The five golden rules of structuring web copy
Newsflash! People have very short attention spans, which is why we often use attention-grabbing words like newsflash. If you’ve got some important, informative ideas to share with your audience, they’ll want to read them (even if they don’t know it yet) so make it easy for yourself and them by creating online content that is as accessible as possible.
Not unlike newsprint articles, structuring web copy should follow a formula that will hold the reader’s attention and communicate your message effectively and efficiently before their eyes glaze over and a new tab is opened.
Here are some easy steps to follow when avoiding just that.
1. Draw them in
When people arrive at a web page, the first thing they’ll do is skim visual cues or images. They want to figure out how relevant this article is to their life before summoning up the brain energy it takes to embark on reading text. With this in mind, include graphics and images that are relevant to the article.
Hook your reader by using larger or bolded text for the first paragraph, which by the laws of hierarchy will create more impact and dictate where their eyes will go to next.
Lastly, make sure the first paragraph is short, bold, and ideally funny or educational so it’s engaging. In this introduction, you want to summarise the intended message that this piece of writing should communicate and how it’s relevant to their needs.
2. Make it scannable
As we know, online users won’t be reading every word of your writing and will almost certainly scan text so they can determine its worth faster. If you use this fact to your benefit, you’ll hold the reader’s attention for longer and the whole piece will be easier to read as well as write.
The best way to make a piece of text skimmable is to break it down into bite-sized chunks. Use meaningful titles and sub-headings to signpost what follows and note that bolded text will be read first, so consider a heavier weight for your titles.
It’s a good idea to stick to one idea per paragraph so as not to overcomplicate your message. Finally, although sentences should be on the shorter end of the scale, feel free to vary sentence and paragraph length so it doesn’t feel too clunky or formulaic.
3. Engage a top down approach
When writing an article, invert your pyramid and keep the important material at the top.
Good web content retains the most crucial information at the start of the article and lists the following content in the order of diminishing importance. This is to ensure your reader sees the essential stuff before getting distracted and wandering away, as they inevitably will.
4. Keep it light
Brevity is key — Generally readers are more likely to tackle an article that has a shorter word count over one that spills on, so keep it concise and eliminate anything unnecessary. If it’s not enhancing your piece, get rid of it or re work it into something relevant to your audience.
As well as the weight of length, consider your way of speaking and how accessible it is. Avoid jargon and build rapport through light, friendly copy. Nobody wants to read anything too dense or technical.
5. Use links
When referring to an interesting idea or relevant article from another source, make sure to link it within the article. Ensure your links are contextual with clear titles so the reader knows what they’re accessing. Avoid just hyperlinking ‘click here’ as this isn’t very accessible to users with screen readers.
Also note that hyperlinks will generally appear with an underline (a ubiquitous signifier of a link), so make sure not to underline text elsewhere as a stylistic device, or this will be misleading.
At ALHAUS we offer a variety of content creating services to help you reach a relevant audience and communicate your message. Contact us and our content management team will review your needs and put together a tailored strategy.