Writing great web pages means understanding how users read and knowing what search engines are looking for.
1. Understand your user
Develop user personas and scenarios to help you understand how your site’s visitors behave, and what they’re after.
Are you giving them with the information they want? Are you helping them complete the tasks they want to achieve?
2. Have a content strategy
Once you know what your users want, plan how to offer regularly updated content that will keep them coming back. A content strategy will guide you.
Embed producing this content into the culture of your organisation – everyone should always be looking out for good stories and information that will interest your site’s visitors.
3. Write to be found
Providing the best pages on the web is pointless if no one knows they’re there. Good search engine optimization (SEO) means that pages will appear high in search results.
Remember that all search engines are aiming to deliver useful, relevant and trusted content to their users. So the most important element of good search engine optimisation is to provide useful, relevant and trusted content! If your site doesn’t do this, no amount of SEO trickery can make up for it.
4. Identify the keywords
Work out the words and phrases a user might input into a search engine to lead them to your page. Decide 1-3 main keywords, 1-2 phrases, 3-10 secondary keywords.
Then make sure these ‘keywords’ appear in the headline, first sentences, subheads and link text.
5. Keep it short
Text for online should be short and snappy. Edit to make every word ‘fight for its life’. Keep paragraphs short too – BBC News stories are excellent examples of best practice.
6. Make it scan
Users seldom read every word on a page, but quickly scan to decide whether to read further. So make sure your pages are easy to scan by breaking up large chunks of text with subheads, links, lists, pictures and captions, and make sure your keywords are obvious at a glance.
7. Load the top
Writing for online is similar to traditional news writing – just more so. Use the inverted pyramid style, packing the top of the story with as much information as possible, with the most important paragraph at the top and the least important one at the bottom.
8. Be meaningful
Use transparent, meaningful text for links, heads and subheads – no ‘click here’ or clever puns. This will help the visitor scan for what they’re looking for, and encourage search engines to class the page as useful and relevant.