Writing for the Online Attention Span

Many freelance writers come into Web freelance writing from the print world, and bring with them a number of habits that aren’t used in most Web freelance writing. In the print world, flowery, expressive language may be used, depending on the publication, to give a more literary feel to the copy. This is often done with long intros that set the stage for the information to come.

None of this is welcomed by most Web readers. Succinct copy that grabs readers right away is the preferred method to keep Web readers interested. Forget those 30-inch feature stories, and the first-person essays that are so popular in newspapers and magazines. Online, people are looking for fast information. The content strategy most often used is to keep the information to 400 to 500 words to cover the topic without forcing the reader to wade through content they don’t want to get the information they need.

Searching for Relevant Information

To see the reasons behind these Web writing guidelines, think about your own search engine queries. You likely type in a word or phrase that you want to know about, and then see a page of results. The ones that aren’t clear about what they contain will probably be ignored in favor of those that are. If you click on a result and find a long page full of miscellaneous content that doesn’t make it clear where to find your information, you will likely go elsewhere to a page that does.

That’s why the reigning content strategy is to create short, information-heavy pages that are easy to find. They are clearly labeled with headlines that don’t try to be clever or ironic. Instead, clearly labeled pages that use plain language are published to allow searchers to find them easily, and to see that these pages contain the information they are seeking. Searchers have blogs, articles, press releases and even tweets to wade through to find the pages they need. If your page isn’t written for the online attention span, your content marketing strategy will cost you readers.