Often it’s the last thing to be thought about, your website’s beautifully designed, the forms all coded, but there’s nothing to read. It’s easy to rush this stage, to lift content from printed brochures, but fall at this hurdle and your website is dead in the water.
One of the areas to consider is writing accessible content. Those with visual or other impairments may not be using conventional web browsers and it’s important to think about the issues facing them when writing your content. By curious coincidence, the techniques needed to help with accessibility are an immense help to search engines as well. So there’s a double whammy in getting this right.
So five tips, by no means an exhaustive list, but enough to get you started.
Think through the structure of your page, if skipping from title to title and link to link in isolation, do they make sense? Will the visitor, by reading the title, understand what content will follow? Where possible, break up content with headings and lists. All this also helps search engine robots understand what’s important on the page.
One Point, One Page
Don’t try and cover everything on one page. Have a clear focus for that page and write with that focus in mind. Think of no more than one or two search phrases that people might use to find that page and optimise for them within your content.
When writing for the web, short is good. And no more so than when the visitor is using a screen reader* which doesn’t have the same capability to “skim read”. Don’t let them lose interest before they find your call to action. Search engines also need clean, focussed copy, too much padding and they won’t be able to find wood from trees.
Don’t use click here
Screen readers have the ability to just read all the links on a page to the user, this allows them to decide whether they need to click through to the next page or stay and read the one they’re on in full. If all your links just have the words “click here” in them, that’s not too helpful! Search engines also place a great deal of emphasis on the text used to link to a page to analyse its relevance, “click here” doesn’t give them a great deal to go on.
Image alt and title tags
When using images on your page, make sure you give them some “alt” text. This tells the computer what the image is about and can be read by a screen reader so the user isn’t left missing part of the detail that your sighted visitors are benefiting from. For search engines it might mean that your website is returned in an image search, another potential source of visitors for your site.
So there you go, a few tips to get you started. We’ve barely scratched the surface, if you want to learn more about writing for the web then contact us for details of our writing for the web courses. I would also recommend reading “Killer Web Content” reviewed on this blog.
*A screen reader reads written text to speech for those with a visual impairment.