Writing for the Web, Part Deux – Monday Marketing

mondaymarketinglogo This is a guest post by Cindy Bidar.

Last week we talked about writing for the web in terms of entertaining and educating your human audience. This week we’re going to look at writing for the search bots, for without them, you will have no human readers.

Know Your Keywords

In the simplest terms, a keyword is a word or phrase that you want your article to be found for. If you sell personalized ceramic coffee mugs, then you want your site to be at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) when someone searches for personalized ceramic coffee mugs, right? That’s your keyword.

In reality, you probably have lots of keywords. If you need help finding them or developing a keyword strategy for your site, I highly recommend reading SEO Fast Start by Dan Thies. You can get it for free on his site, SEO Fast Start.

What To Do With Your Keywords

Now that you know what your keywords are, you have to use them!

First, make sure you’re using your keywords in your content. Now that doesn’t mean you just list all your keywords in some nonsense paragraph and call it good. Remember your human readers, too! But do try to include your keywords, their variations, and related words in your content.

Those variations and related words are important because they help the search engines know that your site isn’t just a keyword stuffed scraper site looking for ad clicks. In other words, it improves your trustworthiness. The more trustworthy your site is, the higher it will rank.

The second thing you want to do with your keywords is to craft a good title tag and description. The title tag is what shows in the top bar of your browser, and is also the clickable part in the search results. The description is the small snippet of text that appears below that line. Again, don’t just list your keywords, make it meaningful.

Lastly, use keywords in your headings. You make a heading by using<h2> or <h3> tags. The reason these are important is because the search engines give more weight to these words when calculating your page’s overall rank.

Don ‘t Forget the Humans

It’s easy to get so carried away with writing for the spiders that we forget the real purpose of your site: to attract and keep human readers. But remember this – spiders don’t have credit cards. If you are in the business of making money (and aren’t we all?) then you must ultimately write for humans. The spiders will lead them to you, but your content has to keep them there.

Cindy Bidar is a freelance copywriter specializing in web content. She blogs about writing, marketing, and anything else that strikes her fancy at CindyBidar.com.

Writing for the Web – Monday Marketing

mondaymarketinglogoThis is a guest post by Cindy Bidar.

Every website has two audiences: the human type and the computer type, and they form a symbiotic relationship. Without one, the other cannot survive.

The computer audience is made up of these little programs we call spiders. Spiders work for the search engines, crawling pages and indexing what they find there. They are totally objective, looking only at the words they find and, using a complicated algorithm no one understands, and assigning a “value” to your page by which your human audience can find it.

The human audience is more subjective, easily distracted, and quick to jump to the next page (or back to the previous one) if they don’t find what they are looking for in the first three seconds after they arrive. They don’t just read the words, they see the whole page and form an opinion of you, your credentials, and your authority–all from a single glance.

How can you possibly write one page for these two very different creatures? That is the art of writing for the web.

Today we’ll look at keeping those fickle humans happy. Next week we’ll take a look at the spiders and how to feed them the information we want them to have, so that they can attract the right humans to our pages.

Three Ways to Format Your Text for Easy Scanning

Web readers are a fast moving breed. They land on a page, scan it for pertinent information, and if they don’t find it they are very quick to move on. Your job is to make it easy for your readers to find what they are looking for, and pleasant for them to stay.

  • Use heading tags to break a longer page into sections. In WordPress, you would typically use the <h3> tag (we’ll talk about why in next week’s episode). Make sure your headings are descriptive enough so your reader knows what that section is about.
  • Lists (like this one) give your readers lots of information in a small space. Is your visitor looking for popular cruise destinations, presidents of the United States beginning in 1900, or the minerals mined in Death Valley? A list is the perfect tool.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Large blocks of unbroken text will turn a reader away almost as fast as hot pink words on a black background. When in doubt, start a new paragraph.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Pictures add interest to your pages and serve to break up long pages of boring text. Wall Street Journal readers might like pages and pages of nothing but text, but web readers need someplace to rest their eyes, and a well chosen picture is a good landing spot.

Use your caption and <alt> text wisely, and you can improve your search engine ranking as well.

One word of caution about pictures, though: Learn about licensing. Just because a picture is posted on the Internet does not make it free for use on another web site.

Finally, the Words

Writing for the web is not that much different than writing for print. Vary your sentence structure; use active verbs; avoid using adverbs (really, very, actually, quickly, simply, and most other words that end in “ly”). You can’t go wrong with Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Get yourself a copy.

One last thing: Writing for the web tends to be less formal than writing for print. Unless you’re writing a white paper or a news story, stick with first and second person. Your readers will be more engaged if they feel you’re speaking directly to them rather than some generic audience.

Do you have a Monday Marketing Tip you’d like to share? Leave a comment, or if you post on your own blog, leave us a link below!

Cindy Bidar is a freelance copywriter specializing in web content. She blogs about writing, marketing, and anything else that strikes her fancy at CindyBidar.com.