How to Write for the Web – A Technical and Creative Approach

Author: Jack Martin

If you look back at one of the very first blogs on this site, you’ll find the adage that web strategists have said for years, “Content is king, linking is queen.” We all know content rich in keywords and links is a search engine’s best friend. Yet when we write web content, we often get so bogged down by grammar and style that we forget about the technical side of the website writing game. Of course, writing well in the digital age is still important. To some, a poorly written site may indicate a sloppy business approach – an impression you want to avoid!  However, bear in mind that good online writing combines traditional writing with technology and creativity.

Here are four online writing tips to show you how to write for the web in a more effective way:

Keep website writing short and concise.

Don’t write a book!  Keep in mind that in this world of Blackberries and high speed internet, web visitors’ time and patience is in short supply.  Write as clearly as possible and avoid unnecessary words or sentences. A good rule of thumb is to keep the information to one full screen.

Divide content into small chunks.

When writing web content, allow both people and search engines to easily read it by using bulleted lists or section headings. Bonus points for incorporating a strong keyword or phrase into each heading!

Write web content with a keyword density of 1 to 10%.

While it is fairly easy to plug relevant keywords into Title and Meta tags, it can be difficult to incorporate the same words or phrases into your content without it sounding choppy or just plain boring. This is where the technical and creative sides of website writing come in.  Locate a variety of relevant keywords or phrases and limit each one’s use to between two and three percent of your web copy. (All keywords and phrases together should account for one to ten percent of your web content). This way, you won’t have to use the same one or two keywords repeatedly.  Google’s Keyword Tool is an amazing resource for finding similar words and phrases that you would never have thought of on your own.  Finding ways to fit these words or phrases sensibly into a sentence can be a fun exercise, but don’t force a term into a space where it just won’t fit.

This brings us to linking…

When you write web content, keep in mind that the search engine world is a lot like a popularity contest. One of the criteria search engines use to judge your web site is the number of quality web links to and from it. This is why it is especially important to cite any sources you use along with their URL. Don’t overdo it however, and don’t link to just any website. Make sure any site you link to is legitimate and also check out its Google Page Rank. Experienced web writers know that the quality of links is more important than the quantity. These online writing tips should help you write web content in a more efficient and effective way. If you doubt your online writing skills, test them on colleagues or a small market research group.  Be sure to get their honest opinion of whether the copy flows, relies too heavily on inappropriate keywords or links, and accurately reflects your organization’s brand strategy. To learn more about writing web content, the following resources might help: Writing for the Web by Jakob Nielsen

So my colleagues out in cyberspace, how did I do? Can you locate some of the keywords I’ve used in this post?  Does it maintain a decent keyword density? Are there enough links?