Writing for the Web differs from other writing. But opinions vary on the best approaches to online content. Before you decide on a specific approach, to better meet readers' needs first understand how they read online—that would go a long way toward understanding how to grasp their attention.

The Stanford-Poynter study found that nearly 80% of study participants read article summaries rather than complete articles. When viewing complete articles, readers read only 75% of the text. Also, in online reading, our eyes naturally go to the center of the screen—instead of top to bottom, or left to right, when reading print.

Once you have a feel for how people read online copy, trust your instincts. If you know your product or service and target market inside and out, it'll be easier to hold readers' attention. You should also keep in mind any objections to your offering and how you may overcome them.

After you've done your homework, the following writing techniques will ensure your Web site's content zings. Stick around for answers to the latest call for help or zoom to the new marketing challenge question.

Past Challenge

Previously, Zach asked for tips on writing content to draw in visitors:

How to ensure "Content Is King" in Web copy

I know writing for the Web is not the same as writing for print. I've used the search engines and have researched what makes compelling online copy. The advice is scattered. What are the top secrets to creating grand content?

Zach, product manager

Renee Beaudette, account manager at Mail Dog, explains how to quickly engross the reader before he or she attempts to click away:

Web copy is different from print in a key way: speed of impact. You have a short time with readers before they click away from your site to your competitors. So you need to let them knowquicklywhat it is that you can do for them. The same client who may read your brochure front to back while waiting for the doctor may only look at your site for 30 seconds.

Clarity is key. Focus is vital. What is it that you want them to do? Call a number, get a quote or sign up for a newsletter? Whatever it is, your call to action has to be clearly stated, because if they breeze by it, you're out of luck. Obviously, you want to adhere to the pillars of copywriting:

1. Give them information.

2. Make it clean.

3. Keep it succinct.

4. Try to be interesting.

But make sure that you don't sacrifice your call to action when doing so. There are also other things to keep in mind, such as design. Physically, the Web is different, so keep columns narrow, since scrolling side to side is a no-no. Long, unbroken copy that just runs down the page is guaranteed to get skipped. Keep your font size comfortable for reading. If you need to give long, drawn-out explanations of how things work, then do so. Just link to those; that way if I'm not interested in that information I can skip the link and focus on why I'm there.

Renee sums up the most important points to consider when dealing with online content. Here are a few more tips:

1. Use bold headers.

2. Keep paragraphs short.

3. Ensure there's white space.

Headers with bold text help readers quickly scan your content for what they need. It's difficult to read long paragraphs online, as you easily lose your place while you're in the middle of them. Shorter paragraphs prevent this, and they also work well with scanning. A whole page full of content with little white space gives the eyes no point of reference when they're looking around the page. White space helps readers stay on track while reading the page.

In addition to mastering the seven ways to write compelling Web copy, it's also important to have a persuasive call to action for prospects. An excellent book on how to get visitors to see your Web site's call to action has just hit the scene. Call to Action mingles marketing with Web design with the sole purpose of getting visitors to do what you want them to do.

Once you know how to captivate your online readers and encourage them to interact, please help us solve the next marketing challenge about how to book more speaking engagements. We'd love to hear any suggestions you have to offer.

Can You Solve This Challenge?

Friends, Romans, countrymen... let me be your speaker

I've been offering seminars and training for the past ten years at large and small tradeshows. I'd like to book more engagements each year and expand beyond this niche into speaking and training on broader, small-to-medium business topics. I've investigated joining a speaker's association, but I need to have proof of many more paid engagements than I currently have to meet the minimum requirement. How does a speaker go about getting more engagements including meetings, conventions, seminars and tradeshows?

Flora, owner

Got SOS written all over your work? You have 200,000 MarketingProfs sailors ready to cruise and provide solutions. Share a marketing challenge and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing. Anchors aweigh!

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.