Writing for the web


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Writing for the web

  1. 1. Writing for the Web James Carney Web Manager
  2. 2. What we’ll cover today • Differences between reading on the web and reading print • Guidelines for effective web writing • Optimising your page content for search engines
  3. 3. [ reading on the web ]People don’t read web pages, they scan them. • 79% scan new pages • Only 16% read word-for-word [Jakob Nielson]
  4. 4. [ reading on the web ]Why? • Reading from computer screens is tiring • Modern life is hectic and people simply dont have time to work too hard for their information • Each page has to compete with hundreds of millions of other pages for the users attention
  5. 5. [ reading on the web ]
  6. 6. [ reading on the web ]
  7. 7. [ reading on the web ]What are the implications of this behaviour for web writers? • Users won’t read your text thoroughly • Your first two paras have to contain your most important information • Paras, headings and bullet points should carry information-carrying words
  8. 8. [ reading on the web ]In summary: • because people read differently on the web, you have to write differently
  9. 9. [ effective web writing ]Effective web writing involves relearning • structure • style
  10. 10. [ effective web writing ] structure Info users must have for the page to succeed Intro Additional info that’s helpful but not crucial Supporting detail Nice to have Conclusion
  11. 11. [ effective web writing ] structureInverted pyramid writing • Lead with a para that clearly defines the content of the page • Add progressively more detailed info in short parasThis helps users pick up clues as to whether the page containswhat they’re looking for - the ‘scent of information’ that keepsthem on the page and your site
  12. 12. [ effective web writing ] structureDo users scroll?YES! But...
  13. 13. [ effective web writing ] structureThe fold is still important - the 80:20 rule
  14. 14. [ effective web writing ] structureImplications of the 80:20 rule • Prioritise your content • Keep your most important or appealing messages above the fold • Make sure that what’s above the fold makes users believe it’s worth their time to scroll down • Don’t forget to finish with a nice hook
  15. 15. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Know your audience! • Think about successful outcomes: - Repeat visit - Dwell time - Registration - Enter competition - Forward to a friend
  16. 16. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Make sure your writing style and tone of voice is appropriate for your content and the audience • What’s your tone of voice? - Conversational - Engaging - Positive/ bright/ active/ dynamic - Accurate - Jargon-free - Cliché-free
  17. 17. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Reduce your wordcount (by up to 50% of print length) • Use an active, rather than a passive voice - Passive: ‘A free gift is given to all new customers’ - Active: ‘All new customers get a free gift’ - Passive: ‘Our brochure can be downloaded free’ - Active: ‘Download our free brochure’
  18. 18. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Keep sentences short and punctuation to a minimum • Keep paras short and only cover one idea in each • Break up longer paras into bite-sized chunks with subheadings, lists, bullet points, etc.
  19. 19. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Keep headings/subheads to one line (6-8 words max) • Keep headings/subheads meaningful • Use verbs or adjectives in headings/subheads subheads to fix user attention
  20. 20. [ effective web writing ] styleExamples of good headlines from BBC News website • ‘Man on Jo murder charge’ • ‘Music owners plan rights database’ • ‘Scots bid to undo US haggis ban’ Short Rich in information scent Understandable out of Predictable context
  21. 21. [ effective web writing ] styleStylepoints for effective web writing • Highlight key words/phrases in bold • Write numbers as numerals rather than spelled out • Keep intro text short and meaningful • Write the opening para last! • Avoid ‘marketese’
  22. 22. [ effective web writing ] styleEffective web writing is • Concise • Scannable • Objective
  23. 23. [ effective web writing ] practise ‘To make you text better you should avoid using long words, avoid using jargo, avoid using long inline comma lists, use bullit points use good structure and use the active rather than the passive voice’
  24. 24. [ effective web writing ] practise To make your text better you should avoid using • long words • jargon • long in-line comma lists but use • bullet points • good structure • the active rather than the passive voice
  25. 25. [ effective web writing ] practise ‘Scotland is blessed with an amazing variety of internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 2008, some of the most popular places were Glasgows Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (1,445,098), Edinburgh Castle (1,128,394 visitors), the National Museum of Scotland (614,894), also in the capital, New Lanark Village & Visitor Centre (341,340), the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick (284,166), and the Aros Centre on Skye (214,934).’
  26. 26. [ effective web writing ] practise Scotlands Top Visitor Attractions In 2008, 6 of the most popular attractions in Scotland were: • Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (Glasgow) • Edinburgh Castle • National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh)  • New Lanark Village & Visitor Centre • Scottish Seabird Centre (North Berwick) • Aros Centre (Skye)
  27. 27. [ effective web writing ] practise ‘Imagine the scene: An open canoe is gently paddled along a stretch of tranquil river as the sun slowly rises. Passing a woodland, a lone roe deer suddenly pops out and takes the opportunity for an early morning swim. High above on smooth cliffs in the fairytale-style gorge, the insistent sound of hungry young birds can be heard as they await the return of their parents with breakfast. And, then, the river water ripples and an otter pops up as if to smell the fresh air of a promisingly sunny day. If youre wondering where this is: its in the  Highlands of Scotland. And if youre pondering if this might be for you then youre right.’
  28. 28. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for searchKeywords are KEY to having your content found by Google
  29. 29. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search5 areas of your writing where keywords count 1. Title • Include key words/ phrases in title of your piece • Keywords as close to start of title as possible • Title no more than 72 characters in length • Use ‘Title tag’ option in CMS to provide more optimised description of the page in the browser bar
  30. 30. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search
  31. 31. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search 2. Meta description • Start meta description with keyword/phrase • Succinctly summarise what users will find on the page • No more than 165 characters in length
  32. 32. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search 3. Content • Keep on topic and focused on subject matter of keyword phrases • Longer copy better than short: > 300 words if possible • Include keywords in subheads
  33. 33. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search 4. Keyword frequency • Use common sense! • Repeat the key phrase 2-3 times • Don’t over-do it
  34. 34. [ effective web writing ] optimising text for search 5. Linking • Link to relevant content fairly early in body copy • Link to relevant pages every 120 words of content approx. • Link to interior pages of your site or other sites • Link with naturally relevant anchor text (no read this or click here - use keyword phrases if possible)
  35. 35. Thank you!