23 October 2008

Writing For The Web: 5 Tips

Headlines, keywords and search engines are all covered in a new guide about writing online news articles.

Digital editor Christian Dunn has put together his recommendations in a two-part series called How To: Write for the Web on Journalism.co.uk.

“Writing for the web is a skill every journalist should have if they are considering uploading any content to a news website,” said Dunn, who works for NWN Media.

Here are some of the highlights from his posts:

  • Headline Tips

  • “Keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.”

    Dunn adds: “Google News will find it easier to pick the stories up, categorise and send out as news alerts if there is a clear location.”

  • The Crucial First Par

  • Since eye-tracking studies show most users do not reach the end of an article, Dunn recommends “giving the story away” from the start.

    “Most content management systems are also set up so that your first paragraph appears as the snippet of text underneath your headline on a Google search result.

    “This can account for 43 per cent of a user’s decision on which result to choose – making it even more important than the headline.”

  • Link In, Link Out

  • Whether it’s an inbound or external link, Dunn says it’s important that the link is relevant.

    “Google and other search engines like links - especially if the anchor text is relevant to the site they are linking to, and this in turn is relevant to the rest of your webpage.”

  • Make Use Of Multimedia

  • “Whether this is a reader debate, video, Google map or slideshow, make sure you offer online readers something that you can’t reproduce in a newspaper.”

  • Encourage Interaction

  • “At the end of your article give your readers something to do.

    “Make them want to leave a comment or email you with their opinions; offer them one side of the argument and let them answer back.”

    Part One and Part Two of Dunn’s guide to writing an online article are available on Journalism.co.uk.

    More of Dunn’s thoughts on online journalism can also be found at his blog – Digital Journalist .


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