Writing for the web

Writing for the web is different than other types of writing, as many people who read online skim and scan instead of reading all the way through. In the digital age, it's important to remember that your audience will most likely be in a hurry and quick to jump to bold headers and underlined links. Here are some tips to think about when writing content for your website. 

Put your users first

The most effective content is written with your target audience in mind. Think about what your audience's goals are in visiting your site, and create content based on those goals that offers resources and answers to their questions. 

Prioritize messages

Decide what the most important message on your page should be. What do you want your audience to know most? Put this message in the most prominent place on the page (usually at the top), whether that be the page title, the first bolded heading, or a pull quote. 

Make your pages scannable

Your audience should be able to understand the gist of your page without fully reading every word. Since digital readers tend to scan, it's important to break up content by using headers and bulleted lists, and by keeping your sentences brief and paragraphs under 60 words apiece. Avoid technical jargon when you can and keep the language simple. 

Lead with active words

Give direction to your readers by starting off sentences with active words such as find, learn, discover, or get started. 

Write meaningful and accessible links

Let users know where links are taking them by specifying the page to which you are linking. For example, instead of using language like "click here" or "learn more," use sentences such as "Visit our accessibility webpage for more information" or "Learn more on our accessibility webpage."

Break up news articles

Whether you're writing news pieces only for the web or adapting a web story from a print one, it's important to break up the text so that the reader isn't badgered with paragraph after paragraph. Use these tips to format more user-friendly web articles:

  • Edit the text down. With most research or academic articles especially, the copy can be very lengthy.
  • Break content into smaller pieces using subheads, pull quotes and images within the copy.
  • Look for opportunities to link related content. 

Search Engine Optimization

While having a umn.edu URL already makes it easier for Internet users to find our pages, it's still important to maximize your websites potential for good search results. 

Metadata descriptions and keywords

Meta descriptions are like an elevator pitch for your webpage, and Google only displays 155 characters in its link descriptions. Here are some tips for helping Google's web crawlers find your page more easily:

  • Write custom metadata descriptions for important pages, and put the most important words first.
  • Write Alternative text for images. This is also important for accessibility. 
  • Make sure any important text only displayed on images is also included in the Alternative text. Ex. graphs, diagrams, posters, etc. 

Link to your site

Bring more traffic to your site by linking to it in emails, e-newsletters, and social media posts.