The New York Times Website

Is there such a thing as “best practices” for writing online?  

When it comes to website writing there are some very specific do’s and don’ts. Not surprisingly they are consistent with the practices and preferences of online readers and website visitors of all stripe. The most important rule, according to a variety of digital resources: keep the content short. Online writing needs to be much shorter and more concise than other forms.  Another truism: very few readers scroll down.  Research shows that people are scanners when looking at a web page as opposed “readers” when they’re consuming the content of other media.  New visitors to your site will, on average, spend no more than 30 seconds per page.

“You want to make it easy for your readers to scan for information quickly”, says GroundWire, a Seattle-based environmental consultancy that advises clients embarked on campaigns in digital media. This also means heavy use of subheads and bold-face type to signal important points. Another way to break-up content on a page is to use bulleted lists. Write short sentences introducing ideas and then explain them with a short list of support-points.

Our two-cents: use hyperlinks effectively, not effusively. While some people insist that you can’t include too many links because people want all the important information they can gather, our experience is that too much information is a turn-off for busy people. We advise careful curating of all relevant content with your target reader in mind because quality trumps quantity online. As with all things marketing, knowing your audience is key.  Be judicious about links and respectful of readers’ time. They will appreciate it and reward you with repeat visits and recommendations.

Slightly off-topic but relevant in light of video content playing a heavier role in the online strategy of every business today: search engines don’t read your videos like they read your writing. Keywords in the title and description is a good start but there is more to consider, according to Jessica Sanders of  “If you want to improve the visibility of your B2B marketing videos – whether you’re hosting them on your site, or YouTube and Vimeo – consider sitemap build and search engine availability.”  She explains that the main search engines, Google and Bing, “are working on their ability to locate, crawl and judge video content for search. So for now, you’ll want to submit your video sitemap to the search engines instead of hoping they’ll find it themselves”. More practical tips here. 


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