Do you want to optimize your website
but have trouble communicating with the technical folks running it? Jargon alone shouldn't stop you from making your site the powerful marketing tool it can be.
This is a list of the 40 most essential search engine optimization
(SEO) terms to help marketers communicate with developers and understand how to optimize their websites.40 SEO Terms You Must Know!301 Redirect
– A way to make one web page redirect the visitor to another page. Whenever you change the web address of a page, apply a 301 redirect
to make the old address point to the new one. This ensures that people who have linked to or bookmarked the old address will automatically get to the new one, and search engines can update their index.AALT Text/Tag or Attribute
- A description of an image in your site's HTML. Unlike humans, search engines read only the ALT text of images, not the images themselves. Add ALT text to images whenever possible.Anchor Text
- The actual text of a link to a web page. On most websites, this text is usually dark blue and underlined, or purple if you’ve visited the link in the past. Anchor text helps search engines understand what the destination page is about; it describes what you will see if you click through.Blog
- A part of your website where you should regularly publish content (e.g. commentary on industry/company topics, descriptions of events, photos, videos, etc.). Each blog post on your website is a new page that a search engine sees, and therefore a new opportunity to get found online. Make sure you keep your blog within your own domain
- A link to a website saved for later reference in your web browser or computer. Social bookmarking sites (example: Delicious.com) let users share websites they like with each other. Having links to your site in social bookmarking sites is a sign to crawlers that your website content is interesting to people.Canonical URL
- The canonical URL is the best address on which a user can find a piece of information. Sometimes you might have a situation where the same page content can be accessed at more than one address. Specifying the canonical URL helps search engines understand which address for a piece of content is the best one.Conversion Form
- A form through which you collect information about your site visitor. Conversion forms
convert traffic into leads. Collecting contact information helps you follow up with these leads.CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
- The part of your code that defines how different elements of your site look (examples: headers, links).Directory
- Just like directories for people and phone numbers, there are directories for websites
. Submitting your site to a directory gives you more than just an inbound link; it helps people find you. The most popular web directories are Yahoo! Directory
- The main web address of your site (example: www.yoursite.com). It's good to renew ownership of your domain for several years. Search engine rankings favor websites with longer registrations because it shows commitment.The Fold
- The “fold” is the point on your website where the page gets cut off by the bottom of a user’s monitor or browser window. Anything below the fold can be scrolled to, but isn’t seen right away. Search engines place some priority on content above the fold, since it will be seen right away by new visitors. Having too many ads above the fold can be seen as a negative issue, too. (See Panda).Headings
- Text on your website that is placed inside of a heading tag, such as an H1 or H2. This text is often presented in a larger and stronger font than other text on the page.HTML
- The code part of your website that search engines read. Keep your HTML as clean as possible so that search engines read your site easily and often. Put as much layout-related code as possible in your CSS instead of your HTML.Inbound Link
- A link from one site into another. A link from another site will improve your SEO, especially if that site has a high PageRank.Internal Link
- A link from one page to another on the same website, such as from your homepage to your products page.Indexed Pages
- A word that a user enters in search. Each web page should be optimized
with the goal of drawing in visitors who have searched specific keywords.Link Building
- The activity and process of getting more inbound links
to your website for improved search engine rankings.Long Tail Keyword
- An uncommon or infrequently searched keyword, typically with two or more words in the phrase. Small businesses should consider targeting long tail keywords
, as they are lower difficulty and often have more qualified searchers. Common keywords such as 'software' are more competitive, and very hard to rank high for them in search.Metadata
- Data that tells search engines what your website is about.Meta Description
- A brief description of fewer than 160 characters of the contents of a page and why someone would want to visit it. This is often displayed on search engine results pages below the page title as a sample of the content on the page.Meta Keywords
- Previously used by search engines in the 90s and early 00s to help determine what a web page was about, the meta keywords tag is no longer used by any major search engines.mozRank
- A logarithmic ranking provided by SEOmoz from 0-10.0 of the number and quality of inbound links pointing to a certain website or page on that website. A 10.0 is the best linked-to page on the internet, and a 0 has no recognized inbound links.No follow
- When a link from one site does not pass SEO credit to another. Do not use nofollow when linking to internal pages in your website. Use it when linking to external pages that you don't want to endorse.Page Title
