Web Writing Tips

 

Web users quickly scan content for keywords and information, so keep your writing tight and factual, avoid jargon and use a conversational tone.

Keep in mind that most site visitors will only:

  • Spend 20-30 seconds on a page
  • Read 20 percent of the text

 

Before you start …

Set specific goals – what are you hoping to achieve?

Whether it’s student recruitment, event registration or raising awareness about a program, tie your site content to the specific goals and objectives of your webpage.

Create an outline. And if you’re working on several pages, develop a site map.

Content for your homepage should be informative, well written, lively and meaningful. Try to maintain a balance of professional looking visuals with appropriate text.

Include calls to action, or prompts with live links that encourage specific actions. Example: Register today!

 

Know your audience

Are you writing for prospective students, parents, researchers or faculty/staff? Thinking about your audience will help you write more engaging, informative content.

Be conversational and straightforward:

  • Skip “big words” when a little word will do:
    • Help – not facilitate
    • Next –  not subsequent
    • Plan – not strategize
  • Avoid acronyms and technical, academic jargon
  • Eliminate unnecessary words

Stay focused on the specific goals and objectives of your site. Too often, websites become a convenient “dumping ground” for material that does not serve the audience. 

Keep things up to date by removing old materials and archiving as needed.

 

Keep it brief

Write out what you need to say, then trim and trim again. A few guidelines:

  • 5 words or fewer in a headline
  • 20 words or fewer in a sentence
  • 70 words or fewer per paragraph
  • 1 idea per paragraph
  • Use lists to break up large blocks of text

 

Headings focus content

Concise headings let users identify key topics quickly. Choose your words carefully. A heading should be able to stand on its own, giving readers enough information to know what the text that follows is about.

  • Use heading styles when drafting your content in a Microsoft Word or other editing software – they help screen readers navigate your site and are good for SEO
    • Use the Heading 1 style at the top your page, followed by lesser heading styles in descending order
  • Avoid using lots of acronyms or highly technical terms
  • Use keywords to help readers and search engines find your content

 

The inverted pyramid

Organize your content so that the most important information is at the top – this is called an inverted pyramid. It helps readers find what they are looking for quickly:

 

                                                                          

 

Use active voice

Active voice is direct and reduces wordiness:

Try: Join the next training session in Dimond Library.

Instead of: Dimond Library is where the next training session will be held.

 

Getting started with SEO

Online search results often lead to the first impression a person has of a school, college or program.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of using keywords strategically in text, titles and tagging to help your pages rank high in search engine results. Best SEO practices change frequently because of updates to search engine algorithms, but having well-organized, high-quality content is key to catching users’ attention.

Titles and Headings

Your webpage title is the most important clue for search engines to locate your page. Be sure that the title accurately reflects what is on the page.

The second most important clue for search engines are headlines. Use page heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2) to identify key content blocks. There should only be one headline on a page that is coded with H1 tags. Be sure that the headline accurately reflects the content of the page. Avoid clever language that to a search engine would be meaningless. Clear and simple are always the best approach.

In addition, you contribute to the SEO of the overall site by having only original content on each page. Do not copy and paste information that is present on other sites. Try to use links to or embed information from the "one source of truth" for particular information such as the catalog or calendar.

Keywords and metatags

Keywords are the words that people might use when searching for content that your page contains. Come up with a list of 5-10 keywords to use on your page.

  • Test your keywords in online searches
  • Use descriptive language and appropriate keywords when naming files and photos – site crawlers read this text
  • Use keywords consistently, but not “stuffing” headers, descriptions or text with them. Pages stuffed with keywords may be penalized or removed from page rankings.
  • Add keywords and descriptions to the head section of your pages to increase their searchability.
  • Metatags are keywords that are added to the metadata of your page. These are seen by search engines but not by readers.

Alternate Text for Images and Links

All images must have well written alt tags. Alt tags should be brief descriptions of the content of the image or descriptive of where the link is going. For example, an image of a headshot could be the person's name but doesn't need to include a descriptor of that they are wearing unless it is relevant to the article. Try to include keywords in alt tags when possible.

ADA compliance mandates the use of alt tags. Tags also increase searchability.

Use links effectively

Links are a great way to increase SEO and connect visitors with useful content. When writing about a faculty member, for example, link to his or her bio; when encouraging prospective students to visit campus, provide links to sites with information on transportation, admissions, events and financial aid. When linking to information on the same website, the link should open in the same window.

Sometimes it's appropriate to link to a different website, such as a government agency or resource. You should only link to reliable, authoritative informational or educational websites that you are confident will remain active. Links to external websites should open in a new window. UNH does not accept unsolicited content requests to link to external sites.

Instead of writing “Read more here” or “Click here for information,” highlight a specific description of your link with keywords. Highlight just a few keywords, not an entire sentence.

Try: Sign up for summer youth programs.

Instead of: For information on UNH’s summer youth programs, click here.

Editorial calendars, review schedules and content management

Broken links, typos, listings for past events and outdated information discourage users from returning to your site. Establish an editorial calendar and schedule regular updates to images, text and events listings.

Content editors are strongly encouraged to:

  • Create editorial calendars to manage digital assets
  • Have a second party review any copy before it is posted
  • Review the UNH Brand Guidelines and Editorial Style Guide
  • Check links and contact information regularly as well

Free tools such as those provided by grammarly, or the spell-checking feature in Microsoft Word, can help detect spelling and grammatical errors in content before it is published.

Reivew the Drupal unh.edu website standard for more information on website review schedules and site owner responsibilities. Spelling mistakes or factual errors found on a page may be corrected, in which case the site’s content editor or web manager will be contacted. Websites that have not been updated within 18 months may be archived.

Don’t …

  • Don’t bother with a “Welcome!” message. Users skip them to find specific information.
  • Don’t use your site as an archive for every document or piece of information you produce. If a document doesn’t align with a specific goal of the website and won’t be updated, skip it.
  • Don’t duplicate content. Instead, link to relevant sites such as the Transportation site for directions to campus, the Financial Aid site for tuition rates, or the Dining site for information of campus eateries.