Website content is the vehicle site visitors take to decide if your offerings meet their needs. Writing web content requires a style fit for the medium. Web users are busy and rely on the Internet for convenient access to information. Effective communication requires understanding what motivates your users, how they use the web, and how to speak to them on their terms.
Web users are primarily online to solve a problem. The sites they visit must quickly and clearly state how they can solve that problem, or the visitor will move on.
Because of the sheer volume of information available, web users initially read as little as possible. They will search, click to a site based on the descriptions in the search results, scan the home page, and then judge whether or not this site can solve their problem. “Scannable” page elements include headings, subheads, photo captions, and bullet lists. These are the first things that visitors use to determine the site’s value to them.
If a visitor finds something of interest, they will click to go deeper and read in more detail. But it cannot be expected that a new visitor will wade through lengthy paragraphs for the information they need when it’s so much easier to click to another site that may be more useful.
Web content also benefits visitors by focusing on information rather than “sales-speak.” Glossy, adjective-laden prose serves the company, not the visitor, and visitors have no patience for it. What visitors want is solid, factual information that helps solve their problem. The sooner their problem is solved, the sooner visitors can stop searching, delve deeper into your site, and become customers.
Brief Is Better
Because reading on computer screens takes energy and visitors are busy to begin with, web content must be brief. Short paragraphs and sentences with plenty of white space make textual content more inviting. Cutting the word count almost always improves the user experience.
But web pages are not only read by people. Search engines read websites to learn what they have to offer and then list them appropriately on search results pages. The content that search engines find is the main factor in determining these rankings. Therefore, web pages should be written for humans but with search engines in mind as well. Placing keywords in a page’s META and TITLE tags, headings, image ALT attributes, and page copy can improve search engine rankings.
Finally, content should motivate visitors to act. “Action” is the natural response of visitors who believe that what they’ve learned on the website is a solution for them. Content can include links that enable visitors to go to the next step towards the desired goal, such as making a phone call, filling in a form, or making a purchase. Giving users the ability to act on information is a key difference between the web and other media and should be fully utilized in any web-based sales scenario.
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