- The name you give your web page, which is seen at the top your browser window. Page titles should contain keywords related to your business. Words at the beginning of your page title are more highly weighted than words at the end.PageRank
- A number from 0-10, assigned by Google, indicating how good your overall SEO is. It is technically known as 'Toolbar PageRank.' Note: PageRank relevancy is changing
- Refers to a series of updates released by Google to its search engine ranking algorithm that are intended to discourage people who create large amounts of mediocre content in an attempt to claim many keyword rankings without generating much value for users. Read a marketer's guide to understanding Google Panda here
- Advertising method in which an advertiser puts an ad in an online advertising venue and pays that venue each time a visitor clicks on his/her ad. Google AdWords is the classic example of this.Ranking Factor
- One element of how a search engine determines where to rank a certain page, such as the number of inbound links to a page or the contents of the title tag on that page.Referrer String
- A piece of information sent by a user’s browser when they navigate from page to page on the web. It includes information on where they came from previously, which helps webmasters understand how users are finding their website.RSS Feed
- RSS stands for 'really simple syndication.' It is a subscription-based way to get updates on new content from a web source. Set up an RSS feed for your website or blog to help your followers stay updated when you release new content.SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page)
- The page that you are sent to after you run a query in a search engine. It typically has 10 results on it, but this may vary depending on the query and search engine in question.Sitemap
- A special document created by a webmaster or a piece of software that provides a map of all the pages on a website to make it easier for a search engine to index that website.Social Media
- Online media created by and shared among individuals. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are popular social media websites. Links from many social media sites now appear in searches
. It's important to have links to your site spread throughout social media.Spider
- A computer program that browses the internet and collects information about websites.Traffic
- The visitors to your site.Title
- The title of a page on your website, which is enclosed in a <title> HTML tag, inside of the head section of the page. It appears in search engine results and at the top of a user’s web browser when they are on that page.Traffic Rank
- The ranking of how much traffic your site gets compared to all other sites on the internet. You can check your traffic rank on Alexa
- The web address of a page on your site (example: www.yoursite.com/contact).What others SEO terms do you think are useful for marketers to know?
Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6080/40-Essential-SEO-Terms-Marketers-Should-Know-Glossary.aspx#ixzz1hUoZtGsH
This article is by Melissa Parrish, senior analyst at Forrester Research, serving interactive marketing professionals. She is an expert in mobile marketing, social marketing, and communities. Read her blog at blogs.forrester.com/Melissa_parrish, and follow her on Twitter @melissarparrish.
With more than 100 million active users, marketers have taken note of Twitter. While it’s not the largest social network, the potential for marketers is still huge, and the recent introduction of brand pages offers a stronger avenue to promote compelling and relevant content to consumers. Companies have successfully used Twitter already to bolster their brands’ identities —from aiding organizations in a crisis to acting as a listening post for the voice of the customer. But, just as my colleague Nate Elliott noted regarding Facebook marketing
, there is a problem here. The fact is, while many marketers have jumped on board the Twitter bandwagon, most are yet to see the tool as a strategic channel.
So what’s holding marketers back from maximizing Twitter’s marketing value? The main impediment is the unconventionality of Twitter. The technology doesn’t look, feel or act like traditional marketing tools, so it requires a different approach than traditional marketing channels. Companies need to consider the wide range of skill sets required in order to take full advantage of the tool—from PR to interactive marketing to Customer Intelligence, disparate departments need to come together to harness the use of the tool. What’s more, given the open nature of Twitter, marketers must be mindful of the classic misstep of saying the wrong thing. Companies such as Chrysler, Kenneth Cole, and Vodafone
are too familiar with the repercussions of one poorly thought-out Tweet.
The good news for marketers is that with the proper plan, current obstacles to success can be overcome, making Twitter a powerful marketing tool. To get the most out of Twitter, marketers should follow four steps:Determine its role in the marketing mix.
Whether you’re setting up just one Twitter account or many, you need to start by deciding why and how it fits in with your other channels. This requires getting to know how your customers use the platform—are they actively speaking, or just listening on Twitter, and deciding the purpose of each account within the larger marketing programs. Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows brands to have more than one account, which can be useful for managing separate segments with specific objectives (like PR, customer support, and direct marketing). But each account must deliver a clear value for the audience. For instance, HP has dozens of Twitter accounts that several different departments use for PR news, product content, and direct sales.Prepare your team to use it well.
