Creating Content for the Web

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I have written about Web Writing before, but it is a very broad topic, and an important one as well. Those writer’s interested in writing good web content have the potential of being very successful with the right knowledge and tools.

Writing for the web is very different from writing a novel, article, poem or school paper. Very rarely do readers on the web read a page word for word, instead they spend most of their time ‘scanning‘ a page in search of information, or something that catches their eye. It is this ‘scanning‘ instinct that makes web writing an often complex avenue for writers to navigate and succeed in on the large-scale. With a little effort and some basic knowledge you can achieve success writing for the web. Many writers have found satisfying careers online and have even created reputable names for themselves as web writers.

Online audiences are generally in search of specific information, and quite often they are doing so on a limited time schedule, because of this web readers have a tendency to ‘scancontent. If you want to attract readers to your content it is important that you make your site ‘scan-able‘, this can be done in many ways…

How to Create Scan-able Content:

  • Use Highlighted Keywords. This can be done simply by using a bold font, or with a different typeface or color. You want to draw attention to the keywords so readers can quickly and efficiently find the information they are looking for without added time or in-depth reading.
  • Use Clear Headings, and even clearer sub-headings. Headings and sub-headings help to break-up your content and allow readers to quickly find what they are looking for. Don’t aim to be clever, as you would with a newspaper or book title, instead ensure that your headings explain what the content is about in as much detail and as few words as possible. Using content specific titles and headlines will make your content easier to locate through search engines, and more reader-friendly for web-based audiences wanting to quickly located the information the need.
  • Utilize the bulleted list option. Lists are far easier to read then lengthy paragraphs, and they naturally draw the reader’s eye to the information they provide. Use lists and bullets to highlight important information that you want your readers to see more clearly.
  • Be clear from the start. Being clever and catchy is important, but being clear is the key to successful writing on the web. Begin your post by clearly stating what you are writing about or your run the risk of losing your readers right out of the gate. Start with a clear outline of your content and work from there. Ensure that you are putting the most important information at the beginning of your post, and the less important content towards the end. Don’t forget to sum up everything you have written in closing as well, this helps readers to retain what they have read and allows them to see if they have missed anything while scanning the content.
  • Short and Sweet. A general rule of web writing is to keep it short and sweet. This applies to your paragraphs, which should only house one thought per paragraph, as well as your word count, where less is always more. Web readers live busy lives and often have a thousand other sites to visit along with yours, keeping your content to a minimum will keep your readers happy and actually encourage them to spend more time on your site. Feature only the most important information and save the rest for another time and place. Web writing can be beneficial because it allows you to create future content based on the short posts you have already written. Each post has the potential of turning into ten more through links to past content, and expansion of future content on your site.
  • Back up your facts. With the magnitude of information available online it can be difficult to tell what is true and what is false, be sure you support any facts with evidence. Credibility can also be achieved using graphics, professional writing, and outside links to similar information or sites. Using links will show your readers that you have done your research and that you are not afraid to direct them to other sites, it will also help generate more traffic to yours in the long run. Be sure to cite any sources you have used to gather information and give credit to those authors that may have inspired your post from content that was written on their site. Not only is this important for professionalism and general politeness, it is also a great way to gather readers from other areas of the online community that may not have found your site otherwise.

Web writing can be a rewarding career or an enjoyable hobby. It is a great way for beginning freelancers to break into writing and make a name for themselves. You can easily gather followers and fans with good writing, and you can help readers from all different walks of life learn and discover new information and ideas.

If you have the desire to succeed, and you create content that is easily read and rich with information, you can potentially earn a fair income writing online content in various forms. Whether you choose to write for yourself, or you gain a contract writing online content for another source the basics always remain the same. You simply need to remember that online readers want to find the information they are looking for quickly, and they want detail without hassle. If you make your site ‘scan-able,’ providing the essential information in an easy to read format, you will succeed as a web writer, a world in which the sky is the limit.

Until Next Time…

Write On!

Do you have any advice for aspiring web writers?
What has your online writing experience been like?
Do you have any questions or concerns that you want addressed?

