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Reading on the Web

April 12, 2012

Writing and reading on the web is becoming more and more difficult that many would imagine.  For a reader, we are looking for quick information or a simple gist of what we are looking at because we are likely to find something that catches our eye and takes us away from the subject matter that we previously found important.  As a writer, we want to keep those people who may be reading our blog, for example, engaged enough to look at the article, nonetheless continue on to read the entire piece.  It has been suggested that a web page should contain no more than four paragraphs of content.  That’s really not a lot if you think about some of the topics that people may be writing about so web writing could be more complicated and laborious than long-form writing.

There are some best practices that I’ve noticed around the web, as well as some examples, that have helped me to see active writing that has kept me engaged.

1.  Write for your audience and not for search engine hits

It’s important that web writers don’t get caught up in writing in a particular way that will get them higher in the ranks of search engine optimization.  Plenty of times writers do this and find that they’ve written a piece that gets them in search results but the piece itself has lost its voice and no one really wants to read it.  One source said that if you write for humans first and then search engine bots, you will increase readership.

2.  Keep it short and concise

The common tip for web writing is that it should be short and sweet.  There’s a reason why this makes everyone’s tip list.  It’s true.  No one wants to read a blog post that is takes four scrolls or more to get through, no matter how interesting the content may be.  Reducing scrolling is a great way to increase readership.  If someone feels that they can get through your content quickly, they may be be more likely to read it and read more.  It has been suggested that web writers put the most important information in the beginning as to promote the gist and then go into further detail.  Web readers are scatter brained.

3.  Keep readers waiting or anticipating

While keeping it short is helpful, there can still be an air of mystery to your writing.  I love pop culture blog posts that utilize this kind of guessing game.  A music blog called That Grape Juice, which reports on gossip and industry information (such as record sales), utilizes this a lot.  A recent blog post on singer Madonna’s album sales gave readers an introduction paragraph that hinted at her second week sales drop but required readers to click a “continue reading” link to finish the article.  It’s a clever way to give users a taste and then let them click to finish.

4.  Give it a solid title/headline or scannable headers

Using a few words to catch a reader’s attention can make or break a web piece.  This is best exemplified by gossip blogs who make their money by sharing hot-off-the-press information that may not be interesting or beneficial to readers at all.  A blog titled “Kardashian caught in sex scandal!” is much more eye-catching than “Kim Kardashian buys a book on sex education!”.  It’s all about how it’s phrased.

5.  Make it interactive, of course

Encourage your readers to respond and give thoughts in a comments section.  Ask them questions in your piece that would be interesting enough for them to answer.  This is so simple and could keep readers coming back for more.  A great music blog that I frequent called Toyaz-World does a great job of asking readers questions and then engaging in dialogue with their readers in the comments section, sometimes resulting in heated debate over silly content.

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