get consistent with the way you refer to your organisation, location, staff positions, how you format contact details.
  • 8. Click here
    • Descriptive link text: tell readers where they’re going or what they’re doing. It’s also good for search engines.
    • Download the registration form
    • Go to Te Ara
    • Website standards – State Services Commission website
    • Warn readers about PDFs
    • Have consistent ways of writing link text on your site
    • A blog post on link text is available on LibraryTechNZ .
  • 9. Formatting for success
    • White space
    • Headings and subheadings
    • Bulletted and numbered lists. [NB: up to 7 items. Remember – each item you add to the list makes the other items harder to find.]
    • Useful pictures (with alt text)
    • Avoid bold and italics – they interrupt the flow of reading, and sometiems draw undue attention to phrases.
    • Numbers as numerals (13, not thirteen) are easier to read online.
  • 10. Ignoring the rules
    • Blog writing should be funny, punny, impassioned, informal, irate, tangential – whatever.
    • But: if you want to help people find your blog posts, use keywords in your post titles, and use descriptive text in your links.
    • And: keep spell checking.
  • 11. Steal my ideas
    • http://ma. gnolia .com/people/best-of-3/tags
    • Tags: web writing, web content, blog writing advice, search engine optimization, user-centred design.
  • 12. Steal other people’s ideas …
    • Rachel McAlpine
    • Image from Jakob Neilson
    • Copyblogger www. copyblogger .com
    • ProBlogger www. problogger .net
    • Skelliewag www. skelliewag .org
    • SEOmoz (search engine optimisation) www. seomoz .org/ blog
    … with a feedreader RSS and feedreader background – National Library website
  • 13. Random bits of advice
    • Use your e-calendar to set reminders to remove content with a use-by date.
    • Use a bookmarking site to collect and annotate useful articles. See the CommonCraft Bookmarking video for an introduction. I use http://ma.gnolia. com .
    • Use the Readability Statistics in word (under ‘Spelling and Grammar’) to get a feel for the length of words, sentences, paragraphs, and number of passive sentences.
    • I blog about writing for the web and related matters on