Websites are a unique medium. They use words, like print, but they’re interactive. Words need to be employed differently.

How is writing for the web different?

People read differently (or more accurately, don’t read) online. Research has found people scan the screen looking for the next link to click. Interactivity means users are task driven. They want to DO. Words (and images, multi-media and other content) need to get out of their way.

The other way web words differ is that web traffic is often driven by search engines. To maximise exposure for your pages, keyword research is done to see the search volumes around keywords and keyword phrases. Pages are built around these. That is, you have to know how to correctly use nested headings and meta tags, alternate image text and other devices to ensure your page is optimised for searchers to find it.

Promoting inbound links to your pages and other marketing strategies is a whole separate enterprise.

Continuous improvement

In truth, writing for the web is not separate from managing web content or managing a site. Words for print are often set in stone. Not so online. Web analytics is the process of reviewing stats to find:

  • who is looking at your pages
  • how often
  • for how long
  • where they’re coming from
  • where they’re going to
  • what percentage are doing what you want.

Part of this analysis is reviewing how people found your pages (including what keywords they searched on). You can then move to content testing using tools like Web Optimiser to create different versions of pages, and see which get better results for you.

Writing for the web is like a scientific experiment. You have a goal. You hypothesise that certain words will work. You test them and analyse them, and rewrite them.

Many people have the gift of being able to generate great content about themselves, their businesses or topics they love. But this won’t necessarily achieve a site’s goals. To chase specific results online it’s worth asking an experienced professional to help translate your content into words that will work on the web.