Feel free to post in the comment section below, or send your inquires, questions or submissions to:
perfectlyprompted@live.ca 

Print vs Web – Interesting Facts for the Online Writer

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In this information age the World Wide Web is the go-to for everything from news to reviews. It is the main source of information today, and it is great place for a writer to build themselves a name and get their content published. Although, writing for the web is very different from writing a newspaper or magazine article and it is these simple, yet important, differences that can make or break a writers online pursuit.

Web Readers want to go places, they are engaged in what they are reading and are often in search of specific information. They know there is a plethora of sites to see and they want to keep moving.

Print Readers are aiming more towards relaxation and are in a relatively passive state. They are geared towards being entertained, and are often seeking pleasure rather than factual information.

The differences between writing for print (such as a newspaper article) and writing for the web may seem simple, but they require some basic knowledge of reading styles, and a different approach to the content itself.

Headlines are the first place that you will notice a difference between print writing and the online media. Where a newspaper might use a catchy headline to grab a reader’s attention, web writers need to be very specific in their wording in order to have their content found in the search engine results. A rule of thumb for online headlines is that they must have keywords, details, and facts. A newspaper has the advantage of attaching a visible photo which coupled with the catchy headline, helps to reel readers in through curiosity. Web writing relies on search engines to gather readers and most titles are listed in plain text, thus they must clearly state what the piece is about. An article about the effects of ballet on the feet in a newspaper might get away with a title of ‘Tippy Toes‘, but online it would be lost among the excess of articles, and would surely be beaten out in the search engine by results that are more specifically worded.

When you are writing headlines for a piece online you must consider exactly what a reader will type into the search engine in order to find your page, the closer you are to their wording, the higher you are on the lengthy search results list. Clarity over cleverness is key to writing on the web, and clarity can be achieved by using informative text in the first 3 words of your headline. Web writers speed read and scan and thus they rarely see a link in its entirety, be sure you catch their attention with clear, concise headlines and follow-up with easy to read factual information.

The web is aimed towards more specific information, so an article about the effects of ballet on the feet should include reviews of ballet shoes, solutions to the issues, and suggestions for preventive measures. Where a newspaper article will skim the surface of an issue, feeding you the basics you need to know, an online article needs to dig deep and cover all the bases. A good online article will tell you not only how to avoid, ease or erase the issue at hand, but will specify exactly who to see, what to buy, where to go, and how to do so.

Another major difference between print and online media is the tone. Print publications are geared more towards relaxation and entertainment than solution-hunting. In print writing you can use a more personal tone to ‘tell a story‘, where writing for the web requires the use of much more factual information. Storytelling online is often viewed as filler, and tends to slow the reader down, or stop them altogether. Web readers are in search of information, and they often want to find it fast. Ensuring that you have all the facts in place, in an easy to read format, will help your readers gather the information they require without the added effort.

Keeping content to the basics is an important part of online writing. Web readers will often only skim through content to find what they are looking for, and a ‘story‘ that would be otherwise amusing become a road-block on their immediate mission. Sentence structure and detailed paragraphs become somewhat unimportant in comparison to easy to find facts. Keeping your word count and content to a minimum is actually a plus in the world of web writing. Be sure that you get to the point quickly and provide only the essential information.

The last major difference between print and web is the readers requirements. Print such as newspapers, magazines and even television are author-driven and the reader is often willing to tag along for the ride in the hopes of being entertained. Writing on the web is different, readers online want to be in control of what they see and read, thus the content becomes reader-driven and often needs to be more in-depth and flexible. Web writing is an action based media that allows the reader to choose which information is important to them, and which they don’t care to see at all. This is an important fact to remember when writing for the web and can easily make (or break) your site and its content online.

These rules do not apply to all styles of online writing, and like any other advice, it is simply advice and there are always examples of these rules being broken with great success. Always do what you think is best for you and remember to have fun with your writing.

Do you have any online writing tips you wish to share?
Feel free to post your tips, tricks, advice, and questions in t comments section below or email your submissions to:
perfectlyprompted@live.ca

Until Next Time…

Write On!

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