Great Ideas Start Here

blog: a regularly updated web page, typically run by an individual or organization, containing relevant thoughts and ideas.
by: Christine Swartzendruber, Chief Technology Officer
Today there are many web site owners, who have a CMS site. CMS is a Content Management System and what that means is, they can easily type content into a text editor and post it to their site without needing to know any html or other web programming language. The problem is, just because you have CMS does not mean you have the knowledge to create great site content that will be valuable to your readers and written well enough to work with the search engines. If no one finds your site, what is the point of having it?

Ok, so how can you write great content? Writing for the web is a bit different from writing for print, mostly due to “scan reading”. Someone reading a web page is more inclined to just scan through your content gathering the gist of what you’re trying to say and looking for the next link to follow, where they can find more information. Another challenge is writing for the search engines. Search engines scan your pages for the overall topic of your content so they can index them accordingly. If your content is not clear and your topic is not emphasized, it will be harder to reach the user-base you are looking for.

It can be a bit depressing that users will not read every word of your carefully thought out blog post, but the sooner you accept this, the better you can adapt your copy to users and their search for information. Here are a few tips for making your content “scan ready”.

Opening Topic Overview
You will want to begin your content with a summary of what the reader can expect to find in the paragraphs to come. This will give the reader an idea of how interested they are in what you are presenting.

Keep The Overall Content Piece Short
No one wants to read a thirteen page essay about a single topic online, unless it is written about their number one passion or the love of their life. Don’t feel like you need to write more content to keep the reader’s interest. Remember they just want to scan, retrieve and leave!

Keep Your Paragraphs Short
Each paragraph should make a single point that offers the reader a bit of information they can use.

Keep Sentences Short
Don’t go on and on about the same thing. Make your point and move on to the next.

Break Your Copy Up
Assigning a heading or a subheading to a portion of text is helpful for the reader to quickly find what they are looking for, and get a basic idea of what you are trying to say. If they want or need more of a description about that particular thing they can read the subtext below.

Evaluate Your Paragraphs
Ask yourself if your paragraph can be reduced to a short bullet point and still convey the appropriate information.

Include Meaningful Links
Don’t use the phrase, “click here” to link to more information. Instead, summarize the destination of the link and make that summary the actual link. Many users will scan a page looking specifically at the links. Make sure your links make sense out of context.

Keep Your Content Reader Friendly
Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations or professional jargon that your general audience will not understand. A typical reader will not have the level of knowledge that you have about the topic, or they wouldn’t need to get the information from you. Keep it simple!

Stay At A Reasonable Reading Level
About 40% of the population has a low literacy level and yet on the web little consideration is given to their needs. Many people suffer from attention deficit disorder or dyslexia, making it harder for them to read complicated writing. Easy to read content makes it faster to consume the information you are presenting, even to the most literate readers. Write for the lowest common denominator.

These are just a few tips to get you started. Using CMS can make your online writing experience so much easier, but having the tools to write good content can make all the difference in the success of your site as a whole.