Writing For The Internet
by Chris Genge
Writing for the Internet, whether you call it e-copy, web copy, web text, or website content… is essentially a craft.
Ordinary Writing With A Job To Do
Most websites contain text copy written primarily for the benefit of the visitor. Websites however, really have two very different audiences: people and search engine-indexing spiders. Both require a different style of writing and yet both need to be addressed by the writing. While this may be best left to the talents of a professional web content writer, for now I will explore some basic rules that technical writers use for crafting their writing to serve both.
If it means business, then your writing should attempt to grab the reader’s attention… quickly. From there it must be engaging enough to keep them reading until you have successfully led them into taking some form of action.
Writing For The Two Audiences
In reality, it is perhaps more important that your website copy satisfy the needs of the search engines. After all, in order to become visible to your second audience (the visitor) your website must first receive adequate ranking by your first audience (the search engines) and be listed near the top of the listing results… preferably within the first two pages.
Let's first consider your website's second audience, the visitor. Most website visitors come looking for something specific and they want it fast so your website better deliver.
Writers must clarify their goals and understand the purpose of the website. The site's "unique selling proposition" or USP, must be in line with the visitor's purpose for being there. Writers must know the type of person being targeted and then write in a conversational style that is simple and direct.
Concise Writing & Clear Heading Helps Visitors
We tend to read differently from computer screens than from other offline print mediums. Basically we don't read… we skim read, ignoring details to better our reading speed. For this reason website text content must be more objective, more concise and easier to browse through. The message must be written so it can be easily scanned.
Every word on the page must fight for its rightful place and stay true to that old adage "less is more." The opening statement must first solve the visitor's problem. The body of the page should then list the benefits, not the features.
Writers ask how the product or company features translate into customer benefits. What are the benefits for the visitor is choosing this product or service? Navigating through web page content must also be intuitive for the visitor. What works best are proven layout formats and conventions that most visitors easily understand.
Closing statements must offer an effortless "call to action" using the easiest, most direct route for the visitor to take, to get what they came for. The call to action must be clear-cut with rewards that are irresistible and reaffirms for the visitor why this is something they need.
Satisfy Your Site's First Audience…The Search Engines
For most, this is a hidden problem when it comes to crafting their writing. What the search engines want is completely different from what visitors are looking for.
The writing needs to be keyword rich with relevant content that supports the keyword phrases being targeted within the page. When a searcher types in a "keyword phrase" the search engine tries to match up web pages in the order that it thinks is the most relevant to the searcher's request. Essentially, the search engine scans through its database looking for web pages that contain the keywords used by the searcher. Using an algorithm (a mathematical formula based on hundreds of pre-set criteria) it then ranks the web pages from those deemed most relevant to those deemed least relevant.
Web page copy must therefore be written to satisfy the "keyword criteria" needs of the search engines in order to be ranked at the top of the listing results. Web pages that consistently maintain high rankings are usually constructed with excellent keyword rich html text on static pages.
"Search Engine Friendly" Copy -Give Them What They Want
Professional web content writers understand this and write keyword rich text content that satisfies the needs of the search engines while still being valid for the visitor.
Once they research and understand what phrases visitors are using to find what a site is offering, they choose their keyword phrases carefully. Each page is then written to be content rich around a theme that supports a main targeted keyword. Inevitably writers will use variations of a keyword phrase (or other less compelling keyword phrases that relate to a particular theme) and work them into the copy as well.
Search engines look at a variety of criteria as they relate to keyword phrases including keyword frequency, weight, prominence, proximity and placement within the text and within the html. While each search engine has its own criteria there are a few accepted norms for keyword placement within the text content and within the html coding. It is the writers' responsibility to understand and utilize these norms.
Spam techniques like hidden layers or hidden text should be avoided to protect your site from being penalized or banned all together. While individual pages should contain unique content they still must work to support the targeted keyword phrases throughout the site.
Use Writing That Makes Both People And Search Engines Happy
Writing for the Internet is a craft that has its own style and set of rules and peculiarities… especially, when it is trying to address both people and search engines. As such, it is imperative that your content be well written/ crafted to satisfy these two distinctly different audiences. Remember, before it can convert visitors into clients, your website must first satisfy the needs of its first audience, the search engines, and achieve top rankings with them so that it can become more visible to your second audience, the searcher…your customer.
About the author:
Chris Genge is the President of 1st on the List Promotion Inc, a professional website promotion firm. He writes on current and emerging search engine marketing theories. Chris has been involved in the SEO industry since its very early days, and has since 1997, focused on researching and implementing the most effective search engine optimization techniques. To learn more visit http://www.1stonthelist.ca/
The author grants permission to reprint this article in all venues so long as it is not used in spam, and the copyright and by-line are included intact. Email notification of your intent to publish would be greatly appreciated.
Copyright December 2003
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