In the world of the internet and search engines, one word on everybody's mind, and everyone's lips, is content. It has been tossed about so carelessly, so often, by so many people, in so many places, I'm not sure that anyone knows what it means. Copy and text have been all but forgotten. In ancient, pre-web times, content, copy and text were used interchangeably. (Check your thesaurus, each comes up with the other.) As a writer, I would receive requests for text or copy. Now, all I hear is content, content, content. Content has all the tongues wagging. And many heads shaking. It's not traditional written content they are babbling about, it's Web Content.
Web Content is keyword enriched text published on the internet, tailored to draw the attention of the search engines and satisfy the needs of the user. Keyword is the key word for Web Content. The extensive and intensive use of keywords (and phrases) sets Web Content apart from all other text or copy.
Keywords are the only input Search Engines receive from users. Search Engines have built their worlds around keywords. And websites are built around the demands and requirements of the Search Engines. Keywords are essential in developing Web Content.
Users create keywords, Search Engines employ keywords, and writers must utilize those keywords in Web Content correctly or face the consequences. Overuse keywords and risk being disqualified. Omit them and risk being ignored.
Search Engines provide guidelines for frequency (or density) and placement of these crucial keywords in Web Content. Unfortunately, each Search Engine uses different keyword densities. An overabundance of keywords for one Search Engine is a dearth for another. What is good for one goose, cooks the other; a never ending keyword dance.
Keywords are inordinately important for Web Content but not the whole picture. Search Engines have an avowed preference for a relatively short page length of approximately 500 words; apparently spybots don't like to read much. The Search Engines employ sophisticated word analysis software; the writing better be good. And lastly, they have a declared aversion for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos; it must be perfect.
How to Write Web Content
Use Search Engine guidelines to build your web content around the keywords or build keywords into the web content. Use them profusely in the first paragraph, above the site's initial sight line; the reader should see them when the page comes up. Make sure they are scattered throughout the text, integrated seamlessly, relevant to the text. Include them wherever and whenever you can: titles, headings, alternative text, etc. Use them generously at the end in the concluding or summary paragraph.
Insert plenty of keywords, but not too many, (though it is impossible to say how many). Use them, don't abuse them or be punished unmercifully. Repeat them endlessly, without being repetitious. Use them early and use them late. They must be seen without being noticed. There is enough contradictory advice to drive any writer crazy. And finally, don't focus on the Search Engines, write for the User, they insist over and over again. Right!
Writing Web Content is not easy. The stringent and contradictory demands of the Search Engines can strain the abilities and sanity of any writer but those demands can be met. Overcome the page length limitation by using extensive hypertext. Differing densities are maddening; follow the guidelines - do the dance. Your word processor may have an auto summarize function similar to the spybot's word analysis software; learn to work with it. Use the grammar and spell checking software in your word processor but don't trust it; proof it yourself. Allow no error in your Web Content to pass uncorrected!
Copy used to be the word for all writing. All text was copy. Copy Editors ran the journalism and publishing shows. Everybody needed good, fresh copy. Unfortunately, the term copywriting was adopted the advertising and marketing industries and implies persuasive text used for sales and marketing campaigns. Copywriting is an essential part of the Web Content. Using the word copy as a synonym for text adds to the confusion. I'd like to use it but I'll abstain from its narrow, modern use.
Text is words, sentences and paragraphs used to express something. Text comprises web content and though a lot of talk is about web content, little is mentioned about the text itself. As every writer knows, there is a great deal to be said about text including style, voice, tone, language; all qualities of good writing.
The web is a fast moving, interactive, hypertext medium. Readers are not known for their patience. Users are hyperactive, hyper-impatient, finger on the trigger; somewhere else is just a click away. Get their attention and get to the point.
How to Write Web Text
Web users scan first, read later if they read at all. Web Content must be fast paced, concise, immediate, direct and to the point. Make it interesting, compelling and keep them involved. Write simply: clear, concise, brief and human. Stick to simple words and simple sentence structures in short paragraphs. Use nouns and verbs; they tell. Avoid adverbs and adjectives; they only adorn. Examine every word. If a word is not absolutely necessary, get rid of it. Make it personal; though the audience may be millions, address each reader individually. Keep it conversational without letting it get chatty.
The reader has come for web content but doesn't like to read; not as big a paradox as it seems. Hand on the mouse, index finger poised on the clicker, the right words keep them interested, stop them from straying.
Make your Web Content interactive. Keep the user busy. The web was founded as a hypertext medium and derives a great deal of power from it. Provide an abundance of internal and external links. Don't worry about losing the reader to another site. Every browser has a back button and it is the single most popular click on the Web.
Give them what they want in a form they can understand. Give them what they came for: reliable information, verifiable facts and straight unadorned, unembellished truth in a simple, unembellished style. It's a novel idea but in the long run, it's the only thing that works.
Web Content is highly stylized, keyword-rich text written to the demands and specifications of the Search Engines that hopefully satisfies the needs of the reader. Web Content must be readable and useable, written in a simple, concise, straightforward style. In the end, good, solid, accurate, reliable Web Content is what the search engines and the users are looking for.