When it comes to writing for the Web, nuance shapes the craft. In my years as a Web designer, content writer and search engine optimizer, I’ve found many people to have several misconceptions of what effective Web writing is, such as:

  • The more key word phrases, the better.
  • Our brochure copy will work just fine for the Web.
  • The fewer words the better, people don’t read the Web.
  • The content in our business plan will also work for the Web.
  • We need to sound hip to appeal to a younger audience.
  • Words are less important than flash.

While I’ve found all of the above points to be true to certain point, experience tells me there needs to be a balance.

Here’s what I mean:

Key words. It is true that Web content should have targeted key words and phrases. However, key-word stuffed content actually gets penalized by the search engines. Newer updates of the search engine algorithms are also favoring quality, in-depth content that reads and flows naturally. Because an excessive use of key words hinders the reading experience, well-written Web content that follows more traditional writing standards is becoming more favorable and findable.

Using brochure copy. When we write for brochures, we’re employing a different mindset that reaches our target audience. The way we present information about our organization may be more or less content heavy than what is on the Web. But the key in Web writing is the calls to action. Brochure content requires a different strategy. That’s why when my clients ask me to write brochure content that they can repurpose for the Web, or vice versa, I tell them right away that is not the best approach.

Overly concise. When I entered the world of the Web, I loved the idea of writing in a way that was pithy and conversational. However, there is such a thing as being overly concise. While some statistics show that people “don’t read on the Web,” there is a way to organize and present beefed up content so your users get answers to their questions. This doesn’t mean we have to omit key content, especially if our offline marketing materials keep encouraging visitors to “learn more” on our websites.

Using business plan copy. When we first build a website, it’s tempting to want to take the easy way out by copying and pasting official language from our business plans into our websites. Unfortunately there is no bigger turn off than overly formal language that describes our business. However, I think it’s important that we use our business plans to help us strategize the information we want to share on our websites and the conversational way of presenting it.

We need to sound hip. When it comes to marketing, our first question to ourselves should always be, “Who is our audience?” Once we determine this, we get a better sense of how our audience prefers to receive information and as well as the tone. Whether this means sounding hip is another story. It all boils down to your audience demographics and what gets them engaged.

Word are less important than flash. If your website isn’t closing the sale and you’ve got a fun, flashy website, then obviously there’s something missing. At the end of the day, people communicate through language. Even in a graphic-design heavy environment, there needs to be obvious calls to action to guide users to the next step. Aesthetics are important, but in Web design, they don’t trump verbal communication.

Make it Work for You

As you write copy for your website, use your previous marketing materials and business plan as a tool to understand what makes your company unique. Put yourself in the mindset of your audience to determine the best tone, voice and lingo that will resonate with them. Write Web content that creates conversations and guides your users to where they need to be. Remember, they visit your website for a reason. Help them get what they need sooner than later and watch engagement improve!

If you often hear the term organic SEO (search engine optimization) but haven’t a clue what it is or where to go to find out, this article offers a primer. In a nutshell, organic SEO is Web content marketing to help companies get found in the unpaid sections—as opposed to the advertised space or business listings—of search engines when users type in relevant key words.

Within the world of SEO, there’s a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” The good guy is known as the “white hat” optimizer, the above-board content marketer who avoids dirty tricks such as link farming—links within articles that appear authentically informative but merely serve as a tool to promote the websites to which these articles link. These links are generally paid for by the client and the articles deceive the readers by appearing to be an objective news source.

The “bad guys” are known as “black hat” optimizers. These are the SEOers who believe in link farming and writing content that is shallow in nature, bloated with key words. The black hatters may resort to other tricks such as website cloaking.

According to Google, many of the black hat tactics lead to penalties of the offending websites. These sites may get banned from the search engines or drop in ranking when there’s an algorithm update. While there are many questions as to whether these penalties are effective in targeting the offenders, the general sentiment among white hatters is to avoid the black hat tactics altogether to avoid penalties in the future.

What makes great organic SEO?

This is a question I hear all the time—as do many of my colleagues who offer similar services as Judy Asman Communication; my answer promotes a multi-pronged approach in marketing and PR. At the base of my philosophies is strengthening your business practices first then using your marketing efforts to showcase your brand. In all cases, the right formula depends on knowing how strict your competition is and a combination of these factors:

  • Consistency. Once your optimized website is launched, it’s important to keep adding relevant, credible and fresh content and to share that content in as many outlets possible. Business owners or marketers who don’t understand this not only eventually see drops in their top positions but they also seem to be the ones who don’t understand that good SEO is only the first step to business success (more on this in last bullet).
  • Omni-presence. In the December 2013 Website Magazine article, “SEO Myths Debunked,” editor Pete Prestipino says, “Social is not the new SEO,” adding that “the only surefire way to leverage the new social-SEO is to create relevant, rich content that consumers want to consume and, of course, share, like retweet, +1, etc.” One of the reasons it’s so important to make sure your content and URL appear on other sites throughout the Internet is so that the search engines acknowledge it as a legitimate site. Your site’s credibility grows when links to it appear in other online sources. This is why I always encourage my clients to get a social media presence and send out news releases. These clients also consistently tweet, share links on Facebook and get quoted by other websites who respect them.
  • Quality content. Really strong emphasis on the word “quality” here. Now with fresher algorithms, the days of gaming the key word system are over. The days of page one articles that leave readers confused are gone too. As a search engine user and a search engine optimizer, I for one think that’s good news. Check out this article from Yahoo! News South Africa, which talks about the latest Google Hummingbird update and why it’s good for premium writers.
  • Easy-to-navigate user experience. Remember that SEO is all about getting found on the Web. But what happens after that?  Search engines also look for engagement. So keep these three things in mind: 1) Getting found is thanks to SEO; 2) Getting customers to act is thanks to calls to action and easy-to-read text; and 3) Closing the sale is thanks to the systems and processes your company already has in place.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions about the above, I invite you to leave a comment below.