Twitter may seem familiar in the evolving social media space, but as a marketing tool, employees still need to understand how the tool works and how you want them to use it. At many companies, employees are generally being trained on how to use social media well. But this is especially important with Twitter as the language, behavior, and uses of the medium are more unusual than more established channels like Google
, YouTube, or the company website. At Intel
, social media training includes required reading of playbooks for varying platforms (including Twitter).Build a strong base of followers, then catalyze them.
It’s going to take more than simply setting up a Twitter account to be successful. For content to have an impact, brands need to build an active base of followers , especially influential ones. Then, a variety of additional tactics can be used to activate the community of followers in order to meet brand objectives. For example, it will be important to keep the community active in order to ensure conversation doesn’t wane. One way to do this is by building a calendar that schedules when to publish content that will keep the community active and engaged with the brand.Drive conversation and sharing.
Once your Twitter accounts are developed and a strong fan base is solidified, marketers can use a combination of relevant content and Twitter ads to stimulate conversation and sharing. At Ogilvy, the director of its 360 Digital Influence team told us: “Twitter is a very effective trigger because it can be used to create deeper engagement with other content–” like blog posts, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The tool can also be used to ignite real-world brand interactions. The NHL used tweet-ups to spark engagement for the Stanley Cup among passionate customers. They energized more than 1,000 fans directly, and reached hundreds of thousands through Twitter and millions more through press coverage.
Remember, your job isn’t over once you’ve followed this four-stage action plan. Over the long term, it will be necessary to play a role in coordinating the use of the technology, and sharing best practices. Doing so successfully will require securing the appropriate funds, implementing guardrail technology around Twitter marketing, and making sure each individual company Twitter account stays consistent with the brand. But, it’s also important to note: in order to be successful, marketers must know when to step out of the way, making room for empowered employees to do their jobs.
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“Content strategy is an emerging field of practice encompassing every aspect of content, including its design, development, analysis, presentation, measurement, evaluation, production, management, and governance.”
his definition is a great place to start. Although the discipline has clearly evolved, this breakdown of its scope makes perfect sense. The aspects of content strategy that matter most to Web designers in this definition are design (obviously!), development, presentation and production. In this article, we’ll concentrate on the relationship between content strategy and design
in creating, organizing and displaying Web copy.
As a writer and content strategist myself, I’ve worked with designers in all of these areas and find the creative process highly enriching. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with designers who are quick to challenge ideas that are unclear or unsound, who are brilliant at creating striking visual representations of even the most complex concepts. A lively interplay between design and content is not only fun, but is how spectacular results are achieved. This is why content strategy should matter a great deal to designers.
What Is Content Strategy, And Why Should A Designer Care?Content strategy is the glue that holds a project together. When content strategy is ambiguous or absent, don’t be surprised if you end up with the Internet equivalent of Ishtar
. When content strategy is in place and in its proper place, we’re on our way to producing beautiful and
While wrapping one’s head around content strategy might be difficult, the thing that makes it work is very simple: good communication
. Sometimes a project moves along like a sports car on a superhighway. Other times, the road is so full of bumps and potholes that it’s a wonder we ever reach our destination. As we explore the relationship between content strategy and design, I’ll detail how I keep the channels of communication open and go over the workflow processes that I’ve used to support that effort. I hope that sharing my experiences (both positive and negative) will help you contribute to and manage projects more effectively and deliver better products to clients.
: Have you already got your copy of the Smashing Book #2
? The book shares valuable practical insight into design, usability and coding. Have a look at the contents
How To Get StartedProject manager:
We need a landing page for client X.Designer:
I can’t start the design until I see some content.Writer:
I can’t start writing until I see a design.
You may find this dialogue amusing… until it happens to you! At our firm, we find that the best way to get past such a standoff is to write first. This is because content strategy, at a fundamental level, frames a project for the designer
. As a content strategist, my job is to articulate the why, where, who, what and how of the content:
- Why is it important to convey this message? This speaks to purpose.
- Where on the website should the message appear? This speaks to context.
- Who is the audience? This speaks to the precision of the message.
- What are we trying to say? This speaks to clarity.
- How do we convey and sequence the information for maximum impact? This speaks to persuasiveness.
