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Writing for the Web: Tips, Tricks and Standards

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Andy Crestodina – Enjoy!

Best practice pinned on noticeboardIt’s the dawn of a new day in content marketing and there’s rain in the forecast. We’re about to see a downpour of web copy.

More than ever, PR firms, social media marketers, and search optimizers are rushing to push out more web content for clients. The number of marketers who are writing for the web is exploding. Thus, so is the need for each article and blog post to stand out from the competition. And the best copy will win.

Copying and pasting a great piece of writing into your CMS doesn’t instantly a make it great page. Writing for the web is different, but it’s not hard. Even if you’re a self-publishing business owner, there are some simple techniques you can use to make your content stand out and be useful to your customers.

Here’s a quick guide with seven tips for writing web content:

1. Brevity

Keep it short. Use short sentences to break up the rhythm, and avoid long, blocky paragraphs at all costs. Ideally, no paragraphs are longer than four lines. Designers know the value of white space. Writers need to understand this, too.

Each visitor is paying you with their attention. If your copy is any longer than it needs to be to convey the meaning of a page, you’re charging your visitors more than necessary. Just like a product, you can lower the price of your content and make it more accessible to more readers.

But yes, there’s a time and a place for 2000-word, epic blog posts (like this one).

2. Align Pages with Phrases

This may be the single greatest factor in how many people will read the page. A search-friendly page, aligned with a good key phrase, may be read hundreds of times more than a page written without search in mind.

There are two skills required for basic SEO: researching key phrases and on-page SEO. There are step-by-step instructions for each in these two articles:

Follow the instructions on those posts. You’ll see a lot more visits in the long run.

3. Formatting

Hook them with your headline, then keep them hooked with subheaders and more formatting down the page. Visitors are more likely to scan than read (just keep your own reading habits in mind and write for them. Others are likely the same). The visual prominence of text formatting helps them scan your writing easily.

  • Headers and subheaders
  • Bullet lists and numbered lists
  • Bolding and italics
  • Short paragraphs
  • Internal links
  • Images -  especially charts, graphs and icons

Yes, we’re writing for the web, but we’re doing it with formatting in mind.

4. Use an image

Great pages have great images. Especially if it’s a blog post, you must have an image. If there is no image, the post will not be visually prominent when shared in the social networks. The best images are interesting enough to stand on their own.

5. Internal links

Internal linking between pages is a great way to help visitors find related content. It also helps search engines learn what your site is about. When the text within a link includes the target keyphrase of the page it links to, it helps indicate the page’s relevance to Google.

Make sure your web copy doesn’t miss an opportunity to create an internal link.

6. Calls to action

The visitor on your site is having an experience. And user experience is about creating a path for these visitors. Don’t make the page a dead end. Set links at the end of pages to take the visitor to pages with more services and more evidence of your capabilities. Or guide them straight to the contact page to start the conversation.

7. Remember: Digital Ink is Never Dry.

Remember, it’s the Internet, so you can go back and change things anytime. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s better to post something that’s 90% finished today than wait three months to post the final-final-final version.

Web copy is often posted very late, way past deadline. This hurts ROI, and it’s usually unnecessary. If your brand team, HR department, and uncle Murray want to review that paragraph one more time, they can read it once it’s live. If they see a problem, everyone will feel a bit of urgency to fix it.

Set your Standards

All great posts meet certain blogging criteria. Adapt this list to meet your own standards for topics, length, tone, frequency and quality. Share those standards with others within your organization.

Now everything that passes through your workflow will be of higher quality. Soon, you’ll be writing for the web like a pro, and your editorial calendar will be filled with web content that outperforms the competition.

Andy Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a  Chicago ecommerce company.  He’s also the author of  Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. You can find Andy on Google+ and Twitter.

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