Jan 12 2017
Digital writing: the rules

Guest blog by Tillie Harris. 

When it comes to digital writing, nobody wants to read over optimised content. That’s content where the copywriter has sacrificed quality writing in the hope of trying to come higher up on search returns. The user experience goes something like this:

You have a question you need answering. You type it into Google. Instead of reading the answer, you find yourself facing a wall of badly written copy that seems to do little more than repeat and re-phrase your question.

Seriously, who has the time? The copywriter is thinking more about his search return than he’s thinking about his reader. And what do they teach on day one of marketing school? Audience is everything.

So what’s the plan if you want to do well on search engines but don’t want to compromise the quality of your copy? The good news is you don’t have to do anything. Well, nothing more than write well. Google has changed a lot in recent years, they saw the boom in content factories and in ugly writing full of useless keywords and they changed the way they work to discourage it. In fact Google has been actively penalising sites with over optimised content since around 2012. Over optimised content may come up high on a Google return, but only for a few days.

Don’t worry about search engine optimisation. If you are doing what you are doing well, the search engines will find you. Just follow the rules of good digital writing and you’ll do just fine.

Digital writing: The rules

  1. Think about who your audience are and what they need from you.
  2. The most important information should be at the top of the page and the front of each sentence.
  3. Use the same vocabulary as your audience. What words do they use when they talk about the topic?
  4. Follow the rhythm of speech. Use one and two syllable words, not three and four.
  5. Keep your sentences short – aim for around 20 words or under.
  6. Stick to one idea per paragraph, lots of short paragraphs is fine.
  7. Aim for a subheading every two to three paragraphs.
  8. All navigation content should be meaningful – ‘no click here’ or ‘welcome to our home page’. Where the user is and what they need to do should be obvious.
  9. Remember readers mostly look at the top half of the page, down the left hand side.
  10. Build everything you say around what’s in it for the reader, not for you.

Tillie Harris is a writing consultant and develops and delivers one and two day writing courses at the Centre. Book your place on our one-day Digital Writing course.

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