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How to Write Effectively for an Online Audience
1/1/2009 -

  • KISS: Keep It Simple, Smarty!
    The number-one design principle for the web is simplicity. Quality web design should make it easy for the reader to find content, absorb your message, and act on it.
  • Be Brief.
    Say what you have to say and then edit it so you say it with fewer words. If it is possible to cut a word out, do it. You know how fickle a web audience is, how short their attention spans. Get your message across quickly and succinctly or they may miss it.
    Also, keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Otherwise, no one will read them.
  • Write for the Reader (Not Your Ego)
    This may appear self-evident, but too many websites ignore this best practice. Instead of writing for the consumer, the site’s author seems to be writing with no particular reader in mind. Your customers are busy (somewhat impatient) people who are online to find out something. Put yourself in their shoes and give them what they want.
  • Use Web headings that Work
    Online, headlines and subheads are essential. People scan. Headers make it easier for them to decide if they want to read your content, easier for them to digest your information, and easier for them to remember your message.

    To create effective headers and sub-heads, write your content and then go back and add the headers and subheads in an effort to “label” what each content block helps the user do or learn. Then, squint your eyes and read only the headers and subheads. If your message still comes across, you’re writing well for the web!
  • Use Powerful Language
    Check out other websites for language that leaves an impression. You’ll notice that in addition to being concise, web writers use more verbs than adjectives. Think about what you want your readers to "do" and incorporate that into your headlines and messages. (For example: Plan Ahead, Be Prepared, Beautify Your Home, Keep Your Family Safe, Discover New Tastes, Need a Vacation? Get Going!)
  • Search Engine Optimization
    A helpful hint for any site is to be strategic with how you use key words about your business. Remember that keywords are what help your customers find your site while searching the Web. Make a list of words that your customers would use in a search for you (e.g. your name, location, industry, and/or specialty) and make sure to use them throughout your site.

Ultimately, you want visitors to your site to retain your message and “act”. So create content that will get their interest, answer their questions, and connect them with your service offerings and products. Think about updating your content from time to time to keep visitors coming back for more. And consider asking some of your customers what they think of your site and whether it is an effective communicator. You can always update the content and provide them with what meets their needs!

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