Freelance Writing Basics: Writing for the Web
The internet is now my primary go-to spot for information. I find phone numbers, addresses, and maps there. It’s where I go when I’m positive I am displaying the symptoms of a rare and life-threatening disease. It’s also where I go when my kids’ poop is an abnormal color, when they have a funky looking rash, or when I need tips on how to potty-train the little boogers. I get coupons off the internet. I buy almost all of my Christmas on the internet. I use the internet to research different products, from vacuums to unique graduation gifts. I first saw the house I am now living in on the internet. I get recipes, entertainment gossip, and valuable information about surviving a zombie apocalypse off of the internet. The list goes on.
I’m not the only one turning to the World Wide Web as my encyclopedia/ shopping center/ survival guide. Therefore, as you can imagine, there is a huge market for writers on the web. Everyone has a website now: dentists, businesses, psychics, jewelry stores, etc. Savvy business people will hire savvy writers to make their website is a) found by major search engines, and b) contains necessary information for the consumer. In other words, website owners want to know that once someone pops onto their website, they will feel compelled to stick around and hopefully come back.
Writing for the web is different than writing for print publications. (For one thing, paragraphs aren’t indented. Writing is single spaced, with a break between paragraphs- even when writing fiction! Who came up with this? I think it's brilliant.)
Here are some basic guidelines to remember when writing for the web:
1) Be concise: You want the reader to be able to find the information he or she reads quickly. Use paragraph headers- make sure they are informational instead of cutesy or symbolic.
Paragraphs should be short. (3-4 sentences is a general guideline.) Use the active voice and never beat around the bush. Readers are unlikely to take in an entire article: they will scan it to find the information they need. The article should be designed for perusing, not deep immersion.
Include a graphic. Readers like a picture.
2) Give the main point FIRST: Conclusions don’t come at the end when writing for the web. For instance, if you’re writing an article on how to treat a bee sting, put the most important, relevant tip up top. The next of the article can focus on alternative treatments.
3) Learn the art and science of SEO: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This simply means that should understand how it is that search engines find certain websites and look-over others. General tips for improving SEO include:
- Direct (to-the-point) titles and subheadings. IN BOLD.
- Short, concise sentences and paragraphs.
- Natural use of keywords. (If your article is about bee stings, you will want to make sure your prose incorporates what a person researching bee stings would type into a search engine. “Bee sting remedies,” “bee allergies,” and “bee sting swelling” are all examples of key words that can be sprinkled throughout the article. The key is to naturally incorporate them into the prose without making the words appear forced or unnatural. Never “overstuff” keywords; use them strategically.
- Insertion of hypertext (i.e. links.)
- Insertion of bullets and bold type.
- Place bold captions by each graphic.