Writing About (Web) Writing

Dena Lorenzi PhotoAs marketing professionals, it is important to understand the fundamentals of web writing so that we can make our clients’ websites more usable, popular, and profitable. The web is a publishing medium. The content a company posts on its website is the message. Great content meets users’ needs and supports key business objectives such as generating sales. Today, the average buyer completes 57% of his sales process before ever contacting a salesperson. As part of his due diligence, a buyer will often browse a company’s website.

Different media require different types of writing. Writing for the web is fundamentally different from writing for print. Online information needs to be structured differently than printed material. Web users rarely read entire pages word-for-word. Typical visitors “only read 20% of the words on a web page”. Reading online is uncomfortable. “Reading from computer screens is tiring for the eyes and about 25% slower than reading from printed matter.” Web users scan pages, pick out key words and phrases, read in quick, short bursts, and are task oriented. To write good web copy, you need to know your audience, goal, and product.

Effective web writing involves having the right content written in the right style and formatted for efficient scanning. Website copy should be clear, concise, and compelling. A web writer needs to keep the search engines in mind, while avoiding keyword stuffing. The September 2013 “Hummingbird” update to the Google search engine focuses on natural language rather than on keywords. Google particularly likes the following content types:
• interviews,
• lists,
• resource centers,
• social content,
• surveys,
• revisions/updates,
• reviews,
• news,
• stories,
• and pricing information.
Notice how I used a list? Ideally, writers need to create web pages that are structured for both search engines and human visitors.

Finally, keep in mind that in order to be a good web writer, you need to expand your definition of “text” beyond merely copy to include visual design as well. Mike Rundle’s article on the basics of website design is a good place to start. With tailored, high-quality content and good visual design, a website will receive more return links, social shares, and higher search rankings. Effective web writing and design differentiates.

Dena A. Lorenzi, Graduate Student
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University Maryland
Photo Credit: Tina Mav
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