01 October, 2010

Your Writing Style Impacts Your Users Ability to Find What You Wrote

In my last post, "Our search sucks! Why can't it work just like Google?", I told you to also consider your content when improving your search. Poor titles and multiple articles on a single subject will impact success. I want to expand on content a bit more.

First, consider the search results again. If your search engine displays the first part of the content underneath the title, is the information helpful?

Next, when the user does click-through on a search result, can they quickly reassure themselves that the content presented is what they're looking for?

I believe if you follow the advice of Tim Ash in his article "Fix Your Writing or Suffer Lower Conversion Rates," you will be able to satisfy these two issues in regards to your content. Whether you're trying to convert a user to buy your product or you're trying to help a customer fix his problem with your product, the principles still apply.

Tim begins, "The vast majority of Internet users do not read a Web page word by word. They scan it and focus on individual words, phrases, or sentences." (Just like they scan your search results.) With this in mind, your writing needs to take this into consideration, which Tim covers for us. He breaks it down into 3 areas: Structure, Tone, and Format.

You should read "Fix Your Writing or Suffer Lower Conversion Rates," to get all the details, but here are a few highlights:
  • "The preferred structure for most Web writing is the inverted pyramid. It uses the principle of primacy (ordering) to control saliency (importance)." Sounds like you're writing a newspaper column, and your Editor may be chopping the end to make it fit in the allotted space.
  • "Get to the point and let them decide if your content is relevant enough for them to stick around."
  • "Save your visitors the aggravation and only tell them what they want to hear."
  • "Be careful about your exact choice of words. ... Do not use puns, metaphors, or colloquial expressions."
  • "Use clear, emphasized titles for page headings and important subheads. "
Tim Ash has put together a great guideline for your writing, be sure to read his enter post. And next time you write content for your website, consider the steps your intended audience will take to find what you've written -- and apply that to how you write the content.

No comments: