Before the Internet, writers wrote and readers read. However, like most things, technology left its mark on the writer/reader relationship. For the Internet, writers write and readers scan. This is the largest difference among many between writing for the Web and writing for print.
Think about it. When you read a book, for the most part you plan to settle down with it and take awhile. Whether fiction or nonfiction, books are generally read for long-term pleasure.
Web content, however, is quite different. Its been repeatedly proven viewers scan a page. Eyes may rest on a title, section heading, bolded word or paragraph beginning, but we seldom just read a web page. The Internet is mostly about instant gratification and knowledge, not to be held ransom by unnecessary words.
The Rules Just Aint the Same
If youre writing for a printed publication, for instance, you could write any kind of headline you want. Within the limits of the publications editor, you can allow your wit and humor free reign. See, with print, the reader really only chooses which articles to read first; not whether theyll read the magazine at all (after all, most of the time, theyve ordered the magazines). However, with online writing, the rules change. In fact, its not like writing in print at all...
#1 - Dont tease
When you start out an online article, give a summary at the beginning with enough information that the reader gets the important points up front. If youve done well with the summary and theyre still interested, they can then read further for the details.
Dont tease by giving them a little hint here and a little hint there. Make sure your summary really does hold important information. In this way, your readers will appreciate that they have a choice: to read the intro and grab important info, or read the whole article.
#2 " Dont forget keywords
Online, you have to remember searchable, viable keywords. If youre writing about flypaper and want people to find the article online using the search flypaper, guess what word had better be in your headline. Get too witty and your headline may be passed over. The reader has a choice of millions of other headlines not just yours and a few others.
Keywords are an important part of the headline, page title, sub headers pretty much everything in the online article. Be precise. Be concise. Online, a sense of humor and witty wording can have you buried in the search engines.
#3 " Write for short attention spans
Especially when first coming to a blog or being introduced to a new writer, readers dont settle down with a good website. Because of irritating factors such as eyestrain and others, online readers have a much shorter attention span. You dont have to understand all the whys, however, you just have to meet the market needs.
For an Internet market, its always best to keep your articles shorter. If you must, break your fantastic list of information into two articles or blog posts. Dont overwhelm; if possible, shorten the writing by turning important points into bullets. Lastly " the longer your writing is, the more sub headers and paragraph headers youre going to need.
#4 " Always write to inform
When you take the time to read print, you expect to be entertained. You stay up-to-date on the latest trends on the magazines subject and stay interested in the magazine itself. After all, if you get tired of the magazine, you just cancel or stop buying. The magazine publishers do their best to keep you entertained.
Not so with the World Wide Web. Okay, yes you should try to entertain as well. However, the Internet is used much like the resource section of the library used to be. This is where people go for information. Dont forget that writing to inform is a major key.
Although there are other rules for writing online, such as keep your paragraphs short, itd take a book to write them all down. Its not hard, exactly, but if youre going to build an online readership, remember when writing for the Web, the rules just arent the same.