How to structure good web content

It’s not as hard as it seems to structure good web content. All you have to do is remember how people read online, make sure that the most important material is at the top of the post, and make sure key words and sections are easy to find. Above all, keep it simple, personal, and friendly.

Oh, and there’s a little matter of good SEO, and good taxonomy, so it performs well. But we’ll get to that.

Reading online is different to reading print

It’s a truism that reading material online is different to reading material in print. If you spend much time online, think about how you read material yourself. I’ll wager that 90% of the time (or more) you scan pages looking for key words, key phrases, and headings to help you determine whether what you have found is what you want.

With this in mind, then, what you want to do is write an introductory paragraph, which is kind of like a conclusion. Odd, I know. But if you can summarise what you want to say in the first two or three sentences, then it helps your readers work out whether what you have to say is relevant to their needs. If you are using your blog for marketing purposes — as most businesses do — you have to make sure that you are going to draw people in.

When you structure good web content, the most important material is at the top

This style of writing is often known as the ‘inverted pyramid’ style — and you will see it most frequently in news writing. Wikipedia has more information about this type of structure.

Essentially, what you have to do is put all of the most important material at the beginning of the post, and write the remainder in order of diminishing importance. It doesn’t mean that the structure has to be too simple, or that it will fail to make sense. It just means that your reader will get the best of what you have to say in the first thirty seconds. That time-​frame is crucial because that’s when your readers will decide whether your site is valuable to them.

Make the key words and sections easy to find

Once you have your ‘teaser’ or ‘summary’ at the top, go nuts on what you have to say. You can always shuffle the text around! But make sure that the sections of your post are easy to find, so that people who scan the page can get the sense of what you have to say without having to read the whole thing. Let’s be honest, most people won’t read the entire post the first time.

Like I’ve done here, the key sections are in headings. It’s easy to navigate, it gives you an immediate sense of structure, and if you want detail about those parts then you can take the time to read it.

Remember that people will read bold text first, and that italics will be seen, but not immediately. Also remember that underlined words look like links; so avoid, avoid, avoid.

What about SEO?

Structuring good web copy in the way suggested above works for your readers, but people often wonder about SEO. Here’s a tip: It’s as much in the elements on the page as it is in the meta data.

Make sure that the keyword you define in your meta data is in your title. And then also in at least one heading. It must appear in the first sentence, and elsewhere throughout the page or post. And also in the URL, the description, and the excerpt.

But search is not as simple as this. You must remember how people search for things, and the behaviour of search. You must also remember that your taxonomy of tags and categories is what drives your on-​site search. Even if you have fantastic writing on your site, if your taxonomy and meta data are poor, it will not perform as well as it could.

Keep it simple and friendly!

There is nothing worse than reading a long sentence on-​screen. Shorter sentences work best. Avoiding jargon is vital. And if you can build rapport with your reader through warm and friendly copy, so much the better. Nobody wants to read anything that is too clinical, or stand-​offish.

More to the point, simpler text is more accessible.

But how do you do it? The key to it is to write to someone you know well. It’s even better if that person is part of your target audience. This is why personas and journeys are so valuable — it helps everyone write to that target person.

Personalising your online copy is the best way of making it friendly. If you want your copy to bring you business, you have to express your personality through your text.

Doing all of this can be a challenge

Don’t expect that you can do it perfectly the first time — or even every time if writing content is not your core business. We can train you and your team, or even do it for you. Contact us to find out how »

2 thoughts on “How to structure good web content

  1. Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”.

  2. Getting comments is always difficult. I think the key to driving interaction is posting content that really hits the mark with your readers, and/​or is controversial in some sense. People are often driven to react and interact on such things. There are ways to do this without being confrontational too. One of my up-​coming blogs will be on some links that might help you out. 🙂

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