How to write for the web

Here are the seven rules of effective online writing:

  • Start with a conclusion
  • Minimise interruptions
  • Enable “scanability”
  • Be appealing
  • Offer value
  • Build trust
  • Engage

You have just scanned over a bullet point list, which answers the question asked in the title of this article. Four out of five readers are going to scan for key items of interest or abandon the article entirely. My job is to persuade you, in this section, to stick around.
content skipping reasons
Those who have left at this point (Bye!) have already received the quick answer as their parting gift. Mission accomplished!
Others, like yourself, will continue reading for two reasons:

  1. In-depth knowledge
  2. Selective knowledge

In-depth readers will read this article word-for-word and selective readers will continue to scan it.
Their eye will anchor in on the following sub-heading.

Formatting Tricks

To aid the selective reader, break the ‘wall of text’ into smaller chunks and apply one idea per paragraph rule.
Each new paragraph sells itself to the reader and if the first sentence does not offer value, they are likely to skip the whole paragraph.  
Other great formatting tools include:

  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists
  • Sub-headings
  • Text formatting
  • Quotes
  • Images
  • Tables

Real World Example

In the following example, I have improved article structure and increased its chances of being read by every type of user.

Concise content example

Inverted Pyramid

Most news articles follow the same pattern, which cascades the information in order of importance. This rule has been around for a long time. It still applies in the digital world.

Inverted pyramid

Article Length

Facing a very long article can discourage reading in the first place. Those who still decide to dive in will be dropping off in proportion to the length of the article. Consider breaking up long articles into several linked articles.

Consider breaking up long articles into several linked articles

The End

If you’ve read this far, you’re most definitely in the minority (remember – 15.9%). But this doesn’t mean you’re any less important.   
This kind of reader could be the type of consumer who will invest more in a product or service based on the amount of detailed information surrounding it.
Give them a take-away insight or direct them towards another related resource or article (read about what makes content trustworthy).
If it’s a piece of content that you want a lot of conversation generated around, try asking a question.
How many times have you asked a question at the end of an article?

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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