Writing for the web is different to writing for print. Most of us have a very short attention span when it comes to reading on screen and we usually scan the page rather than read it word for word. We might look at the first paragraph, but only glance at the rest of the page for headings and words that might be interesting.
As a rule of thumb, you should use about half as many words on web page than you would in print. Your main heading and first paragraph are the most important text and it needs to concisely describe what the page is about and why it might be interesting to the reader.
You also need to break the page up with short paragraphs and sub-headings. Each paragraph should contain just one or two statements. Don’t try to be clever with headings – keep them clear and to the point. Use bulleted lists to show a number of points concisely and highlight keywords and phrases, adding hyperlinks where appropriate.
Avoid too much marketing speak, because people will switch-off very quickly. Focus on the facts and use objective language where possible. Even taglines should be obvious – ‘Quality wooden toys and an affordable price’ is better than something a little more abstract like ‘your child’s happiness doesn’t have to cost the earth’, for example.
When writing headlines, make sure the first couple of words include what the subject of the article is about. Eye-tracking studies have shown that people will scan down the left-hand side of text for keywords and might therefore miss them if they are left until the end of the heading.
Remember that some people will give up pretty quickly when looking at a webpage, maybe not even making the effort to scroll down, so keep your key text at the top of the page where it will be more likely to be noticed.
Your text should focus on what you think your target audience would most want to know, but bear in mind that there could be a vast range of people coming your site. Where possible, keep the language simple and avoid too many technical terms, especially on the home page.
There are, of course, occasions when you can break the rules. People might be coming to your website to hear your opinion or be entertained by your wit, and so you should write accordingly. This is particularly the case with blogs and reviews, but even then you need to grab people with a clear headline and punchy opening.
It goes without saying that all your content should be spell-checked and make grammatical sense. Errors can be jarring for the reader and can take the shine off what is otherwise a very professional website, so get someone else to read it all through as soon as it goes live.
Remember that content is king and that what you write can have a significant impact on whether someone is impressed enough to drop you a line.