Writer: Teodora Gaydarova
Editor: Zoe Wildsmith
Writing for the Web is not unlike keeping the attention of a five-year-old. It can be challenging to compel anyone to stay longer on a web page or read a blog post given that our attention spans are shrinking and we are constantly being bombarded with information. The odds are you probably won’t read to the end of this blog article.
The problem is people don’t really read online. Instead, they scan, skim and move forward. Really fast. So fast, statistics reveal that on average visitors spend between 10 and 20 seconds (you read that right – seconds, not minutes) on a web page.
As this BBC journalist argues it’s hard to know whether digital technology is to blame for our inability to focus, but one thing is certain: whatever you write for the web, whether a booking page to sell your dog-grooming services, or a blog post on the benefits of recycling, luring readers to linger longer is crucial to getting results.
As with any medium, there are tricks and techniques to achieving that.
Key info goes to the top
Not only will readers spare you just a few seconds, but they won’t scroll too far down. That’s why, when writing your article or web page, you have to make the headline and first few sentences as informative and intriguing as possible.
A catchy title and an engaging intro also help to capture attention and draw readers in to read further. Curious facts, striking statistics or a sense of humour can all go a long way here.
Journalists call this technique the inverted pyramid. Summarising the main idea of a story in the title and the first paragraph allows readers to take away the main message without having to read the whole piece.
Last but not least, visitors could land on your page from anywhere on the web. If it’s clear what your text is about and it’s relevant to them, they are less likely to leave.
The KISS is key
The logic behind it is as simple as its name.
First: keeping things short helps distracted readers to focus.
That doesn’t mean you can’t write long-form content of a few thousand words. You can. It simply means that short sentences and short paragraphs are easier to digest.
Pretty much like the ones you are reading now!
War and Peace-style paragraphs, on the other hand, strain the eyes and make finding information really difficult, which puts readers off.
Second: simple, clear language creates more impact.
Simplicity of style is not a radically new idea that has been invented in the digital age. Master copywriters and great orators alike have been using succinct language for ages. Take Martin Luther King Jr.’s, I Have a Dream speech as an example.
Make your message crystal clear and even the most distracted reader will take something away. Puzzle or confuse readers with convoluted logic, and you risk losing them.
One way to achieve that is by avoiding the passive voice, flowery phrases and complex jargon, which only experts might understand. Write for that imaginary five-year-old and you are almost there.
Make it a visual experience
When it comes to writing for the Web, formatting is your best friend. Think about your material as a mini textbook. Textbooks employ a number of formatting tricks to make the information easy to process and memorise – the same applies to the web. You can, for example:
Once again, it all boils down to simplicity and digestibility.
Be easy to find
The Internet exists so we can find information – keep that in mind when writing your articles. You can share your content on social media, of course, but you want to be found by everyone, not just your followers.
First, it’s crucial to use relevant keywords throughout your text to allow search engines to index it and show it to potential visitors. A shopper googling red ladies’ shoes, size 7 is much more likely to visit your ecommerce page selling such shoes if it contains those terms.
The same applies to hyperlinks. If you are writing a blog post about matching shoes with dresses, it makes sense to insert a hyperlink to a page where readers can browse and order from your latest collection.
Call to action
Last but not least, don’t leave people guessing what they are supposed to do after reading your content. Do you want them to share your article, sign a petition, book a consultation, or buy your new product? Just tell them – plain and simple. And with that, please share this article, if you find it useful.
Read our blog to get an idea of what we do, how we edit, how we organise projects... and learn about grammar and linguistics – some of the foundations of our work.