February 1, 2011
By: Kate Tippin
Having a website in this day and age is critical. If you don’t have one, stop reading this article and go get one. If you do have one, chances are you are spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to put on it.
Since most artists are not trained writers, even if you do have a great looking website, you may be losing web traffic, potential buyers, or gallery gigs because you are not effectively writing for the web.
Writing for the web and web magazines is very different from writing an essay for school, a proposal for funding, or a marketing brochure. To help ensure readers will actually read what you’re putting on your website, or your GAAC web magazine article, here are 10 tips to better web writing:
- 1. Know your audience
One of the first rules of good communications is to know your audience and to write specifically for them.
Before you created your website, you probably thought about the type of audience with which you were trying to engage (e.g. people with an interest in glass art, people with an interest in stained glass art, wholesale buyers, etc). Keep this in mind when you write a news item, bio, artist statement, etc. for your website.
Regardless of who you created your website for, you should also know who is frequenting your site. If you haven’t signed up for Google Analytics yet, do it now. This handy website tells you who is visiting your site, in which country and city they live, and so much more. Best of all, it’s free.
- 2. Write a catchy headline
This is your first opportunity to: (1) interrupt, (2) engage, (3) educate, and (4) provide an opportunity for the reader to discover more information.
You need to interrupt the reader for a split second – just long enough to notice your headline. Your headline then needs to engage readers long enough that they read the entire headline. Next, your headline should provide new information to the reader, or educate the reader. Lastly, it needs to provide an opportunity to get more information (e.g. URL to the gallery opening, URL to an article with more information).
Consider writing a sub-headline as well. This gives you the opportunity to be more creative with your headline and provide more information in your sub-headline. Here’s an example from Macleans magazine:
The main headline is:
Grandma, Uncle Frank and Peter Mansbridge
And, the sub-headline is:
CBC tackles the big questions of 2011 with an exclusive panel made up of my relatives
This headline employs all four of the basic elements of good marketing, mentioned earlier: (1) it interrupted me long enough to (2) engage me and make me want to read more. (3) The sub-headline educated me, letting me know what the main headline was talking about and (4) the Macleans magazine website gave me a link to the article, allowing me to discover more.
- 3. Use bullets, numbered lists, italics, bold, or subheadings to break up text.
If you are writing an article, bio, or artist statement that is longer than 500 words, it is critical to break up the text into smaller chunks; this will make longer pieces of text much more readable.
Using bullets, numbered lists, italics and bold helps break up your text and make it seem like fewer words.
Including subheadings in your longer articles will help readers see that you were thoughtful of their time and of their tired eyes and will encourage them to keep reading.
- Use the inverted pyramid for your news items
Have you ever noticed that when you read a newspaper article, you can often read the first two paragraphs and know what the article is all about? This is because journalists use a style called the inverted pyramid.
The inverted pyramid style places the most important information in the first paragraphs of the story. This includes the: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
This simple writing convention allows your readers – some of whom may not have a lot of time to spend reading your entire article – to quickly understand what you are trying to tell them.
- Include links to other sources.
The Google search engine likes when websites link to other websites. It seems to tell Google that your website is more relevant in the world and increases your rank in Google when people search for you (for the next magazine, I’ll write an article about how to increase your Google ranking – and why you should care about this).
The best way to do this is to embed the link directly on the “keyword” to which you are linking. See the hyperlink used in this tip and in tip #4 for an example.
Never use “click here for more information”. This clutters your site, insults savvy web users, and can count against you in Google rankings.
- Write like you talk (and start talking like a writer!).
The benefit of web writing is that it tends to be less formal. A common rule of thumb for web writing is to write like you talk. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use accurate grammar and spelling.
Furthermore, you should always use best practices in writing, such as using the active voice. However, you can have more fun with web writing and web magazine articles. Add your personality and have fun.
This newest line of artwork was made by a Vancouver-based glass artist who attended Sheridan.
A Vancouver-based glass artist and graduate of Sheridan made this new line of artwork.
The 2010 RBC Award for Glass was awarded to Rachael Wong.
Rachael Wong receives the 2010 RBC Award for Glass.
Tip: Active writing follows the following formula: subject of sentence acts upon something (whereas in the passive voice the subject is being acted upon). Typically, the active voice also uses fewer words.
- Keep it short.
How long is your attention span when reading something on your computer screen? While computers are getting better, computer screens cause eyestrain and fatigue in a similar way to reading a small-print book in low light. Not to mention, most computer users have a fairly short attention span. We want small chunks of information and we want it to be easy to read. So, why would you put something on your website, or write an article in any other way?
For web writing, aim for 500 words or less. Use short paragraphs with one idea per paragraph, one or two sentences long. If your article is longer, please read tips #3 and #4 to help make your longer article more readable.
If you copy and paste this article into Word and go to Tools > Word Count, you’ll notice it certainly exceeds my own suggested word count. However, using subheadings, bold, italics, and a numbered list, it doesn’t feel like 1,392 words, does it? That is four full pages in Microsoft Word.
- Double-check everything.
Sure, the web can be changed immediately; but, this doesn’t mean you should make mistakes. There’s a website called the Wayback Machine that keeps a snapshot of your website (try it! Enter www.glassartcanada.ca and have a look at the past GAAC websites).
The more mistakes you have on your website – spelling, grammar, factual errors – the less credibility you will have overall.
- 9. Websites are not a one-way communication tool.
If your website doesn’t invite your readers to engage with you in some way, you are making a mistake. Website visitors want to interact and engage with you in some way. Here are a few examples: link to your professional Facebook page or Twitter page, enable a comments feature on photo albums of your artwork or on videos that you post.
10. If you have relevant images and videos, include them!
There’s no excuse these days for not including a relevant image, video, sound clip, photo album, or something that helps make your article less flat. No one wants to read a 500-word article without relevant images on an artist’s website.
Including relevant images, videos, sound clips, etc. might take a few minutes of thought, but it will be worth it. You’ll provide a much more rich and engaging experience for your readers.