7 Tips for Writing for the Web

By Ian Heinig / 19 June 2018

The #1 priority for small businesses in 2018 is to improve their web content. Here are seven ways to improve your web writing and your content strategy.

We’re very efficient at hunting for information online. For example, we no longer read websites but scan them. Web content that doesn’t instantly capture our interest is quickly exchanged for the hope of something better.

According to a recent survey, the top priority for small businesses in 2018 is to create more high-quality web content. If you’re keen to improve your web content, your writing must first cater to the search behaviors of consumers. 

This means creating, formatting, and stylizing your web content in a way that maximizes the appeal, acquisition and retention of information by visitors. 

Here are seven web writing tips to help you hook prospects, nurture engagement, and drive revenue:

  1. Assist with scanning 
  2. Captivate with headlines
  3. Write to your audience
  4. Avoid jargon and technical language
  5. Split apart paragraphs
  6. Use headings
  7. Be concise

1. Assist with Scanning

Online content is scanned in an F-shaped pattern. This shortcut allows the reader to easily locate keywords and interesting page elements amidst the text.

First, the reader moves his or her eyes across the text line in a horizontal motion. The same happens on the next line, except the second scan typically covers less area than the first. This forms the two bars of the “F.” 

Lastly, the reader vertically scans the left side of the page, forming the F-shape. 

The following image is a heatmap that shows where people focused most while reading this page.

Page scanning patternsSource

Words at the top and on the left side of the page received the most view-time. The takeaway here is that keyword placement matters. 

Especially at the start of a page, begin your sentences with keywords to maximize engagement. 

2. Captivate with Headlines

Most people read the headline but ignore the rest. According to Copyblogger, 80% of people will read a headline, yet only 20% will read the body copy

A good headline captures the reader’s attention. This compels them to read the first sentence. In turn, the first sentence should pull the reader towards the second sentence – and so forth. 

But without a good headline, there’s no forward motion and no interest. Here are some techniques for writing irresistible headlines:

  • Use current events (How Google’s Algorithm Changes Will Disrupt Your Business)
  • Shock the reader (Why Facebook Secretly Gave Away All Your Data)
  • Be specific to signal honesty (How I Earned $3, 783 in One Day with Social Media) 
  • Ask questions (Do You Know How to Make Money From LinkedIn Advertising?)
  • Excite the emotions (7 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Rich with Email Marketing)
  • Incite curiosity (5 Ways to Cut Your Churn Rate You’ve Never Heard of Before)

3. Write to Your Audience

The best web content sounds human. Do you come off as enthusiastic? Genuine? Relatable? If you sound robotic, visitors will bounce in search of more interesting content. 

Try to write in a conversational tone. Use informal language, contractions, and address the reader as “you” and “we.” Anecdotes, humor, and even sarcasm can help your audience develop a sense for your company. These personal touches will help the reader feel at home on your website. 

In the example below, Slack uses a blend of keywords and commonplace speech to hook its visitors. 

Screenshot of Slack ad

The informal yet professional tone here reads like a chat with a well-informed friend. To strike the right chord with customers, be genuine and approachable.

4. Avoid Jargon and Technical Language

Web visitors are put-off by unknown words. Remember, most people don’t yet know or understand your product or service. It’s best to discuss your offering in layman's terms.

Technical language has a home – on your product page. Anyone in the beginning stages of your marketing funnel will be clueless when faced with these terms. Likewise, industry jargon will either confuse or sound condescending.

To avoid these situations, use language that’s accessible to everyone. Save the special lingo for dealing with qualified leads, and even then, use sparingly.

5. Split Apart Paragraphs

A typical paragraph is too long to scan. To improve the readability of your website, break paragraphs into smaller blocks. These shortened paragraphs should be no more than 1-3 lines of text, or 1-2 sentences.

Adding negative space to the page makes the text more easy to browse and understand.

Neil Patel is the master of the mini-paragraph. His blogs use single-sentence paragraphs to reduce the perceived effort of understanding complex topics, as shown here.

Screenshot of Neil Patel articleSource

The white space helps with page scanning and improves the user experience. Similarly, reducing the size of your paragraphs will help promote user engagement and retention on your website.

6. Use Headings

Headings are signposts for your web content. 

For those keen to scan before reading, headings announce what’s to come. If someone wants to scroll to a certain section, the heading will guide them.

Visitors appreciate headings because they section text into more manageable chunks. This makes it easier to remember your place among ideas, steps, or arguments. 

Use headings to make your website more readable, navigable, and understandable.

7. Be Concise

The best web writing is brief yet comprehensive. 

The more linear your writing, the faster your audience can derive value from it. The faster your visitors can find a solution, the more likely they are to return.

Conversely – each unnecessary word or phrases reduces the chances of a return visit.

Here are some tips for shortening your web writing:

  • Avoid adverbs that lengthen sentences
  • Replace two-word phrasal verbs (“bogged down”) with singular verbs (“delayed”)
  • Use bullet lists when appropriate
  • Keep sentences shorter than 15 words (seen below, the Hemingway app can help)

How to Write for the Web

Time and attention is scarce for online consumers. 

Web writing relies on brevity, formatting, and style to appeal to browsing web visitors.

Use these seven tactics to grab attention, improve your website user experience, and promote engagement.

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