Six ways online writing is unique

How to write for the web

How writing for the web differs from print writing

It's so much easier to follow a recipe or how-to instructions when they're broken down into bite-sized pieces. One step at a time gets the job done. 

It's no different when you're reading something online. So how do you make things easy to follow for your online readers? Here are six things to consider.

1. Structure

You’ll notice this article is presented as a list. There’s a reason for this. Online readers don’t read left to right, like they would when devouring the latest Stephen King horror novel.

Online, people scan. You can help them do this by breaking things down in several different ways:

  • headings
  • bullet points 
  • numbers
  • bolding 
  • text callouts 
  • pull out quotes

  • These tricks keep readers engaged with what you have to say! If you want to read more about formatting web content, check this out.

    It also helps if you significantly shorten things, which brings us to our next point.

    2. Length

    Tracing words on a screen can slow down reading by 30%. That’s why web articles are shorter than printed ones. So are the sentences. See what I did there? 

    Web audiences also linger longer on webpages with shorter paragraphs. These are often chopped down to just two lines. Which reminds me: time to start a new one. 

    Thing is, in print you have a sort-of captive audience. Online, readers are like the Tasmanian Devil in Looney Tunes – easily distracted and a little bit hyperactive. 

    You’re competing for Taz’s attention with the entire world of information. Well, the entire world except for your internet white whale. You know, that song that’s been stuck in your head since childhood. Doesn’t matter what you google, that bastard never shows up for you.

    3. Hook them in

    Your readers probably won’t finish reading your article, research shows. That’s why you need to hook them straight away. Online copywriters are the Captain Hooks of the internet, knowing all the tricks of the trade to reel readers right in.  

    One surefire way of hooking readers is to let them know immediately what the story is about, rather than letting things subtly unfold, as print articles often do. This makes for longer, more explanatory headlines, and spell-it-out intros.

    4. Links

    You probably want to keep readers on your page until they choose you over the competitor. Links are nifty little things that guide readers where you want them to go, provide additional information and act as calls to action – that is, get them to buy your product or service.

    5. SEO

    SEO or search engine optimisation is the word on everyone’s lips these days. They’re those magic keywords that make your name appear higher than the competition’s when someone googles you.

    SEO terms can be sneaked into everything from the headline to subheads to the photo caption. The trick is not to go SEO-heavy at the expense of quality content that rewards your reader and makes you look like an expert in your field.

    6. Tone

    Your tone will always depend on your brand and readership. Generally though, online readers tend to like an informal, colourful style of writing, sometimes with snippets about the writer’s personal life thrown in. 

    Imagine chatting to an old friend – the one who knew you when you wore braces and is sworn to secrecy about your enduring love for boy bands – and you have a good idea of what writing for the web sounds like.

    How are you doing?

    So are you using the right words for your website or article to scream, “pick me!” in the vast sea of online information? Carefully consider how you phrase and organise your message. Getting this right makes all the difference in the success of your business. 

    If you need help finding your voice or reaching the right people, get in touch. We’re waiting to hear from you!

    Image above courtesy of Taylor Johnson


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