Writing for the Web: Reader-Friendly, SEO-Friendly

“Write for your audience” is advice that every serious journalist and blogger has applied to successful content.  But writing for your audience doesn’t just mean sticking to topics they’re interested in–it also means using styles they’re comfortable with.

When I was cutting my teeth as a beat reporter for a local newspaper nearly a decade ago, that meant writing articles “for print.”  While lean copy that stuck to the facts was ostensibly preferred, editors still liked to see beefy feature articles that were heavy on content.

As a reporter, it was always better to write a long story and let the editor chop it up rather than get yelled at for submitting too little.  Readers who paid for a newspaper liked to see more for their money, not less.

Today, though, writing Web content that attracts readers often means keeping pages lean.  Consumers who are used to absorbing info online are more likely to “scan” than actually read, so making good use of helpers like bullet points, bold headings and numbered lists allow them to grasp the theme of a post more quickly.

With so much information available at our fingertips, the Internet has put a strain on the reader’s tolerance for unnecessary text.  If you don’t get to the point quickly, your visitors are likely to bounce.

But online publishers benefit from more than just happy readers when they keep their content “Web-friendly.”  Breaking articles up into several smaller posts isn’t just a good way to keep your visitors coming back; it also creates more indexed pages on your URL and increased organic search trafficShorter, more frequently published posts means your site get crawled and indexed more often by search engines, and also leads to better rankings in the SERPs.

One word of warning: don’t think that “keeping it lean” means that you can necessarily build a heavily trafficked site by spitting out a bunch of one-sentence posts. Keeping new articles between 200 to 400 words has always delivered the best results for me.  Search engines aren’t likely to give much authority to a page that only has a few keyword-stuffed paragraphs in it.

And here’s that part where I follow my own advice by making sure that this post stays brief, too.  Remember: keep it lean!

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  • Thank you for the reminder on keeping it lean, Phil.

    My biggest problem is getting verbose with my blog writing. I also have found success with splitting long, feature-type articles, but unfortunately I don’t practice doing it as much as I should.

    Great info on the search engines too.

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