Writing for the Web 101

If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that writing for the web was a mysterious art form that only a talented few can master. Classes have been taught about it and there are certainly a ton of books on the subject. However, if you distilled all information about writing for the web, you’d realize that there is nothing extraordinary to it—in fact, the basics of writing for the web are the same rules we all learned in our high school comp and lit classes.


Be Clear

One of my favorite teachers was fond of saying, “the specific is terrific,” because she was trying to drive across the need for writers to be as descriptive as possible. The same applies to website content—the reader needs to be able to immediately comprehend what you wrote. All content, including headlines, subheads, links, labels, and navigation should all communicate clearly what lies in, under, or behind them. Your content must be clear, otherwise, you will anger or confuse your reader.


Be Concise

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the average reader has an extremely short attention span, which is why writing for the web is a minimalist affair. Every word, sentence, and paragraph should be short, precise, lean, and tight. When writing, editing is your friend—in other words, write your material, then edit it to half of your original content, if not less. For many writers, this ruthless approach to editing is difficult, but, in the end, it will also make you a better writer.


Be Compelling

Part of being a writer is also being an amateur psychologist. In other words, you need to be able to figure out what your reader wants before they do. Know what motivates your reader, and what their pain points are. Whatever it is, give your reader what they want, or else they’ll find it somewhere else. This is also known as adding value.


Be Consistent

When creating web content for a brand, it’s critical to write in a way that is consistent with how the brand typically presents itself. Pay attention to the words you use and the tone you write with. Nothing is more jarring to a reader that content that seems out of character for their favorite brand. Consistency also applies to how closely you follow brand strategy when creating content.


A Word About SEO

I really feel that the term SEO copywriting is redundant and a bit misleading. Once you’ve researched keywords, there really is no magic formula—if you focus on writing clear, concise, compelling, and consistent copy, you will naturally write keyword-dense copy. You’ll naturally write for the search engines, as well as for the reader.


So the take-home is that if you can create content that grabs your readers’ attention, answers their questions, and drives incoming links, you can finally start seeing some great search engine positions. And that is never a bad thing.

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