In order to write effectively you must understand how people read on the web.

And how do users read on the web? The answer is, they don't ... they scan.

Nielsen Norman Group 's research found that 79 percent of their test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. 

For your agency's website to be effective your text must be scannable. Jacob Nielsen offers this advice:

  • highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
  • meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
  • bulleted lists
  • one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
  • the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
  • half the word count (or less) than conventional writin

Nielsen's research also found that users detested “marketese”; the promotional writing style with boastful claims. I've often said that the moment you start to sell on your agency's blog is when you will lose your audience. 

You need to understand how people read on the web and learn to write for them effectively. Go to Jakob Nielsen's web site and read this paper. It will do more to improve your blogging than any other article. If you look at the top blogs, you'll find they follow Nielsen's style guidelines remarkably well.  How Users Read on the Web


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Michael Gass, agency new business consultant, primarily to small and mid-size advertising agencies, utilizing both traditional and new media tools.

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