How to Write for the Web

A “virtual” friend of mine, Brad, has decided to take the blogging plunge and started up his own blog at EnemyofDebt.com (that’s right, the enemy of my enemy is my friend). He recently asked for some advice on writing for the web and I asked him if I could answer here to share some ideas with my readers, since many of you also write online. I hope you will take some time to visit Brad and say hello after reading today’s post. Without further ado, here are my suggestions on how to produce better copy when writing online.

Use Headings Wisely

One of the toughest things to do when writing is to separate ideas into logical groups. In books, or other forms of offline media, these logical groupings easily become separate paragraphs, sections, or entire chapters. As an online writer you don’t have the luxury of breaking up thoughts into separate “chapters,” so the best way to group different sets of ideas is to use headings. A header wrapped inside an “h3″ HTML tag works well in terms of size and search engine compatibility, but any font/size combination that separates your normal text will work.

Be Bold

Online readers have short attention spans. Are you still with me? Good. Highlight important thoughts, or main topics in each paragraph with a bold phrase or sentence. Readers should be able to scan only your bold text and get a pretty good idea what your post is about, without having to read each line, word for word.

Use Lists to Avoid Large Blocks of Text

My list posts have been some of the most popular ones here at Frugal Dad. People like lists, especially people reading online blogs in your niche. Lists are easy to digest, and easy to refer back to later. Of course, there is no way to track such statistics, but I would guess list posts get printed to hardcopy, and emailed around to friends, more than any other type of online article. I’ll pause here while you print this one. On second thought, just bookmark it and save a tree (after all, this is the Frugal Dad).

keyboard.jpg
photo by: DeclanTM

Graphics Help Draw Attention

How does that saying go? A picture is worth a thousand visitors. I think I may be a little off, but you get the idea. Studies have shown that appealing graphics draw attention from readers’ eyes, so use them to your advantage. I frequently use horizontal pictures near the top of my posts to separate individual postings when listed together on the blog’s home page. Other bloggers do a great job of using graphics throughout the post to pull reader’s eyes down through the article (My Super-Charged Life is one of the better examples I’ve seen). Flickr’s creative commons section is a great resource for web graphics. Be sure to give a proper attribution/credit for the photo used, in accordance with Flickr’s policy.

Throw in the Occasional Series

Building anticipation is great for building readership as people are more likely to subscribe with the promise of something to look forward to. I probably don’t write in series often enough here at Frugal Dad, but plan to introduce a couple new series in the near future. Series posts are fun for readers to follow, and make topic generation an easier task for bloggers in the short term.

K.I.S.S Principle – Keep It Short, Stupid

I admit that I occasionally fire up my RSS reader and visit a blog to find a 2,000 word post with no headings, graphics, or bold sections and simply move on. Sorry. I just simply don’t have the time to read these types of daily masterpieces that I cannot easily scan. Stick to your main points and move through them efficiently to attract the most readers. On that note, this post is looking a little long, so until next time.

Comments

  1. Oh, I love you. I have always wanted a way to search Flickr for pictures I could use on my blog. Thank you for showing me that link, I didn’t know it existed. You helped me so much. :)

  2. Nice post, found you on problogger. Really “to the point article”.

    And yes, I too do like the “KISS” principle. Cheers mate.

  3. Frugality with words is important too.

    Trim unnecessary words.

    Convoluted sentences can be re-written into two shorter sentences.

    Write for people first, computers second. SEO is important, but not at the expense of the readers’ enjoyment.

  4. Oh yeah, and whenever I use an image from Flickr’s creative commons section, I FlickrMail the photographer:

    -Notify them of my usage
    -Let them know the URL of my blog post
    -Thank them for making the image available through the CC license.

    It’s one more set of eyeballs on your blog. The effort/reward ratio isn’t as good as other methods, but it’s a matter of professional courtesy to me.

  5. I’ve just started using headings in my posts, but have been using both bold and italics for a while. The unordered list button is also well-used LOL

    I just have to ask: you weren’t referring to my blog when you mention long posts, were you? ;)

  6. You should move the comments link to the bottom of the post where readers expect it. It is annoying to scroll back to the top to click on the comments link after reading a post.

  7. I love how your article visually demonstrates all your points–the bolding and headings did exactly what you said they would. Smart post–thanks.

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