On the web, you have 5-10 seconds to engage a visitor and get them to browse your page. In order to accomplish this, information should be presented in an inverted pyramid style, placing the most important information at the top of the page. Engagement is driven by getting to the main point of the page right away, then supporting that point with the rest of the page.
It is also important to understand that web users are task oriented. They tend to scan content first to make sure the page meets their needs. The content on the page needs to be structured to allow the user to scan and find main points quickly. To help the user achieve their goals, content should be broken up using heading structures, small blocks of text and bullet lists. The contrast produced by breaking content up provides visual entry points for the user, drawing their eyes down the page and into the content to find what they are looking for.
Below is a list of best practices to keep in mind when writing website content.
1. Use important keywords throughout the content.
It is important to use keywords in all aspects of the site; headings, sentences, bullet lists, and links. The main keyword should always be a part of the H1 tag and used as close to the beginning of the first sentence as possible.
Always remember that you should be writing for users, not search engines, so use the keywords only when they fit in a natural way so that the content makes sense to users and doesn’t look spammy.
2. Use a distinct heading structure to set each section of the page apart.
Each page should start with an H1 tag. Look at the H1 tag as the book title, telling the reader what this page is about.
- The H1 tag should be concise and focus on the main keyword of the page.
Use H2 tags for the main sections of the page. Look at the H2 tag as chapter titles, letting the user know what this section of the page is about.
- The H2 tags can be a little longer in text, but should not be a full sentence. Again, try to use keywords within the H2 tags when possible.
Use H3 tags to break up main sections of a page. An H3 tag should only be used under an H2 tag and used the breakup content if needed
- H3 tag can be used to explain a bullet list within a section.
- H3 tag can be used as headings for ancillary sections on a page, such as a section of related materials (whitepapers/case studies) or resource links.
NOTE: Most sites will only use an H1 tag and H2 tags. H3 tags are only needed if they are necessary in order to break up long content or as section headings for downloads or resources.
3. Use short paragraphs.
Large blocks of text can be intimidating to users and doesn’t promote scanning. Research has shown that short, concise paragraphs and bullet lists work best for breaking content up and making it easy to scan.
Your first paragraph is the most important one.
- In order to engage the user quickly, your first paragraph needs to be brief, clear and get the important message across in the least amount of words.
- Your first paragraph should be 2-3 sentences long, getting your point across quickly slowing down the reader.
4. Begin sentences with strong subjects and verbs.
Leading with strong subjects and verbs puts the most important words at the beginning of the sentence and condenses the text, helping you keep your content focused and to the point.
5. Use bullet lists when possible.
Bullet lists are a great way to get information across to the user. If you have multiple points to touch on, putting them in list form allows you to get the points across without having a large block of content. Bullet lists are good for showing benefits or reasons why.
6. Use bold text for emphasis.
Bolding an important point or phrase is a good way to put emphasis on it and allow a user to find it when scanning the page.
It is important to not overuse bold because too much bold text makes it harder to read and reduces the impact.
7. Make your links contextual.
When linking to other pages within your content, use the part of the actual sentence text that describes the linked to page as the link. Avoid using generic text like “click here” or “learn more”.
- Right: Click here to learn more about our XYZ product.
- Wrong: Click here to learn more about our XYZ product.
What are your favorite tips for great website writing? Leave a comment below.