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Writing for the Web

Writing for the web is very different from writing for the print media. For one thing, when you are writing for the web, you want the search engines to be able to find your material. It’s no good adhering to the best practices of your English classes if the search bots can’t find your article and thus no human ever reads it.

The other thing to consider is that reading from a screen is quite different to reading a print page. Screens are not as comfortable for the human eye as paper, therefore you need to writer shorter, more consise material when you write for the web, as you need to convey information to the reader before they get tired and give up. Here are the four elements a web article should contain:

1. A title with the main keyword in it. The first thing the search-bots look at is the title of the piece, from which they abstract a keyword. Therefore don’t put puns or jokes in your title. While these go down well in the print media, they confuse the search-bots. Here’s an example: in 1992, the Queen gave a speech talking about her “Annus Horribilis”, which is Latin for “horrible year”. The Sun newspaper wittily headlined with “One’s Bum Year”, which used a play on words to simultaneously mock the Queen and sum up what she was saying. But while extremely funny viewed in print, a search engine would be quite confused about what the article was about. Writing for a website, you would headline instead with “Queen’s speech refers to her horrible year”, which neatly includes the keywords “Queen’s speech”, which is what those searching for what she said would type into the search engine.

2. Break up your article with smaller headings (and put them in bold). Include other keywords in these sub-headings. Some search engines give priority to these, and it also breaks up the screen into chunks which makes it easier for the viewer to read.

3. Put keywords in the first paragraph of your article. Some search engines do not scan the entire text of your article (deep scanning). Instead they look only at the first few paragraphs, and decide what your article is about from that. If you don’t sumarise what your article is about right at the beginning, you will lose quite a bit of traffic from the search engines. Writing this way is also helpful to the human reader as most people reading a screen will scan the first paragraph, and if it’s not what they want, they will quickly backspace out of the article.

4. Use bullet points. These help both the search-bots and the human reader to assimilate the information presented. The search-bots will look at the first sentence of each bullet point. And because human readers skim-read the web, breaking it down into points should tell them quickly whether the article contains the information they want.

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