Writing for the Web: Best Practices for Engaging Online Readers

by | Jun 20, 2023

The internet has changed the way we create and consume information. 

We can now access information more quickly, explore multiple viewpoints, and actively engage with the content we are reading. This has led to a growing number of contributors from all over the world sharing a diverse range of content. 

But that also means there are more people, websites, and sources of information to compete with

As a result, when your write for the web, you have to WRITE FOR THE WEB

You can’t follow the same rules you learned about other forms of writing. 

To help you create compelling web content, let’s look at some best practices. But first, let’s look at the difference between web and traditional forms of writing so you understand why these best practices are so important. 


Writing For The Web Vs. Traditional Forms Of Writing

While traditional forms of writing like books, newspapers, and magazines continue to hold their significance, writing for the web demands a unique approach and style. 

1. Scannable and Skimmable Content

Web writing requires a different approach to formatting and layout. Online readers tend to skim and scan content rather than reading it word-for-word. 

Therefore, web writers use shorter paragraphs, bullet points, subheadings, and other formatting techniques to make the content more scannable and accessible.

2. Attention Span

Online readers have shorter attention spans compared to readers of books, magazines, or newspapers. 

They are often looking for specific information or answers to their questions. And they know that they can quickly choose a new source of information if what their looking for isn’t easy to find. 

That’s why web writing focuses on providing concise, easily digestible content that captures and maintains the reader’s attention. 

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines play a vital role in directing users to relevant content. If a search engine doesn’t show your content to users, chances are not many people are finding it. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is used to improve the ranking of web content. Unlike traditional writing, writing for the web involves incorporating appropriate keywords, descriptions, and well-structured headlines that align with the search patterns of users and algorithms used by different platforms like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more. 

By optimizing content for search engines, writers can increase the chances of their work being discovered by a larger audience.

4. Hyperlinks 

Web content often includes relevant links to external sources, supporting information, or related articles. These hyperlinks enhance the reader’s experience by providing further context or allowing them to explore additional resources. 

To ensure you don’t lose your readers to other sources (or devalue your content on search engines), these must be used effectively. 

5. Interactivity and Multimedia

Unlike traditional forms of writing that are usually one-way forms of communication, writing for the web requires a user-centric approach. That’s because web content often incorporates interactive elements such as comment sections, social media sharing buttons, or embedded multimedia like images, videos, and audio. 

Web writers need to consider these elements when crafting their content to engage readers and encourage interaction.

6. Accessibility

Online content needs to meet accessibility guidelines to ensure that content can be easily consumed by individuals with disabilities. 

This includes using appropriate headings, alt tags for images, descriptive links, and ensuring overall readability for a diverse audience.

7. Constantly Evolving 

The web is a dynamic and ever-evolving medium, that’s always changing. Unlike traditional print media, web writers often need to adapt their content to changing trends, incorporate the latest information, and maintain the accuracy and relevance of their work over time.

Additionally, emerging trends such as voice search, mobile optimization, and interactive content continue to shape the landscape of web writing, requiring writers to be flexible and innovative in their approach.

Now that you have a better understanding of why writing for the web requires such a distinct approach, let’s look at some tips that will help you address these differences. 

Best Practices When Writing for the Web 

There are many ways to adapt your writing style for the web. So as to not overwhelm you, we’re going to look at some of the most important best practices: 

1. Simplify Your Thoughts

When writing for the web, aim for a grade 4-6 reading level. This ensures that your content is easily comprehensible to a wide range of readers. 

To do this, keep your writing conversational, use simple words, and avoid jargon or complex terminology. By keeping your language straightforward, you make it effortless for readers to understand and connect with your message.

If readers need to repeatedly look something up to better understand what you’re saying to them, they may just hit the back button and find a new article. 

2. Embrace Short Sentences

Short sentences are the building blocks of effective web writing. They promote clarity, enable quick consumption, and maintain reader engagement. 

Aim to keep your sentences concise by conveying one idea at a time and using 20 words or less per sentence. This approach allows readers to absorb information effortlessly and encourages them to continue reading.

3. Stick to Short Paragraphs

Break down your content into small paragraphs consisting of 1-3 sentences each. This format improves readability and prevents readers from feeling overwhelmed by large blocks of text. 

Short paragraphs also make it easier for readers to scan your content, especially when they are browsing on mobile devices.

4. Use Headlines and Sub-Headlines

Organize your content using headlines. 

These headlines serve as signposts, guiding readers through your article and helping them find the information they seek. 

By breaking your content into smaller sections, you make it more scannable and accessible. And it means readers can quickly navigate to the sections that interest them the most.

5. Take Advantage of Lists

People are naturally drawn to lists. 

Incorporating numbered or bulleted lists in your content helps to: 

  • Capture attention
  • Improve scannability 
  • Increases engagement 

Odd-numbered lists are particularly effective, as they create a sense of curiosity and intrigue. 

Use this format to present information concisely and make it easier for readers to consume and remember.

6. Link to Relevant Content

Incorporate hyperlinks from your article to other related pieces of content. 

You can link to content can be on other websites. But if you link to a new site, be sure to stick to credible sources. This will increase the reputation of your site and further improve your SEO. 

RELATED: Learn more about how SEO can improve your online visibility …

You can also link to other content on your website that’s related to the article they’re reading. This encourages readers to explore more of your website, reduces bounce rates, and increases the time visitors spend on your site. 

Providing additional resources or related articles is also a great way to value and keep readers engaged with your content.

7. Don’t Be Too Salesy 

Nobody enjoys being bombarded with sales pitches. 

When writing for the web, prioritize providing informative and valuable content over promoting products or services. This will build trust with your readers by offering insights, solutions, or entertainment that aligns with their interests and needs. 

8. Think About Length

While 300 words is often considered a minimum for web content, studies indicate that longer articles tend to perform better. Aim for a minimum of 700 and don’t be afraid to go into the 1000s if you have lots of information to share. 

That’s because longer pieces allow you to delve deeper into a topic, provide more comprehensive information, and better establish your expertise.

9. Capture Attention with Your Intro

Web users have limited attention spans and are prone to distractions, making it crucial to capture their interest within seconds. 

While there are times when a lengthy intro can help set the scene, more often than not less is more. 

Use the first paragraph to hook readers and provide a clear overview of what they can expect from the article.


Get Ready To Capture And Convert Your Audience 

The internet has revolutionized how we consume information. As a result, content creators need to adapt. 

By implementing these best practices, you can begin to master the art of writing for the web. This will ultimately help you create engaging and impactful content that resonates with readers, increasing traffic, engagement, and conversions.  

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