Agencies & Consultancies

Training for agencies at all skill levels

  • Account management
  • New business
  • Confidence
  • Productivity
  • Writing
  • Motivating teams

In-House Comms

Training for in-house communications professionals

  • Best practice
  • Demonstrating value
  • Brand recognition
  • Confidence & Credibility
  • Media training

Kickstart Your PR!

Two-day intensive public relations workshop

  • Capturing media attention
  • Brand recognition
  • Engaging content
  • Supporting sales and marketing

Is online writing really that different?

Type the words 'writing for the web' into Google and up will pop around 739,000,000 results in 0.41 seconds. I didn't get beyond the first 30 or so but it was clear from those that just about every academic institution, training course provider and professional writer has an awful lot to say on the subject. But is all of this special attention really necessary? Surely good writing is good writing. Is online writing really that different to writing for any other medium?

Is online writing really that different?

Yes. And no.

No. Because so much that's written about writing for the web could equally be said of other mediums. I repeatedly see the following tips on writing for the web.

  • Be concise
  • Use simple language
  • Know your audience
  • Adopt the right tone of voice
  • Engage your reader
  • Proofread carefully

Good online writing would be good writing if it were on the back of a jam jarIt's not bad advice. In fact, it's good advice — for ANY PIECE OF BUSINESS WRITING.

No. Because good online writing would be good writing if it were on the back of a jam jar — provided it obeyed all the other rules of jam jar writing, i.e. short, interesting and relevant to users of jam.

But yes, it does need to different in some aspects because...

Knowing what MEDIUM you're writing for is a crucial part of being a good writer.

Consider how your words could be interpreted — or misinterpreted — by non-native English speakersRegardless of the subject, you wouldn't approach a radio ad, a conference speech and a how-to manual in the same way. You'd know the rules for each medium and you'd adapt your style and content accordingly.

Equally, you'd be a pretty ineffective writer if you didn't consider your TARGET AUDIENCE.

As online writing has the potential to reach millions of people across the globe, you might need to consider how your words could be interpreted — or misinterpreted — by non-native English speakers.

And yes, because if you're also trying to improve your SEARCH RANKINGS, you'll need to write for two audiences — humans and machines.

However, it's worth pointing out that successful Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has got a lot less to do with blasting your copy with keywords and a lot more to do with throwing money at it.

If you really want to influence your search rankings, write content that humans like, find interesting and want to share.I won't go into all the ways you can improve your SEO in this blog post (I might tackle that one another time) but believe me when I say that the only way the little bookshop in your local high street is going to top Amazon is through some very clever and potentially expensive backend digital work and a very large online advertising budget.

If you really want to influence your search rankings, write content that humans like, find interesting and want to share. Then put some appropriate keywords in the title, introductory paragraph and subheads.

So for those of you looking for the SPECIFIC rules of online writing, here are my...

Ten top tips for writing online

1. Don't band all online writing together

Writing copy for the home page of a county council website isn't the same as writing copy for an online guide to recycling or a social media post on Christmas opening hours.

2. Do repeat your messages frequently

An ad on the back of a magazine can lie around for a year. Unless you write regularly, your posts and tweets will be lost in a sea of billions of others.

3. Don't oversell your products or services

Online audiences can make up their own minds, or ask millions of unbiased people what they think.

4. Do test your online writing on several platforms

Those 300 words look lovely laid out on the big screen. Squashed onto a phone, nobody can be bothered to read them.

5. Don't stuff your copy with obvious keywords

'For all your plumbing needs in Croydon come to Croydon Plumbing, the home of perfect plumbing in and around Croydon' could harm your site's ranking and turn off human visitors!

6. Do involve as many people as possible

If every blog post is written by your product manager you'll give people the impression that he's the only person who works at your organisation or that he's a bit of a control freak. Different points of view make blogs interesting. If you're a sole trader, try adapting your style, inviting guest bloggers or link your posts to complementary sites.

7. Don't be a slave to grammar

Online writing is (generally) scanned not read. If it's easier for people to scan bullet points, phrases and ridiculously short paragraphs, go for it.

8. Do use visual tricks

Such as numbers as figures (1, 2, 3, etc. as opposed to one, two, three) buttons, photo captions and subheads to draw readers to important information.

9. Don't write long chunks of text

Break your narrative up into lots of short non-linear paragraphs — each one making sense on its own.

10. Do add links to other pages and websites

The beauty of the web is NOT having to tell someone everything at once. Give them the bare bones or the teaser then encourage them to go elsewhere for more info.

If you're still hungry for advice, here's a few more good sources:

BBC Academy: Writing for the web
University of Exeter: Writing for the web
Web Wise Wording: 10 Web Writing Tips
Google Webmaster Tools: About rich snippets and structured data

Training Courses for PR and Comms Agencies

show all

All of our training courses for agency professionals

talented with clients

Be credible, effective and prevent problems

talented in the office

Manage time, people and campaigns with ease

talented with the media

Writing and pitching stories that get noticed
Client Management
Talented with Clients

Improve and develop your working relationships with each client

More

Social Superstars
With the Media

How to Make Your Clients' Social Media Communications Shine

More

Confidence and Assertiveness
in the Office

Say what you mean, professionally and directly

More

Mastering the Art Of Writing
Talented with the Media

How to write almost anything

More

Presentation Training
with Clients

Make every presentation more engaging and effective

More

Time Management
in the Office

Manage your workload and get tasks completed on time

More

Advanced Presentation Training
with Clients

Become a captivating and effective presenter

More

Writing effective news releases
with the Media

Get more stories published

More

Becoming a Manager
in the Office

Incorporate great management techniques into your daily life

More

Crisis Communications
with Clients

Where do you start when it all goes wrong?

More

Pitching to the Media
with the Media

Get more of your stories published

More

Grammar Crammer
in the Office

Grammatical errors and how to avoid them

More

Management and Leadership Training
in the Office

Get the best out of your team

More

Improving Personal Communication Skills
in the Office

Make good working relationships great

More

Editing and Proofreading Other People's Writing
in the Office

The seven steps to successful editing

More

Refresh your press release writing skills
with the Media

Be more successful at getting your stories published

More

Practical Creativity for PR
in the Office

Power up your brainstorms and boost your creativity

More

Getting Buy-In
with Clients

Influencing and Persuading

More

Writing compelling content for the media
with the Media

Make your writing effective, engaging and shareable

More

Supercharge Your Writing
with the Media

Take your writing to a higher level

More

Bespoke Leadership Coaching
in the Office

By application only

More

Kickstart Your PR!
with the Media

Introduction to PR

More

Time Management for Remote Working
in the Office

Manage your workload from home

More