Writing for readability and search is good for any written document, and especially for websites. Just as humans need to find information in a written document, search engines need to find your website.
As of May 2020, I’m taking two web courses online at once. I’ve also taken other web development courses in the past. When it comes to writing for readability and search, there are several core principles:
- Think about your website from a visitor’s point of view.
- Find websites that help you learn what people are looking for.
- Get tools to help search engines find your website.
Writing for Readability
Writing for readability means you need to do two things.
First, answer basic questions. For example, your readers want to know:
- What your company sells.
- What your customers think of your product or service.
- How they can get what you’re selling.
More importantly, you need to understand the problem your readers have. Most of them visit your website because they’re in pain. They’re wondering if you can make them feel better.
With this in mind, write down a list of questions and then answer them on your website. “Chunk” your information. That is, write your answers in short sentences. Readers spend less than 15 seconds on a website.
If you want your readers to keep reading, give them upfront information. Don’t make them read long paragraphs. (You can do that on another page of your site if a reader wants to open said page.)
Chunking your information has another benefit: You don’t have to write a lot. But you have to think a lot before you start writing.
Writing for Search
Writing for readability also helps when you’re writing for search engines. The more of the search terms appear on your website, the more likely the search engine will rank your website highly. So, you need to repeat your key phrases so search engines will pick up on what you’re doing.
But how do you know what people are looking for? Google is the world’s largest search engine, so it makes sense that Google is the best place to start. I use two tools:
- Google Analytics. This website, as the name suggests, gives you a good idea of how many people visit your site and when with the site’s basic tools. You can also create custom reports so you get information that’s most important to you. For example, And it’s free, though you do have to set up a Google account if you don’t have one.
- Google Trends. This is another free website (with access from your Google account) that allows you to type search terms. Then you can see how many people are searching for them and find out if your terms are popular…or a related term is. You can search by country, region, or sub-region. You can also get a list of the top 10 trending searches on Google.
If you use WordPress, the Yoast plugin can help with both writing and search. The free version of Yoast does a good job of telling you how to write your website so it’s easy to read and more searchable. Another tool I use is MonsterInsights, which is a free plugin that connects with Google Analytics. The plugin reports your how your site is doing right in the dashboard.
I’ll go into more detail in my article, “Making your WordPress site searchable.” (Coming soon to this blog near you.)
Become a Better Writer, Too
All this work with writing for search doesn’t help if you don’t become a better writer. The trite saying is that you need to write every day. Most of us have one innate ability — mine is good penmanship — but most of us need practice to improve. If you’re not sure how to start, consider writing a daily journal.
Tools like Grammarly help, too, if you have a WordPress site or not. Many tools like Grammarly give you free browser plugins so you get writing help as you type.
I hope this article about writing for readability and search has your gears turning.
Eric Butow is the owner of Butow Communications Group and has designed websites since 1997. Please feel free to comment with questions and ideas to help make this series as useful as possible. Thanks!