Why is it important to write your copy in a specific style for websites, as opposed to print or other media? It has been shown that reading habits on screen vary greatly from reading habits off screen. People are much more task-oriented online, and read at least 25% slower on screen. It's a good idea to write about half the amount of text for a web page that you would ordinarily write for an offline document.
Successful website copy is about keeping all your information organised in bite-sized chunks, tailoring your content to your audience, and presenting information in a way that can be easily scanned and searched.
1. Present Information Concisely
Visitors want information in bite-size chunks, and they want it now. Usability studies have shown that very few users (around 15%) actually read the text on a web page word-for-word. Rather, the vast majority of users scanned the content looking for keywords or phrases that either contained the information they wanted or possessed some relevance to their interest.
Page titles and meta descriptions are used by people and search engines - make sure they are relevant and concise and help to lead the user to the information they're searching for.
Here are some tips for keeping your content brief:
- Write concise sentences.
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Use subheadings to break up content
- Provide a summary or overview of key points for longer articles before providing the details.
- Provide clear, concise calls to action.
2. Use Bullet Points
Titles and bullet points are the most-read copy on the page. Lists are preferable to paragraphs because they are easier to read and scan, and also carry an implication of succinct information. Make sure that your bullet pointed information is concise, and not just your descriptive text with bullet points applied!
The following list shows which words tend to be read on a bullet list ("word" is read content; "ignored" is ignored content):
- Word word word word ignored
- Word word word ignored ignored
- Word ignored ignored ignored ignored
- Ignored ignored ignored ignored ignored
- Word word ignored ignored ignored
- It makes sense to write your bullet points then reorganise their placement according to importance.
3. Write Search Engine Optimised Copy
The content of your website is critical to its success on many levels; it can have an effect on your website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) rankings (Google places emphasis on sites with well-structured content). Search Engine algorithms are made up of many factors and complex calculations. Why not make the most of the one factor that you have complete control over - your content?
Overall, good SEO copy has:
- A minimum of 300 words per page.
- Between 7% and 9% keywords per page.
- One principal topic per page.
- Links to other relevant pages on the website.
- Succinct, page and paragraph headings that are also rich in keywords.
- Summary bullet points.
Keep your formatting clean and tidy. Most users want to find information succinctly and won't have time to appreciate a plethora of font styles, colours and sizes.
- Use the same font across all pages. A web-standard sans serif font such as Arial or Verdana is easy to read and ensures that your text will be viewable across all browsers and to all users.
- Underlined text is the standard convention to differentiate links form other text. Don't underline text if it isn't a link as this confuses and frustrates users.
- Use bold text to highlight important words or phrases.
- Avoid using all capital letters, even for headings - it is the web equivalent of SHOUTING!
- If you intend to use images or graphics in the content area of your site, make sure they are of a consistent style, and do not detract from the content itself.
- It's a good idea to ensure images are resized so that they don't increase page download times. If you want users to have an option to view a full size image, have the low resolution web version on the page, and then link that image to the higher resolution version.
- Remember to use a caption for each image - alternative text is an important usability aspect for users who have images turned off or who are using assistive devices (such as screen readers).
5. Provide Content For Offline Reading
Sometimes you may have a lot of information that your users need to read in full: case studies, white papers or reports for example. Allow your users to choose whether they want to read it online or offline. Rather than uploading the content of a long document, you can create a link to the document so it can be downloaded for offline reading. PDF documents are generally accepted as the web standard - they also look more professional and Acrobat Reader is free to download. Finally, ensure the document is titled appropriately for your website (rename the working file title if required).
6. Check Speling, Grammer And Punktuation
A website with content that contains grammatical and spelling errors can lack credibility and doesn't cast the business in a favourable light. How thorough and focused on quality do your potential clients think you will be if you haven't taken the time to check your website copy that is made public internationally?
For any further information or resources about content writing for the web, please contact Will Nuttall on 07 3300 0494 or firstname.lastname@example.org