Bringing it down to a more detailed level, let’s consider a landing page. A content strategist will determine such things as the following:
Is the audience sophisticated? Down to earth? College-level? Predominately male? Female? Etc.
- Word count
Some pitches scream for long copy, while others must be stripped to the bare minimum. SEO might factor into the equation as well.
- Messaging priorities
What is the most important point to convey? The least important? What needs to be said first (the hook)? What needs to be said just leading up to the call to action?
- Call to action
What will the precise wording be? What emotional and intellectual factors will motivate the visitor to click through?
Clear direction on these points not only helps the writer write, but helps the designer with layout, color palettes and image selection. When we start with words, we produce designs that are more reflective of the product’s purpose.
Landing pages are a great place to try this workflow, because in terms of content strategy, they are less complex
than many other types of Web pages. A product category page, on the other hand, might have a less obvious purpose or multiple purposes, considerably greater word counts, more (and more involved) messaging points, and a variety of SEO considerations, all of which would affect its design.
Quick Tips for Getting Started
- Make sure someone is specifically responsible for content strategy. If strategic responsibility is vague, your final product will be, too.
- Slow down! Everybody, me included, is eager to dive headfirst into a new project. But “ready-aim-fire” is not a winning content strategy. Make sure everyone is on the same page conceptually before cranking out work.
- If content strategy falls on your shoulders as a designer, cultivate an understanding of the discipline. Resources are listed at the end of this article to help you.
- Make sure designers and writers understand what their roles are — and are not. There’s no need for writers to tell designers how to design, or for designers to tell writers how to write.
The use of content templates not only takes a lot of guesswork out of the designer’s job, but also speeds up client reviews. When clients are able to see what the content will roughly look like in the allotted space, they tend to be more comfortable with the word counts and the placement of text on the page.
Communication can be streamlined using project management software. We use Basecamp, which is a popular system, but many other good ones are available. If you’re a freelancer, getting clients to work on your preferred project management platform can be an uphill battle, to say the least. Still, I encourage you to try; my experience in managing projects via email has been dismal, and many freelance designers I know express the same frustration.
The big advantage of a project management system is that it provides a single place for team members to manage tasks and interact
. Internal reviews of design templates is one good example. The project manager can collect feedback from everyone in one place, and each participant can see what others have said and respond to it. Consolidating this information prevents the gaps and miscommunication that can occur when projects are managed through multiple email exchanges. Designers can see all of the feedback in one place — and only one place. This is a big time-saver.
Quick Tips for the Creative Process
Clarity vs. Creativity
- Make sure someone is specifically responsible for project management.
- Whether or not your process is sophisticated, get it down in writing and in front of all team members before the project starts. This really helps to align expectations and keep communication flowing.
- Meet at regular intervals to discuss status and problems. Hold yourself and others accountable.
- Get approvals along the way, rather than dump the completed project in the client’s lap. Having clients sign off on a few pages of content and one or two templates really helps to align the creative process with client expectations, and it reduces the risk of those massive overhauls at the tail end that demolish budgets and blow deadlines.
- Writers and designers should discuss issues as quickly, openly and thoroughly as possible.
We fight this battle over what I call “design content” all the time — primarily with navigation labels, home-page headers and call-to-action blocks. At a fundamental level, it is a battle over the question, “Which wins over the hearts and minds of visitors more: awesome design or straightforward information?”Navigation
Making the labels for navigation straightforward is a fairly established best practice. Predictability is important: if visitors are looking for your “About” page, and they finally stumble on it by clicking on “Be Amazed,” then the emotion you will have elicited is irritation, not adoration. Be as creative as you want with the look and feel of the labels, but to maximize the user experience, the text and positioning of the labels must be as vanilla as possible.Quick Tips for Conflict Resolution
- Keep the lines of communication open between all team members and the client.
- Select a project manager with great communication skills and an objective point of view.
- Stay focused on the purpose of the design: is it to persuade, motivate, inform or something else? Creative disagreements should never be theoretical; they should always be grounded in what will increase the real-world effectiveness of the work at hand.
Long-Winded Writers Vs. Lofty-Minded DesignersOne thing I run up against continually is my own tendency to say too much and a designer’s tendency to say too little. Ask a writer what time it is, and they’ll tell you how to make a clock. Ask a designer what time it is, and they’ll give you a stylized image of a pendulum. Neither answer is particularly helpful!
