September 17, 2018 Mollie Parker

Why the Structure of Your Copy Matters When Writing for the Web

Anyone can slap some words on a page and call it a day, but depending on the platform where your writing will appear—and the audience you are writing for—structure makes a difference when producing effective copy. The case is no different when writing copy that will appear online. Whether it’s a blog post or an “About” page, the structure of your copy matters when writing for the web.

Making your point clear up front

People are busy (even if “busy” means scrolling through Facebook). With all of the content available to them online, it’s likely that people will not in fact spend exorbitant amounts of time reading one article or blog post. In fact, According to Buffer, 55 percent of blog readers will read the blog post for 15 seconds or less.

What does this mean in terms of the structure of your copy? You need to get to the point. Sure, clever and flowery intros have their place, but not in the world of web writing. People want to know what your post is about and what they will glean from it immediately upon opening the link. It’s similar to the way journalists write news articles, using a format called the inverted pyramid (more on that later). Some publications even pull out three or more top “takeaways” from the longer article and place them at the top of the post, just in case that’s all that readers have time to consume.

Along the same lines, if you’ve scrolled through any article-sharing social platform lately, you’ve probably also seen time flags noted next to the links, indicating “2 minute read” or “3 minute read.” This shows readers that, “Hey, maybe I do have time to take a couple of minutes out of my busy schedule to read this article that looks interesting.”

Using the inverted pyramid

To understand the inverted pyramid, think about a pyramid literally turned upside down. The broad base is now at the top, and it all funnels down to the pyramid’s narrow tip. As a metaphor for the structure of your copy, you should start out with the overarching, broad point of the article. Using the inverted pyramid, readers should be able to grasp the who, what, when, where, why and how of the article right there in the first paragraph.

From there, you include supporting details, getting more and more specific as the pyramid narrows.

The inverted pyramid offers several advantages—including “getting to the point” as we mentioned above. This appeals to readers who do not have the time to read your entire article but still want to know what it’s about. If used regularly, it also ensures that the structure of your copy stays consistent across all of your posts, which is important to making your blog or publication appear professional.

You might be thinking, “Wait, don’t I want people to read my entire post, rather than them just stopping at the first paragraph?” Ideally, yes. Used correctly, the inverted pyramid’s broad first paragraph will draw readers in to want to continue reading to find out more details, while still appealing to those who only have time to skim.

Here’s an example of an intro paragraph that employs the inverted pyramid for our blog “6 Components of a Successful Content Marketing Campaign.”

Planning a campaign to communicate a message to your brand’s audience involves just that—planning—in order for it to be cohesive and effective. You want your campaign to be distinctive, but a successful content marketing campaign employs the same staple characteristics across the board. Here are six components to focus on when planning your next campaign.

Writing effectively for the web

In addition to making your point clear up front using the inverted pyramid, here are a few other tips regarding the structure of your copy when writing for the web.

  • Decide which parts of your copy are the most important, and organize accordingly.
  • Make a hierarchy of details—which details should appear higher up in the article?
  • Make every paragraph strong. Think of each paragraph as a “mini” inverted pyramid, where you start out with the first sentence introducing a broad topic, followed by supporting details.
  • Break up content where you can. Use subheads, bulleted lists or pull quotes to break up long blocks of copy that can intimidate readers.
  • Consider additional features, like adding bulleted key points at the top of the copy or read times (mentioned above).

The goal in digital marketing is to not only attract visitors to your site, but to keep them there—and to keep them coming back for more. Paying attention to the structure of your copy when writing for the web can help you achieve those goals while producing a result your brand can be proud to stand behind.

Need help writing for your blog or business publication? The McNutt & Partners team can help. Call us at 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

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