Step #1 Know your target audience
It sounds simple, but many people create content before thinking about who it is they’re trying to reach. Before putting out content, ask yourself: Who is my primary audience? What about a secondary audience who can influence and inform my primary audience? How will they find my site online?
Web-users take various routes to find content —social media sharing, links from other websites, email sharing, and search engine results. Optimizing for search engines is essential when you create content for the web. Even if the text is well-written and informative, people won’t find it if it’s not optimized for search engines. Think of your audience again: what search terms would they type into Google? Make sure to include those terms in headlines and sub-headers.
Step #2 Write in the inverted pyramid style
Internet consumers have short attention spans—they’ll bounce in seconds if your site doesn’t provide the information they need. When writing for the web you should structure your content like an upside-down pyramid. Put your most important information first then gradually drill down to the more specific, supporting information. End with tangential details.
Step #3 Write short, clear sentences
The short attention span of today’s reader demands sentences of 35 words or fewer. According to webpagefx.com, the average American adult reads at a 7th to 9th-grade level. Therefore website content that’s easy to read will naturally reach a wider audience. Use primarily nouns and verbs, use adverbs and adjectives rarely.
Step #4 Use the active voice
For instance, instead of writing “A letter was written by me,” prefer to use “I write a letter.” Rather than writing “Products can be ordered on our website,” say “You can order products on our website.” Active voice helps create concise, reader-friendly sentences. And more direct as well. When you say “You can do it” it’s more engaging than saying “It can be done.”
Step #5 Show, don’t tell
Don’t limit your style to high-level statements and platitudes. Specific, tangible examples help readers visualize and therefore to better understand your messages.
Think about these two descriptions:
This is the best butterscotch money can buy.
Crunchy toffee and smooth dark chocolate. Treacly and savory flavors.
Which description gives you a better sense of the type of the butterscotch? Specific details in the second version show readers the dog bone rather than tell them about it. Descriptive product information is not only better for your Google Ranking it also gives customers the information they need to make those purchases.
We love the product descriptions on chocolate maker Green and Black.—they explain in mouthwatering detail why their chocolate is the best choice.
Step #6 Avoid jargon
The web is for everyone—It’s not only used by technical experts anymore. Spell out acronyms on first reference. Avoid insider language. Explain complex or niche terms. And provide hyperlinks to other articles where readers can get more background information on a particular topic. This tip is particularly important if you work in a technical industry, but want to reach out to customers who aren’t experts in this field. Remember that you need to write for your audience and not for your colleagues.
Step #7 Write for scanners
Ensure the text is easy to scan. Most readers will skim the webpage to find the specific piece of information they’re searching for—if they don’t find it easily, they’ll bounce.
- Use bulleted or numerical lists rather than text-heavy paragraphs. Organize content into labeled tabs instead of one long page of text.
- Always include “white space.” An empty space that surrounds paragraphs, images, and other elements on your web page. Some might think it is just wasted space, but it’s actually a web designer’s best friend. Reasonable amounts of white space around the text make it more enjoyable to read.
- It’s also important to divide content into sections with descriptive sub-headers.
Step #8 Integrate multimedia
Many times a picture or video—really is worth a thousand words. Research shows that 90 percent of the information transmitted to the human brain is visual, and people process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. A reader-friendly chart can explain a complex topic better than text alone.
Images also help break up text, improving the readability of your webpage. Our recommendation is to have at least one image on each page of your website.
Step #9 Hyperlink to other relevant resources
A good thing about a website is the opportunity to direct readers from one page to another. This helps readers find more relevant content by hyperlinking certain words or phrases to other content preferably on your own website. This will help keep people engaged with your content and moving through your site.
Imagine this sentence appeared on your cooking blog: I love these stewed apples so much. They’d also be insanely good on oatmeal or overnight oats for breakfast.
You could hyperlink “overnight oats” to recipes. Building these internal links helps your Google Ranking, but don’t overload your text with links, people won’t know what to click on. Google recommends keeping the number of hyperlinks on a page to a “reasonable number.”
Step #10 Call-to-action
Good websites end each page with a strong call-to-action (CTA).
Here are a few different actions an audience can get called to carry out:
In this type of call-to-action, the audience might be invited to sign up for a free trial, an online course, a future event, or even a software product. It all depends on the context.
Instead of committing a person to a purchase this CTA invites them to receive updates from the company. “Subscribe” CTAs are common for newsletters or company blogs.
Try for free.
Almost every corporate webpage has a free trial offer. This CTA allows people to demo a product before deciding if it’s worth the cost to them.
It can drive a variety of behaviors for a company, from a free trial to virtual reality experience.
You can use this CTA to give your potential customers a little more information so they’re prepared to buy something.
If you manage an online community or your product is built on collaboration between users. You might want to use “join us” CTA somewhere on your webpage.
Here’s an example of what a call-to-action button can look like on your website.