How to write for the online reader

How to write online
A laptop (Source: Unsplash)

In this article I would like to talk about how people usually read online and how it will affect your writing.

  • People seldom read for pleasure on the Internet. Most of the time they look for particular information or research on a subject.

Use headlines to give a precise idea about the content you offer. Do not write headlines in obscure style, hoping that the reader will be intrigued by it. Most of the time, if users see no direct relevance to their search in the headline, they hit the “back” button.

  • People tend to scan rather than read, which means that they read less attentively. They also sometimes skip sections of text.

Use subheading as signposts to help your readers find better orientation in your content. Structure your text clearly: include one idea per paragraph and start your paragraph with this key idea. Use bulleted or numbered lists, where appropriate. Make sure to adjust the anchor text of your links: “learn more about our program” instead of “click here”.  Use images that support the main idea of your text and do not forget about captions, as well as <alt> and <title> tags.

  • Users generally prefer informal, easy-to-read texts

Write in shorter sentences and paragraphs. Use active voice instead of passive constructions. Apply personal pronouns instead of naming yourself or the user (“we” instead of “our company”, “you” instead of “the reader”).

  • Readers respect authoritative sources and look for supportive data

Do not hesitate to quote other sites in your content, as long as they have authority and credibility. Also, avoid exaggerated language and try to convince readers based on facts about your products or services. Include any important details or technical data, but place them in separate sections on your website, not on the main page. If you link to documents for download, mention the format and the size of the file.

  • Users expect up-to-date content

Set up “an expiry date” for every piece of content you produce, either in your CMS system  or in your editorial calendar. Some articles will have longer “life” than others (food recipes vs live-ticker of a football match).  Make sure to review and update the articles regularly. Also, periodically curate and improve the existing content, especially on pages with higher bounce rates. 

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Author: Elena

I acquired a BA degree in International Business with a specialization in Marketing from Nuremberg Technical School and a parallel degree from Leeds Metropolitan University. In 2013-2014, I worked in the field of performance and conversion optimization with an IT company and then was employed in content marketing. In 2016, I went back to working with Web Analytics and gained additional experience in project management. During this time, I received an Award of Achievement in Digital Analytics from the University of British Columbia (Canada). Currently, I am employed in Online Marketing. My areas of specialization include online marketing strategy, content creation, web analytics, conversion optimization and usability.

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