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How Writing for the Web is Different

I launched my blog in 2006 from a hotel room at an academic conference. A speaker inspired me by suggesting that educators could use blogs to share their expertise more broadly. I’d been a journalist for years and was a mass communications professor. I knew writing, so I figured launching a blog would be no big deal. I wrote that first post, then kept checking the analytics. It’s possible that my mom read it. It was just embarrassing. I had no idea what I was doing. But through the years, I studied the craft and learned a lot about how writing for the web differs from other types of writing.

How Writing for the Web is the Same

Before we get into how writing for the web, blogs specifically, is different than writing an essay, a news story, or even a social media post, let’s talk about the similarities. Certainly, being a writer helped me learn how to write for the web more quickly because blogging has a lot in common with the journalistic writing I used to do.

Ways writing for the web is like traditional writing include:

  • Audience Focus. You have to know who you’re writing for when writing online. That’s the same as any other type of writing. Who is the audience? Then you gear everything about your piece towards them.
  • Purpose Driven. Like with any other type of writing, every blog post has a purpose. Understanding the goal of the piece is critical to its overall success.
  • Format. Writing for the web isn’t all that different from the journalistic writing I used to do. Design and comfort in what to expect are essential for the readers. I even ascertain that the inverted pyramid used for news writing is ideal for crafting blog posts. 
  • Great Titles. A great title or headline is critical to getting any piece of writing noticed. The title is perhaps even more important online, where it may be the only thing the reader sees to encourage them to click on and read the piece.
  • Catchy Leads. But the title can’t do all the work. You have to pull the reader in as soon as they start reading, which is why a catchy intro is essential in all types of writing.
  • Uses Storytelling. People love a good story. Even if they aren’t interested in the topic, they’ll often read further if the story draws them in. Storytelling is critical online.
  • Engaging Writing. With any type of writing, your reader will only continue reading as long as you engage them. Blog writing is engaging and often casual like other types of informal writing. And, of course, it’s written in active voice, like the most interesting writing is.
  • Accuracy. Accuracy is critical in any writing. You want to ensure you have your facts straight. Also, use correct grammar and proper spelling.
  • Excellent Editing. All good writing deserves excellent editing. Blog posts are no exception.
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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

How Writing for the Web is Different

Maybe I wasn’t so naive to think that writing a blog would be easy! As you can see, blogs share a lot of attributes with other types of writing. But there are also key ways writing for the web is different. And those factors matter a lot to your blog’s success.

Easy to Scan

People don’t sit down with the idea of reading the internet. More than 70% of blog readers say they skim them. While people spend a great deal of time online, they don’t spend much time on any blog post. Research shows that they spend less than 40 seconds on a post. That means it has to be easy to scan. How do you make that happen?

To make your writing scannable:

  • Use Subheadings. Use subheadings to build on your headline. People should be able to read the title and subheadings and get the gist of your post.
  • Insert Lists. Either write in numbered lists or insert bullet points to make the information easier for the reader to consume.
  • Write Short Paragraphs. Write in short paragraphs that break up the content. Think: One idea per paragraph. A sentence can be a paragraph online. Think about how the copy will look on a mobile device. Break it up accordingly.
  • Use Pull Quotes. Pull quotes and bolded text help make the information easier to process.
  • Add Visuals. As they say, pictures speak louder than words. Use photos and graphics to communicate key points easily.

Many types of long-form writing go in-depth to explain data, the history of a topic, or other related but not critical information. But there’s no reason to go back to the beginning of thought on a topic in a blog post. Instead, you add links to significant resources to help your readers dive deeper if they choose to do so.

Use Keywords

You likely have specific ideas, definitions, or phrases you want people to understand after reading traditional writing. But for blog posts, you choose a keyword phrase that people are likely to type into a Google search. Then use it strategically within your content. You’ll likely use a keyword research tool for this part of the process. 

Optimize the Post

Blogs are different because you must use SEO best practices to optimize your blog for search and make it discoverable.

Before you publish, optimize the:

  • Keyword. Add the keyword in the required locations for optimization.
  • Title Tag. Make sure the title tag and title use the headline you chose. You don’t want random numbers or letters in the URL.
  • Meta Description. Write a meta description that uses the keyword and sells the post.
  • Images. Add photos or graphics, but be sure to compress them beforehand so they don’t slow down your site.  
  • Alt Text. Be sure that your images include proper titles and alt text.

Many people use a plug-in like Yoast to analyze posts for SEO. It tells you what you did well and what you should change to get the most from your writing.

Help Writing for the Web

The points above aren’t a comprehensive list of how writing for the web is different from other types of writing, but they are some critical, obvious differences. At Content Journey, we’re experts at online writing, so you don’t have to be. Want to learn more about partnering with us to write your SEO-optimized content? Book a call. We’d love to chat.

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