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Writing for the Web

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Once upon a time, basic writing skills centered on spelling and syntax. Now, for web-focused writing, a facility with algorithms can be added to that list. Of course, that expertise is actually the dominion of search engines, which filter and favor content that best conforms to their models. ¶ Three tools have emerged as effective readership boosters for online messaging and communications.

 

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Hashtags

Since 2007, the punctuation mark formerly known as “pound sign” has been utilized as a label for themes or topics appearing in social media content. Placed in front of a word or phrase, hashtags are often used to tag special events (#usopen2016), people (#georgewashington), or simple ideas (#happy).

Tweets with hashtags receive more than twice the reader engagement than hashtag-less comments. But—of course—there is a limit to that logic. Tweets that include more than two hashtags see a 17% drop in engagement.

Care should be taken to ensure using a hashtag doesn’t backfire, transforming into a “bashtag”. A prime example of this occurred when investment bank J.P. Morgan invited the Twitterverse to converse with its new incoming president. Instead of polite queries about fiduciary matters, #AskJPM attracted a tidal wave of comments like “Would you say that your absurd disregard for long-term profits in favor of short-term illusory growth is evil, or just stupid? #AskJPM”. The moral of this story: Control the conversation.

 

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Keywords

Carefully chosen keywords, seeded throughout your online content, work to attract search engines—and, in turn, readers. Being both strategic and specific with the words delivers the best results.

Include terms or phrases that your customers would use to describe your products or services, and group them into themes. For instance, an architecture firm looking to build its reputation as a specialist in designing contemporary art museums might designate the three phrases—“modern architecture”, “museum design”, and “cultural buildings”—as keywords on its website and social media programming. Such verbal reinforcement would be more effective than just “art museum”.

 

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Links

One of the ways that search engines measure a website’s value—and its all-important position in search results—is by algorithmically evaluating the quantity, quality, and relevance of links to the site from other websites.

Down-and-somewhat-dirty ways to increase the link traffic to and from a site abound (and often involve payment), but these spammish practices are detected by major search engines relatively easily. Being exposed for using such unscrupulous techniques can result in being penalized with temporary suspensions by, for instance, Google. It’s best to build links organically, through offering content and services with integrity.

The ideal length for an effective hyperlink is between one and five words; place the link anchor on the word or phrase that best describes the content to which you are linking (put another way, do not link the generic, meaningless phrase “click here”.)

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