Five ways to woo online readers this Valentine’s Day

Forget valentines and secret admirers.  As online writers, bloggers, curators of the news, we’re only trying to woo one person: the reader.  So, how does one entice such a crafty creature?  After a bit of research, I’ve compiled a list of five foolproof ways to make your online writing more appealing.  No flowers or heart-shaped chocolates necessary.

Hit ’em with the most important news first

Online readers seem to have a shorter attention span than those who read print news.  That’s not to say that they’re less intelligent or interested in what you have to say; reading news online is simply a different experience.  If your reader is anything like me, they already have six different tabs open when they stumble upon your blog post or news story.  According to the Nielson Norman Group, the average visitor on a web page has time to read 28 percent of the words, and they’ll likely read less than that.  The takeaway?  Make headlines catchy, but to the point, and put the most important information in your story firstUse a front hierarchy.  Don’t bury the lede!!

Break it up (Not to be confused with a breakup; it’s Valentine’s Day, after all.)

This is something I need to work on, as I tend to get wordy when blogging.  Online readers like to skim.  Therefore, it’s best to break up your story as much as possible.  Paul Bradshaw and AJ Kohn suggest using:

  • Subheadings
  • Bullet lists
  • Blockquotes
  • Short paragraphs

Take advantage of all the options the Internet has to offer

Writing online allows new options that aren’t available when writing for print.  You can include more photos, videos, sound bytes and interactive graphics.  It’s a brand new way to present a story, and another way to attract and keep the fleeting attention of online readers.

Links are your friend

In the words of journalist Jonathan Dube, do not fear the link!  Some think including too many links will lead readers astray, but Dube says that if your site/blog is a good one, you won’t have to worry about losing readers.  Links are a good way to provide other background information, without adding unnecessary words (we’re trying to keep things brief, remember?).  Links are also useful in linking back to previous stories of your own — smart!

Finally, don’t forget the basics

It doesn’t matter if you follow all of the previous tips perfectly; if you do not uphold basic journalistic and writing standards in your online stories, then I don’t want to read them.  In this age of online news, most are concerned with being the first to break news.  Unfortunately, that can often lead to sloppy stories.  Dube reminds us that it is good to take chances in online writing, as long as the fundamentals are kept in mind.  That means editing your stories — more than once, I might add — for grammar and style mistakes, forming strong sentences with jump-off-the-page words and adhering to all proper ethical standards.

Well, there you have it, folks.  Five ways to make your online work more appealing.  So, don’t feel down this Valentine’s Day — there are plenty of readers in the sea, just waiting to discover your writing.  Go get ’em, Tiger.

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