If you have come to this article with the question, “How do people read online?” The simple – and sad – answer is…they don’t.
A visitor to your site probably won’t read your content; they will scan it. A recent study found nearly 80% of participants scanned a website; just over 15% bothered to read the content word by word.
This means writing content for an online publication is very different from any other form of writing.
Check out the four most important things to remember when creating online content.
We’ll adapt the acronym a bit – Keep It Simple and Scannable. Visitors scan text. So, you need to make your content scannable. Here’s how:
- Use short paragraphs. Make it easy for scanners to digest chunks of text.
- Only have one idea per paragraph. Visitors will skip any information that doesn’t grab their attention in the first few words. Randomly jumping from one topic to another, without warning, won’t sit well.
- Keep the word count to half the length of conventional print writing.
Be specific about what you want visitors to read. Draw attention to the most important content.
Use meaningful subheadings to guide the reader from point A to point B. Also, subheadings help break up the content, making it look less daunting.
Bullet points can share a lot of useful information in an easy-to-read list. Writing a short sentence and then support it with bullet points (see the above section for an example) is a good way to go.
Online readers are very different from print readers. If a reader picks up a magazine and doesn’t like the first article she comes across, she’ll simply turn the page to the next. She won’t put the magazine down and grab another.
If online readers don’t like what they see, they might leave your site entirely.
Online readers spend an average of 30 seconds on each webpage. Take advantage of their short attention span; link to other relevant articles on your site. Guide visitors from one useful topic to the next.
Readers who buy the Wall Street Journal can trust the information they find there. Employees go through a hiring process. Their writing is evaluated before publication. And they have a longstanding record of quality to back them up.
Anyone can start a website. There is no criteria a writer must meet. Very few online writers have an editor. It’s unclear who is actually writing the information on the web. And there is little, if any, accountability for quality.
Therefore, online writers should provide citations for their work. You might think it is dangerous to link to outside sources; a visitor could leave your site and never come back.
However, by providing citations for your writing, you’re building confidence with the readers. They know when they want quality information, visitors can come to you.
Transitioning from print writing to online writing can be a challenging task. However, if you keep these tips in mind, your visitors are more likely to absorb what you have to say.
Image Credit: Anselm23