With the blink of an eye your online readers will decide whether your content is good enough to continue reading or not. It may be a conscious or subconscious decision they make in deciding if your content is relevant to them. They’ll filter out websites and web pages which are off-topic, confusing, badly written or just plainly unsatisfying. Their snap decisions are usually based on one or more of the following factors:
- they’ll look at layout, headings and links and make decisions based on how the content is organised
- they’ll see the proportion of long words and sentence length and make an assessment (rightly or wrongly) based on the readability level
- they’ll recognize the pattern of too many small words signifying a waste of their time
- they’ll be scanning keywords to confirm they’re on the right page
- they’ll make an assessment on the tone and friendliness of your words
- they’ll read through the page headlines and captions on your images and if they’re too generic and vague will leave your website within seconds.
Who knew your reader could make so many decisions on how worthwhile your content is within the blink of an eye?
So armed with a better idea of how people read online, how do you entice your web visitors to stay engaged on your website?
Write with a conversational tone
Write clearly and empower your reader so they fell as they are in control instead of making them feel alienated. Your reader wants to understand what they are reading and feel competent so it’s important that they feel they are making progress and have a satisfying experience. You can do that by having a conversational tone in your writing style – which aids understanding and keeps them on your website. Also write from your readers’ point of view – demonstrate to them how their problem can be solved.
Use familiar and simple words
By using the same vocabulary as your reader it has the unexpected yet favourable outcome of influencing your website’s position in the search results. It also provides credibility and a sense of familiarity for your reader as they feel that you are already on their wavelength.
Use simple grammatical structures
Write simple, short, positive, active and logically constructed sentences. Try not to have more than say, 21 words per sentence. The longer the sentence the harder it is for your reader to scan and retain the information they have just read.
Write concisely and succinctly
Think about this: the more you write the less people will remember. However, a concise page does not necessarily mean a short page. A general rule of thumb – write as how you would speak, then reduce the number of words by half.
Write your web page to be read and understood
Your readers need to be able to understand what you have written on their first reading. So keep it simple. Also ensure that the content you have written is in a logical form.
Ensure your design is easy-to-scan
When reading content online that it is well laid out, you will immediately feel that a website is understandable, well organised and trustworthy – don’t just leave this important responsibility to your website designer. As a web writer you need to write content that has plenty of meaningful paragraphs with relevant headings and subheadings so that your content doesn’t look daunting and intimidating – ensuring that there is plenty of white space. You can achieve that white space by breaking your content into bullet points or numbered lists where it is appropriate.
Use correct, consistent grammar, spelling and punctuation
You’ll be surprised at how quickly visitors to your website will leave your site if they find a spelling mistake or error in grammar or punctuation. This is also true if you use incorrect clichés or have broken links within your content. So reread your content carefully and out loud if you need to.
Given that many of your readers may be using English as second, third or fourth language, write to be understood!