April 24, 2014


Five tips for writing effective web content

Frank Barry

Frank Barry

[Publisher's note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

How important is the Internet? How important is the Internet to you as a nonprofit?

Currently, three-quarters of Internet users worldwide visit a social network or blog while online, a 24 percent increase year-over-year according to a recent study by Nielsen.

Then there's the staggering estimate that there are over 2,000,000 blogs on the Internet. If you stop to think about this for a second (or maybe a few) you'll realize that producing quality web content is a must if you want to succeed online. 

So, how do you go about producing great web content? Start by learning how to write -- for the web. There are a handful of fundamental tactics that, in general, you should put into practice every time you create content:

1.   Create titles that generate interest

Titles are the very first things people read in their email subject line, RSS reader and Twitter or Facebook feed. You could argue that this is the single most important part of any content you produce, because without a great title, people won't click (and the almighty click is what you're after.

Now, in reality, we know the meat of your content is the most important, but if you can't generate enough interest to get a click, then all your hard work will be for nothing because no one will ever see your fabulous content.  

2.   Capture people's attention with a compelling intro paragraph

The first few seconds of a visitor's time on your site are the most important part of their visit. If you don't immediately grab their attention by delivering on what your title suggested you'd be talking about, they'll leave in a heartbeat.

The intro paragraph is your opportunity to keep people around. Make sure you take advantage of that real estate by spending extra time carefully crafting your initial few sentences.  

3.   Make sure your content is easy to scan

Ok, so someone clicked on your fancy title, read the first few sentences and is excited about what they are going to learn from you - that's good news. But understand this - most web readers don't read every word you write.

Web readers are skilled in their ability to scan pages for useful information. They want to pick out the things that interest them, so make sure your content is structured in a way that makes this process simple.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you thinking: Use proper headings to break up sections; break sections into easily digested blocks; keep your sentences short, simple and easy to understand; and use a list-type format where appropriate.

4.   Use pictures that capture people's imagination

Napoleon Bonaparte said "Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours," roughly translated as "A good sketch is better than a long speech." Others have said things like "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Either way, you get the point. Pictures are powerful. They can convey a message, one that you are trying to get across to your readers, better than you could in writing (sometimes). Remember this when producing web content and always try to find compelling imagery to enhance your written word. 

5.   Don't forget to use links

Hyperlinks are the building blocks of the web - don't forget to use them! It is important to make sure your content is thoughtfully injected with hyperlinks. Your readers will be appreciative if your links guide them to useful information.

And Google and other search engines will like you more, which will potentially boost your search-engine-optimization rankings. And finally, if you link to other people's information or websites, you'll gain their favor for promoting their resources.

Frank Barry is professional services manager for Blackbaud.


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