These opposing mentalities pose challenges in Web design. Does an image alone convey enough information about a product’s key benefit? Will the length of a 200-word explanation of that benefit deter people from reading it? How intuitive can we expect visitors to be? How patient?
This is when having a process that encourages communication between team members makes a difference. I wish I had a secret formula for resolving conflict, but I don’t. I know of only two ways to balance design and content philosophies, and one of them is to talk it out as a team. As I said, communication is at the heart of an effective content strategy, and we have to resist the temptation that some of us have to withdraw into a shell when we encounter confrontation.
The other way to resolve conflicts — astoundingly underused, in my experience — is to get feedback from target users
. Simply showing people a Web page and then asking for their key takeaways will tell you just about all you need to know about how effective you’ve been in getting the point across. Our opinion of our own work will always be subjective. Furthermore, because we’re emotionally invested is what we’ve created, discussing its flaws calmly and collectedly is difficult. Users are the ultimate judge of any creative effort, so why not take subjectivity and emotion out of the equation by going directly to the source?
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My goal with this series is to break down the barriers that stand between you and your understanding of how SEO
is not only important to your efforts as a blogger but how you can use this new found understanding to actually begin to develop a strategy for execution
to take your blog way above (literally) your competition.
My hope is to keep it as non-technical and as practical as possible (as I do in my other Blog Series
) because not every blogger has the technical chops! I may provide some more technical and development-related information but don’t feel bad if you choose to skip over those areas – you won’t be required to know them in detail to make a difference on your blog!
So why spend the time learning more about SEO? You see, it’s no secret that the best and most effective bloggers out there dedicate time, resources, and even money
to search engine optimize their blogs.
As a seasoned Professional Blogger
I will be the first
to tell you that SEO is a core
part of my strategy. Makes sense since I make a Full Time Income
from blogging, right?
In fact, I spend a good deal of time on each of my blog posts simply optimizing the titles
, content, links
, and more to make sure that every single blog post that goes out has the potential to be #1. For example, if a blog post takes two hours to write I probably spend at least
30 minutes on just optimization alone! When was the last time you spent that much time on just optimizing your blog post before publishing?
And why shouldn’t you, right? If you think that your blog posts and content are that good
(which most of them are) then why not spend the time to understand SEO the right way so that your blog posts have the most potential to be found by the right (and growing) audience?
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yup, it does. Here are some other benefits of spending your time learning more about SEO and how it can affect your blogging efforts:
- You’ll rank higher in organic search results.
- You’ll get more traffic to your blog.
- You’ll get more readers to your blog.
- You’ll earn (and keep) more subscribers via RSS, Twitter, Facebook and more.
- Your financial earning potential for your blog can increase dramatically.
So far I see nothing negative here! So let’s get started, right?SEO
, or Search Engine Optimization
, refers very simple to the strategy and methodology of helping a website rank higher (seen near the top of search engines likeGoogle
) on a search return.
Here is another definition
that can provide some more context:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website
or a web page
in search engines
via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic
” or “algorithmic”) search results
Sounds a bit technical, right? Here’s my personal definition that I share with others
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the strategy and method of increasing traffic to your blog from search engines.
Same difference, right? You may not have known what it is but you’ve certainly heard the phrase before, right? Regardless, you engage with SEO every single day as you go about your web searches:
As you can see with this search for “laptops” the green are paid search returns
(those links are paid for by companies trying to advertise to you and they are seen higher on the page and on the right because they pay for those spots) and the red organic search returns
the ones that rank high because of search engine optimization strategies or just plain luck.
Your goal as a blogger, at least in the very beginning (and perhaps for a very long time) is to get ranked as high as you possibly can in the red section or the natural and organic search returns. You won’t want to pay for search terms or queries yet!
How Do Search Engines Work?One of the best places to start
is at the source. In fact, I realized very early on that the moreI knew
about how Search Engines worked the better I could execute and build strategy around my own blog.
One great example that I’ve used historically is thinking about it like your car
– the more you know about your car the more you can take care of it and take advantage of all that it has to offer. You can even save money if you know things like changing/rotating your own tires or changing out the oil yourself. But that’s only because you know more about your car, right?
