Writing for the Web: Part 2

Writing for the Web: Part 2

By Gerry McGovern

As we said in the last issue,writing for the Web is not the same as writing for print. People read differently on the Web. Jumping quickly from one piece of content to the next. People are much more action-orientated on the Web. They get online to get something done. Words should always be driving actions. There are 10 rules for writing effective web content.We highlighted the first 5 rules in the last issue of GLAHNews. In this issue, we’ll highlight rules 6-10:

  1. Know your reader
  2. Take a publishing approach
  3. Keep content short and simple
  4. Write active content
  5. Put content in context
  6. Write for how people search
  7. Write great headings
  8. Write great summaries
  9. Write great metadata
  10. 1 Edit. Edit. Edit.

Writing for the Web requires careful planning. Your content needs to fit well within the context of your website.When a reader finds your content, they need to be able to scan it quickly. That’s what metadata is about. Metadata is data which provides information about a resource. In order for your website to be found, you need to write for how people search.

6. Write for how people search
Write to be found when people are searching. That means using the words your target readership is using. Before you begin writing, you need to sit down and plan the keywords you will use in your content. http://www.wordtracker.com/ is an excellent website that will help you do this.

7. Write great headings

Headings are the most important piece of content you will write.

That’s because:

People scan read and the first piece of content they often read is the heading. If it’s not interesting, they’re gone.

The heading is often used as title metadata.This is what the search engines use on the search results page.

The heading may be placed on a homepage as a link to the content.

When writing headings:

  • Keep them to eight words or less
  • Make sure you include the most important keywords
  • Cut out as many adjectives and prepositions as possible (and, the, a, of)
  • Be clear and precise. Avoid Shakespearean references. Avoid being clever


8. Write great summaries, sentences, paragraphs
The summary is the: who, what, where, when, how. It’s about getting the facts across in 50 words or less. An objective of a summary is to make people want to read on. Keep them punchy and factual.

Sentences should be between 15-20 words. Paragraphs should be between 40-70 words. Remember, people scan read. If the first sentence in the paragraph is not interesting, they’ll move on. So, always lead off a paragraph with a factual sentence.

9. Write great metadata
If you can’t write good metadata (data about data), you can’t write for the Web. Metadata gives web content context. You need to see metadata as an extension of grammar. You might say that metadata is web grammar.

Classification (categorization or the act of distributing things into classes or categories of the same type) is metadata. Focus on what classification terms are used on your website. Focus on how your content is classified. It is your responsibility to ensure that your content is properly classified. Misclassified web content might as well not have been written.

Headings and summaries are metadata. Date of publication and author information are metadata. If there’s one piece of metadata that every webpage must have, it’s title metadata. Every webpage should have a unique title that precisely describes the content on that page.

10. Edit. Edit. Edit.
If at all possible, get someone else to edit your content. If you are editing someone else’s content:

  • Take your time. Good editing can take anything from 30-50 percent of the time it took to write the original content.
  • Aim to do about three edits.
  • Edit first for style and tone. Ask these questions: Is it clear? Is it necessary? Is there a shorter way to say this? Is there a simpler way to say this?
  • Leave the checking of grammar and spelling until last. For a thorough edit, print out the content. Get a ruler. Place the ruler at the end of the content and read backwards.

Gerry McGovern provides website content management solutions. For more information, please visit: http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/.



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