When it comes to drawing in Web users to your website and keeping their eyes on the page, content is king. The best web content is not defined by length or by the scope of your content; it is defined by concise and descriptive text. The key to attracting Web users is to provide them with exactly what they are searching for. To do that, you’ll need to keep your page content targeted and concise.
Here are some great tips I’ve shared with clients…
1. Limit each page on your website to a specific topic. Think of each page on your site as the chapter of a book. Keep content on each page confined to a specific topic. Limiting your topic helps you better structure the content, leading to a concise and descriptive page. The inverted (upside-down) pyramid writing style (seen above) puts most newsworthy information at the top, quickly and concisely. This enables readers to stop reading at any point and still come away with the story’s essence. Search Engines read first 170 characters of a lead paragraph, first 70-characters of headline information. Optimized keywords/phrases within a specific context with an appealing delivery–engaging content gives meaning to both searchers and humans but also speaks to BOTS (Robots/ Spiders etc.)
2. Get to the point. It’s pretty well known that web users have very short attention spans and that we don’t read articles thoroughly and in their entirety. A study investigating the changes in our reading habits behaviors in the digital age concluded that we tend to skim webpages to find the information we want. We search for keywords, read in a non-linear fashion (i.e. we skip around a webpage instead of reading it from top to bottom) and have lowered attention spans. Get to the point as quickly as possible. Cut out unnecessary information. Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases. Avoid long paragraphs and sentences. Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use “1,000″ as opposed to “one thousand,” which facilitates scanning and skimming.
3. Outline first and avoid clutter. Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you’ll write. Use simple and concise headings. Write a summary statement that encompasses the point you are trying to make on the page. Draft a few supplementary points to help make your argument or your point. Avoid writing beyond the scope of this outline. To stay descriptive, you need to create strict boundaries for your page’s content. When writers exceed the scope of a topic, they tend to ramble or provide filler content, which dilutes the content’s descriptive power.
4. Help readers scan your webpages quickly. As indicated in a usability study by Nielsen Research, web users tend to skim content. Designing and structuring your webpages with skimming in mind can improve usability (as much as 47% according to the research). So, make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they’re scanning a webpage. Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device. Cut out any sentences that do not directly relate to the narrow scope of your topic. Compare your content with your original outline. Delete anything in your text that is not present in the outline. If you have a good deal of content on the cutting board, don’t despair: you can use leftover content on a separate section of your website.
5. Use bulleted lists and text-formatting. Research indication that most users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding and italics). These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases. Consider breaking up a long paragraph into bulleted points. Highlight important information in bold and italics.
6. Give text blocks sufficient spacing. The spacing between characters, words, lines and paragraphs is important. How type is set on your webpages can drastically affect the legibility (and thus, reading speeds) of readers. In a study called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts,” the researchers discovered that manipulating the amount of margins of a passage affected reading comprehension and speed. Evaluate your webpages’ typography for spacing issues and then modify your site’s CSS as needed. Get to know CSS properties that affect spacing in your text. The ones that will give you the most bang for your buck are margin, padding, line-height, word-spacing, letter-spacing and text-indent.
7. Use Visuals Strategically. Photos, charts and graphs are worth a thousand words. Using visuals effectively can enhance readability when they replace or reinforce long blocks of textual content. In fact, an eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen suggests that users pay “close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information.” Users, however, also ignore certain images, particularly stock photos merely included as decorative artwork. Another eye-tracking study reported a 34% increase in memory retention when unnecessary images were removed in conjunction with other content revisions. Make sure images you use aid or support textual content. Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals. These extra elements are no help in your site load times as well.