Number 1 Tip on Writing for the Web

Writing for the WebI recently saw a link to an article listing 50 blog post ideas for writers. Some people have commented that the titles seem formulaic and targeted at search engines rather than human readers. But I see it differently. I think the suggested post titles reflect the way people actually read on the web, which means we need to reconsider how we’re writing for the web.

Reading an article online is very different to reading a magazine. Magazines have a limited number of articles in an issue. After an initial flip through the pages, people are likely to return to the articles that interest them and peruse them in greater depth.

That’s not what happens on the web.

Web PageWhen you’re surfing the web the number of pages available to you is ginormous. Often a cursory skim is all your page will get before a reader decides to move on, never to return. You have to make those seconds count.

Web usability studies have measured the way people look at web pages – where their eyes come to rest and for how long. These studies show that bold text, headings, and numbered lists help readers quickly find information they’re looking for in your article. You can choose to make that task easier for them or not. It’s up to you.

Sure, those titles with their lists and tips may seem formulaic. They look like they were based on search terms. And you know what? They probably were. Because that’s exactly how people use the web. You have to decide who you’re writing for. Is it yourself, or your readers?

If you’re only writing for yourself, feel free to write in any way you see fit. But here’s my number one tip for writing on the web: if you’re writing for an internet audience, you should match your writing style to the way it is likely to be read.