Emma Parkin is the Editor of Easy Parenting, as well as Group Editor of the Parenting division at Zahra Media Group. She’s a print girl who has been thrust into a digital world and in this post, she shares a bit of what she’s learned on her journey.
Okay, so this is a little embarrassing to admit. But I’m very late to the party when it comes to the area of digital media, probably about a decade too late…
Having worked in mainly print publishing for nearly 20 years, I now find myself writing for a website too. There a few things I’ve learned about writing for online over the last few months.
What have I learned?
Headlines & the power of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
I have to be honest, before Zahra Media Group and eumom merged, I wasn’t aware of the amount of work and thought that went into a headline for an online article. Forget about your witty headlines. Forget about keeping making those words look good on your background image.
It’s all about the SEO – it’s a must if you want your article to appear in a google search. Websites like CoSchedule make this task a lot easier. All you have to do is type in your headline and the website rates its SEO strength. Very handy for digital novices like myself.
Formatting for online
When I write/edit a feature for a print magazine, I have two aims. The first is to make sure it’s easy to read with no errors, and secondly I keep the design and layout top of mind. If it’s a long feature-type article, there’ll be obviously lots of text and we break this up with buttons, boxes and side-bars. I’ll work with the designer to make sure the information jumps out at the reader as they flick through the magazine.
For online, the aim is similar to print: make the text easy to read and make sure it’s edited well. But you’re dealing with a different type of reader — the majority of online readers will only read a quarter of the way or less down the article. So thank you, dear reader, if you’re still reading this!
How do we keep the reader interested online? The lead image, headline and your opening paragraph need to be super strong and attention-grabbing.
And bearing in mind that most people will be reading content on their phones and skimming through articles, it’s also important the copy is broken up with headings, pictures, videos. The reader is scrolling down quickly, so you need to grab their attention and keep them on your site.
The structure of content plays a key role too. You can do this by breaking text up into lists, and highlighting key words to help your reader identify the main point per paragraph. The whole point is to make the article easier for an online reader to consume.
Get to the point and keep it brief
With print, you have the luxury of filling space with gorgeous imagery and text in different and unique fonts. With online, most readers don’t have time to linger and they just want to find what they want quickly. This is especially true if you’re writing a how-to article or offering advice. Chances are that your reader found your content through a search and just wants to find out the answer to their initial question.
Mistakes are easily erased
This is honestly my favourite part of creating content online. A typo is not forever on a website. You can’t stop the printing press for those heartbreaking forgotten full stops or missed typos. With magazines, the mistake is there to haunt you forever in its printed format. This is one of the joys of writing for online. You spot the mistake; you can correct it within minutes.