Same thing with SEO and how search engines operate – the more you know the more effective you will become!
You already know generally how search engines work
, right? You see it every single day:
A web search engine is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web and FTP servers. The search results are generally presented in a list of results and are often called hits.
But how does this practically apply to your efforts as a blogger and what is really happening behind the scenes to get bloggers and site owners tons of traffic?
Here are some of the more important terms that you should definitely know about:
- Crawling – This is the simple act of a search engine finding your blog and taking a look at the content. A spider or a crawler is the actual tool or technology that does this. It follows links to and from your blog to other areas.
- Indexing – This is what the spiders or crawlers do as they find new content: They index it or jot it down in the systems memory for use later. The more that a spider can index the more they’ll have to retrieve when someone asks for content that you have. It is worth noting that there is no guarantee that a crawler or spider (or bot) will actually find your content or ever will visit your blog so it behooves you to “help” make that possible.
- Processing - This is where the crawler or bot begins to sift through your content and compares it to other worthwhile information out there. It’ll compare keywords and use formulas developed by each of the search engines to determine their value, especially as it relates to relevancy for returning search queries.
- Relevancy – This is one of the most important terms that you’ll need to know and it’s all about how close your content is to whatever the person is actually searching for. As each search user looks for the things they need in a search engine, typically called a “search query” or “search string” each search engine determines and calculates the relevancy of the pages in its index. There are various algorithms used and you could spend as much time as you wanted on researching the ins-and-outs (but I’ll do some of that for you) but the important thing to know is that search engines change their algorithms constantly (so you’ll want to stay on top of those updates) and that you’ll need to adapt your blog content and how you publish for those changes. The more adept you are (especially better than your competitors) the more effective you will become.
- Retrieving – This is the simple act of the search engine returning the content back to the user. You see this by simply seeing the results listed out in the search results. But, it’s important to note that it’s listed and sorted from the most relevant to the least relevant. You want to be in the former group at all times.
This entire process works auto-magically in the background for both the blogger and the end-user. You won’t have to even think about it much from a technical perspective but you will want to think about it as you write your blog posts, craft your content, develop the site architecture, and provide keyword research
for big hits and ultimately long-term results.
You can read more at http://tentblogger.com/
Writing content for web users has its challenges. Chief among them is the ease with which your content is read and understood by your visitors (i.e. its readability
When your content is highly readable, your audience is able to quickly digest the information you share with them — a worthy goal to have for your website, whether you run a blog, an e-store or your company’s domain.
Below are a handful of dead-simple tips and techniques for enhancing the usability and readability of your website’s content.
These tips are based on research findings and suggestions by well-regarded usability experts such as Jakob Nielsen
This list is not exhaustive, and is meant merely to arm you with a few ideas that you can implement right away. If you have additional tips to add, please share them in the comments.
General Goals of User-Friendly Web ContentUsable, readable web content is a marriage of efforts between web designers and web content writers.
Web pages must be designed to facilitate the ease of reading content through the effective use of colors
, spacing, etc.
In turn, the content writer must be aware of writing strategies that enable readers to quickly identify, read and internalize information.
As we go through the seven tips below, keep these three general guidelines in mind:
- Text and typography have to be easy and pleasant to read (i.e. they must legible).
- Content should be easy to understand.
- Content should be skimmable because web users don’t read a lot. Studies show that in a best-case scenario, we only read 28% of the text on a web page.
What simple things can we do to achieve these goals? Read on to see.1. Keep Content as Concise as Possible
It’s pretty well known that web users have very short attention spans and that we don’t read articles thoroughly and in their entirety. A study
investigating the changes in our reading habits behaviors in the digital age concluded that we tend to skim webpages to find the information we want.
We search for keywords, read in a non-linear fashion (i.e. we skip around a webpage instead of reading it from top to bottom) and have lowered attention spans.
This idea that we’re frugal when it comes to reading stuff on the web is reinforced by a usability study
conducted by Jakob Nielsen. The study claims a that a 58% increase in usability can be achieved simply by cutting roughly half the words on the webpages being studied.
Shorter articles enhance readability, so much so that many popular readability measurement formulas
use the length of sentences and words as factors that influence ease of reading and comprehension.What you can do:
2. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles
- Get to the point as quickly as possible.
