March 15, 2010

Writing Content for the Web


Hostway Team

By Winmark Business Solutions

There are few better ways to promote your business than by writing good, helpful articles and sharing them on your business's Web site.

When building your Web site, remember: Good content attracts good traffic. On an average day, 68 percent of all American adults are on the Internet, according to the PEW Internet and American Life Project. While online, the most popular activities include getting news and finding information via search engines. This means that if you've got good content on your site that can be found by search engines, you'll have a natural advantage over competitors.

Good Content. Good Internet articles attract and engage readers. They do this by recognizing that Internet users aren't readers when they arrive on a Web page. Instead of reading Web page content immediately, site visitors typically conduct a "quick scan" of Web page content to determine whether it's a "good hit." If it is, they'll continue reading. If not, they'll return to the search engine and look at the next result in their query.

Even in cases when individuals find page content interesting, it's estimated that 80 percent of site visitors will still only scan the content on a given web page for "highlights" and move on. As little as 15 percent of site visitors actually read the entire contents of a page.

Multilevel writing is the practice of writing for "browsers" and "readers" simultaneously with the goal of providing a good experience for each audience. This way of writing is important because: 1) individuals are less likely to read content that cannot be easily scanned; and 2) content written in a multilevel writing style is easier to read on screen than traditional text.

The guidelines for multilevel writing are easy for anyone to follow:

  • Create meaningful subheads— Content with subheads is easier to scan. The more relevant subheads are to a site visitor, the less likely it is that the user will move on.
  • Use bulleted lists and jump listsBulleted lists are an ideal way to summarize information for online visitors. If each bullet point requires lengthy conversation, consider linking several pages together instead of including the entire article on a single Web page.
  • Indent — Indenting text is a great way to identify subpoints.
  • Use tables and charts — Many readers respond to visuals better than text. For these readers, a picture in the form of a chart is worth more than 100 words. And they'll find tables a meaningful way to browse related data.
  • One idea per paragraph — Online prose is best expressed as "topical bursts." Break topics down into subtopics and limit each paragraph to a single topic or subtopic that contains no more than three or four sentences.
  • Shorter paragraphs — Paragraphs that fill an entire screen are a signal to potential readers that reading your content will be more work that finding another resource.
  • Start with the conclusion — Like a newspaper, online articles should begin with the most relevant information and end with the least relevant. When you're using subheads, the content within each heading should also follow this rule.

In most instances, online writing should have a "conversational" tone. The best online writers, like the best journalists, use an open, natural and uncontrived writing style. They avoid techno-speak, buzzwords and jargon—unless their content is intended only for individuals who understand the jargon.

Experienced online writers share experience, opinion, dissenting argument, perspective and their sense of humor whenever it's appropriate.

Good Traffic. It's important to publish your articles elsewhere whenever possible. After adding an article on your Web site, it's a good idea to manually submit each new article to search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. It's an even better idea to syndicate your articles and make them available on other Internet sites providing content.

Writing articles and submitting them to other Web sites is a great way to build Web site traffic. It will also boost your credibility, bolster your brand and provide opportunities for you to educate customers. Your Web site will become a great place to go for information—and products too.

About the Author

Winmark Business Solutions (WBS) is a free Web site for small businesses and entrepreneurs containing over 6,000 pages of business-critical information and downloadable tools at WBS is a division of Winmark Corporation, a multi-brand franchisor with nearly 900 franchise locations in North America. With over 25 years working with small businesses, WBS draws upon years of experience to bring important small business articles, information, tools, forms, checklists, calculators and downloadable forms to the small business owner to help their business grow. WBS contains over 6000 pages of business-critical information all available at

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