Best Practices for Web Writing

You have something important to write and the web is your billboard. Unfortunately, it’s easy for even the most inspiring message, novel idea, or life-changing bit of information to get lost or muddled in all the online traffic. So, what can you do to make sure your writing is reaching the right people, and holding their attention? You can know what tips to consider when writing headlines or titles, and what strategies you should implement when creating your content.

Headlines and Titles

This is your best, and perhaps your only, opportunity to attract your reader. On average, 8 of 10 people will read a headline. Only 2 of those 8 will read what follows. Think of those click bait articles at the end of a web article. You know they’re a time suck, you know you shouldn’t click on them. But you do. Titles have that power. Here’s how to get the most from your attention grabber:

  1. Keep it Useful, Unique, Urgent. Why is it worth the reader’s time? What can the reader expect to get out of the post? Why should the reader stop and read right now? Try to answer at least two of these questions.
  2. Incorporate Superlatives. Superlatives (best, most, worst, least, etc.) draw readers, but negative ones attract the most. Surprisingly, people click on negative headlines 60% more than positive ones according to an Outbrain analysis.
  3. Keep it Short. Concise titles/headlines are important for two reasons. First, we tend to absorb the first 3 words and the last 3 words of a headline. Second, only the first 70 characters will display in a Google search.

Sure, you could write “30 of the best blog titles ever…You won’t believe 17!,” but you’re probably not getting paid advertising on your site. Keep the above tips in mind, but always remember your audience. Write a title you and your intended reader would want to read. Then write some killer content.

Content

So you’ve written a catchy title and brought the reader to your blog or page. Keeping them there isn’t all about lists, links, and pictures. These help, but the presentation of your text is important too.

People read differently on the web. Rather than move left to write like with a book, our eyes scan a webpage in an “F” shape. This means people will likely read your first few sentences to know what the page is about, and then skim to the parts that attract their attention. Think of the inverted pyramid when organizing your content. Put the most important information at the top, because you know people will read it.

Then use sub-headings to guide your reader. You increase your chances of people reading the first sentence under the sub-heading because a new idea is presented. These will also help you organize your information to make sure each part of your writing is supporting the title (a.k.a. your main idea).

Readability tips:
  • Keep your text in standard black
  • White space is your friend, give the text room to breathe
  • Use a sans-serif to save your reader’s eyes
  • Stick to 3 different font sizes with 12 point being the smallest

Wrap it up

Online writing is all about getting to the point. Try not to bog down your reader with multi-clause sentences that meander. This generally isn’t the place to flex your writer muscles. In fact, less is more.

Sentences are generally less than 15 words on average. Paragraphs are 1-3 sentences, or 2-5 lines. Obviously these are recommendations more than hard and fast rules. Still, check for yourself the next time you visit your favorite site or blog.

While you’re at it, look at the headings and organization of the content. You’ll be surprised to learn they probably adhere to these guidelines. Then again, there’s a reason it’s our favorite, right?