Writing For The Web
Engaging – it’s the word most often used to describe great content on the internet.
Readers who are engaged keep their eyes on website pages for longer, and engaged customers feel compelled to act and purchase products. Length of time on site and customer conversion are two of the most common goals for content strategies.
Video and podcasts have become popular ways of creating content, but the written word remains an important pillar of content strategies.
Writing for the web, or indeed any public medium, can feel intimidating for those unfamiliar with it – but the best strategy is to prepare and keep it simple.
Establish The Audience You Are Writing For
Central to writing content for the web is knowing the audience. Are they there to get straight answers or do they need some convincing about a product or idea?
Gathering rich audience data is not a quick exercise, but the data greatly reduces the difficulty of creating engaging content. It’s also important that your content is backed by a strategy, because without it, you are writing for no-one in particular.
Once you know who the audience is, it’s far easier to write compelling content that will attract new customers and build an audience.
Aim Your Content At The Target
Below are the main types of writing styles, and a guide to when you might use them. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to pick just one: your website may include written content in more than one style.
- Expository: Is your audience simply seeking answers? Expository is the style you need. It’s most often found on FAQ webpages and instruction manuals: ‘How large is the development? The project will occupy 600sqm of land and the building will include six storeys.’
- Persuasive: This is about using facts and figures to make a case for something – the sort of language often seen in advertisements: ‘Our new formula is now 50 per cent more effective at removing stains from wool carpets.’
- Descriptive: When you want to use words to create a picture from the point of view of the observer. This is typical of news articles: ‘Flames up to four metres high could be seen from several blocks away as the fire burned out of control.’
- Narrative: Similar to descriptive but from the point of view of the writer. Useful for case studies, testimonies or evaluations: ‘We knew the project was going to be challenging on a technical level but we also wanted to make a statement with a striking design.’
Frontload Articles To Keep Readers Keen
Make your key points early in the article, then go into more detail further down.
Writing for the web is not about building up to a conclusion or revealing information, because the readers won’t be there by the time you make your point.
This PerthNow article is a good example of an opening line: “SpaceX, the rocket company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, has launched four astronauts on a flight to the International Space Station.”
If a person read nothing else further down – and that’s sometimes how people consume content when it comes to the internet – they have the basic tenet of the story.
However, some of the audience is more likely to read on because they have a concise summary and they want to find out more.
Break Down the Wall of Words
Nothing turns off website visitors like big blocks of content – website browsers are notorious for looking at a wall of words and thinking it all looks too hard.
The web is a platform for rich storytelling in a way that newspapers and brochures cannot match, so make the most of it.
Meaningful pictures, videos and other rich content should be used to separate blocks of text and writers should make liberal use of subheadings and short sentences. Pullquotes are also useful, particularly for highlighting expertise.
Think of your content like eating out, where presentation is everything. The food itself might be perfectly cooked but if it doesn’t appear enticing on the plate, customers will take their appetites elsewhere.
Cannings Purple’s ‘The Bench’ series is a great example of the use of snappy sentences, subheadings and videos to support written content.
Get On The Write Path
Writing engaging web content is a priority for many brands because it’s highly valuable, whether they are established in the market or new and trying to cut through.
Preparation is crucial – but if you know who you’re writing for and why, you’re well on your way to success and engaging content will flow much more easily.
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