Writing is a commonly overlooked skill in the web design industry, yet good writing is critical to the success of any website. High quality writing isn’t just for blogs and press releases – it’s essential for every piece of written content. It makes your website easier to read and understand, and allows your website to be found more easily by the search engines like Google and Bing.
As web designers, how can we write good, high quality content? How can we make sure that our content is well written, incorporating our reader’s needs, our website’s design, and the needs of search engines all into one? These 10 steps will help you take your writing to the next level.
Regardless of what you were told as a child, size does matter. No one wants to open a webpage to be confronted by a wall of text that’s miles long.
Limit the size of your content – and this goes for more than just blog articles. Written content should stay between 500 and 700 words. If you have more to say, try breaking it up into multiple pages.
Break it Up
Break up your content by subject. Readers often have a short attention span – most people aren’t going to sit and read through content, they scan instead. Break up your content into descriptive headings; it’ll help your readers find what they’re looking for easily and quickly.
Know your Keywords
Before you start writing, research your keywords. What is this specific page about? What keywords would people use to find your page? Knowing the keywords you want to target and rank for helps you incorporate them as you’re writing your content. It allows the content to flow naturally and feel more organic.
Write for Humans (not for Search Engines)
You might have the tendency to stuff as many valuable keywords in your content as possible. That’s what helps with search engines, right? It most certainly can help with rankings, but it’s a turnoff to readers. No one wants to read a sentence like “At Jim Bob’s Napa Valley Car Wash we use only the best Car Wash materials of any Car Wash in the Napa Valley Car Washes!” Write your content in the same way you would speak to a client – you’ll get better results in the long run.
Keep it Simple
Keep your content simple. Write short, descriptive paragraphs, without being overly technical. Use 3 to 5 sentences per paragraph (on average), be clear and concise – it’s easy. (Just like this paragraph – see how easy it is?)
Define the Technical Stuff
It’s not always easy to be simple, especially if your website is about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or something else that’s technical. So spell it out for your readers – define technical terms, especially acronyms. It’s not difficult to do, your readers will appreciate it, and it’s a great way to work in a few extra keywords without anyone knowing.
Use (Helpful) Links
Readers appreciate websites that are helpful. Providing links that relate to your content, explain terms or give examples are great ways to help your readers out. Link to related articles, examples of what you’re content is about, or even testimonials. It’s helpful, it’s great for SEO, and it improves the internal linking structure of your website.
Use Bullet Points
Nothing screams simple and easy to read like a set of bullet points. Using bullet points are incredibly effective for getting your points across:
- Bullet points are easy to read.
- They ensure your points will be read.
- They’re helpful for readers who are just scanning your content.
- They’re a great way to grab someone’s attention.
Even if you were just scanning this article, odds are you read those bullet points. See? It works!
Sometimes the best way to explain an idea or a concept is with an image. People love images, and it’s a great way to break up your content. Images can grab attention, explain difficult concepts, and add zest to the written word. Try to use at least one image in your content – just make sure the image is related to what you’re talking about. Plopping an image of a sunset into an article about cable TV doesn’t do anything for the reader, or for search engines.
This goes without saying, but it’s so important we’re going to say it anyways. Proofread before you post your content – proofread it twice. And no, spellcheck does not count as proofreading. Take the time to read your content from top to bottom, or better yet, have someone else read it before you post it.
Wes McDowell is aweb designer in Los Angeles. In addition to client work, he has authored several books for freelance designers and co-hosts a popular graphic design podcast called “The Deeply Graphic DesignCast.”Follow Wes on Google+