- Cut out unnecessary information.
- Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases.
- Avoid long paragraphs and sentences.
- Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use “1,000″ as opposed to “one thousand,” which facilitates scanning and skimming.
- Test your writing style using readability formulas that gauge how easy it is to get through your prose. The Readability Test Tool allows you to plug in a URL, then gives you scores based on popular readability formulas such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease.
A usability study described in an article
by web content management expert Gerry McGovern led him to the conclusion that Internet readers inspect webpages in blocks and sections, or what he calls “block reading.”
That is, when we look at a webpage, we tend to see it not as a whole, but rather as compartmentalized chunks of information. We tend to read in blocks, going directly to items that seem to match what we’re actively looking for.
An eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen revealed an eye-movement pattern that could further support this idea that web users do indeed read in chunks: We swipe our eyes from left to right, then continue on down the page in an F-shaped pattern
, skipping a lot of text in between.What you can do:
3. Help Readers Scan Your Webpages Quickly
- Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you’ll write.
- Use simple and concise headings.
- Use keyword-rich headings to aid skimming, as well as those that use their browser’s search feature (Ctrl + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac).
As indicated in the usability study by Nielsen referenced earlier, as well as the other supporting evidence that web users tend to skim content, designing and structuring your webpages with skimming in mind can improve usability (as much as 47% according to the research mentioned above).What you can do:
4. Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting
- Make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they’re scanning a webpage.
- Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device.
- Use the inverted pyramid writing style to place important information at the top of your articles.
According to an eye-tracking study by ClickTale
, users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding
).These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases.What you can do:
5. Give Text Blocks Sufficient Spacing
- Consider breaking up a paragraph into bulleted points.
- Highlight important information in bold and italics.
The spacing between characters, words, lines and paragraphs is important. How type is set on your webpages can drastically affect the legibility (and thus, reading speeds) of readers.
In a study called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts
,” the researchers discovered that manipulating the amount of margins of a passage affected reading comprehension and speed.What you can do:
- Evaluate your webpages’ typography for spacing issues and then modify your site’s CSS as needed.
- Get to know CSS properties that affect spacing in your text. The ones that will give you the most bang for your buck are margin, padding, line-height, word-spacing, letter-spacing and text-indent.
6. Make Hyperlinked Text User-FriendlyOne big advantage of web-based content is our ability to use hyperlinks. The proper use of hyperlinks can aid readability.What you can do:
7. Use Visuals StrategicallyPhotos, charts and graphs are worth a thousand words. Using visuals effectively can enhance readability when they replace or reinforce long blocks of textual content.
In fact, an eye-tracking study
conducted by Nielsen suggests that users pay “close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information.”
Users, however, also ignore certain images, particularly stock photos merely included as decorative artwork. Another eye-tracking study
reported a 34% increase in memory retention when unnecessary images were removed in conjunction with other content revisions.What you can do:
- Make sure images you use aid or support textual content.
- Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals.
- Write relevant content
It may be tempting to write about your brother's dog, but if it doesn't relate to your site or page topic, leave it out. Web readers want information, and unless the page is information about said dog, they really won't care, even if it is a good metaphor for what you're trying to say.
- Put conclusions at the beginning
Think of an inverted pyramid when you write. Get to the point in the first paragraph, then expand upon it.
- Write only one idea per paragraph
Web pages need to be concise and to-the-point. People don't read Web pages, they scan them, so having short, meaty paragraphs is better than long rambling ones.
- Use action words
Tell your readers what to do. Avoid the passive voice. Keep the flow of your pages moving.Format
- Use lists instead of paragraphs
Lists are easier to scan than paragraphs, especially if you keep them short.
- Limit list items to 7 words
Studies have shown that people can only reliably remember 7-10 things at a time. By keeping your list items short, it helps your readers remember them.
- Write short sentences
Sentences should be as concise as you can make them. Use only the words you need to get the essential information across.
- Include internal sub-headings
Sub-headings make the text more scannable. Your readers will move to the section of the document that is most useful for them, and internal cues make it easier for them to do this.
- Make your links part of the copy
Links are another way Web readers scan pages. They stand out from normal text, and provide more cues as to what the page is about.Always Always Always
- Proofread your work
Typos and spelling errors will send people away from your pages. Make sure you proofread everything you post to the Web.