The key to writing good internet articles starts with this: people don’t read the internet. Reading studies have shown that when it comes to the internet, people are scanning, skipping, spending just seconds on a page in a focused hunt for information. Only when you’ve hooked them, will they actually read more than the first paragraph or the first line. So, how do you write for scanners? We’ll start at the top.
Your title (and the subheadings for that matter) must sum up the main idea of the article or section. In other words, your titles should also be your conclusions, as if they are flashing in big, neon lights. Being clever is, perhaps, good for your writer-ego, but it’s not going to get your work to the top of the search results, which is tragic; your article might just be a brilliant piece of writing.
If you don’t think titles are a big deal, consider this: Studies show that readers only get below that fat title bar on a web page 20 percent of the time. If your first paragraph doesn’t give them what they want, they’re not scrolling down. In fact, they’re likely gone.
Avoid words like “super hot” and “most awesome”—anything that’s going to set off your readers “marketese” radar. Though you might think this is selling your ideas and products, readers want the facts when they’re searching the internet, not pitches. Hold back on the fluff.
Organization is key. If you’ve taken Journalism 101, you were likely taught that old school inverted pyramid, which demands that a good article start with all the important facts and then trickles down to less important facts. Give your readers what they want from the start and you’ll win credibility.
As the internet is a different reading environment than the crisp page of a new novel, you should also be aware of how you’re formatting text. Your text has to compete with pop-up ads (often irritating readers), and the constant presence of competition (your reader could literally be reading millions of other articles on the same topic). Providing bold text to highlight the main ideas makes reading that much easier and encourages the readers eye further down the page.
Short paragraphs separated by a nice white space also move the reading process forward. Make sure to give each new idea a new space.
If all your articles follow these simple guidelines, you’ll have readers returning for more, and walking away feeling like you gave them exactly what your title promised.
Lastly, once you’ve made your point, honor your reader’s time and end the article.