So you want to write online content

Why wouldn’t you? Online is cool. It’s where all the action is these days.

And you? You’re a great writer. You’ve written heaps of stuff – direct mail letters, brochures, magazine articles… and you’re a gun at emails.

Writing for online should be a shoo-in for you. You use the web every day. You know what good online content looks like.

How hard can it be?

Well… It might be a bit trickier than you think. The online world is a fairly unforgiving place and web natives have really short attention spans.

Think about the readers of your non-online material, your DMs, brochures and magazines. They hold your content in their hot little hands. They have picked up your brochure or magazine and have committed their precious time to finding out what it says. They are already invested in reading what you’ve written.

All the visitor to your webpage did was click a link. They may not even know what was behind that link. They just clicked it because it looked like it might, possibly, lead to something they’re interested in.

The average web visitor takes less than five seconds to decide whether a page has the information they want. If it doesn’t, click, they’re gone.

Five seconds. Think about that. Five seconds to convince your reader that your page is the be-all and end-all of their information search. It’s not very long.

In those five seconds, your page needs to tell the site visitor what the page is about, what it can do for them and what they can do on it. No excess content or waffly words allowed. Every word on your page has to pull its weight.

And to make it worse, your page is fighting with hundreds of millions of other pages just to get those five seconds. Google, Yahoo, Bing and the others don’t play favourites. They won’t even find your page unless it’s ‘optimised’.

So not only do you have to write tight and transparent content, you have to make sure that content can be found in the first place.

Search engine optimisation. The art of outsmarting Google. Well, really, the art of playing by Google’s rules so you outsmart all the other sites competing for site visitors.

Google and its brethren are all about keywords. Whatever the site visitor types into the big white search box is the keyword or words for that search. You page’s only chance of appearing in the search results is by having that word or words in its heading, its html title and at least some of the links pointing to it.

If you’re lucky, your page appears on the first page of the search results. Why is this important? Well only one in ten people look beyond that first page, so if your page isn’t there, not many people are going to find it.

OK, so now your page is beautifully written, packed full of keywords and ready for all comers.

Well almost all comers…

Have you assessed your page for accessibility? Accessibility means optimising your page for page readers, as used by visually impaired site visitors.  Around 360,000 Australians are blind or have low vision. Have you made sure they will be able to read your page?

Online content, it’s not quite as simple as it seems.  It’s a lot of fun though.

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