Tips for Writing for the Web
Whether creating a website for your department, a special event or any other purpose, it is important to write clear, concise content that merges your own goals with users’ needs for a cohesive, informative site.
You know the subject matter for your website better than anyone else. For this reason, any program/office/department with a messiah.edu website is responsible for writing their site’s content and also designating a person(s) to post and edit the site’s content as needed after the site is built or redesigned by the Web team. The content owner is required to complete Jadu training. Training sessions and sign-ups can be found on MCSquare in the Employee tab in the right column under “Web.”
For your reference, the Office of Marketing and Communications has created a guide to help you write effective Web content.
1. Determine your goals for the site
a. What is the main purpose of your site? To engage prospective students? To reach donors? To inform current students about services available to them? The first step in creating effective Web content is to determine the desired outcome of your site. Identifying your goals and objectives first will help shape the content you write.
2. Think about what your users need to know
a. To reach any of your own intended goals, you’ll need to think about what your user needs to know. For example, if you are creating a page for a specific academic program, think about what information is helpful to a prospective student. What makes it different from the same program at other colleges and universities? What type of experiences will he or she have in this department? How will it prepare the student for his or her desired career? What types of careers can he or she pursue? Also make sure users are clear on what their next step is. For example, how do they purchase tickets? How do they apply? Where can they get more information? By looking at your site from the eyes of your intended audience, you’re able to make sure you address their top needs.
3. Utilize best practices for search engine optimization (SEO)
a. By using and repeating relevant keywords in your content, you will increase the likelihood of someone finding your page. Well selected keywords help a Web page receive higher search engine results across the entire Web and on Messiah’s own website. Using keywords in headers is especially important because search engines give more priority to that area of content on a website.
- Identify keywords before you write- Before you begin writing any content for your site, we recommend identifying a short list of strategically selected keywords related to your subject and then intentionally incorporating these in a natural, unforced way into your content. For example, if you’re creating a page related to spiritual life, you might include keywords such as chapel, worship, scripture, bible, faith, church, etc.
- Know your audience- As you create your keyword list, keep your audience in mind and consider the terms they are most likely to search for. For example, a prospective student is more likely to search “theology” or “religion” rather than “biblical and religious studies.”
4. Draft content
a. After you’ve determined your site goals and the needs of your users, and have identified a good set of keywords, use that information to guide your content. Your content should:
- Be concise- The strongest content for the Web is concise, short sentences in brief paragraphs. Use headers so your users can scan a page and find what they are looking for quickly. Bulleted lists are also helpful where appropriate.
- Establish tone- Think about how formal or casual your site should be, based on your primary audience. If you’re “talking” to prospective students, address them directly, using “you” throughout the text.
- Present the most important idea first- Avoid lengthy intro paragraphs. Put the most interesting and important information in the first paragraph. Supporting, less critical details should follow in decreasing order of importance.
- Use AP style, the College’s official style for print and Web publications- We have developed an AP style reference sheet that you can use for common style questions. Please see separate document. The following website also gives a helpful overview of AP style: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/02/.
a. It is important to proofread all of your content before you publish. Your website is one of the most important faces of your program’s brand, so catch any typos or grammatical errors before the site goes live. Also, double check that your dates and times are correct. Thankfully, on the Web you can fix errors rather easily, but it will save you time if you review the page first. Please see the attached AP style reference sheet to stay consistent with the College’s style.
a. After determining your goals and users’ needs, writing concise content and proofreading, it is time to publish. Once you’ve published, read through the content one more time and make any adjustments as needed. Check links to confirm they work and go to the correct page.
b. Keep your content current- Review your site on a regular basis to add, revise or delete content. Don’t forget to check your keywords to make sure they are consistent with any content you’ve revised.
If you have questions regarding content, contact Erin Bray, marketing communications writer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at extension 5381.